Martha Neff Kessler ’67
B.A., Denison University
M.A., Western Michigan University
Citation awarded June, 2012
Martha Kessler currently serves as an Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security, where she has also served as a consultant on intelligence analysis. She consults on Middle East and foreign intelligence issues, teaches courses on Islam, analytic techniques, and writing and briefing key US policymakers. After 911, she was called back into service with the CIA and spent another 10 years there, retiring for a second time in 2010. Over the past decade, Martha has done special projects for the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the board of the Middle East Policy Council.
Martha was an intelligence officer with the CIA from 1970 to 2000, working on the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism. She held positions throughout the Directorate of Intelligence and served three times on the National Intelligence Council as the Director of CIA’s point person on the Middle East. For six years, she headed the Arab-Israeli Division and was liaison with US peace negotiators throughout the Madrid peace process. She was a fellow at the National Defense University’s War College where she published Syria: A Fragile Mosaic of Power. Martha was a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution where she contributed to the Middle Foreign Policy Journal. During her career, she was awarded the CIA’s Medal of Distinguished Service and the National Intelligence Community’s Medal of Achievement. She received numerous Outstanding Performance Awards during crises in Lebanon, the Gulf War, and the Iraq war and was also honored for her authorship of National Intelligence Estimates on the rise of religious extremism.