Professional Staff

Jackie Wolcott, Executive Director

Dwight Bashir , Deputy Director for Policy and Research

Elizabeth K. Cassidy , Deputy Director for Policy and Research

Sahar Chaudhry , Policy Analyst

Catherine Cosman , Senior Policy Analyst

Judith E. Golub , Director of Government and Media Relations

Thomas Kraemer , Manager of Administration

Paul Liben , Executive Writer

Tiffany Lynch , Senior Policy Analyst

Jessica Sarra , Counsel

Kalinda Stephenson , Communications and Government Relations Associate

Knox Thames , Director of Policy and Research

Jackie Wolcott , Executive Director

Jackie WolcottJackie Wolcott is Executive Director of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Appointed to this position in February 2010, she has a long career in government executive positions, most recently as Special Envoy for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2008 - 2009). In this capacity, she represented the United States with counterpart governments to develop international cooperation that supports civil nuclear power expansion globally while reducing risks of nuclear proliferation, consistent with the Joint Declaration on Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation announced by Presidents Bush and Putin in 2007. Prior to this appointment, she served from February 2006 to 2008 as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Security Council handling the full range of international security issues before the Council.

Ms. Wolcott also was Ambassador and United States Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and Special Representative of the President of the United States for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons from December 2003 through February 2006. In the latter capacity, she had lead responsibility for U.S. participation in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review process. Ambassador Wolcott was also accredited as U.S. Governor and head of delegation to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors in Vienna for its September 2004 through June 2005 quarterly Board meetings.

Prior to this, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs from 2001 to 2003 and from 1990 to 1993, with broad responsibility for foreign policy development and multilateral negotiations within the United Nations system. For several years she had specific responsibility for human rights issues in the United Nations, including international freedom of religion issues. In this capacity, Ambassador Wolcott developed and implemented U.S. strategy at the UN Human Rights Commission, the Economic and Social Council, the Commission on the Status of Women, and all related issues in the UN General Assembly. She worked on numerous religious freedom resolutions, including combating defamation of religions; elimination of all forms of religious intolerance; the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, among others. She also worked on country specific religious freedom issues such as protection of Baha’is in Iran, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion in North Korea, and the situation in Turkmenistan with regard to compulsory military service affecting objecting religious minorities. Ambassador Wolcott has served for 28 years in the federal government, including nine years on Capitol Hill (Senate and House). She held several additional positions relating to national security affairs, including Associate Director for National Security in the Office of Presidential Personnel, The White House; White House Liaison for the Department of State; and Special Assistant for Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Department of State.

Ambassador Wolcott currently serves as a member of the Advisory Board of United Against Nuclear Iran, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing a nuclear Iran and exposing Iran as a major violator of human rights at home and abroad.

Dwight Bashir , Deputy Director for Policy and Research

Dwight BashirDwight Bashir has served since 2009 as Deputy Director of Policy and Research at the Commission. He specializes in human rights and freedom of religion or belief in the Middle East and North Africa, ethnic and sectarian violence, and preventive diplomacy. Mr. Bashir participates regularly in trainings of refugee and asylum officers at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and of foreign service officers at the U.S. Department of State on the plight of religious minorities in the Middle East. He also is serving a two-year term on the United States Holocaust Museum’s Committee on Holocaust Denial and State-Sponsored Antisemitism. Mr. Bashir is the author of numerous articles in leading media outlets and academic journals, such as Foreign Policy, CNN.com, the Yale Journal of International Affairs, and the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, among others, and he has lectured and presented in the United States and abroad on various topics in international affairs, including religion and democracy, peace and security, religious extremism, and reform in the Middle East. He is interviewed frequently in national and international media, such as CNN, Fox News, BBC, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, Al Arabiya, and Al Jazeera. Before joining USCIRF, Mr. Bashir worked as a consultant with the United Nations and with non-governmental organizations focusing on global human rights issues and conflict prevention. Mr. Bashir pursued his B.A. in political science and international relations at the University of Richmond and his M.S. and Ph.D. in international conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University.

Elizabeth K. Cassidy , Deputy Director for Policy and Research

Elizabeth CassidyElizabeth K. Cassidy joined the Commission in 2007 as International Legal Specialist and became Deputy Director for Policy and Research in 2009. Previously, she was Assistant Executive Director of UN Watch, a non-governmental organization in Geneva, Switzerland, where she monitored and analyzed United Nations affairs, with a particular focus on the U.N.'s Geneva-based human rights bodies. Before UN Watch, Ms. Cassidy taught courses in constitutional law, comparative law, and international human rights law at Princeton University, Seton Hall University School of Law and the University of Namibia and worked as a legal consultant to several human rights NGOs in Windhoek, Namibia. She also has practiced law in the Washington, D.C. office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld and worked as a judicial clerk to the Hon. Richard Nygaard of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the Hon. William Bassler of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Ms. Cassidy holds a B.A. in international politics from Wesleyan University, a J.D. from American University's Washington College of Law, and a LL.M in comparative constitutional law from the University of Stellenbosch.

Sahar Chaudhry , Policy Analyst

Sahar Chaudhry joined the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in October 2010 as a policy analyst for India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Before joining the Commission, she was a research analyst for religion & world affairs at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. Her work focused on governmental and societal restrictions on religions and Muslim demography. She also contributed qualitative and quantitative analysis to several public opinion surveys of religious groups. She has also worked at Shearman & Sterling, LLP, where along with her regular position as a legal assistant for Corporate Finance, she donated her time to assist on several religious asylum and political asylum cases. Ms. Chaudhry received her Master’s degree in International Political Economy from Claremont Graduate University and holds Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Politics from Connecticut College.

Catherine Cosman , Senior Policy Analyst

Catherine Cosman joined the staff of the Commission as Senior Policy Analyst in November 2003. Her areas of responsibility include the countries of the former Soviet Union, East and Central Europe and Western Europe. She served on the staff of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe as senior analyst on Soviet dissent (1976-1989). Cosman was also a commentator on Soviet society for a nationally syndicated U.S. radio program. She then joined Human Rights Watch (1989-1992) where she wrote several studies on ethnic conflicts in Central Asia and the Caucasus and the human rights in the then-USSR. Working with emerging independent labor unions for the Free Trade Union Institute (1992-1996), she focussed on Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. She lived in Estonia where she was the Senior Expert of the OSCE Mission, working on the integration of the Russian minority into Estonian society (1996-1998.) She managed the Central Asian and Caucasus grants program at the National Endowment for Democracy, before joining the Communications Division at RFE/RL in 1999 where she edited "Media Matters" and "(Un)Civil Societies." She has lived, worked and studied in Berlin, Germany; Moscow, then-USSR; and Prague, Czech Republic. She received a BA in History from Grinnell College and a MA and an ABD in Slavic Languages and Literatures from Brown University. She also has studied at the Free University of Berlin and the All-Union Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.

Judith E. Golub , Director of Government Relations

Judith Golub joined the Commission in January, 2009. Before coming to the Commission, she was the Executive Director of the San Francisco-based Immigrant Legal Resource. She also was the Senior Director of Advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Legislative Director at the American Jewish Committee, both based in Washington DC. She brings to the Commission more than twenty years experience working with Congressional staff, federal agencies, and the White House; planning, coordinating and implementing legislative strategies; developing, policy, media and grassroots issue advocacy campaigns in support of legislation and policies; developing and working in coalitions with like-minded organizations to help create effective networks; and working with the media. Ms. Golub has focused on a broad range of issues during her career including religious freedom, hate crimes, due process protections, detention, deportation, expedited removal, civil rights, refugee and asylum issues, and immigration.

Paul Liben, Executive Writer

Paul Liben joined the Commission in November 2010. Mr. Liben has had nearly twenty years of experience writing for high-level leaders including the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, the Postmaster General of the United States, the Governor of New York State, and the founding partner of a New York law firm. He also has written articles in his own name on a variety of issues, including the religious freedom issue pertaining to the north/south conflict in Sudan.

As Secretary Michael Chertoff's speechwriting director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2007 and 2008, Mr. Liben covered a number of topics, including the support of democracy and freedom to meet the global challenge of violent religious extremism. He helped draft and place articles in major foreign policy journals, including Foreign Affairs and Harvard International Review. In 2009, Mr. Liben assisted Secretary Chertoff in his book on U.S. homeland security strategy in a post-9/11 world. From 1995 through 2006, Mr. Liben wrote for the administration of New York Governor George Pataki, eventually becoming a senior speechwriter for the Governor.

A published writer, Mr. Liben has drafted articles that have appeared in more than 100 publications, including the Wall Street Journal, First Things, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Seattle Times, St. Petersburg Times, and Oregonian. Mr. Liben was among the earliest writers to highlight the persecution of southern Sudanese Christians by the radical regime in Khartoum, as well as the threat its ideology posed to the United States and the global community.

Mr. Liben holds a B.A. degree in history from Cornell University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Tiffany Lynch , Senior Policy Analyst

Tiffany LynchTiffany Lynch is a policy analyst at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, where her work focuses on refugee and asylum issues, and religious freedom in Latin America, and Africa. She has been with the Commission since February 2006. Ms. Lynch came to the Commission after receiving a Master's degree in Anthropology and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has worked at the Stanhope Centre for Communication Policy and Research researching freedom of the press issues in East Africa and spent two and a half years at the National Endowment for Democracy where she managed the International Movement of Parliamentarians for Democracy, a World Movement for Democracy network of parliamentarians dedicated to the promotion of democracy and the protection of democratic parliamentarians. Ms. Lynch received a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Political Science and minor in French from the University of Indiana.

Knox Thames , Director of Policy and Research

Knox Thames joined the Commission in 2009 as the Director of Policy and Research. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the U.S. Army War College and serves on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. Before USCIRF, he was the lead State Department officer on religious freedom issues in multilateral fora, such as the UN and OSCE, serving in the Office of International Religious Freedom. Mr. Thames also served as Counsel for six years at the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission), focusing on religious freedom and religious tolerance, issues involving refugees and internally displaced persons, and democracy and human rights in Central Asia. From 2004-2012, Mr. Thames was appointed by the State Department to the OSCE Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Mr. Thames earned a J.D. with honors from the American University Washington College of Law. He also holds a Master's in International Affairs from the American University School of International Service. An author of numerous articles on a range of foreign policy issues, his writing has been featured in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, ForeignPolicy.com, and Small Wars Journal.