Protecting the British Royal Family | Episode 88

Protecting the British royal family is incredibly difficult. Fred Burton, former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service and the author of GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice, and Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi joins me to break down some of these security efforts and the challenges he faced on the job.

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Beyond Bitcoin: Cryptocurrency Investing | Episode 87

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 Cryptocurrency investing. We look at how blockchain and cryptocurrency models have evolved since the introduction of Bitcoin. For those new to the technologies and markets we share the easiest way to get started, important things to consider before you do (security, risk, etc), and how we evaluate cryptocurrencies and the organizations behind them. We haven’t covered everything you need to know in this episode but it’s a good place to start if you want to learn more about a fascinating, volatile, and transformational space.

Some of the projects and companies mentioned include Coinbase. Stellar, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Bitcoin, and CoinMarketCap.

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Bullets of Palestine | Episode 86

Author Howard Kaplan returns to Covert Contact to discuss Bullets of Palestine (the second novel in his Jerusalem Spy Series), chronic tensions in the Middle East, the prospect for reconciliation, Abu Nidal, and his approach to writing.

Longtime listeners will recognize Howard from episode 21 where we discussed the first novel in the series.

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Terrorists and Technology | Episode 85

Levi West, Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, returns to look at how terrorists leverage (or don’t leverage) emerging apps and platforms ranging from social media, to encryption, to cryptocurrencies. We do our best to cut through the hype and look at the very real limits and challenges terrorists face when they become early adopters or even sophisticated users of networks where states have a very real advantage.

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Economic Espionage: No One Is Immune | Episode 84

William J. Tucker, a regular contributor on counterintelligence and security topics for Blogs of War and Covert Contact, joins me for a deep dive on economic espionage. Organizations face far more risk from this threat than they realize, or want to realize, and most are no match for an interested foreign intelligence service. We discuss these threats, share some case studies, and look at what companies can do to better protect themselves.

You can follow William on Twitter @tuckerwj.

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Iraq’s Consolidation and the Kurds | Episode 83

Iraq has made surprising gains in its effort to undermine or eliminate Kurdish autonomy since mid-October when we first visited this issue. Phillip Smyth joins me again to look at recent developments and the potential implications.

Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on Iran-backed Shiite proxy groups. He is also widely known for his Hizballah Cavalcade project on Jihadology.

This episode also includes another short recollection from Fred Burton. Fred is the former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service and the author of the best-selling memoir GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent. His other works include Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice and Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi.

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The Crypto Wars: Update from the Australian Front | Episode 82

Australian freelance journalist, commentator, and broadcaster Stilgherrian is back to discuss the battle over encryption and the seemingly irreconcilable differences between governments and privacy advocates. The Australian government has been particularly active in this space lately and Stil has a lot to say about their approach to the problem and how they could drive responses across the G20.

Stilgherrian’s work can be found at ZDNet Australia, Crikey, Technology Spectator, CSO Online, the ABC’s Drum Opinion, the Sydney Morning Herald, and beyond. He appears frequently on Australian television and radio and, of course, has a podcast of his own – The 9PM Edict.

This episode includes another short recollection from Fred Burton. Fred is the former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service and the author of the best-selling memoir GHOST: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent. His other works include Chasing Shadows: A Special Agent’s Lifelong Hunt to Bring a Cold War Assassin to Justice and Under Fire: The Untold Story of the Attack in Benghazi.

I kick off the show with a special announcement. Covert Contact now has a Patreon page. With your support I will be able to ramp up show production (eventually producing episodes daily) and release patron only episodes and updates. Reasonable, informed, and non-partisan discussion of critical issues has never been more important. I hope that you will help push Covert Contact to the next level.

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From CIA Case Officer to Rookie Cop | Episode 81

Former CIA Case Officer Patrick Skinner has appeared on Covert Contact several times to discuss intelligence issues and break down significant terrorist attacks. Last year, driven by more than a little frustration and a desire to act locally, Patrick decided to make a fascinating career transition and become a local police officer. In episode 81 I catch up with Patrick, discuss the transition, and we dig into the many ways that what he is learning could inform policing, those in his former profession, and policymakers.

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The Kurdish Problem | Episode 80

Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on Iran-backed Shiite proxy groups. He is also widely known for his Hizballah Cavalcade project on Jihadology.

Phillip joined me, with very short notice, to push out this look at the complexities surrounding the Kurdish drive for independence and how that looks to play out given the recent setback.

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Propaganda, Influence, and Disruption | Episode 79

Andrew Trabulsi, a strategy, technology, and intelligence consultant and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me in episode 79 to look at recent developments in the social media space of the investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election and what the evidence says about our ability (or inability) to identify and address modern propaganda. The techniques used in the 2016 election are not new but the potential for disaster rises as awareness about how they can be leveraged and misused spreads and the technological and social changes that amplify their effects continue their rapid advance. Complete solutions will remain elusive so how do we, and the platforms we depend on, push back?

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