Adam Isacson has worked on defense, security, and peacebuilding in Latin America since 1994. He now directs WOLA’s Defense Oversight program, which monitors U.S. cooperation with Latin America’s security forces, as well as other security trends.
As part of the program, Isacson tracks U.S. military and police training, arms transfers, and security engagement and their implications for human rights and civil-military relations throughout the Americas. This involves frequent liasoning with the defense community, congressional oversight staff, and partners in the region, and maintaining a vast database of up-to-date information on military assistance and other security issues.
Since 2011, Isacson has also focused on border security. He has visited the U.S.-Mexico border about 20 times, and has also completed field research along nearly the entire border between Mexico and Guatemala. Together with WOLA’s Border Security and Migration program, Isacson has published dozens of reports, memos, and multimedia projects about U.S. agencies’ security buildup at the border and its human impact.
Isacson continues to accompany WOLA’s Colombia program on peace and security issues. This country has been a central focus for Isacson’s Defense Oversight work, as Colombia has been the primary recipient of U.S. security assistance in the Western Hemisphere since the early 1990s. Monitoring U.S. aid, and advocating for peaceful resolution to Colombia’s long armed conflict, has led him to visit Colombia more than 70 times. He has done work in 23 of the country’s 32 departments.
Before coming to WOLA in 2010, Isacson worked on Latin America demilitarization at the Center for International Policy (CIP). There, he joined with Latin America Working Group and WOLA in creating a longstanding project that thoroughly monitors U.S. military assistance to the region. With contributions from WOLA, that project continues at CIP, covering the whole world, as the Security Assistance Monitor.
A prolific writer and coder, Isacson has produced over 250 publications, articles, book chapters, and policy memos over the course of his career. He has created several websites, from blogs to stand-alone web apps. He hosts WOLA’s podcast, Latin America Today. He speaks to about 20 audiences per year, from universities to grassroots gatherings to government agencies. He has testified eight times before the U.S. Congress.
At the start of his career, in the mid-1990s, Isacson worked on the Central America Demilitarization Program at the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress in Costa Rica. Isacson holds an M.A. in International Relations from Yale University and a B.A. from Hampshire College.