Robert C. O'Brien

Photo of Robert C. O'Brien
Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs
Term of Appointment: 05/25/2018 to present

Robert C. O’Brien serves as the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Working for Secretary Pompeo, O’Brien leads the U.S. Government’s diplomatic efforts on overseas hostage-related matters. He works closely with the families of American hostages and advises the senior leadership of the U.S. Government on hostage issues. O’Brien also coordinates with the interagency Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell on the development and implementation of U.S. hostage recovery policy and strategy.

O’Brien previously served as Co-Chairman of the U.S. Department of State Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan under both Secretaries Rice and Clinton. The PPJRA promoted the rule of law by training Afghan judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers and provided scholarships for young Afghan lawyers to study in the U.S. From 2008 through 2011, O’Brien was a presidentially-appointed member of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee, which advises the federal government on issues relating to the trafficking of antiquities and other cultural items. In 2005, Mr. O’Brien was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as a U.S. Representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly where he worked with Ambassador John Bolton. Earlier in his career, O’Brien served as a Senior Legal Officer for the UN Security Council commission that decided claims against Iraq arising out of the first Gulf War. O’Brien was a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve.

O’Brien is the co-founding partner of Larson O’Brien LLP in Los Angeles, a nationally recognized litigation firm. His law practice focuses on complex litigation and international arbitration. In addition to his client work, O’Brien has served as an arbitrator in over 20 international proceedings and he has been appointed by the federal courts to serve as a special master in numerous complex cases.

O’Brien is a graduate of the Boalt Hall School of Law at U.C. Berkeley. He received his B.A. degree in political science, cum laude, from UCLA. He is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.