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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.