Covert Contact

By John W. Little

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Category: News & Politics

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Subscribers: 148
Reviews: 1

Pete Ellinger
 May 19, 2019
Utterly fascinating, totally gripping. Sometimes disturbing, often heart warming. To all involved, thank you.


Episode Date
Shortwave Numbers Stations | Episode 118
Scot Terban joined me to discuss the use of shortwave numbers stations, recently declassified KGB investigative techniques for identifying recipients of those broadcasts, how shortwave has changed with the introduction of the internet, and technologies such as software defined radio (SDR) that make capturing mysterious signals affordable (sometimes free) and easier than ever.
Oct 01, 2020
Chinese Spies in US Law Enforcement – And Everywhere Else | Episode 117
The regular counterintelligence chat with William Tucker is a day late but full of new Chinese espionage activity in the NYPD, the EU, and beyond. We also touch on intelligence history and why literature from the Middle Ages or beyond is not only fascinating but still relevant.
Sep 26, 2020
The Threat of Fake Spies | Episode 116
William Tucker returns to discuss the incredible case of Garrison Courtney and Alpha-214. Posing as a CIA NOC Courtney was able to engineer a scheme that duped numerous beltway contractors, intelligence officials, former military officers and many others.
Sep 18, 2020
Election Threats and Disrupting Chinese Espionage | Episode 115
William Tucker joins me for our weekly counterintelligence chat. In this episode we discuss the recent report for Microsoft that details Russian, Chinese, and Iranian attacks on individuals and organizations tied to our presidential campaigns and the recent move to revoke the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese grad students and researchers who have been deemed security risks.
Sep 11, 2020
French Officer Busted Spying on NATO for GRU & Other Espionage Cases | 114
William Tucker joins me to discuss two high profile cases this week, sloppy Chinese tradecraft, and why it always pays to visit the FBI before the FBI visits you.
Sep 04, 2020
Russians Targeted Tesla Gigafactory in Ransomware Plot | Episode 113
Scot Terban is back to discuss the plot, common points of vulnerability, and what you can do it, like a Tesla employee, you find yourself in the middle of a Russian criminal plot.
Sep 02, 2020
Texas A&M, NASA, and Chinese Espionage | Episode 112
William Tucker joins me to discuss the Zhengdong Cheng case, how Chinese espionage might need to evolve, global awareness of the scope of China’s spying, and how organizations can protect themselves if they haven’t started evaluating their own risk.
Aug 28, 2020
Careers in Intelligence: Beyond the Three Letter Agencies |Episode 111
Dean Baratta joins me to discuss the rapidly diversifying and expanding non-traditional career paths in intelligence. We also touch on some tips for those looking to enter the field.
Aug 23, 2020
Spying for Russia: The Peter Debbins Case | Episode 110
William Tucker joins me again to look into yesterday’s indictment of Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, a former Green Beret alleged to have worked for Russian intelligence for over a decade.
Aug 22, 2020
Counterintelligence Chat: Alexei Navalny & Alexander Ma | Episode 109
William Tucker returns to look at the apparent poisoning of Alexei Navalny and yet another Chinese espionage case, this time involving Alexander Ma. It’s a classic case, with a Hawaii connection, and there’s likely more interesting details to come. You can follow William Tucker on Twitter @tuckerwj
Aug 21, 2020
Preparing for A Career in Intelligence: Thoughts on Personal Security and Behavior | Episode 108
Former CIA officer Maggie Gwynne joins me to discuss how those interested in pursuing a career in intelligence should manage their profiles (online and off) and conduct themselves to prepare for a challenging recruitment and training period.
Aug 16, 2020
Understanding the Israel-UAE Deal | Episode 107
Alon Pinkas, who served as foreign policy advisor to Ehud Barak, political advisor to Shimon Peres, Chief of Staff to four Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and Consul General of Israel in New York City returns to Covert Contact for a quick dive on the drivers behind the deal and what it means for the region.
Aug 15, 2020
A Pardon for Edward Snowden? | Episode 106
William Tucker returns to discuss the Edward Snowden case after President Trump made remarks on the case that sparked new speculation about a potential pardon.
Aug 14, 2020
Washington Takes Aim at the Confucius Institute | Episode 105
Today’s decision to force the Confucius Institute to register as a foreign mission is the subject of my regular Thursday evening counterintelligence chat with Covert Contact regular William Tucker. We look at why it was necessary and where we, and China, might go from here. You can follow William Tucker on Twitter @tuckerwj
Aug 14, 2020
Israel and The United States: Past, Present, and Future with Alon Pinkas | Episode 104
Alon Pinkas joins Covert Contact to look at the state of the relationship, look at where it could (and should) evolve, and to dive into some of the socio-political dynamics that shape the relationship and how it is viewed from both sides.
Aug 12, 2020
Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy | Episode 103
Australian journalist Stilgherrian, who's been covering internet policy for more than a decade, and has been closely following Australia's cybersecurity and digital surveillance laws for global tech site ZDNet returns to Covert Contact to discuss Australia's recently released 2020 cyber security strategy.
Aug 08, 2020
Chinese Spies and Russian Honey Traps | Episode 102
William Tucker returns for our regular Thursday evening counterintelligence chat. We start off by discussing the resource and coordination challenges in addressing Chinese espionage but quickly pivot to thoughts on Russian cases, honey traps, and the universally terrible outcomes experienced by American defectors and spies.
Aug 07, 2020
Quick Take: An Explosion in Beirut | Episode 101
A massive explosion has rocked Beirut at a critical time in Lebanon’s history. In this quick take I share some concerns about what could happen next.
Aug 04, 2020
Online Security: Avoiding a Personal October Surprise | Episode 100
Infosec professional and security blogger Scot Terban joins me to discuss the recent LinkedIn spying case, the degrading environments in social media, and strategies for improving your personal security so that you don't get targeted, compromised, and swept into your own (or someone else's) October surprise.
Aug 01, 2020
Chinese Espionage in the United States | Episode 99
William Tucker is back to discuss the scale of Chinese espionage in the United States and some of the misconceptions that have hampered our response to the threat.
Jul 31, 2020
Shaping Intelligence Products for Maximum Impact | Episode 98
Dean Baratta returns for a discussion about the never-ending need to develop and refine intelligence products so that they meet customer needs, build customer trust, and land with the greatest possible impact.
Jul 26, 2020
When You Can’t Obey | Episode 97
Pauline Shanks Kaurin, Ph.D joins Covert Contact to discuss ethical and moral dilemmas and how we can prepare ourselves for the eventual challenge of facing them.
Jul 24, 2020
What’s Happening at the Chinese Consulate in Houston? | Episode 96
Houston rarely finds itself at the center of geopolitical drama but that changed overnight as firefighters and police surrounded the Chinese consulate as staff there began burning massive amounts of documentation in the building's courtyard.
Jul 22, 2020
Covert Contact is Back | Episode 95
Dean Baratta joins Covert Contact as we resume production after a nearly two year hiatus. We touch on some of the macro problems the world is facing with and where the show is heading from here.
Jul 18, 2020
The Poisoning of Sergei Skripal | Episode 94
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 joined me shortly after the attack on […]
Mar 22, 2018
Team Leadership & Ethics | Episode 93
In his 3+ years as Chief of the Analysis Bureau at New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Dean Baratta led a very capable team of intelligence analysts. Dean was a critical part of a small team that was widely recognized for its innovative approaches. Now, as he moves on to another project, he […]
Feb 05, 2018
The Jerry Chun Shing Lee Case | Episode 92
William J. Tucker, a regular contributor on counterintelligence and security topics for Blogs of War and Covert Contact, returns for a look at the Jerry Chun Shing Lee case. Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former CIA case officer, is suspected by many to have compromised CIA activities in China but has only been charged with […]
Jan 23, 2018
North Korean Cryptocurrency Ops | Episode 91
In episode 91 security researcher and Stratfor Global Fellow Scot Terban (AKA Krypt3ia) joins me to discuss North Korea’s sophisticated exploitation of cryptocurrency.
Jan 10, 2018
Combatting Misinformation | Episode 90
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 misinformation, the technology and platforms facilitating it, and the challenges faced in combatting it.
Jan 02, 2018
Evaluating the North Korean Threat | Episode 89
Phil Walter joins returns to the show to look at how the U.S. processes and evaluates the threat posed by North Korea. We try to separate the rhetoric and action to cut through the hype. We examine American concepts of security and risk and how emotional responses drive both. Is war with North Korea likely? […]
Dec 19, 2017
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 […]
Dec 12, 2017
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 […]
Dec 04, 2017
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.
Nov 29, 2017
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 […]
Nov 21, 2017
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 […]
Nov 14, 2017
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 […]
Nov 06, 2017
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 […]
Oct 30, 2017
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 […]
Oct 23, 2017
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 […]
Oct 18, 2017
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 […]
Oct 16, 2017
Australian Cyber Policy | Episode 78
Episode 78 wraps up a full month of focus on Australian defense perspectives with a look at
Oct 09, 2017
Australian Approaches to Counterterrorism | Episode 77
The third week of episodes focused on Australian security perspectives continues with a discussion about Australia’s approach to counterterrorism with Levi West. Levi is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. Our discussion is wide ranging and spans how the university’s terrorism program is structured, the legal framework governing security operations […]
Oct 02, 2017
Australian Special Operations Forces | Episode 76
I’m joined by Colonel Ian Langford, DSC (Two Bar), who has served the Australian Army and Special Operations Command, with distinction, for over two decades. He has served in the Solomon Islands, East Timor, Bougainville, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Afghanistan where he was recognized with the Distinguished Service Cross for distinguished command and leadership […]
Sep 25, 2017
Understanding and Developing Resilience To Information Warfare | Episode 75
Dr. Clint Arizmendi, an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow for the Australian Graduate School of Policing & Security’s Terrorism Studies program at Charles Sturt University, joins me to discuss information warfare in episode 75. Of course, we look at the subject primarily through the lens of current events. Russia is covered, as is the Trump administration, […]
Sep 18, 2017
Deep State Conspiracies | Episode 74
Alex Finley, a former officer of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, joined me to discuss the rise of deep state conspiracies that often feature a monolithic, highly partisan, intelligence community at their center. Much of Alex’s work (see the hilarious Victor in the Rubble and The Intelligence Community: Smart People Looking at Computers) demystifies the […]
Sep 11, 2017
Data, AI, and Ethics | Episode 73
Entrepreneur Evanna Hu joins me to discuss our rapidly evolving relationship with data. The explosion of data streams and technologies that offload challenging analysis to machines are creating interesting national security challenges and opportunities at lightening speed. Evanna, and her company Omelas, seek to leverage these technologies to address hard national security problems (such as […]
Sep 05, 2017
Beyond Russia: Overlooked Counterintelligence Threats | Episode 72
Russian intelligence presents a significant challenge for the United States but it is far from the only threat. There are dozens of nations and non-state actors actively collecting against us at any given time. There are countless companies engaging in corporate espionage. Every organization has a hostile insider – or will soon enough. Threats are […]
Aug 28, 2017
System Failure: It Only Gets More Difficult from Here | Episode 71
What if Charlottesville and the dysfunction in Washington are not aberrations? What happens if the challenges facing society and governance only get more difficult for our current failing systems and leaders to tackle? Authoritarianism is on the rise. The threat of fascism is no longer mere hyperbole. There’s a growing sense that profound trouble lies […]
Aug 21, 2017
Iran in the Age of Trump | Episode 70
Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on Iran-backed Shiite proxy groups. He is also well-known for his Hizballah Cavalcade project on Jihadology. In episode 70 Phillip joins me for a quick look at how the change in U.S. leadership is impacting the balance of sectarian power and our policy toward Iran. Are […]
Jun 18, 2017
Securing Data, Communications, and Identity with Keybase | Episode 69
Keybase is a small but ambitious company that aims to make cyrpto available and virtually seamless for everyone. Their approach to this problem, a massively challenging one that hasn’t really been cracked to date, has been creative. However, the flexibility and scope of potential applications hasn’t always been obvious as they’ve slowly scaled up from […]
Jun 08, 2017
Egyptian, Muslim, American | Episode 68
My friend Angie Gad joins me for episode 68 of Covert Contact to discuss growing up as a first generation Egyptian-American Muslim. We cover a lot of ground in this episode including her family’s struggle to maintain and establish roots in two very different worlds, her own challenges doing the same, her efforts to find […]
Jun 06, 2017
The Manchester Attack | Episode 67
Covert Contact returns from hiatus with William J. Tucker, a regular contributor on counterintelligence and security topics for Blogs of War and Covert Contact, joining me for a look at the Manchester attack. This episode was recorded shortly after a suicide bomber struck an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England on May 22nd and the […]
May 30, 2017
Intelligence Analysis: Feedback, Bias, and Other Challenges | Episode 66
Dean Baratta, Chief of the Analysis Bureau at New Jersey’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, joins me to discuss how bias can impact both the production and consumption of intelligence products. NJOHSP also produces a significant amount of unclassified material so we discuss how that can be interpreted (or misinterpreted) and how his office […]
Mar 10, 2017
Counterintelligence in the Trump Era | Episode 65
William J. Tucker, regular contributor on counterintelligence topics for Blogs of War and Covert Contact, joins me to discuss the unprecedented challenge the Trump presidency poses to both U.S. counterintelligence and the intelligence community as whole. You can follow William on Twitter @tuckerwj.
Feb 25, 2017
Exploring Divergent Options | Episode 64
Divergent Options is a new effort to build a body of concise analysis (1,000 words or less) on national security topics from a global talent pool. The project was launched by Phil Walter and he joins me on Covert Contact to discuss the effort and the important gap that it is seeking to fill. Phil […]
Feb 17, 2017
Understanding the Pace and Scope of Technology Driven Change | Episode 63
Covert Contact is back after a bit of break! Andrew Trabulsi, entrepreneur, consultant, and co-editor of Warlords, Inc.: Black Markets, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me again for a discussion about the inherent challenges in understanding and forecasting technology-driven change. This interview was originally recorded in October of 2016 so […]
Feb 06, 2017
Russia, Trump, and Hillary | Episode 62
In episode 62 I look at what may have been the most bizarre presidential debate in U.S. history. Covert Contact regular William Tucker joins me later in the show to discuss the U.S. government’s formal acknowledgement that Russia is meddling in the U.S. election. Listener email makes its debut in this episode. If you’d like […]
Oct 10, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – The First Debate | Episode 61
I’m a little under the weather but here is a short wrap-up of last night’s debate. I’m thinking about producing more frequent, but shorter, episodes between the usual 30-45 minute long weekly interviews but I’d like to hear your thoughts on that idea.
Sep 27, 2016
Putin’s Struggle for Relevancy and Power | Episode 60
Covert Contact regular William Tucker joins me for a quick look at Putin’s outlook and the challenges he faces despite domestic political wins, successful rounds of international meddling, and attempts to reshape Russia’s domestic security, military, and intelligence services. Putin appears to be working from a position of strength but appearances can often be deceiving […]
Sep 20, 2016
Citizen Soldiers: Service and Sacrifice with Wendy R. Anderson | Episode 59
Wendy R. Anderson, Managing Director of Military and National Security Initiatives at Strong Eagle Media, joins me to discuss her company’s amazing new documentary Citizen Soldier and her previous work inside senior levels of the Department of Defense and other components of the federal government. We discuss service, sacrifice, and leadership from both civilian and […]
Sep 11, 2016
Inside the President’s Daily Brief with David Priess | Episode 58
Dr. David Priess delivered the Presidents Daily Brief during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and has produced the definitive history on the subject with The President’s Book of Secrets: The Untold Story of Intelligence Briefings to America’s Presidents from Kennedy to Obama. David joined me to discuss the monumental challenge of structuring, […]
Aug 19, 2016
Fragmented Realities – AV and VR Update | Episode 57
Freelance writer and columnist Robert Rath joins me in episode 57 to review the latest advances in virtual and augmented reality. Augmented reality, in the form of Pokemon Go, has captured much of the attention but the virtual reality market will continue to mature. Neither technology will remain a fad despite several false or […]
Aug 12, 2016
Russia, Donald Trump, and the 2016 Election | Episode 56
Regular Blogs of War and Covert Contact contributor William Tucker joins me to look at allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Trump’s roll in the insanity, and the impact that it is having on American power and our allies in places like Estonia and other Baltic states.
Aug 01, 2016
Journalism and Conflict in East Africa | Episode 55
In episode 55 Amanda Sperber joins me to discuss her work as a journalist in East Africa. Amanda has covered the region for Foreign Policy, VICE News, Al Jazeera English, and others. We discuss the challenges inherent in covering a largely overlooked, and sometimes dangerous, part of the world.
Jul 29, 2016
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 […]
Jul 17, 2016
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 […]
Jul 05, 2016
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 […]
Jun 21, 2016
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 […]
Jun 14, 2016
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 […]
Jun 13, 2016
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 […]
Jun 11, 2016
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 […]
Jun 06, 2016
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 […]
Jun 02, 2016
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 […]
May 30, 2016
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 […]
Apr 25, 2016
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 […]
Apr 19, 2016
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, […]
Apr 14, 2016
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 […]
Apr 12, 2016
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 […]
Apr 03, 2016
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 […]
Feb 17, 2016
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 […]
Feb 09, 2016
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 […]
Jan 26, 2016
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 […]
Jan 12, 2016
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.
Jan 05, 2016
Closing Out 2015 and Looking Toward 2016 with William Tucker | Episode 35
Regular contributor William Tucker joined me for the final episode of 2015. We discussed holiday terror alerts, Poland’s unusual raid of a NATO-linked counterintelligence center that it operated with Slovakia, the U.S. Army Europe counterintelligence division’s release of a mobile app for soliciting tips, and more. We closed out this episode with thoughts about the […]
Jan 02, 2016
Art in Diplomacy and Conflict | Episode 34
Dr. Julia Tatiana Bailey is an art historian specializing in visual politics in the Cold War and art as propaganda, diplomacy and resistance. She recently completed a PhD focusing on official and unofficial Soviet-American cultural exchange and works as Assistant Curator of International Art at Tate Modern in London. Julia blogs on Cold War art […]
Dec 27, 2015
Understanding and Influencing Enemy Behavior | Episode 33
Phil Walter joins me again to discuss behavior. Why do the actors we seek to influence, friend and foe alike, behave the way that they do? What advantage does a deep understanding of the underlying motivations for their behavior give us? It’s easy to be dismissive of an enemy’s needs, wants, and desires but in […]
Dec 23, 2015
Video Games, Virtual Reality, and Conflict with Robert Rath | Episode 32
In episode 32 of Covert Contact freelance writer Robert Rath joins me to discuss video games and the very real violence that surrounds us. Gaming, especially in the first person shooter genre, reflects our view of combat but it can shape our views on the subject as well. Video game inspired technology is also increasingly […]
Dec 19, 2015
Understanding the Limits of Intelligence and Counterterrorism | Episode 31
In episode 31 I’m joined by Patrick Skinner, Director of Special Projects for The Soufan Group. Patrick is a former CIA case officer who specializes in counter-terrorism issues. Patrick’s background in both law enforcement (US Air Marshals and the US Capitol Police) and intelligence has positioned him to understand the full array of challenges we […]
Dec 15, 2015
The San Bernardino Attack, Small Scale Terrorism, and ISIS | Episode 30
Regular contributor on terrorism and counterintelligence topics, William Tucker, joins me again to review the horrific and unusual attacks in San Bernardino. We discuss the odd, possible hybrid, nature of the attack, the challenge these types of attacks pose to our homeland security efforts, and what can be done in the face of what are […]
Dec 08, 2015
Islamism and Democracy: Finding Models for the Middle East and Preserving Our Own | Episode 29
In episode 29 Brookings Institution senior fellow and author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East joins me to discuss the difficult relationship Islamist movements have with democracy and power at the state level in general. Years of research, and deep contacts, led Shadi to some unexpected findings about […]
Nov 30, 2015
Thanksgiving | Episode 28
Normally I’d spend this day surrounded by friends and family. I hope that’s what many of you are doing. But today I have some kind of bug. It’s nothing serious, just a minor cold, but I have relatives with compromised immune systems and I’m staying home so as not to put them at risk. I […]
Nov 27, 2015
Turkey Shot Down a Russian Jet – Where Do We Go From Here? | Episode 27
Putin called today’s downing of a Russian Su-24 by a Turkish F16 a “stab in the back” but it this was certainly not an unproved attack. In fact it follows countless warnings from Turkey that violations of its airspace (and aggression against its interests on its border) will not go unchecked. Terrorism analyst and counterintelligence […]
Nov 25, 2015
What You Are Getting Wrong About ISIS | Episode 26
Northeastern University professor and terrorism theorist Max Abrahms excels at poking holes in the conventional wisdom and he joins me again in episode 26 to do exactly that. I initially asked Max to discuss his recent piece in Harvard Business Review Why People Keep Saying, “That’s What the Terrorists Want” but we expanded the discussion […]
Nov 23, 2015
Catching Russian Spies with Former Double Agent Naveed Jamali | Episode 25
In episode 25 I’m talking to Naveed Jamali, former double agent, and co-author of How to Catch a Russian Spy: The True Story of an American Civilian Turned Double Agent. Naveed seemed like an unlikely candidate for this sort of intrigue but Russian intelligence used his parent’s company to order U.S. government publications. The FBI, […]
Nov 20, 2015
The Paris Attacks and Europe’s Security Challenges | Episode 24
William J. Tucker joins me again for a high level look at the Paris attacks and the impact that instability, chiefly in Syria, will have on the region. Failing states and the mass migration of refugees will continue to put immense pressure on dozens of governments. There is no framework, or level of response, that will […]
Nov 17, 2015
War and the New Normal: Phil Walter on Life After War | Episode 23
In episode 23 Phil Walter joins me to talk about his transition from the the battlefield, to home, and eventually into a role where he has the opportunity to work on national security policy. I’m thankful to Phil for sharing his personal story because I think it might help others who are finding it difficult […]
Nov 13, 2015
Supporting Independent Art in Afghanistan: Francesca Recchia Updates from Kabul | Episode 22
Regular Covert Contact listeners will recognize Francesca from episodes 9 and 17. This episode follows the same general format. We discussed the mood in Kabul, the emergence of ISIS and AQIS, and I asked her about the perception of both Iran and Russia (which has been particularly vocal about Afghanistan lately). We then move on […]
Nov 09, 2015
The Damascus Cover and the Psychology of Spies with Howard Kaplan | Episode 21
Howard Kaplan wrote his debut espionage novel, The Damascus Cover, nearly forty years ago. He joins me to discuss the book, the recently completed the film adaptation staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Sir John Hurt, his own experience serving as a courier for Israeli intelligence in the Soviet Union (where he was eventually detained for […]
Nov 03, 2015
Government Email Problems, Wikileaks, Russia, Drone Leaks, NASA Security and Other Counterintelligence Nightmares | Episode 20
Covert Contact kicks off again with an admittedly rambling, but hopefully entertaining, start as I review a number of high profile security issues with counterintelligence pro William Tucker. We look at the hack of DCIA John Brennan’s AOL account, Hillary Clinton’s email problems, and then ponder the broader risks associated with the personal accounts of key U.S. […]
Oct 27, 2015
Encryption as the New Norm: Discussing A Changing Internet with ProtonMail Co-Founder Andy Yen | Episode 19
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been evaluating ProtonMail. This service is part of a new generation of tools (most inspired by Edward Snowden) developed with the aim of delivering robust encrypted communications and file sharing to the widest possible audience. Blogs of War readers know that I’m not an Edward Snowden fan, far […]
Mar 28, 2015
The Battle Between Encryption and Mass Surveillance with Former FBI Agent David Gomez | Episode 18
I emailed retired FBI agent David Gomez from my new ProtonMail account to propose a podcast about encryption and its effect on mass surveillance from a homeland security and law enforcement perspective. You’re reading this because he immediately accepted. Encrypted communication has been available to consumers for decades but new tools are arriving that are […]
Mar 23, 2015
Life, and Art, in Afghanistan with Francesca Recchia | Episode 17
In this episode I catch up with Francesca Recchia to get an update on life in Kabul, Afghanistan where, mostly thanks to the weather, life has been even more difficult than usual. But the conversation also shifts quickly to the subject of art, and artists, in the country. Francesca is working hard to develop cultural […]
Mar 18, 2015
Why Terrorism Fails: A Discussion with Max Abrahms | Episode 16
We know that terrorism succeeds at terrorizing its targets but does it help the groups behind it achieve their political goals? In this episode I’m joined by Northeastern University professor and terrorism theorist Max Abrahms who makes a persuasive case that terrorism does not succeed where other more selective uses of violence might. I made […]
Mar 16, 2015
Hillary Clinton’s Email Server: Dissecting the Risks with William Tucker | Episode 15
William J. Tucker joins me again to discuss Hillary Clinton’s decision to manage her own email services while Secretary of State. While this decision has angered political opponents and government transparency advocates (not to mention a few historians) we are bypassing the political and legal issues to zero in on the risks associated with her […]
Mar 11, 2015
Andy Priest on the Importance of Developing New International Crisis Policing Models | Episode 14
Policing is on the agenda again in episode 14. In this episode I talk to Andy Priest about his international rapid intervention concept that focuses on providing advanced police support during critically destabilizing events. Andy stresses the importance of building this capability now so that participating nations can draw on a stabilizing resource in an […]
Mar 09, 2015
Scriven King on Balancing Security, Values, and Public Perception in Modern Policing | Episode 13
In episode 13 I speak to security blogger/podcaster, and Blogs of War contributor, Scriven King about some of the challenges in modern policing. Security professionals, police included, are scrambling to understand rapidly evolving technologies and threats. Evolving to meet those threats, and leverage those technologies, without significantly changing what it means to be a police […]
Mar 05, 2015
Counterintelligence: William J. Tucker Breaks Down the Challenges | Episode 12
In this episode I’m talking to William J. Tucker about counterintelligence. It is a complex discipline that is often misunderstood – even by intelligence professionals. But it presents as many opportunities as it does challenges and this conversation hints at that. Like all intelligence disciplines, it is faced with a rapidly changing environment and overwhelming […]
Jan 31, 2015
Counterterrorism Challenges – Pondering Seemingly Unsolvable Problems with Phillip Smyth | Episode 11
The first Covert Contact interview features University of Maryland Laboratory for Computational Cultural Dynamics researcher Phillip Smyth. Phillip is also well known for his Hizballah Cavalcade project on Jihadology. Phillip specializes in Shia militias, and we touch on that topic, but most of the interview is spent looking at the big challenges we face in […]
Dec 20, 2014
The Senate Torture Report | Episode 10
It is always disheartening when America does not live up to the standards many of us expect and in the adoption and execution of enhanced interrogation we have failed to do that on many levels. The primary failure is that our elected officials and the people who serve them strayed into territory where most of […]
Dec 10, 2014
Art in Afghanistan: Francesca Recchia Updates from Kabul | Episode 9
Episode nine focuses on the unusual work of Francesca Recchia. Francesca is an independent researcher and writer who has worked in many challenging places including Iraq, Pakistan, and Palestine. She is currently in Kabul and this episode features several daily updates that I asked her to record shortly after I started this project. Francesca’s work […]
Nov 29, 2014
The Navy SEAL Who Killed Osama bin Laden and the Heroes You’ll Never Know | Episode 8
In episode eight I look at the case of Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill and the culture that lures men and women like him out of the shadows and into a world of fame, ego gratification, and financial reward. I examine the role that military leadership and our culture at large plays in chipping away at […]
Nov 14, 2014
Why Daesh’s Social Media Campaign is a Massive Failure | Episode 7
In episode 7 I’m pushing back at the notion that Daesh’s social media visibility equals success. The group might have mastered trolling and they can shoot and edit passable HD video but are these activities going to help them achieve their goals or are they, in fact, undermining themselves with every tweet and every recorded […]
Nov 05, 2014
Robots and the Future of Warfare: The Advantage Might Not Lie with the Inventors | Episode 6
In episode 6 I look at the evolution of unmanned platforms and speculate about the impact that they could have on warfare. The technology is evolving faster than our appreciation for the complications it will bring so while there will be countless positive benefits there will also unquestionably be a dark side to it all. […]
Oct 30, 2014
Lone Wolf Terrorism and the Importance of Perspective | Episode 5
In episode 5 I take a look at the real impact of lone wolf terror attacks, why ISIS seems to have been more successful than al-Qaeda at motivating these individual actors, and how the average citizen can put these acts of violence in proper perspective. I also briefly touch on the unfortunate role that the media […]
Oct 25, 2014
What the Attack in Ottawa Teaches Us About Terrorists – And Ourselves | Episode 4
As promised earlier today I recorded brief thoughts about today’s attack. I had originally intended this to be a discussion about a particular type of attack and terrorist strategy but much is still unknown in this case. I decided to save those thoughts for another day. Instead, I look at the contrasts between those who […]
Oct 23, 2014
Crypto Wars: Winners, Losers, and the Case for Compromise | Episode 3
This week I’m focusing on a single critical topic – the struggle between privacy advocates and governments over cryptography. This is a sensitive topic and there are a lot of extreme positions on the matter. I attempt to take a balanced look at both sides of the issue, offer my thoughts about who might win […]
Oct 21, 2014
The State of Twitter, the Struggle to Understand, and The Perils of Technology for Terrorists | Episode 2
This week, I’m offering my take on the notion than Twitter is broken. David Auerbach did a fine job of arguing just that in Slate recently, and I agree with much of what he wrote, but my conclusion might surprise you. I’m also offering some thoughts on our struggle to deeply understand terrorism and the people […]
Oct 15, 2014
Intelligence Failures, Agent Storm, and eDiplomacy Trolling | Episode 1
Welcome to the launch of Covert Contact: The Blogs of War Podcast. In episode 1 I am looking at the notion of intelligence failures and why they’re often more complicated than they seem – or not failures at all.  I’m also taking a look at  the new biography of Murad Storm, the towering red-haired Danish agent […]
Oct 06, 2014