Welcome to Rational Security, a weekly foreign policy and national security roundup. Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal shoots the breeze with Benjamin Wittes, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Susan Hennessey, all of the Brookings Institution, on surveillance, the Middle East, and national security politics.
Episode #120: “The Sessions Deathwatch” Edition: Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his contacts with Russia. New information shows that thirty-nine states were targeted by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. And President Trump gives the military authority to ramp the number of troops in Afghanistan.
Episode #119: “The Door by the Grandfather Clock” Edition: It’s been a huge two days for news on the Trump/Russia/Comey front. We’ll round it up. There’s a new crisis in the Persian Gulf. And just when you thought it was safe to go back to the polls, there are new revelations of Russia targeting the elections system.
Episode #118: The “Covfefe” Edition: Jared Kushner wanted a back-channel to talk to the Russians. In the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, the Brits question whether the U.S. can keep secrets. And in the wake of Trump’s meeting with NATO leaders, where do U.S.-European relations go from here?
Episode #117: The “Glowing Orb of Peace” Edition: Donald Trump tours the Middle East and insists peace is within reach. Robert Mueller is tapped as the new special counsel overseeing the Trump-Russia probe. And one very special podcast panelist spills his guts to the New York Times.
Episode #116: The “Chatterbox-in-Chief” Edition: President Trump lets the Russians in on a little secret. Jim Comey has been taking notes—of his meetings with the president. And what do this week’s extraordinary events tell us about where we are in this still unfolding national drama?
Episode #115: The “Obi-Wan Comey” Edition: Donald Trump fires FBI Director James Comey. The gang shares their reactions. Then, we’ll dig into Rod Rosenstein’s role in Comey’s sudden departure. Finally, what does his dismissal mean for the future of the Russia investigation and the FBI?
Episode #114: The “Intelligence Porn” Edition: FBI Director James Comey says the idea he could have swayed the presidential election makes him “mildly nauseous.” President Trump is reaching out to autocrats and adversaries. Is it paying off? And the NSA reins in some of its surveillance operations.
Episode #113: The “SF-86’ed” Edition: Mike Flynn is back in hot water over money he took from foreign sources. The Senate Intelligence Committee is beefing up for a long investigation of Russian meddling in the election. And FBI Director Jim Comey is back in the spotlight again this week amid questions of how he handled the Clinton and Trump investigations.
Episode #112: The “Vinson Lose Some” Edition: North Korea’s missile launch fizzles, but the ripples spread far and wide. CIA Director Mike Pompeo calls WikiLeaks a hostile intelligence service. And does the Globalist/Nationalist war in the White House really matter in the absence of a coherent foreign policy?
Episode #111: The “Battle to the Death Watch” Edition: Former Trump adviser Carter Page is reportedly the target of a FISA warrant. The U.S. launches a cruise missile strike in Syria, and maybe sends a not so subtle signal to China on North Korea. And is the Trump administration’s foreign policy “unpredictable” by design, or just incoherent?
Episode #110: The “3rd Triple Entente Beer Summit” Edition: At the Third Triple Entente Beer Summit, the usual Rational Security Gang joins up with Stewart Baker and Michael Vatis of the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast to discuss airstrikes in Syria, the misadventures of Devin Nunes, and Steve Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council.
Episode #109: The “We Need to Talk About Devin” Edition: Devin Nunes throws a wrench into the House’s Russia investigation. Meanwhile, the Senate investigation hasn’t come off the rails. And should countries declare certain kinds of cyber attacks off limits?
Episode #108: The “What’s the Russian Word for ‘Edition’?” Edition: FBI Director James Comey makes it official: There is an investigation into Trump links to Russia. The top Democrat in the House investigating the Russian hacks makes a plea for civic virtue. And is Donald Trump his own worst enemy or his best defender?
Episode #107: The “Guns, Butter, and Palace Intrigue” Edition: The Trump administration expands operations against ISIS and al Qaeda. The administration wants to shrink the budget for the State Department. And what do personnel moves tell us about who’s in charge of the national security apparatus?
Episode #106: The “Tapp My Wires” Edition: Donald Trump accuses Barack Obama of tapping his phones, and all hell breaks loose. WikiLeaks releases thousands of pages of information on CIA hacking tools. And North Korea launches missiles that may or may not have been hacked by the NSA.
Episode #105: The “Kislyak of Death” Edition: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is under fire for his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, while the Trump administration tries to deflect attention on Russia investigations. Is it time to appoint a special prosecutor to look into President Trump’s potential links to Russia? And the U.S. carries out new airstrikes in Yemen while questions linger over a recent raid against Al Qaeda.
Episode #104: The “Death Without Dignity” Edition: President Trump selects Army general H.R. McMaster as as his national security adviser after a turbulent search. A rival to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is murdered under bizarre circumstances in a Malaysian airport. And Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But is Bibi on the way out?
Episode #103: The “Out Like Flynn” Edition: Michael Flynn’s phone calls and new revelations from the Steele dossier raise questions about Russian influence. An appeals court puts the brakes on Donald Trump’s immigrant and refugee ban. Plus, listener questions.
Episode #102: The “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” Edition: This week, a very special guest joins the podcast to discuss the week’s news and the fate of the republic. Plus, in Object Lessons, taco bowls and bad omens.
Episode #101: The “Huddled Masses” Edition: The Trump administration’s executive order on immigration spurs chaos and protests. Speaking of protest, does the mass signing of a State Department dissent cable signal a new rise of bureaucratic resistance to Trump? And what to make of the re-structuring of the National Security Council? Plus, Rational Security’s biggest fan Phil Walter joins the podcast this week.
Episode #100: The “Centennial” Edition: President Trump has announced executive orders on border security and immigration policy—and maybe interrogation. Ex-military officers are taking senior posts in the National Security Council. And investigators have scrutinized National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s communications with Russian officials.
Episode #99: The “Four Horsemen” Edition: President Obama issues a raft of pardons and commutations on his last days in office. The Trump transition team has barely interacted with its counterparts on the National Security Council. And John Brennan reflects on Donald Trump and his legacy at the CIA.
Episode #98: The “Golden Bombshell” Edition: The FBI and intelligence community have received explosive allegations that Donald Trump’s staff had contacts with Russian government officials connected to the recent hacking campaign, and that the Russian government has blackmail material on the president-elect. Intelligence chiefs brief Congress—and Trump—on what they know about who was behind the hacking. And what do new revelations—and unproven allegations—mean for the future of Trump’s Cabinet picks and his national security policy?
Episode #97: The “New Year/New Tweets” Edition: The Obama administration sanctions the Russians it says were involved in election hacking, while President-Elect Trump continues to insist the Russians aren’t to blame. North Korea says it’s close to developing a nuclear missile that could strike U.S. targets. And the latest not-really-a-ceasefire takes hold in Syria.
Episode #96: The “Dude, Where’s My Drone?” Edition: A leaked memo lays out Trump’s priorities for the Pentagon. The Chinese return an underwater U.S. Navy drone. And what does this week’s spate of terrorist attacks portend for 2017?
Episode #95: The “RexSec” Edition: The CIA concludes that Russian hackers tried to help Donald Trump get elected. Trump will nominate Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as the next secretary of state. And the Obama administration is confident that journalist Austin Tice, held hostage in Syria, is alive.
Episode #94: The “Human Objectification” Edition: The president-elect takes a call from the leader of Taiwan. Bipartisan pressure is mounting in Congress to investigate the Russian hacks of the presidential election. And if you’re a wonk in Washington, you may be out in the cold.
Episode #93: The “Who Wants to be a Secretary of State?” Edition: President-Elect Trump is zeroing in on a nominee for secretary of state. Election recounts begin amid fears of computer hacking. And in San Francisco, hackers hold the municipal railway system hostage.
Episode #92: The “Emoluments” Edition: Donald Trump announces his picks for some key national security positions. Meanwhile, Trump grapples with multiple conflicts between his businesses and his coming presidency. The knives are out for NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers. Plus, a special Thanksgiving Object Lesson.
Episode #91: The “Welcome to the New Not Normal” Edition: The Trump administration transition has begun—right? The president-elect sits down with “60 Minutes” and leaves the fate of FBI Director James Comey uncertain. And foreign governments react to Trump’s election.
Episode #90: “The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives” Edition: This week, the gang reflects on the unexpected election of Donald Trump for president. What national security themes drove his voters? What challenges does Trump face forming a government? And how will America’s allies react to his election?
Episode #89: “The New National Nightmare Will Soon Begin” Edition: FBI Director James Comey is under fire for his actions in the home stretch of the presidential election. A journalist suggests private communications between Donald Trump and a Russian bank—but is there any there there? And investigators issue a puzzling finding about the death of one of Vladimir Putin’s closest aides in a Washington, DC, hotel room.
Episode #88: The “Strange Bedfellows” Edition: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump enter the home stretch of the presidential campaign. Hackers take down a key component of the Internet in an unprecedented attack. And WikiLeaks makes some unexpected alliances.
Episode #87: The “Thank God We’re Not In Kansas Anymore” Edition: Iraqi and U.S. forces begin the campaign to reclaim the city of Mosul, ISIS’s de facto capital in Iraq. Retired Gen. James Cartwright pleads guilty to lying to federal leak investigators. And three Kansas men are accused of plotting attacks on Muslims.
Episode #86: The “John Podesta Makes a Mean Risotto” Edition: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton square off in their second debate. And the intelligence community officially pins the blames on Russia for hacking U.S. political organizations.
Episode #85: The “Gaslighting and Guess Work” Edition: The Vice Presidential candidates face off in their first and only debate before Election Day. Senators have buyers remorse over a law that lets families of 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia. And can the NSA keep its own secrets?
Episode #84: The “400-Pound Guy in a Bed” Edition: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off in the first presidential debate. What did they have to say on ISIS, hackers, and other important national security issues? And a Trump adviser heads off to Moscow and meets with senior Russian government officials.
Episode #83: The “What Candy Are You?” Edition: Bombings in New York and New Jersey have fixed us again on the threat of lone wolf terrorists. Have back-to-back summits on refugees brought us any closer to solving a humanitarian crisis? And The Washington Post comes out against a pardon for Edward Snowden.
Episode #82: The “Walking Pneumonia” Edition: How much medical history should presidential candidates disclose? Activists launch a new campaign to pardon Edward Snowden, just in time for the launch of a biopic on the world’s most famous leaker. And FBI Director James Comey gets compared to J. Edgar Hoover.
Episode #81: The “Too Soon for Mattress Sales” Edition: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spar over who’d be the better commander-in-chief. The FBI releases its report on Clinton’s email server. And what has changed, and what hasn’t, since 9/11?
Episode #80: The “Hackers, Heart Patients, and Hellfire” Edition: New details emerge about Americans held hostage by Islamic militants. Security researchers use an unorthodox approach to protect medical devices. And the U.S. kills ISIS’ number 2. Does it matter?
Episode #79: The “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Hacks You” Edition: The New York Times and maybe the NSA get hacked. Is the U.S. turning the tide of the war on ISIS? And October surprises—what could happen between now and the election, and will it matter?
Episode #78: The “Who Hacked My Ballot Box?” Edition: In the wake of the suspected Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee, experts warn that voting machines could be the next target. The U.S. begins airstrikes against ISIS in Libya. And we’ll talk about our summer reading lists.
Episode #77: The “How Cozy is Your Bear?” Edition: The Russian government hacks the Democratic National Committee. Is Moscow trying to swing the election for Donald Trump? Will it work or backfire? Also, the gang takes your questions!
Episode #76: The “It Was 29 Pages All Along” Edition: A terrorist in Nice, France, kills more than 80 people celebrating Bastille Day. Turkey’s president hangs onto power following an attempted coup. And the congress releases 29 previously classified pages from an inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
Episode #75: The “Killer Robots Have Arrived” Edition: Police officers in Dallas use a robot-bomb to kill the man who murdered five police officers. A tribunal rules that China is violating international law over its territorial claims. And the GOP platform committee eliminates language that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Episode #74: The “Servers and SEALs” Edition: Hillary Clinton will not be prosecuted over her use of a private email server. The death toll of a bombing in Baghdad approaches 300. And the death of a Navy sailor raises concerns about the training of elite military operators.
Episode #73: The “BrexiTurkeyBenghazi” Edition: How will the U.K.’s exit from the European Union affect U.S. national security? Is a terrorist attack in Turkey the inevitable result of battlefield victories against ISIS? And the gang takes on the sound and fury of the Benghazi report.
Episode #72: The “I’m Crazy, How Are You?” Edition: The American political system has gone insane. What’s that mean for our national security? State Department officials protest President Obama’s decision not to bomb Syria. And the intelligence community lashes out at Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Episode #71: The “Orlando” Edition: How did Omar Mateen become a mass-killer, and could he have been stopped? The politics of the Orlando shooting have something for everyone, but very little clarity. And Russian hackers penetrate the Democratic National Committee.
Episode #70: The “Hillary and Hellfire” Edition: Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump can’t be trusted to protect U.S. national security. In Israel there’s talk of another war in Gaza. And a federal appeals court rules that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to cell phone location information.
Episode #69: The “At Least You’re Not Mullah Mansour” Edition: President Obama makes one last pivot to Asia in an official visit. The United States kills the Taliban’s leader. And a State Department inspector general report scolds Hillary Clinton and others for their use of private email.
Episode #68: The “When the Cat’s Away” Edition: An EgyptAir jet crashes en route from Paris to Cairo, immediately sparking fears of terrorism. Hackers are targeting the presidential candidates’ campaigns. And the intelligence community may scrutinize social media accounts of people applying for security clearances. Plus, listener questions!
Episode #67: The “Creeps and Liars” Edition: A new study on “sextortion” reveals a widespread crime few people are talking about. Is a profile of presidential adviser Ben Rhodes a puff piece or a clever hit job? And president Obama faces a lawsuit over war powers from an unlikely source.
Episode #66: The “Never Say Never Trump Again” Edition: Donald Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee for president after an overwhelming primary victory in Indiana. Iraq and Syria are in meltdown—why is this time any worse? And the Supreme Court gives the thumbs up to new hacking powers for law enforcement.
Episode #65: The “Cyber Bombs” Edition: The U.S. is ramping up cyber operations against ISIS. Another standoff over the FBI’s access to a locked iPhone ends, but are more fights around the corner? And the mystery of the curious habeas cases popping up at Guantanamo.
Episode #64: The “How Many Saudis Would You Sue if You Could Sue Saudis?” Edition: Lawmakers want to give families of the 9/11 victims the power to sue Saudi government officials, but the Obama administration says that’s a terrible idea. Syrian peace talks are in jeopardy of falling apart, but a ceasefire seems to be offering some reprieve. And Facebook swears it won’t try to rig the presidential election against Donald Trump.
Episode #63: The “There’s Classified and Then There’s Classified Classified” Edition: A Navy officer is accused of spying, possibly for Taiwan and China. President Obama wades into the debate over how much government information should be classified. And a family in Kansas is trapped in a special kind of Internet hell.
Episode #62: The “What’s Up With That” Edition: The hugely popular messaging system Whatsapp is now encrypting everything for 1 billion people. The financial shenanigans of the rich and powerful are laid bare in the Panama Papers, the biggest leak of all time. And Bernie Sanders has his own embarrassing interview with a newspaper editorial board.
Episode #61: The “Hackers and Hyperbole” Edition: The dispute between the FBI and Apple over a dead terrorist’s iPhone comes to an end, but new fights are just around the corner. Why did bombings in Pakistan and Iraq get so little attention compared to the attacks in Brussels? And the Justice Department indicts seven Iranians for allegedly launching cyber attacks on U.S. banks and a dam in New York.
Episode #60: The “I Don’t Want People to Go Around Thinking I Have a Problem” Edition: Terrorists attack Brussels in a series of bombings. The FBI tells Apple, “Just kidding! We can maybe hack the iPhone after all.” And Donald Trump sits down with the Washington Post editorial board, and no one’s sure what he said.
Episode #59: The “Wingnuts and Wingmen” Edition: President Obama nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. An American ISIS defector is in Kurdish custody. And major Web sites have been delivering malware to their readers.
Episode #58: The “117 Experts Can’t Be Wrong” Edition: Republican national security experts declare Donald Trump unfit to be president. Who would actually advise a President Trump? And President Obama pulls back the curtain on the inner workings of his foreign policy.
Episode #57: The “It’s a Feature Not a Bug” Edition: A New York magistrate judge says the government can’t force Apple to help the FBI extract information from an iPhone. Forty percent of analysts at the U.S. military’s Central Command say the “integrity” of their reports is flawed. And Ben and the president of Estonia have a tweet-a-tweet about the going dark problem.
Episode #56: The “How Do You Like Them Apples?” Edition: FBI Director Jim Comey bites into Apple. The Obama administration unveils its plan for closing Guantanamo. The Homeland Security Department will start scouring social media for warning signs of violent extremism.
Episode #55: The “Things Could Possibly Get Much Worse” Edition: Could things get worse in Syria? Oh yes! The U.S. brings charges against an ISIS member in the death of an American hostage. And Republicans are divided over who supports waterboarding more.
Episode #54: The “Deck Chairs on the Titanic” Edition: The administration is revamping its efforts to staunch ISIS recruitment. The NSA makes the line between cyber attacks and defense even blurrier. And Ben has a plan to solve the going dark problem.
Episode #53: The “Snow-ver It” Edition: The Arab Spring five years later. What have we learned about the future of peace and stability in the region? Who is the mysterious fourth American hostage freed by Iran? And the next wave of surveillance reform is coming for you
Episode #52: The “Red Rover” Edition: Four Americans are freed in a prisoner swap with Iran. Twitter is facing a lawsuit over jihadist messages posted on the site. And Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is cracking down on…everybody!
Episode #51: “The State of the Union is Pretty Chill” Edition: Obama delivers his final State of the Union address. And Iran delivers ten sailors back into U.S. custody after briefly detaining them.
Episode #50: The “We’re Golden” Edition: Kim Jong-un says North Korea tested a hydrogen bomb. The Russians may have caused a blackout in Ukraine with a cyber attack. And President Obama plans to do a lot of foreign travel in his final year in office.
Episode #49: The “Goodbye to All That” Edition: This week on the podcast, the gang wraps up the year that was 2015. What were the most important stories of the year? And what’s the big story we’ll all be talking about in 2016?
Episode #48: The “Carpet Bombs and Chicken Hawks” Edition: GOP presidential candidates debate foreign policy and dare each other to carpet bomb the hell out of the Islamic State. And are the Saudis finally ready to get serious and take on ISIS? Special guest Will McCants joins the podcast this week.
Episode #47: The “Irrational Security” Edition: Barack Obama tries to reassure the nation that ISIS is not winning. Donald Trump has a different plan to keep America safe. And John Kerry is so over the Middle East peace process.
Episode #46: The “Slippery Slope” Edition: President Obama is sending 200 more special operations forces to Iraq to combat ISIS. China seems to be hacking the U.S. less. And a Taliban ally is holding an American man hostage.
Episode #45: The “Gobble Gobble Toil and Trouble” Edition: Turkey shoots down a Russian jet after it allegedly violated Turkish airspace. Brussels goes on lockdown, raising the question of how long it’s rational to shut down a major city to preempt a terrorist attack. And thoughts on the “forever war” by a commander who served in it. Plus, a special Thanksgiving edition of Object Lessons. Lawfare’s new managing editor Susan Hennessey joins the gang this week.
Episode #44: The “Anybody Got Any Bright Ideas?” Edition: What do the ISIS attacks in Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, and now France tell us about the group’s evolution and whether it’s changing strategy? The Paris attacks are breathing new life into the crypto wars. And U.S governors say they don’t want Syrian refugees in their states.
Episode #43: The “Incubus of Plague” Edition: Two weeks after a Russian airliner fell from the sky in Egypt, will we ever know how the plane crashed? GOP presidential candidates are all over the map with their foreign policy plans. Plus, a modest proposal for closing Guantanamo.
Episode #42: The “Did You Miss Us?” Edition: President Obama is sending 50 Special Forces members into Syria. A new book marks the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. And a new Twitter war erupts over drone strikes, and it doesn’t involve Ben!
Episode #41: The “This is Not Some Superpower Chessboard” Edition: The European Court of Justice may have just knocked the surveillance state back on its heels. Is Russia a resurgent power in the Middle East? And one think tank fellow/podcaster has a bone to pick with Vladimir Putin.
Episode #40: The “Fond Fair Wells” Edition: Quinta Jurecic joins Shane and Ben for the podcast. This week: A new leak shows us more about the inner workings of drone strikes. FBI Director Jim Comey concedes defeat in the encryption wars. And Obama’s moral muse.
Episode #39: The “He Said, Xi Said” Edition: Has the Obama administration outplayed China on cyber spying? The Taliban is on the march in Afghanistan. What does this mean for the future of U.S. troops in that country? And the new movie Sicario is one of the sharpest criticisms yet of the war on drugs.
Episode #38: The “It’s Putin’s World and We Just Live In It” Edition: Russia launches airstrikes in Syria, changing the political calculus in the Middle East. U.S.-backed rebels in Syria are also coming under attack. Is the U.S. abandoning them? And Edward Snowden is tweeting and Edward Scissorhands is trending.
Episode #37: The “Je Suis Francis” Edition: Russia is about to intervene in Syria. Good luck with that. The U.S. and China are contemplating a “cyber arms treaty.” And the New York Times editorial board has a plan for closing Guantanamo.
Episode #36: The “Let’s Ignore the Debate” Edition: Is the Obama administration’s hand-wringing over Chinese cyber spying making the U.S. look like chumps? Two new books chart the meteoric rise of ISIS. And a former U.S. ambassador highlights the importance of international partnerships to U.S. counterterrorism.
Episode #35: The “Abu Bakr Bicker Backer Whatever” Edition: Donald Trump reveals that he doesn’t know the names of the heads of the world’s biggest terrorist organizations. Does that disqualify him to be commander-in-chief? Turns out killing Anwar Al-Alawki was an “easy” decision for President Obama. And can the House sue the president over the Iran deal?
Episode #34: “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” Edition: Gen. David Petraeus has a new plan for fighting ISIS. Is it smart or utterly nuts? A new article takes us deep inside the mind and menace of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared “caliph” of the Islamic State. And a new book takes us deep inside the operation to kill an American Al Qaeda fighter.
Episode #33: The “Don’t Check Your 401(k)” Edition: This week on the podcast: How could China’s economic free fall affect U.S. national security? What does international law have to say about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? And the Secret Service gets upset when a drone flies near President Obama while he’s playing golf.
Episode #32: The “Rested But By No Means Ready” Edition: The top ISIS fighter in U.S. custody is being transferred to Iraq. What’s it mean for the U.S. justice system and the future of detainee policy in the war with ISIS? Two years after the first Snowden leaks, are we over the idea of the idealistic whistleblower? And a photo essay on strategic Jerusalem.
Episode #31: The “Empty Chair” Edition: Shane goes on vacation, abandoning the gang to its fate. Brookings scholar Dan Byman steps in and brings a National Counterterrorism Center Calendar, which sparks a discussion of how to categorize terrorist acts that take place within warfare. Ben talks about a recent U.S. court decision that found the war in Afghanistan isn’t really over—no matter what the president says. And Tamara talks about the president’s Iran speech.
Episode #30: The “What Happens in Aspen” Edition: Is notorious Taliban leader Mullah Omar dead—again? And then, Tamara and her very important friends at the Aspen Security Forum were discussing the threat of ISIS and the real truth about encryption.
Episode #29: The “Chinese Cookie Monster” Edition: This week, Ben and Shane are joined by special guests Wells Bennett of Lawfare and Quinta Jurecic, national security intern at Brookings. On the agenda: Obama has a plan to close Guantanamo, and it may be dead or alive. An Iraqi businessman wants to mount a private Sunni army to fight ISIS. And someone near and dear to us has a new plan to fix the encryption problem.
Episode #28: The “Historic” Edition: The Iran deal is finally here. This week on the podcast, Shane, Tamara, and special guest Wells Bennett look at what’s in the deal, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Also, a closer look at which sanctions are being relieved and whom that will help. Plus, do we need an AUMF for…Russia?
Episode #27: The “Let’s All Go Dark” Edition: This week on the podcast: FBI Director James Comey goes to the Hill to talk about “going dark.” Former officials are expressing concern about the Iran deal. And the Office of Personnel Management put people who had no experience in computer security in charge of…computer security!
Episode #26: The “War on the War on Terrorism” Edition: This week on the show: Senators call for hearings on domestic terrorism in the wake of the Charleston shootings. Do we need a new National Commission on the War on Terrorism? And a cat fight between the FISA court and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Episode #25: The “Schake and Awe” Edition: This week on the podcast, Kori Schake joins the gang to discuss the week’s big stories. Was the shooting of nine people in Charleston SC an act of terrorism? Chinese spies now know the secret sex lives of U.S. government employees. And the U.N. has a new report on Gaza.
Episode #24: The “Am I an Iranian Agent?” Edition: This week on the show, Shane exposes the Iranian propagandists who tried to recruit him. Plus, the gang looks at how the military pays for war and at a new “manual” that lays out the rules for fighting them.
Episode #23: The “Robot Samurai Overlord” Edition: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a major speech at the Herzliya Conference on national security, but he spends a lot of time talking the economy. The U.S. Supreme Court hands down its ruling on passports and Israel. How important is it to Middle East policy? And is it a big win for John Yoo and David Addington? And just when you thought the fight over government surveillance was over, along comes Patriot Act 2.0.
Episode #22: “The Anthrax is in the Mail” Edition: This week on the show, special guest Nancy Youssef of the Daily Beast joins Ben and Shane to discuss the Senate’s passage of the USA Freedom Act. Also, why do Americans hate government surveillance but tolerate big corporate data aggregators? And there’s anthrax in the Pentagon!
Episode #21: The “How Much is a Copy of Orgasm” Edition: This week on the show, Ben and Shane are flying solo (duo?) while Tamara is away. They ask, is everything we think we know about privacy wrong? And the guys discuss a novel proposal for easing the tensions between the press and the government when journalists disclose sensitive national security information.
Episode #20: The “Awkward Segue” Edition: This week on the show: The FBI is interrogating the wife of a senior ISIS official about Western hostages. The Justice Department hands down indictments against Chinese nationals for spying on the U.S. And the Tunisian president comes to Washington. Plus, in our object lesson, we’re going back to the movies again, sort of.
Episode #19: The “Worst Way to Die” Edition: This week on the show: The FBI rules out terrorism in the awful train crash in Pennsylvania. But why are we so quick these days to ask whether every accident was caused by terrorists? Congress is poised to pass new legislation on surveillance. And what does a new report on Iranian hackers tell us about the standards of intelligence in the age of cyber war?
Episode #18: The “Triple Entente Beer Summit” Edition: This week on the podcast, it’s our first-ever live show! The crew from Rational Security joined Stewart Baker and Michael Vatis of the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast and the team from the Lawfare podcast (yes, Ben was double-dipping) at the fabulous Washington Firehouse loft in Bloomingdale, DC. The whole gang dished on the recent 2nd Circuit decision on the NSA’s metadata program, new claims about Edward Snowden and ISIS in former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell’s new book, and the hypocrisy of German and French spying. Mon dieu! And we took questions from our audience of beer-swilling, security-slinging listeners. Thanks to all who came out. Enjoy the show!
Episode #17: The “Drones Who Cannot Be Named” Edition: This week on the show: The New York Times names the senior CIA officials who have run the agency’s drone program. Were they right or wrong to do it? Speaking of drones, it turns out the CIA’s program in Pakistan was given an unusually long leash. And Bashar al-Assad may be losing in Syria.
Episode #16: The “Hell in a Yemeni Handbasket” Edition: Special guest Wells Bennett joins Shane and Tamara to talk about the U.S. strategy in Yemen. What is it? And just how big a nightmare? Also, Washington takes the cyber wars West, to Silicon Valley. Plus, spy gardens and swashbuckling pilots.
Episode #15: The “Crusader Air Strikes” Edition: This week on the podcast, the gang discuss Congress weighing in on the Iran nuclear deal. Sunni, Shia, let’s call the whole thing off. And a key Al Qaeda leader who was once held in Guantanamo is killed in a U.S. drone strike. Plus, Ben joins the surveillance state, and Shane solves a mystery from last week’s episode.
Episode #14: The “Who Am I and What is Jonathan Rauch Doing Here in Our Studio?” Edition: This week on the show, the gang welcomes special guest Jonathan Rauch, Brookings fellow, journalist, and longtime friend. On the agenda: Cyber attacks are way more damaging than we previously thought. Saudi Arabia’s Shiites fear a backlash in the Yemen war. And Congress is up to…absolutely nothing on surveillance reform and the new AUMF. Plus, in our Object Lesson segment, you too can take down a mugger while wearing high-heeled shoes.
Episode #13: The “Kick the Centrifuge Down the Road” Edition: This week on the podcast: The talks over Iran’s nuclear program are hurtling towards some vague, yet to be defined conclusion. President Obama opens a new front in the cyber wars. And Rashomon comes to Egypt. Plus, “Wild Tales,” and birthday cakes.
Episode #12: The “Voting in Droves” Edition: The gang unravels the Israeli election results and the unpleasant White House-Israel tensions they have sparked. Tamara talks about Yemen’s ongoing disintegration. And Shane discusses China’s admission, at long last, that it really does offensive cyber operations.
Episode #11: The “Where’s Vlado?” Edition: Ben handicaps the Israeli election. Special guest Merritt Baer considers how our increasingly “interoperable” world may put security at risk (or enhance it). And Shane looks at how the FBI is using surveillance tools to catch child predators.
Episode #10: The Code Word Stuff Edition: This week, the gang dissects David Petraeus’ plea deal for giving highly classified information to his mistress. CIA Director John Brennan proposes big changes in the way the spy agency runs. And a new census of ISIS’ social media campaign. Plus, in our Object Lessons segment, gargoyles and the Rational Security chainsaw massacre.
Episode #9: The Homebrew Edition: This week on the show: National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks to AIPAC and makes the administration’s case for negotiating with Iran on nukes. A Guantanamo detainee raises questions about whether the war in Afghanistan is really, officially over. And Hillary Clinton used her own “homebrew” email system while she was Secretary of State, possibly running afoul of federal record-keeping rules and making her more vulnerable to hackers. Plus, Shane shows us the business card of a Russian spy.
Episode #8: The Float Like a Tweet Sting Like a Ray Edition: This week on the podcast, Shane and Ben welcome back Jen Daskal to talk terrorism and technology. Police phone surveillance becomes a thorny legal issue in a Florida case. The Justice Department says it will prosecute people who proliferate ISIS social media. And Ben offers a peak of his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on a new authorization to use military force against ISIS.
Episode #7: The All Security is Local Edition: This week, Ben and Shane are joined by special guest Jen Daskal. The gang debates Eric Holder’s recent remarks on press leaks, asks whether ISIS is morphing into a true global terrorist movement, and hears some frank tweets on Russia from the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Episode #6: The Men Behaving Badly Edition: This week, the gang discusses the last American hostage held by ISIS, who was confirmed to have died this week. President Obama proposes an authorization to use military force against ISIS. And the Aspen Security Forum announces an all-male slate of speakers for its annual gathering.
Episode #5: Until We Run Out of Fuel and Bullets: This week, Shane, Ben, and Tamara and the gang discuss the latest ISIS video showing the death of a Jordanian pilot, and what it means for the future of the U.S.-led coalition to destroy ISIS, as well as public opinion in Jordan and the United States. Plus, a deeper look at post-Snowden surveillance reforms, and whether they’re meaningful or mostly for show.
Episode #4: The Cold War is Hot: That gang talks about a ring of Russian spies broken up in New York City, plus drones falling on the White House lawn and a new report on the links between democracy and terrorism. Plus, Ben has an update on the speech so sensitive the NSA won’t let him see it, even though he wrote it, and Tamara throws down a challenge to “House of Cards” president Frank Underwood.
Episode #3: The State of the Union is Boring: The gang ignores the State of the Union and speculates about how Ali Saleh Al-Marri got sprung from federal prison. Shane takes on FBI Director Jim Comey with a new encrypted phone and a defense of granting anonymity to AQAP sources. Tamara talks about why moderate Arab states are unreliable partners in a war on radical Islam and talks about the great exception to this rule, the United Arab Emirates. And Ben shows up with a virus and an Anonymous mask.
Episode #2: The “I Have Marshall McLuhan Right Here” Edition: Shane, Tamara, and Ben talk condemnation over the Charlie Hebdo attack and how much outrage is enough, our fear over foreign fighters, and the expanding vocabulary of cyber “attacks.” Plus, Ben investigates the Pakistani incursion into the NSA’s gift shop, Tamara wonders whether Iran is like Pandora’s Box, and Shane shares a personal story about a long-sought stash of Army records. Bonus feature: The gang welcomes special guest (our first!) Jeremy Shapiro.
Episode #1: What is Rational Security?: Shane Harris introduces the show and introduces Benjamin and Tamara Wittes. The gang talks Egypt and Tunisia, torture and sanctions. Ben talks about the medal he got from NSA, which hasn’t yet declassified his speech. And Shane pines after a strange cybersecurity machine. Welcome to Rational Security.
Shane Harris is an author and journalist who has written extensively about intelligence and national security. His latest book @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex explores the frontlines of America’s new cyber war. Shane’s first book, The Watchers, tells the story of five men who played central roles in the creation of a vast national security apparatus and the rise of surveillance in America (Penguin Press, 2010). The Watchers won the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and the Economist named it one of the best books of 2010. Shane is the winner of the 2010 Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on National Defense. He has four times been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, which honor the best journalists in America under the age of 35.
Shane is currently a senior correspondent at The Daily Beast, where he covers national security, intelligence, and cyber security. He is also an ASU Future of War Fellow at New America.
Tamara Cofman Wittes is a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings. Wittes served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs from November of 2009 to January 2012, coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights in the Middle East for the State Department. Wittes also oversaw the Middle East Partnership Initiative and served as deputy special coordinator for Middle East transitions. She was central to organizing the U.S. government’s response to the Arab awakening.
Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and is the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, which is devoted to sober and serious discussion of “Hard National Security Choices,” and is a member of the Hoover Institution’s Task Force on National Security and Law. He is the author of Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo, published in November 2011, co-editor of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change, published in December 2011, and editor of Campaign 2012: Twelve Independent Ideas for Improving American Public Policy (Brookings Institution Press, May 2012). He is also writing a book on data and technology proliferation and their implications for security. He is the author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror, published in June 2008 by The Penguin Press, and the editor of the 2009 Brookings book, Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform.Follow @ratlsecurity