The Nice, France Attack: How Can Counterterrorism Evolve with the Threat | Episode 54

In episode 54 I’m joined again by Patrick Skinner, Director of Special Projects for The Soufan Group. Patrick is a former CIA case officer, with a background in federal law enforcement, who specializes in counterterrorism issues. His background, and current work, allow him to look at these events from related, but different, perspectives. Our focus in this episode is on how governments should shift their thinking to better identify and mitigate that which is almost undetectable and unpreventable. It is an immensely challenging problem yet there are patterns that could inform the creation of a different model – a different approach.

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Building an Intel Shop from the Ground Up | Episode 53

In this episode Dean Baratta, Chief of the Analysis Bureau at New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, joins me to discuss how he and his leadership rebuilt their intelligence operation from the ground up. Their radical restructuring touched every facet of their operations and included substantial changes in how they classified and distributed their work. We also dig into the key elements that made the effort successful, how it has changed the way officials view their product, and where they plan to go next.

You can follow NJOHSP on Twitter (@NJOHSP) and access their unclassified intelligence products at njhomelandsecurity.gov. Their podcast, Intelligence, Unclassified is available on iTunes and other platforms.

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Russian Hackers Run Wild on the DNC | Episode 52

Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me to discuss the apparent Russian state-sponsored hack of the DNC. We also spend quite a bit of time discussing the sorry state of security. We’re talking about cyber issues constantly but the intrusions, threats, and vulnerabilities seem to be mounting. There is a lot of cybersecurity chatter but it seems to have generated very little urgency or understanding.

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The Orlando Shooting and Our Struggle to Make Sense of the Senseless | Episode 51

In episode 51 I’m joined again by Patrick Skinner, Director of Special Projects for The Soufan Group. Patrick is a former CIA case officer, with a background in federal law enforcement, who specializes in counterterrorism issues.

This episode is not a rigorous analysis of the attack in Orlando. Most of the discussion focuses on how people are responding to the attack in a highly politicized and understandably emotionally charged environment and what that means for domestic counterterrorism efforts. It’s also an appeal for Americans to be more thoughtful, more united, and more resilient in the face of threat that can’t be completely eliminated.

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Victor in The Rubble: Tackling Intelligence Community Bureaucracy Through Satire | Episode 50

Former CIA Reports Officer Alex Finley joins me in episode 50 to discuss her first novel and the business of intelligence. Victor in the Rubble is a satirical look at the CIA and the War on Terror. The book is insanely funny, and worth reading for the entertainment value alone, but Alex’s insight and ability to highlight the absurdity of bureaucratic organizations and human failures should make this required reading at the agency and other large organizations.

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Developing and Leveraging Strategic Foresight | Episode 49

I was recently in Washington D.C. and one of the highlights of the trip was meeting Dr. Mat Burrows. Dr. Burrows is the Director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

Dr. Burrows spent many years at the CIA and National Intelligence Council where he was the principal drafter of the highly regarded Global Trends report. He continues to lead this same type of forecasting in his role at the Atlantic Council.

In this episode we discuss the importance of forecasting, the challenges inherent in it, and how fiction writers and artists can play a key role in the process. Along the way we dig into some of the key drivers, such as technology, that will weigh heavily in the next report.

The process and final product are fascinating and it gets even more interesting because it’s open to input to all through a contest hosted by The Art Of The Future Project.

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Intelligence at the State and Local Level | Episode 48

I attended a domestic terrorism conference hosted by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in May and came away very impressed with how they’re approaching the business of intelligence. They have built a great team of analysts and are aggressively pushing high-quality unclassified products directly to the public. In this episode Dean Baratta, Chief of their Analysis Bureau, joins me to discuss intelligence at the state and local level and how his organization has changed the way they approach their mission.

You can follow NJOHSP on Twitter (@NJOSHP) and access their unclassified intelligence products at njhomelandsecurity.gov. Their podcast, Intelligence, Unclassified is available on iTunes and other platforms.

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Lockpicking 101 (And Why Your Locks Are Useless) | Episode 47

I recently ran into Daniel Crowley at the BSides San Antonio security conference. He, and other members of Longhorn Lockpicking Club, had several tables covered with what could have easily been two hundred or more locks and they were teaching anyone who wandered by how to pick them. Daniel did such a great job introducing my girlfriend to the hobby that I had to get him on the show.

If you listen to this episode and decide that you want to pick up some skills of your own the following links will serve you well:

Lockpicking is a fascinating and surprisingly accessible hobby if you know where to get started. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

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Cutting Through the Hybrid Warfare Hype | Episode 46

The conflict in Ukraine sparked a huge surge in interest in hybrid warfare. Phil Walter joins me in this episode to look at the less helpful aspects of that surge, discuss why the concept still matters, and to propose actions that could put us on better footing to deal with what promises to be an era of persistent but very murky conflict.

Phil has served in the military, the intelligence community, and the inter-agency. His written works are catalogued on Storify and archived at www.philwalter1058.com. I highly recommend them if you are at all interested in national security issues. You can follow him on Twitter @philwalter1058 and he is a member of the Military Writer’s Guild.The views expressed here are those of the participants alone and do not contain information of an official nature.

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How Will ISIS Evolve and How Will Our Response Evolve with Them? | Episode 45

In episode 45 I’m joined again by Patrick Skinner, Director of Special Projects for The Soufan Group. Patrick is a former CIA case officer, with a background in federal law enforcement, who specializes in counterterrorism issues.

In this episode we discuss the danger of an Islamic State under pressure and what that threat will look like over the next few months and possibly years. We also look at our approach to counterterrorism more broadly and discuss the many ways in which our understanding of the problem influences the tools we choose to use. Understanding the problem correctly, developing the proper perspective, is the key to long-term success and it doesn’t feel like we’re there just yet.

I’ll be traveling so this will be the last episode of Covert Contact until mid-May. Subscribe now and you’ll get new episodes delivered automatically as soon as production resumes.

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