johnwlittle@gmail.com (John W. Little)

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Covert Contact

Covert Contact covers the key national security, intelligence, and technology stories that are shaping our world.

Covert Contact is hosted by Blogs of War creator John W. Little. His work and analysis has been featured on the BBC, CNN, CBC, ABC (Australia), PBS Newshour, Fast Company, CBS, and other international media outlets. The Blogs of War Twitter feed, @Blogsofwar, was selected as one of the top Twitter accounts of 2014 by Time magazine.
Episodes
Oct. 1, 2020 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 …
Sept. 25, 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 …
Sept. 17, 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 …
Sept. 10, 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 …
Sept. 3, 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 …
Sept. 1, 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 …
Aug. 27, 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 …
Aug. 23, 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 …
Aug. 22, 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 …
Aug. 20, 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 …
Aug. 16, 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 …
Aug. 15, 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 …
Aug. 14, 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 …
Aug. 13, 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 …
Aug. 12, 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) …
Aug. 7, 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 …
Aug. 6, 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 …
Aug. 4, 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 …
Aug. 1, 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 …
July 30, 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 …
July 26, 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 …
July 23, 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 …
July 22, 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 …
July 18, 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 …
March 22, 2018 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 …
Feb. 5, 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 …
Jan. 22, 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 …
Jan. 9, 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 …
Jan. 1, 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) …
Dec. 18, 2017 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 …
Dec. 11, 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 …
Dec. 4, 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) …
Nov. 28, 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), …
Nov. 20, 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 …
Nov. 13, 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 …
Nov. 6, 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 …
Oct. 30, 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 …
Oct. 23, 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 …
Oct. 17, 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 …
Oct. 16, 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 …
Oct. 9, 2017 Australian Cyber Policy | Episode 78
Episode 78 wraps up a full month of focus on Australian defense perspectives with a look at
Oct. 2, 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 …
Sept. 25, 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 …
Sept. 18, 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 …
Sept. 11, 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 …
Sept. 4, 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 …
Aug. 28, 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 …
Aug. 20, 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 …
June 18, 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 …
June 8, 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 …
June 5, 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 …
May 29, 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 …
March 10, 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 …
Feb. 24, 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 …
Feb. 16, 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 …
Feb. 6, 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, …
Oct. 10, 2016 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 …
Sept. 27, 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 …
Sept. 20, 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 …
Sept. 11, 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 …
Aug. 19, 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 …
Aug. 12, 2016 Fragmented Realities – AV and VR Update | Episode 57
Freelance writer and Zam.com columnist Robert Rath joins me in episode 57 to review the latest advances in virtual and …
July 31, 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 …
July 29, 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 …
July 16, 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 …
July 5, 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 …
June 20, 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 …
June 13, 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 …
June 12, 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 …
June 11, 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. …
June 6, 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 …
June 1, 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 …
May 30, 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 …
April 24, 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 …
April 18, 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, …
April 13, 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 …
April 11, 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, …
April 3, 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 …
Feb. 16, 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 …
Feb. 8, 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 …
Jan. 25, 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 …
Jan. 12, 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 …
Jan. 4, 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 …
Jan. 1, 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 …
Dec. 26, 2015 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, …
Dec. 22, 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, …
Dec. 18, 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 …
Dec. 14, 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 …
Dec. 7, 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 …
Nov. 30, 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 …
Nov. 26, 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 …
Nov. 24, 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 …
Nov. 23, 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 …
Nov. 20, 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: …
Nov. 16, 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, …
Nov. 13, 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 …
Nov. 8, 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 …
Nov. 2, 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 …
Oct. 26, 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 …
March 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 …
March 22, 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 …
March 18, 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 …
March 16, 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 …
March 10, 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 …
March 9, 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 …
March 5, 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 …
Jan. 30, 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 …
Dec. 19, 2014 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 …
Dec. 10, 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 …
Nov. 28, 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 …
Nov. 14, 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 …
Nov. 4, 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 …
Oct. 30, 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 …
Oct. 25, 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 …
Oct. 22, 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 …
Oct. 20, 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 …
Oct. 14, 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 …
Oct. 6, 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 …