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Dr Kevin A. O'Brien is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow in Digital Intelligence and Cyber Security at King's College London, as well as a consultant on security matters to governments and the private sector.

He has previously held roles in the Canadian Government and RAND Europe; served as a security advisor to a number of Western governments on a range of contemporary security issues; and taught postgraduate courses in intelligence and security studies at King's College London and the University of Hull, from where he obtained his PhD.

He has written extensively about contemporary intelligence, security and defence matters for more than 25 years.


Research Interests

Kevin’s research interests focus on a number of key areas – including:

  • Intelligence and national security – especially across the FIVE EYES (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and other Western countries and alliances
  • Cyber-threats, cyber-security and cyber-operations
  • Terrorism and counter-terrorism since 1968, in both the real world and the digital world
  • Technology, data, and their uses in public safety, security, defence and intelligence
  • The privatisation of security, intelligence, and military capabilities since the 1960s
  • South African security and intelligence
  • African security – particularly in West, Central and Southern Africa




  • The South African Intelligence Services: From Apartheid to Democracy 1948-2005 (London: Routledge, 2011).
  • Terrorism in Ungoverned Territories (RAND MG-561, 2007) (with Angel Rabasa, Steven Boraz, Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, Theodore W. Karasik, Jennifer D. P. Moroney, and John E. Peters)
  • Beyond Al-Qaeda – Part 1: The Global Jihadist Movement (RAND MG-429, 2006), and Part 2: The Outer Rings of the Terrorist Universe (RAND MG-430, 2006) (with Angel Rabasa, Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, Christine Fair, Sara Daly, Heather Gregg, Theodore Karasik, and William Rosenau).
  • Quick Scan of Post 9/11 National Counter-Terrorism Policymaking and Implementation in Selected European Countries (RAND MR-1590, 2002) (with Erik van de Linde, Gustav Lindstrom, Stephan de Spiegeleire, Mikko Vayrynen and Han de Vries).
  • (Editor, with Andrew Rathmell) Information Operations – An International Perspective. Special Report. Jane’s Information Group, December 2000.

Book chapters

  • “Religious Militancy and Violence in West Africa: A Study of Islam in Sierra Leone” (with Ismail Rashid), James Gow, ‘Funmi Olonisakin and Ernst Dijxhoorn (eds), Militancy and Violence in West Africa: Religion, Politics and Radicalisation (London: Routledge, 2013).
  • “Surrogate Agents: Private Military and Security Operators in an Unstable World”, Michael A. Innes (ed), Making Sense of Proxy Wars: States, Surrogates and the Use of Force (Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012).
  • “Commissions of Inquiry in South Africa’s Intelligence History 1960-2005”, Stuart Farson and Mark Phythian (eds), Commission of Inquiry and National Security: Comparative Approaches (Santa Barbara: Praegar, 2011).
  • “Covert Action: The ‘Quiet Option’ in International Statecraft”, Loch Johnson (ed), Strategic Intelligence: Covert Action (Praeger Security International, 2007).
  • “France”, Karin von Hippel (ed), Europe Confronts Terrorism (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
  • “Information Age Terrorism and Warfare”, David Martin Jones and Michael Smith (eds), Globalisation and the New Terror: The Asia Pacific Dimension (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2004).
  • “Private Military Companies in Africa 1990-1998”, Kayode Fayemi & Musa al-Fateh (eds), Mercenaries in Africa (Pluto Books, 1999).

Research articles

  • “Brexit and Cyber Security” (with Tim Stevens), RUSI Journal, Vol.164 No.3 (July 2019): 
  • “Islamist Militancy in Sierra Leone” (with Ismail Rashid) – “Special Issue on Militancy & Violence in West Africa: reflecting on radicalisation and comparing contexts”, Conflict, Security & Development 13:2 (May 2013): 169-190.
  • “Managing national security and law enforcement intelligence in a globalised world”, Review of International Studies 35 (2009): 903-915.
  • “Assessing Hostile Reconnaissance and Terrorist Intelligence Activities: The Case for a Counter Strategy”, RUSI Journal, Vol 153 No 5 (October 2008).
  • “What Future, Privatized Military and Security Activities? The Need for Pragmatic Engagement”, Royal United Services Institute Journal, Vol 152 No 2 (April 2007).
  • “A Blunted Spear: The Failure of the ANC/SACP Revolutionary War Strategy 1961-1990”, Small Wars and Insurgencies 14:2 (Autumn 2003): 27-70.
  • “Information Age Terrorism and Warfare”, Small Wars and Insurgencies 14:1 (Summer 2003): 183-206.
  • “The Use of Assassination as a Tool of State Policy: South Africa’s Counter-Revolutionary Strategy 1979-1992”, Terrorism and Political Violence – Part I: 10:3 (Summer 1998): 34-51; Part II: 13:2 (Spring 2001): 107-142.
  • “Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Confronting the Past, Building the Future?”, International Relations (August 2000): 1-16.
  • “Military Advisory Groups and African Security: Privatised Peacekeeping?”, International Peacekeeping 5:3 (Autumn 1998): 78-105.

Policy papers

Media articles

For a full list of publications please see Dr O'Brien's PURE Profile