Each week, the International Spy Museum will offer a new SpyCast featuring interviews and programs with ex-spies, intelligence experts, and espionage scholars. The SpyCast is hosted by Dr. Vince Houghton, historian and curator at the International Spy Museum. Dr. Houghton specializes in intelligence…
From the SpyCast Field of Dreams: to coincide with the first game of the 117th World Series, a special episode on the links – yes, there are many – between espionage and America's Pastime with baseball fanatic and ex-spook (it's a baseball special, not Halloween, so no pun intended) Marc Polymeropoulos. Baseball fans, welcome to espionage; espionage fans, welcome to baseball; fans of both – welcome to our very own Fall Classic. #baseball #worldseries
On October 17, 2001, Team Alpha were dropped into the mountains of northern Afghanistan. Two of the eight appear in this week's episode alongside the author of a new book telling the story of the first Americans behind enemy lines after 9/11 – and what a story it is. Justin Sapp was a Green Beret detailed to CIA, he would go on to be a commander in the Asymmetric Warfare Group, and is currently Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. David Tyson was a polyglot former Central Asian academic who fought jihadists at close-hand to help his comrade, ex-Marine Mike Spann, the first American casualty in a war that would go on to become the longest in American history. In an extended podcast that is both conversation and historical document: this is their story. Award-winning journalist and author Toby Harnden helps contextualize the story of Team Alpha. You can learn more about the book here.
This is a big one, a very big one: our 500th episode & 15th anniversary We have come a long way since we began back in 2006 – it's quite fitting then, that in this week's episode I speak to our very first historian and curator, Alexis Albion, who is currently the Curator for Special Projects here at the Spy Museum Alexis actually left us way back when to be on the 9/11 Commission Report, where she was the central researcher on the CIA and US counterterrorism policy before 9/11. Hang on, did you just say what I think you said, she was the central researcher on the CIA…? Yup. I know, what the hell, right, we've been sitting on this story all this time! Episode 500 is a good time to thank two of the behind-the-scenes unsung technical heroes – Mike and Memphis who have been involved with more SpyCast's than anyone else. They are awesome. They are great guys, and they rock. Other people who have been involved in the content side of SpyCast have included Peter Earnest and Chris Costa, our former and current Exec Director, as well as my other predecessors in the Historian & Curator role: Thomas Bogart, Mark Stout and Vince Houghton. The show would of course be nothing without our guests, who have contributed their time, expertise and experience to help educate, inform and occasionally entertain the public on the vitally important matters of intelligence and espionage. Sometimes this past year I have felt like Churchill, in that he got the job he had always coveted: but under the least auspicious circumstances. It has been emotional people, but, we are getting there. Here's to the next 500. Sláinthe.
From your Visa card to your Outlook account, and from the gas you pump into your Ford to your Windows operating system, a cyber struggle is taking place all around us. In this episode Andrew spoke to founder of Microsoft's threat hunting intelligence center John Lambert, which tracks the world's most dangerous cybercriminals and state-affiliated hackers, and the head of the Digital Security Unit Cristin Goodwin, who helps provide security support to governments and works closely with John's team. Microsoft has billions of customers, serves millions of businesses, and works with almost every government department: to say it might have something to do with information and intelligence would be like saying perhaps it would have been a good idea to buy some shares when it first went public in 1986 (June 2021 it was valued at 2 trillion dollars!).
He is the Horatio Alger of the CIA. His first job was punching paper. He went on to be a Station Chief. He worked for every directorate. He lived in several continents. He was in the Soviet Union for six years. He was caught up in the molehunt for Robert Hanssen. He survived to tell his tale. Christopher is genial, hearty and now lives in the other Washington (the rainy state on the West Coast, not the rainy town in Northern England) in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where he writes for our friends at Clearance Jobs. He tweets @burgessct
What do you get if you cross a Greek Orthodox guy from Athens and a Jewish girl from Long Island; and then mix in two Ivy League degrees and a 26-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency? If you haven't worked out that this refers to Marc, given that he is mentioned in the episode title, you can probably forget ever having a career in intelligence. Mark is brimming with vitality, chock full of stories, and can talk baseball and wings as well as the finer points of Algerian politics or US grand strategy in the Middle East. If you ever pull up a bar stool next to Mark: you've hit a home run! Mark's new book, Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the CIA, distills the insights he derived from his career and is available in the International Spy Museum's bookshop.
As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approached Peter Bergen sought to reevaluate the man responsible for precipitating America's long wars with al-Qaeda and its descendants. Bergen produced the first television interview with bin Laden in 1997. He has had years to reflect on and study the man. In his new book The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden he captures all the dimensions of his life: family man, zealot, battlefield commander, terrorist leader, and fugitive. Join International Spy Museum Historian and Curator Andrew Hammond in conversation with Bergen about the many contradictions he finds in bin Laden and why his legacy lives on despite his failure at achieving any of his strategic goals. Bergen, a Vice President at New America, is the author or editor of nine books, including three New York Times bestsellers and four Washington Post best nonfiction books of the year. He is a national security analyst for CNN and has testified before congressional committees 18 times about national security issues. Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen has used the knowledge he has gained in the intervening years to discover who bin Laden really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.
Dave Terry was with Vice President Cheney on the morning of 9/11. He started work as a PDB briefer the same day as Mike. He went on to be Chief of the PDB. He started out working on grain production at the CIA in 1979. He comes from Kansas. For the rest, it's best if you hear Dave. “And I think for any intelligence officer, what you're doing is often overwhelming, whether you're in front of the President, or a vice president, or the asset that you're trying to debrief, or your colleagues…And the stakes often are life and death.”
Mike Morell was with President Bush on the morning of 9/11. He saw the President several times that day. Ten years later he was with President Obama for the bin Laden raid. He was former Acting and Deputy Director of the CIA. He comes from Ohio. For the rest, it's best if you hear Mike. “I believe that when we get to the end of the trail, we're going to find al Qaeda, and we're going to find an Osama bin Laden. I told him that I was so confident in that judgment that I would bet my children's future on it.”
Kristin Wood was at CIA HQ on the morning of 9/11. Phil Mudd was at the National Security Council. Kristin was a PDB briefer for the VP's National Security Advisor. Phil was Director for Gulf Affairs. They would go on to work counterterrorism together. Kristen has a Wheaton Terrier. Phil has a farm. For the rest, it's best if you hear Kristin and Phil. “… knowing that every day, you had to deliver relevant information to the nation's leaders, it is a feeling of enormous responsibility that all of the 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of intelligence officers who have done amazing work, you want to represent it faithfully.” I just I didn't want to be alone. I didn't know what was going on. So I stayed at a friend's house, maybe a mile or two from my house just watching through the downing of the Towers. And at that point, I said, I'm going home. My only other memories are realizing I couldn't go to the White House.
It was the 1980's. “I don't think they'll ever have the fun I had that year, at 23 years old, going to the White House and the NSC, briefing cabinet members…I mean, you name it. It was just incredible!” Three years into her CIA career, Diana Bolsinger found herself on point as the sole person working on the Afghanistan account in her department. Thereafter, she was Acting Deputy to the Ambassador to the Afghan Resistance (“mujahedeen”), a political officer in Islamabad, an analyst at the Counterterrorism Center (CTC), and received multiple awards including for her role in investigating the Boston Marathon bombing. She has a serious Afghanistan/Pakistan resume; Al Qaeda were on her radar from 1990; and, she oozes calm, measured, thoughtful analysis. Ladies & gentlemen: Diana Bolsinger.
Turning the tide in the Pacific at the Battle of Midway, establishing secure communications on the beaches during D-Day, staving off nuclear Armageddon – what did cryptology ever have to do with anything, right? To discuss these big themes – and to celebrate our partnership on the exhibition “Codes, Ciphers and Mysteries” – we brought back you know who, Executive Director of the National Cryptologic Museum (NCM) and former SpyCast host, Vince Houghton (Retd). Through the end of September 2021, you can see the NCM's superstar artifacts here at SPY before they return to their home base at Fort Meade. Sssshhhhh, though…No Such Museum.
Codes. Ciphers. Mysteries. This week's guests are fascinated by codebreaking and cryptography: as well they should be! The Voynich Manuscript, the Dorabella Letter, The Beale Papers, the Zodiac Cipher, Kryptos – so much history, intrigue, and speculation. Andrew sat down with Elonka Dunin, code-breaker extraordinaire, and Klaus Schmeh, a world leading expert on the history of cryptography, to discuss the cat-and-mouse game between code-makers and code-breakers across the ages from ancient cuneiform up to quantum cryptography. Word to the wise: their book has been described by Sir Dermot Turing as “the best book on codebreaking I have ever read, a must for would be recruits to GCHQ and the NSA.”
Is Edward Snowden a traitor a hero? Does the surveillance state threaten freedom or secure it? Andrew sat down with investigative reporter Barton Gellman, author of Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State, and part of the team that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for coverage of the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden, to discuss these issues and more. Bart has a serious resume: The Atlantic, The Washington Post, LA Times Book Prize, Emmy Awards (yes, plural), another Pulitzer Prize (greedy!), but I think you get the general idea…this one might make you scream yourself to sleep, sleep like a baby, or not want to waken up, but it will definitely get you thinking. If it does – our work here is done.
Have you ever felt like “cyber” is changing so quickly, it is difficult to keep up? This week's guest has seen Cyber-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. How? He hosts no less than 10 podcasts per week on the topic! From the Cyberwire Daily to Hacking Humans, and from Career Notes to Recorded Future, Dave Bittner is what you might call: busy. Dave and Andrew talk the Silicon Valley of the East, state-affiliated hackers, organized crime and staying cyber-safe – because it's a jungle out there, people.
Counterintelligence. Security. Two words that have serious pull in Washington D.C. The problem is, how do you ensure the strings, woodwind, brass and percussion are all playing the same music? Welcome to the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC). Acting Director Michael Orlando was this week's guest, where he sat down with Andrew – yes, literally sat down, poor Hammond is actually getting to do what his predecessors did and do podcasts face-to-face – to discuss how he helps conduct the orchestra. Michael is fascinating all by his lonesome – he came to the job via the U.S. Army, CIA and the FBI – but add his story to that of the NCSC and the current counterintelligence landscape, and you have the makings of Beethoven's Ninth.
"Deeply, deeply, disturbing." This is how Alma's Katsu's book, The Hunger, was described by Stephen King. Ok, I'll repeat that, that's how her book was described by Stephen King, author of Carrie, The Shining and Misery! The Hunger was based on the infamous Donner Party trip of the nineteenth century, but her most recent book, Red Widow, turns to intelligence and espionage - something Alma knows rather a lot about having spent over thirty years at the NSA and the CIA. Since leaving the intelligence community, Alma has settled into life as an award-winning and bestselling author (with a side-gig as a technology forecaster!). Want some tips on writing your own book or want to know how the NSA and CIA compare? You'll need to listen to find out.
Last week's episode focused on “Karen Schaefer, CIA Operator,” while this week's episode looks at her time as a “Serial Collaborator.” Karen specialized in making sure the heart, brain, left hand and right hand had a better idea of what each was up to and were functioning in unison – whether as Director of Intelligence Programs at the National Security Council (NSC), in the leadership group at the FBI (then Director James Comey was fired two days after she arrived), or with the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in a warzone. There is always a lot of focus on the arteries and veins of intelligence – this week we look a little more closely at the capillaries.
From counternarcotics to counterterrorism, from Latin America to the Middle East, and from the back streets of a warzone to the center of events in Washington DC – Karen Schaefer has had, how should we say, an “eventful” career as an intelligence officer. Charming, smart, thoughtful, and you haven't even met Karen yet…but seriously, it was a pleasure to talk to this week's guest who had all of those qualities, and more; so enjoyable it will be released as a double-header. This week, Part I focuses on her time as an operator; while Part II focuses on her time as a “serial collaborator” who worked with Special Operations, the FBI, and the NSC. Stay tuned…
Cheesesteaks. Baseball. Rocky. Espionage? Hear about the Philly you never knew – as the birthplace of American espionage. From the Committee on Spies during the Revolution (now there is one committee, that actually sounds like it would be good to be on!) to Allen Pinkerton and Kate Warren during the Civil War, up through the A-bomb, a former Director of Central Intelligence, and a conspirator for the Mumbai Bombing of 2008 - Philadelphia has all kinds of fascinating links to the world of intelligence and espionage. Andrew sat down with H. Keith Melton, the world's pre-eminent collector of espionage related artifacts, and Bob Wallace, former Director of the CIA's Office of Technical Services who has been called the real life “Q” of the CIA, to discuss their latest collaboration: Spy Sites of Philadelphia. Happy Birthday America!
Spy satellites are fascinating! Man-made objects up there – sometimes way up there – looking down to see what other humans are up to. I believe it's called a God's eye view. You may not be as unfamiliar with satellites as you think: for starters, you're on one! The earth is a satellite of the sun, the moon is a satellite of the earth, you are a satellite of…historian Dr. James Outzen sat down with Andrew to talk about artificial – i.e., man-made – satellites as part of a conversation marking the 60th anniversary of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
A superstar line-up chooses an African American spy from American history. Harriet Tubman, Ralph Bunche and Willie Merkerson Jr. are introduced, before we have a discussion about African Americans and the American experience. Our guests are Mel Gamble, a former CIA Chief of the Africa Division and Senior Intelligence officer; Reuben E. Brigety II, former US Ambassador to the African Union and current Vice Chancellor of the University of the South; and Kaia Niambi Shivers, writer, activist and founder of Ark Republic magazine.#Juneteenth
Barry Broman spent most of his life in South-east Asia as a photographer, an infantry officer, and as a “diplomat” (although not really!). It is not that he wasn't a diplomat - it's just that he did something else too…like recruit 41 agents, escape the genocidal Khmer Rouge, supervise covert paramilitary operations, and bring in gargantuan quantities of drugs in major busts. Barry has lived a life – and then some. Andrew sat down with Barry to talk about his life east of the Irrawaddy River.
What do Afghan Mujahedeen, the KGB, Pablo Escobar, Iran-Contra, and Chilean Elections have in common? Two words: Jack Devine. This CIA legend is the Forrest Gump of the intelligence world, in that he always finds himself at the center of events. Jack reflects on his remarkable career and hones in on Russian aggression and Vladimir Putin, the subject of his current book, The Spymaster's Prism. Anybody who went from the streets of blue-collar Philadelphia to Acting Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA has serious gumption.
Rob Montgomery had a real scare on deployment in Afghanistan…the scare was back in Virginia though; he had a motion detect on his phone that showed multiple unidentified males outside his home in a sleepy college town - while his wife and children were asleep inside. You’ll need to listen to hear the rest of the story, but it did prompt Rob to think more deeply about the life-saving skills he developed over 34 years serving in some of the most austere and dangerous places on the planet. We talk “situational awareness,” CIA training, Krav Maga, and whether you need a go-bag!
Hear an incredible true story. Marthe Cohn was a young Jewish woman who went behind enemy lines into Nazi Germany with a pair of walking shoes, a cover story, and about half a ton of chutzpah. 101-year-old Marthe spoke to Andrew over the phone from her home in Los Angeles.
In a first for the show, this week’s guest is a former spy chief from the world’s largest democracy. Vikram Sood. R&AW. India. Vikram Sood was a career intelligence officer who rose to the pinnacle of his profession to become the Director of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s storied foreign intelligence agency (akin to the CIA and MI6). To give you a sense of the size of the scale of the country R&AW acts on behalf of, India has more people of the Muslim faith than Pakistan, which itself is the fifth largest country in the world by population; more human beings within its borders than in the entire Western Hemisphere (yup, that’s every homo sapien from Cape Columbia in Canada to Cape Horn in Chile); and is due to overtake China as Planet Earth’s most populous country in the very near future. For this reason, and more, I am glad that India is taking its place in SpyCast’s programming. The pandemic has accelerated technological change with regards to capturing high-quality audio in the virtual space, and now the world is quite literally our oyster (I don’t know about you, but I plan to pour some mignonette sauce on that puppy and slurp it down - we are the International Spy Museum after all!). Narratives and Power Politics Vikram and Andrew talk about India, Pakistan (of course), China (of course), the USA (of course) and narratives and how hard-headed spooks can also be sensitive souls (because why not). Seriously, though, Vikram was gracious, thoughtful and frank: you have to hear what he says about “signing off” on the daily intelligence brief that was to be sent to the Prime Minister...it’s refreshingly honest. Spoiler alert: spies are humans too! Terrorism. 9/11. Indian Parliament Attack. Vikram was R&AW chief between 2000-2003, some momentous years globally and in the region. The September 11 attacks, which had far-reaching consequences in South and Central Asia; the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan Standoff, the fallout from terror attacks on the legislative assembly in Srinagar and the Indian parliament in New Delhi, which saw two nuclear armed nations stand on the brink; and much more. Author & Analyst Vikram is currently affiliated with the Observer Research Foundation, a think-tank based in New Delhi. His writing on security, intelligence and terrorism has appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers and he is the author of two books, The Unending Game: A Former R&AW Chief's Insights into Espionage (Penguin Random House, 2018) and The Ultimate Goal: A Former R&AW Chief Deconstructs How Nations Construct Narratives (Harper India, 2022).
Quote of the Week I think analysts have to understand that the most precious commodity in Washington DC is not secrets or information, everybody's got that. It's time. It's time. The future in Washington DC. Longest is four years. And every day, it's a day shorter. OverviewWhere to begin. Marty was described to me as, “the greatest analyst we ever had (truthfully),” would I be interested in speaking to him? Guess the answer!? The result, a SpyCast with a CIA analytic legend. For 40 years Marty analyzed intelligence for US foreign policymakers, trained a whole generation of analysts, and mentored figures who would go on to have senior leadership positions within American intelligence, such as former Acting and Deputy Director of CIA Mike Morrell. In this episode we talk China, Asia, making sense of the world, and a whole host of topical issues.Vietnam Veteran. China Hand. Briefer of Presidents.Marty served in the Vietnam War as an NCO, went on to become an Asia expert, with particular expertise in China, and headed up two major analytic units – he actually became Deputy Director of the Office of East Asian Analysis the same day as Tiananmen Square (April 15, 1989). He retired in 2005 having held the #4 and #3 positions at CIA and having had one-on-ones with four sitting presidents. What do you think President Carter said to him when he answered the door to the then China head Marty Petersen? You’ll need to listen to find out.And... This one was just so much darn fun – he’s so smart and so good natured (now, there’s two things that don’t often go together).Fun FactMarty and former Acting and Deputy Director of CIA John McLaughlin started on the same day as each other and retired within a week of each other. They remain good friends.Marty's Book Recommendation"If there is one book you should read on intelligence analysis, I would read..." Robert Jervis, Why Intelligence Fails (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010)You can support local independent bookstores by purchasing here: https://bookshop.org/books/why-intelligence-fails/9780801478062 Further resources Martin Petersen, "What I Learned in 40 Years of Doing Intelligence Analysis for US Foreign Policymakers," Studies in Intelligence: https://bit.ly/3hgQGXI Martin Petersen, "Reflections on Readings on 9/11, Iraq WMD, and Detention and Interrogation Program," Studies in Intelligence: https://bit.ly/3vX3hn5 Martin Petersen, "Reviewing 2034: The Next World War," The Cipher Brief: https://bit.ly/3fbBGHX Dorothy Wickenden, "'2034,' A Cautionary Tale of Conflict with China," The New Yorker: https://bit.ly/3bknGup
This week’s guest is Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director of Counterintelligence at the FBI, who oversaw all espionage investigations across the US govt. He served for 25 years as a Special Agent, which included countering economic espionage in Silicon Valley, being appointed the FBI’s Chief Inspector, and heading up the Cleveland Division. He is the recent author of “The FBI Way” and a current columnist and national security correspondent for NBC News. In this week’s episode we talk about a sitting member of congress and a presidential candidate who were just a little too close to foreign intelligence services, and hear some of his thoughts on former FBI Director’s Bob Mueller and James Comey. Unfun fact: Frank’s first unit chief at FBI HQ was at the center of, “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.” Listen to find out more.Buy Frank's book "The FBI Way" here: https://bit.ly/3xEx99s
Infosec. Cybersec. Techsec.In the second part of our double-header on the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations, we round out our previous discussion with two former Directors of Counterintelligence for the US Air Force, Jude Sunderbruch and Terry Phillips. Their world-wide remit includes cybersecurity, information security, technology protection and all things air power and counter-intelligence. N.B. – SpyCast 2.0Next week we reboot SpyCast with improved audio and some additional tweaks, hacks, bells and whistles. Through the rest of 2021, we will be seeking out every ounce of audio quality we can and continuing to refine the content and much else besides. We will also be rolling out new material including transcripts for each episode with time-stamps, extended show notes that break the content down and give you the take-aways, as well as links to further reading/sources and complimentary episodes. Thanks for your patience! It. Has. Been. Emotional.
Overview Director Dominic Cooke & Andrew The Courier (2021) starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan and Merab Ninidze Based on one of the most remarkable espionage stories of the Cold War High level Soviet military intelligence officer, codename Hero (USA), Yoga (UK) Historical backdrop: the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Crisis, Kennedy vs. Khrushchev The Spy Who Saved the World? How did a rather unremarkable English businessman find himself working undercover behind the Iron Curtain on behalf of western intelligence? How did he end up as a courier for a Russian military intelligence officer who was secretly working for the west? How, frankly, did your average Joe end up in the infamous Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, only to be exchanged for a KGB intelligence mastermind named Gordon Lonsdale (who was really Konon Trofimovich Molody)? This is the story of Greville Wynne and Oleg Penkovsky who for a short period of time worked together during some of the most critical – and tense - years of the Cold War: from Kennedy’s Inaugural in ‘61, and the Bay of Pigs and the building of the Berlin Wall later that year, to the climacteric Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962, an event to which the names of Penkovsky – who provided crucial information – and Wynne will forever be associated. Indeed, they were “rolled up” by the KGB that very month. Greville came back from his incarceration a shell of his former self and never really recovered, struggling with depression and alcoholism for the rest of his life, while Penkovsky would be executed for treason. An Englishman and a Scotsman Walk Into a Podcast Hear more as two University of Warwick Alumni chat it up about the Cold War, drama, spy fiction, whether or not Benedict Cumberbatch really lost all that weight for one of the movies most poignant scenes, and much more besides. N.B. SPYCAST 2.0 - LAUNCH DATE, May 4, 2021!
If you think that all the best spy stories happened during the Cold War – we have a doozy for you. In 2008 FSB officer Alexy Yurievich Artmonov was presented with three choices: (1) put a bullet in his own head, (2) wait for someone else to do it, (3) run. Which would you choose? Alexy chose (3). In fact, this story has all the makings of Cold War spy fiction: caught between the long arm of corrupt government officials and the mob, a spy and his wife go on the run leaving friends and family behind; to shake off any would be pursuers they book multiple decoy flights, and end up drinking rum cocktails in the Caribbean, before walking into the US Embassy in Santo Domingo seeking to exchange secrets in return for a new life and new identities…except, it was not quite that simple. Oh, and it happens to be true. Join us as we explore how Alexy, the Russian FSB officer born in the former USSR, became Jan Neumann the graphic novel author, producer and storyteller living in America. Like the very best spy stories, truth happens to be stranger than fiction. P.S. Next week we announce the launch date for SpyCast 2.0!
Continuing our journey through SpyCast’s greatest hits enroute to our relaunch, we arrive on a topic of perennial interest and great importance: intelligence and the US presidency. Just how is information from the intelligence community (IC) conveyed to the president? How have different administrations incorporated intelligence into the political decision-making process? This blast from the past features John Hedley, former CIA officer and editor of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), who reviews the relationship between the IC and presidents since World War II, in the course revealing fascinating episodes from his personal experience in dealing with several administrations and multiple presidents.
Josh Campbell lit his cigar and extinguished the match. It was Inauguration Day 2017, and he was on the roof of his Washington D.C. apartment building. As the outgoing Obama’s made their way overhead on a helicopter, he turned to his father who had flown up from Texas for the event and remarked, “I hope Trump is good for the FBI.” Josh Campbell, former Special Assistant to the Director of the FBI, was chosen by James Comey because he didn’t shy away from speaking his mind. No matter what your politics are, you will want to hear him speak his mind and listen to his fly-on-the-wall account of some of the most momentous events in the modern history of the FBI. He was present at a meeting in Trump Tower on January 6, 2017, two weeks before the inauguration, that would later lead to his boss being fired; it would also lead to his former boss Bob Mueller being appointed as Special Counsel to head up an investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. Before the Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election, and indeed before Mueller’s appointment, the FBI headed up a counterintelligence investigation into the allegations they codenamed Crossfire Hurricane (yes, after the first line of the Rolling Stones most performed and perhaps best loved song, 1968 hit Jumpin’ Jack Flash!). This is also the name of Campbell’s recent book – Crossfire Hurricane: Inside Donald Trump’s War on Justice & the FBI – written as part of his effort to speak out after leaving the FBI. Campbell, who is now a CNN correspondent, spoke to Andrew at an International Spy Museum event on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2021. We couldn’t get you two Irishmen, but we did get the next best thing: a Scot and an American with a very Scottish last name. This episode may lead to heated arguments: but if it does, it will merely be keeping in line with pub culture in Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin! Carl Sagan said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Listen and decide for yourself what is and what is not extraordinary and what is and what is not evidence – because due diligence dictated that it couldn’t be all holding hands around the campfire between Andrew and Josh. P.S. Not too much longer before SpyCast 2.0
As we continue ramping up for SpyCast 2.0, featuring a content overhaul and improved audio, we release a real gem on a perennial favorite of the SpyCast community. You literally couldn’t make this one up, it has everything you’d expect to see at Shakespeare’s Globe – betrayal, suspicion, ambition, political machinations, royal intrigue and flabbergasting chutzpah. Philby. Burgess. MacLean. Blunt. Cairncross. Spies who betrayed their country in the name of an ideal: communism. In the 1930s, five young Cambridge University students were recruited by Soviet intelligence to penetrate the British establishment. In the course of their espionage career, the Five did enormous damage to Western security. The gradual unravelling of the spy ring across the decades also led to mole-hunts and an ever widening ring of paranoia. It even put the “special relationship” between Britain and America under strain. While parts of their story inspired the pages of Cold War spy thrillers, back in 2009 British intelligence author Nigel West examined their motivations and activities, and revealed new evidence he unearthed in Soviet intelligence archives.
As we gear up for an exciting new Spring program – which will feature a number of changes including a content overhaul and improved audio – we are releasing some of our greatest hits from the vault. Back in 2007 Dame Stella Rimington, former Director-General of MI5, spoke about British intelligence past and present and compared British and American approaches to intelligence. She was the first female Director General of the Security Service (better known by its three letter abbreviation, MI5) and her autobiography is entitled, Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5. She is also the author of a number of novels. Most recently in her “Liz Carlyle” series are, The Moscow Sleepers (2018) and Breaking Cover (2016). During her 30+ year career, she worked in all the main fields of MI5’s area of responsibility: counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism. During Dame Stella’s watch, MI5 moved towards greater openness, so it is fitting that this interview is with a former CIA Director of Media Relations, The International Spy Museum’s former Executive Director Peter Earnest. Suggested pairings: How Spies Think – Spy Chief David Omand (Nov 24, 2020) The MI5 Centenary (Dec 1, 2009)
ONE OF THE GREAT SPY STORIES OF MODERN TIMES Palestinian & Israeli. Agent & Handler. Mosab & Gonen. One became involved with Hamas almost as a birthright, his father, after all, was a founder and its spiritual leader; the other was inspired to join Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and had a father in the Israeli Army. They seemed destined for a collision course. Fate would bring them together, danger would bind them together, but it was loyalty that kept them together. A unique bond was forged between Mosab Hassan Yousef, aka “The Green Prince,” and Gonen Ben Yitzhak, aka “Captain Loai,” that is remarkably rare in agent-handler relationships. “If he could come to Israel – and I know he can’t – he would be like a member of my family,” notes the Israeli, who revealed his true identity to testify on Mosab’s behalf at an immigration hearing in San Diego. Gonen’s children, meanwhile, call the Palestinian “Uncle Yousef.” Some stories seem too far-fetched to be true. This one is both. Hopefully you can come to the International Spy Museum one day where we look at their story in one of our exhibits (in the meantime you can also stream the award-winning documentary, The Green Prince). This episode is a blast from the past, our founding Executive Director Peter Earnest was the compère, that lives on. Recommended pairings: “Shadow Wars, 2020” – Israel, Iran & America Dec 8, 2020 “Israeli Intelligence” Dec 1, 2020
Former FBI Special Agent Dennis Franks (https://fbiretired.com/agent/franks-dennis/) is nothing if not interesting. He has faced off against the Columbian Cali Cartel – yes, the Cali Cartel from Season 3 of Narcos (https://www.netflix.com/title/80025172) – the Mexican Gulf Cartel, MS-13, Sicilian Mafioso’s, and all manner of gangbanger, gangster and narcotraficante. He has been a firearms instructor, on an Enhanced SWAT Team, and ran his own undercover unit. He has also worked Russian intelligence and Russian organized crime: “It was very much a learning experience, because that was very different from a lot of the other organizations I have worked.” Why? Well, you’ll have to listen to find out. It doesn’t stop there though, Dennis was at the Waco Siege (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-waco/) in 1993, and he offers listeners a particularly poignant moment involving a little girl, a rearview mirror and a knot in his stomach. He now runs his own investigative and security company out of Austin, Texas, and he was recently the Host & Executive Producer of A&E Investigates: The Plot Against America (https://www.aetv.com/specials/the-plot-against-america) . This was not the alternative history TV series where the USA and Nazi Germany sign a treaty under President Hindenburg, based on a Philip Roth novel, but a real-life hunt for Russian sleeper agents in North-eastern Tennessee. Yes, you heard it correctly – Tennessee. Why? It might have something to do with a beautiful woman and the atomic bomb (https://www.ornl.gov) . Again, you’ll need to listen to find out! As a North Carolina man in Texas, he gives us the final word on who has the best BBQ (https://learntobbq.com/four-styles-bbq-united-states/) …or maybe the controversy will continue.
Nicole Perloth descended into the cyber netherworld and emerged to share her wisdom. This is the second of a double-header with the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/by/nicole-perlroth) cybersecurity reporter and author of This is How They Tell Me The World Ends (https://spymuseumstore.org/this-is-how-they-tell-me-the-world-ends-the-cyber-weapons-arms-race/) . In fact, on February 9 SpyCast listeners got the skinny before readers got their mitts on the book – which many of them did, it went on to be #1 on Amazon for National & International Security, #1 for Hacking and, well, you get the gist (DON’T buy it there, though, buy it here (https://spymuseumstore.org/this-is-how-they-tell-me-the-world-ends-the-cyber-weapons-arms-race/) ! Trust me, Jeff Bezos won’t lose any sleep over it). Andrew and Nicole talk Armageddon, Stuxnet, Jiu Jitsu, and Michelle Obama – you’ll need to listen to see the link to the former First Lady. Sit back, buckle up, and get ready to tailgate the future.
The door to the walk-in cooler slammed shut behind Jack Barsky. This is it, he thought, this is how it all ends – in a restaurant in the Deep South at the hands of a crazy Irish-American eight inches shorter than me. “He said he was taking me through a secret passage to a speakeasy.” But it was not the end that day in Atlanta, 30 years after the Cold War’s end, but a new beginning. The residual fear felt by the former deep-cover KGB illegal soon dissipated and a new friendship was born over drinks. We ended up, “at a very small bar, looking out through a two-way mirror at all the people in the restaurant, what a great place for two old spies to be.” Hear Jack Barsky (https://bit.ly/3rOy0Re) (if you’ve ever watched The Americans he worked for the real-life “Directorate S”!) and former US Navy Counterintelligence Agent, Keith Mahoney (if you’ve ever seen NCIS, he was in its 1980’s equivalent) swap war stories. They grew up on either side of the Cold War divide, drank the ascribed kool-aid, lived parallel lives – and ended up best buds! Enjoy.
Have you seen that episode of The Crown where an intruder gets in one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the world via an unlocked window? Welcome to its cyber equivalent: “zero-days.” Join Andrew and Nicole Perloth (https://www.nytimes.com/by/nicole-perlroth) , award-winning cybersecurity and digital espionage reporter for the New York Times, as they descend into a cyber netherworld that will enlighten, challenge and quite possibly terrify you. Oh, I almost forgot, she is also the author of what has been called “quite possibly the most important book of the year,” This is How They Tell Me The World Ends (https://spymuseumstore.org/this-is-how-they-tell-me-the-world-ends-the-cyber-weapons-arms-race/) . Guess where you can hear all about it before talks at storied bookstores such as City Lights in San Francisco, Powell’s in Portland and McNally Jackson In NYC, or indeed conversations at UT Austin, UC Irvine or at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress. Yup, you’ve guessed it (we drop the podcast the day the book hits the shelves). Run your software updates, turn on two-factor authentication and cross your fingers: the future is gonna be wild.
Counterintelligence. Counterespionage. Criminal Investigations. The Office of Special Investigations (OSI) have a fascinating remit around the world and across the country – one that also includes cyber, infosec and technology protection. What better way to break all of this down than to chat to TWO former Directors of Counterintelligence for the U.S. Air Force, Jude Sunderbruch (https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/1969469/jude-r-sunderbruch/) and Terry Phillips (https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Biographies/Display/Article/2438496/terry-w-phillips/) . They are colleagues, collaborators and close friends who have seen momentous changes in the operational environment since they first met back in the 90’s (are the 90’s “back in the day” already? What the hell happened? I’m getting old). Jude is currently Executive Director at their HQ in Quantico, Virginia (and yes, they do work closely with the FBI). With regards to Terry, what could be more “special” than talking to a Special Agent from Special Investigations? Why, a Special Agent from Special Investigations who is the Executive Director of Special Projects. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did. Muy interesante.
What better way to start developing an Antipodean flavor to SpyCast than to release an episode with Brett Peppler. Aussie Army. Spec Ops. Deputy Director Military Intelligence. AIPIO President. Professor. He’s been around the block, thought about the block, and anticipated what the block might do next (he said he is, "desperately, madly in love with Futures Intelligence"). The Indo-Pacific is often overlooked, but it will be a key component of international security long after Brett and I have slipped the surly bonds of earth for the Great Gig in the Sky. The timing of our conversation was interesting, it was the official national holiday of Australia where Brett was (Australia Day, 26th Jan), and the unofficial national holiday of Scotland where I was (Burns Night, Jan 25th). Coincidence? Serendipity? Conspiracy? One for the intelligence analysts among us methinks.
Marie Mitchell is an FBI agent sent by the CIA to spy on the “African Che Guevara,” leftist president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara. Inspired by real events, he became president in 1983 at the age of 33, this week’s guest takes what is best about the spy fiction genre and gives it her own unique je ne sais quoi (if most of what you know about this land-locked West African country can be written on a business card, guess the official language?). The week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day seemed like an opportune moment to introduce Lauren Wilkinson (https://www.lauren-wilkinson.com/) to the SpyCast community: for a spy thriller written by a black female author, featuring a black female protagonist, set in an African country is a triple rarity for the genre. Join Andrew and Lauren as they talk about her debut novel, which managed to make it on to summer reading list of a former US president – to find out which one you will have to listen – and about some of her favourite spy novels. Her book is available from our online book store (https://spymuseumstore.org/american-spy/) . One reviewer said it is “like the best of John le Carré.” Need I really say more?
January 6, 2021. What to say. Former president George W. Bush, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all used the term “insurrection.” As these momentous events unfolded – I watched it on TV although I can literally see the US Capitol from my rooftop – I was constantly thinking about the intelligence implications. Long story short, I reached out to Diana Bolsinger (https://www.utep.edu/liberalarts/criminal-justice/people/diana-bolsinger.html) and Mark Stout (https://advanced.jhu.edu/directory/mark-stout/) and voila! welcome to a SpyCast Special. Diana’s background includes service in the National Counterterrorism Center, at the CIA and in the U.S. Department of State. Mark had an equally well-rounded career at INR, the CIA, and the Army Staff at the Pentagon. Both “formers” now teach and research intelligence and national security. Grab a brew, or something stronger, and mull this one over.
This is the second in our two-parter with Dr. Matthew Brazil (https://www.mattbrazil.net/) , a historian of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intelligence operations. Andrew and Matt discuss everything from recruitment, ideology, and foreign tourism, to modern history and contemporary politics – all the biggies really. Ever wondered about the “century of humiliation” or the “Great Firewall of China”? This might be the episode for you (but don’t forget Part 1!). Matt spent over twenty years working in East and South Asia. Even better, the book is based on an engagement with hundreds of Chinese language sources. Well, whatddayaknow? 谢谢
Edward Snowden is back in the news. I know what you are thinking: shocker! As we move into the new year from the annus horribilis that was 2020, however, one of the main intelligence stories is will Snowden receive a presidential pardon. Come to think of it, does he even deserve one? Back in what now seems like the mists of time, 2013, Mark Stout sat down with one of the nation’s top national security lawyers, Mark Zaid, for a legal perspective on the then recent Snowden case. Like a smoky 8 year old single malt, this one lingers on the palate (which depending on your taste may be a good or a bad thing). At the very least, we provide some context on today’s headlines in the run down to Hogmanay. Wishing you and yours all the best.
Nothing makes me happier than a conversation with whip smart people on the past, present or future of intelligence: enter Heather Williams, a senior policy researcher at RAND (https://www.rand.org/about/people/w/williams_heather_j.html) , and Zachery Tyson Brown, a strategic futurist and founder of Consilient Strategies (https://www.facebook.com/ConsilientStrat/) . With decades of experience at multiple agencies, multiple deployments overseas, advanced degrees from the National Intelligence University and a network of contacts that would do any Rolodex proud, they have oodles to offer. We talk the information revolution, generational change, institutional reform, a variety of -ologies and of course the pandemic and the incoming presidential administration. Basically, just the entire future of intelligence.
Bet you are wondering which adversary caused him the most sleepless nights, right? From the Red Army to New Jersey street gangs, from terrorists to the Taliban – Dean Barrata has analyzed them all. During a 30+ year career in intelligence, Dean has been everywhere from West Germany to Afghanistan, from the Pennsylvania National Guard to a New Jersey Police Street Gang Unit. If you have ever wondered if there was life beyond the three letter agencies (CIA, NSA, DIA), this just might be the episode for you. He now works for GitHub and teaches at a flagship college. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dean Barrata. Did I mention that he thinks Millennials and Centennials make great intelligence analysts?
The second in a double-header on Israeli intelligence. This week we walk the story up to the present day – including the election of Joe Biden and the recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. We also hear how Israeli intelligence is retooling for the twenty-first century. Andrew is joined by journalist Yossi Melman, a reporter for Haaretz and advisor on the Netflix Series Inside the Mossad, and Dan Raviv, who was at CBS for over 40 years. They are the authors of Every Spy a Prince and Spies Against Armageddon.