Covert Contact

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About

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 W…
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 of those broadcasts, how shortwave has changed with the introduction of the internet, and technologies such as software defined radio (SDR) that make…
SEP 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 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 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 able to engineer a scheme that duped numerous beltway contractors, intelligence officials, former military officers and many others.
SEP 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 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 1,0…
SEP 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 to visit the FBI before the FBI visits you.
SEP 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 Tesla employee, you find yourself in the middle of a Russian criminal plot.
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 the scope of China’s spying, and how organizations can protect themselves if they haven’t started evaluating their own risk.
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 some tips for those looking to enter the field.
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 to have worked for Russian intelligence for over a decade.
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 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 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 their profiles (online and off) and conduct themselves to prepare for a challenging recruitment and training period.
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 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 …
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 speculation about a potential pardon.
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 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 T…
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) evolve, and to dive into some of the socio-political dynamics that shape the relationship and how it is viewed from both sides.
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 and digital surveillance laws for global tech site ZDNet returns to Covert Contact to discuss Australia's recently released 2020 cyber security st…
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 in addressing Chinese espionage but quickly pivot to thoughts on Russian cases, honey traps, and the universally terrible outcomes experienced by Ame…
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 concerns about what could happen next.
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 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…
JUL 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 that have hampered our response to the threat.
JUL 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 customer needs, build customer trust, and land with the greatest possible impact.
JUL 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 the eventual challenge of facing them.
JUL 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 Chinese consulate as staff there began burning massive amounts of documentation in the building's courtyard.
JUL 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 the macro problems the world is facing with and where the show is heading from here.
MAR 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 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 Bengh…
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 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 anoth…
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 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 onl…
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 exploitation of cryptocurrency.
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) joins me to discuss misinformation, the technology and platforms facilitating it, and the challenges faced in combatting it.
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 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 Kore…
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 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 Jus…
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) joins me to discuss Cryptocurrency investing. We look at how blockchain and cryptocurrency models have evolved since the introduction of Bitcoin. For t…
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), 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…
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 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 rea…
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 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 f…
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 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 foc…
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 between governments and privacy advocates. The Australian government has been particularly active in this space lately and Stil has a…
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 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 …
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 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 f…
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 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…
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 Levi West. Levi is the Director of Terrorism Studies at Charles Sturt University in Canberra. Our discussion is wide ranging and spans how the unive…
SEP 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 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 th…
SEP 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 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 ev…
SEP 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 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 C…
SEP 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 that offload challenging analysis to machines are creating interesting national security challenges and opportunities at lightening speed. Evanna, and her company O…
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 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 …
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 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 hyperbo…
JUN 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 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 secta…
JUN 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 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’…
JUN 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 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 sam…
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 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 i…
MAR 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 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 ca…
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 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 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 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 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, Broken States, and the Rise of the Warlord Entrepreneur, joins me again for a discussion about the inherent challenges in understanding and forecasting technology-…
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 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 t…
SEP 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 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 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 domestic political wins, successful rounds of international meddling, and attempts to reshape Russia’s domestic security, military, and intelligence services. Putin appears to be w…
SEP 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 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.…
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 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. Dav…
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 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 …
JUL 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 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.
JUL 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 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 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 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 f…
JUL 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 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 inc…
JUN 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 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 vulnera…
JUN 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 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. Mos…
JUN 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 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 a…
JUN 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. 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 Int…
JUN 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 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 unclassi…
JUN 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 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…
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 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 […
APR 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 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 press…
APR 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, joins me to discuss how profound shifts in technology create risk and opportunities for governments. We look at how artificial intelligence, robotics, …
APR 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 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 f…
APR 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, joins me to discuss the growing impact of transnational crime and how it intersects with destabilizing forces ranging from empowered individuals, to te…
APR 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 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 posi…
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 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 th…
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 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 co…
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 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…
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 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 …
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 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 tho…
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 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 solicitin…
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, 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 Tat…
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, 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 de…
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 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 technol…
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 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 …
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 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 wh…
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 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 con…
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 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 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 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. Terro…
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 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 Terror…
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: 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.…
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, 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 o…
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 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…
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 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 Afgha…
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 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…
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 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 t…
MAR 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’…
MAR 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 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 …
MAR 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 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 …
MAR 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 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 …
MAR 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 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 issu…
MAR 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 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 part…
MAR 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 in modern policing. Security professionals, police included, are scrambling to understand rapidly evolving technologies and threats. Evolving to meet those threats, and lever…
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 – even by intelligence professionals. But it presents as many opportunities as it does challenges and this conversation hints at that. Like all intelligence disciplines…
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 well known for his Hizballah Cavalcade project on Jihadology. Phillip specializes in Shia militias, and we touch on that topic, but most of the…
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 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 wh…
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 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 sh…
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 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 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 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 eve…
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 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…
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 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 …
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 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 contr…
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 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 m…
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 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 an…
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 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 D…