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Diplomacy in Action

Biography of Acting Assistant Secretary Samuel M. Witten

January 20, 2009


Samuel M. Witten [State Dept. Photo]Samuel M. Witten became Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) on December 31, 2007. He was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for PRM in July 2007.

He is responsible for the overall management of the Bureau’s resources, as well as the formulation and implementation of U.S. policy and programs for refugee assistance, relief and resettlement around the world. He supervises a staff of over 130 persons in the United States and in 20 overseas locations, and oversees a budget exceeding $1 billion.

Prior to joining PRM, Mr. Witten served as State Department Deputy Legal Adviser from 2001 until 2007 and supervised the State Department’s legal work in areas including human rights and refugees, law enforcement matters, and international economic issues. He testified on numerous treaties before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and on international law enforcement issues before several committees of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2005-06, Mr. Witten also served as the Director of the State Department’s Office of War Crimes Issues.

Mr. Witten earlier served as the legal counsel for the Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator (1994-96) and as the Assistant Legal Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence (1996-2001). As Assistant Legal Adviser, he supervised the extradition of fugitives to and from the United States and the negotiation of U.S. treaties on international law enforcement cooperation. From 1993-94, he headed the U.S. Government’s Heathrow Arbitration Team and helped settle a longstanding aviation dispute with the United Kingdom. Prior to 1993, he served as a law clerk for a U.S. federal trial judge (1983-84), as a staff attorney at the U.S. Department of State (1984-89), in private practice at the law firm O’Melveny & Myers (1989-92), and in the international affairs section of the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division (1992-93).

Mr. Witten’s professional awards include two selections as a Presidential Meritorious Executive, six State Department Superior Honor Awards, and the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of Maryland in 1979 and a J.D. degree from the Columbia University School of Law in 1983.

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