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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Navigating Massive Technological Change | Episode 44

Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me to discuss how profound shifts in technology create risk and opportunities for governments. We look at how artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, and advancements in health care are poised to reshape our world – perhaps even more drastically than the seismic shifts that came before. The United States is well positioned to succeed in this environment, and the technology gap will create opportunities for dominance. However, new technologies also bring new vulnerabilities, new tensions, and new opportunities for determined competitors. The only thing that can be taken for granted is change.

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Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin: Identity, Espionage, and Counterintelligence | Episode 43

Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me to discuss the Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin espionage case. While little is known about the case, and Edward Lin has yet to be convicted, all signs point to a very damaging affair. Lin was born in Taiwan, left with his family at 14, and became a naturalized citizen in 2008 before working his way into one of the Navy’s most sensitive roles. It will be a case to watch – and will likely take a long time to unfold.

Along the we we touch on the necessity and challenges of integrating naturalized citizens into our defense and intelligence communities, the difficulty of protecting America’s vast intelligence and military machine, and how complex counterintelligence investigations are managed.

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The Rise and Challenge of Transnational Crime | Episode 42

Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me to discuss the growing impact of transnational crime and how it intersects with destabilizing forces ranging from empowered individuals, to terrorist organizations, to rogue governments.

The key question at the heart of this discussion is our response. How can large bureaucratic organizations, such as the U.S. intelligence community, position themselves to counter incredibly nimble (and increasingly empowered) actors who are unconstrained by law or ethics? We just scratch the surface here but this episode will be followed by several more focused discussions with Andrew as we search for answers.

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What Did Russia Gain in Syria? | Episode 41

Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me after a long break to discuss Russia’s intervention in Syria. Why are they there, what were their true motives, what have they gained, and where does this action fit in the context of Russia’s long-standing adversarial position with NATO and the West? We also look at Russia’s conflict with Turkey, structural weaknesses influencing their behavior, and prospects for improving their relationship with the West along the way.

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Are Ungoverned Spaces Inherently Dangerous? | Episode 40

In this episode Phil Walter joins me to discuss some of the concepts laid out in his recent post on Blogs of War about ungoverned spaces and how they’re viewed from a national security perspective. His recent piece on Blogs of War challenges some of the lazy assumptions and imprecise thinking on the topic and we dig a little deeper, and explore the possible implications of it all, in this episode.

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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Russian Strengths – and Weaknesses | Episode 39

We expend vast amounts of analytical energy studying Russia. And we have done so for decades. So why do we so often miss the mark when it comes to understanding their strengths and weaknesses? William Tucker joins me once again to look at the challenges facing Russia, their ability to act within constraints that would hobble other nations, and how they might evolve and cope in the face of serious economic and demographic pressures.

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Iran’s Quest for Regional Domination | Episode 38

This episode was recorded just after Iran briefly detained and released 10 American sailors. Researcher Phillip Smyth joined me to discuss that event and the avalanche of terrible analysis that it triggered, Iran’s quest for regional domination, and its use of proxies to further those aims. We also look at Iran’s relationship with Russia and the similar strategies they’ve both employed to expand their influence. Where will this sustained, and in many ways successful, effort by Iran to project power regionally take them – and us over the next decade?

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LZ Grace: A Place for Warriors to Heal | Episode 37

This week Lynnette Bukowski joins me to discuss LZ Grace Warriors Retreat. Lynnette, and many volunteers, have transformed a 38 acre farm in Virginia Beach into a place for members of the special operations community and first responders to decompress and recharge. Lynnette shares the story of her husband, a Navy SEAL, and we discuss some of the unique challenges the she faces in supporting who are accustomed to serving, and often suffering, in silence.

The episode closes out with another update on Russia, and their involvement with Hezbollah, from William Tucker.

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Saudi Arabia vs. Iran and The Burns Oregon Militia Standoff | Episode 36

William Tucker joins me once again to review the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and the militia standoff in Burns, Oregon. Did Saudi Arabia go too far? How will Iran respond? Why is the federal government handling the armed militia members in Burns with kid gloves? We address those questions and others.

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