State Secrets

State Secrets is a weekly interview podcast featuring Cipher Brief experts and national security leaders.
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Oct 15, 2019

Admiral James Stavridis spent more than thirty years in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of 4-star Admiral.  He served as Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and previously commanded U.S. Southern Command.  You can imagine that someone with that kind of experience has seen a lot in his career, so to retire and then write a book about character is an interesting choice.

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher talkes with Admiral Stavridis about what made him want to zero in on the issue of character – as he does in his book – by examining the careers and the choices of ten other admirals.

Jul 18, 2019

This is part 2 of our border security series.  In this episode Cipher Brief COO Brad Christian catches back up with Mike Fisher, former Chief of the US Customs and Border Protection, to talk about recent developments with Mexico, the situation surrounding children in detention along the border, threats of deportations by the U.S. administration and what it will take to get the border crisis under control.  

Jul 15, 2019

Border security is a complex issue.  From conflict zones like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, to geo-political hot spots like Israel and North Korea.  International borders are often where military, law enforcement, crime, politics and policy collide. Rarely do countries have the ability to control their entire borders, leaving open the possibility of smuggling and illegal immigration.  The United States is among the world’s countries facing a very challenging border security dynamic. Just in the last 12 months we’ve seen controversy surrounding the use of military troops to bolster border security, a crisis over children being separated from their families, heated political debates over budgets and walls, senior leadership in DHS seemingly at odds with White House policy, and intense diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Mexico.  Against this backdrop is a worsening humanitarian crisis that is claiming more lives and exhausting resources.   

What we’re NOT talking much about in media conversations, is the increased security risk the U.S. is facing due to the crisis.  Drug traffickers, human smugglers, and gang members are some of the groups exploiting the current situation.  What does that really mean to overall U.S. national security?

State Secrets spoke with two experts on the issue, to see if we could cut thru the rhetoric, politics and sound-bytes, to get to the root of what’s really going on. 

Michael J. Fisher is the former Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol and a member of the Senior Executive Service.  He was responsible for planning, organizing, coordinating, and directing enforcement efforts designed to secure the Nation's borders.

Chief Rowdy Adams retired in June 2011 as a career Senior Executive Service member in the DHS, CBP Office of Border Patrol after almost 30 years in law enforcement, specializing in border security operations, enforcement technology, strategic and tactical planning, and immigration issues. 

We caught up with Mike and Rowdy to talk about the complicated dynamics surrounding the southern U.S. Border in what became a two-part series that can also be found on The Cipher  


Jul 14, 2019

Richard Clarke has been on the cutting edge of terrorism and cyber issues for quite some time.  He served more than 30 years in government and was the first White House official tasked with taking charge of U.S. cybersecurity policy.  He’s written eight books, half fiction, half non-fiction and his latest book, ‘The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats’ was written with Robert Knake, who served as director for cybersecurity policy at the White House from 2011-2015.  Today both men serve as cybersecurity consultants, advising corporations and investors on cyber-related issues.

May 9, 2019

If you’ve done any reporting on national security issues in Washington DC, you already know JJ Green. He’s been covering national security for the city’s most popular radio station for 15 years now.  As you can imagine, he’s seen a lot of changes in that time.


I sat down with JJ recently in Washington to talk about how national security reporting works, how reporters and correspondents gain access to news and policy makers and how a they navigate the sometimes tricky task of getting the story right, and getting the story first. 


The one thing JJ and I both agreed on – is the fact that the job is harder today than at any time in recent memory.  Every administration comes in with ‘gatekeepers’ – they are the staffers who decide which reporters get access to decision makers and which do not.  Which reporters get called in for background briefings, and which reporters get those exclusive one-on-one sit downs?

Apr 29, 2019

It seems like everyone in Washington, DC wants to write a book these days, and more of them are, even if they aren't the big names you're used to hearing.  There are stories to tell in this town, and there are sleuths who know how to go about telling them.  Keith Urbahn is a co-owner of the literary agency Javelin, which started out getting book deals for smaller names with bigger stories, but when they signed James Comey for his book released in 2017, they knew things had changed.  

State Secrets sat down with Urban in his office, in Alexandria, VA.  

Mar 7, 2019

Christopher Krebs left his role as the Director of Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft back in 2017 and went back to work for the government.  He joined the Department of Homeland Security with a top priority to get anew Agency established- one that put a solid focus on government support for a private sector facing an onslaught of cyber threats.  

Krebs saw that dream become reality last November when the President signed the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency Act- which officially elevated an existing component of the DHS to Agency status.

We caught up with CISA's first Director and biggest advocate, Christopher Krebs to talk about what he hopes to do now that the Agency is established.  

Feb 18, 2019

Steven Hall spent more than 30 years in the CIA, the bulk of them running and managing intelligence operations in Eurasia and Latin America.  He has experience both in counterintelligence and counterterrorism and has overseen intelligence operations in the countries of the former Soviet Union.  When he retired from the CIA in 2015, he did so as a member of the Senior Intelligence Service, a small cadre of officers who are the senior-most leaders of the CIA’s Clandestine Service.

Hall is also a Cipher Brief expert who was reading the president’s tweets about his Intelligence leaders after Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats delivered the IC’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last month.  A clearly upset President took to Twitter after media reports highlighted differences between the IC’s assessment of threats, and recent statements made by the President. Without missing a beat, the President called his IC leaders ‘naïve’, and suggested they go ‘back to school’.

Two days later, the President followed a meeting with his top Intel team with another tweet, saying he had 'Just concluded a great meeting with my Intel team in the Oval Office who told me that what they said on Tuesday at the Senate Hearing was mischaracterized by the media - and we are very much in agreement on Iran, ISIS, North Korea, etc.'

Some intelligence insiders told The Cipher Brief that they believed the media had successfully baited the President, and that, as a result, he responded hastily and angrily to what he saw being reported.  Others distinguished between reality and politics when it comes to the threats, saying that the real threats aren't always reflected in the President's political posturing.

The Cipher Brief spoke with Hall specifically about how he believes the President's insults are negatively impacting national security, and about what matters and what doesn’t, in an era where the Intelligence Community often finds itself in the crosshairs.

Feb 11, 2019

A recent worldwide threat report delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by leaders of the Intelligence Community made clear that China is the largest national security threat to the United States.  

This week, State secrets talks to one of the world's most renowned experts on the U.S.- China relationship, Graham Allison. 

His 2017 book Destined for War: Can American and China Escape Thucydides' Trap? was a national and international best seller.

Allison has just recently returned from China, where he spoke with Chinese officials about the State of Affairs with the U.S. We caught up with him when he was in his office at Harvard University, where he has taught for more than five decades.

Jan 31, 2019

We spoke with Cipher Brief Expert John Sipher, to understand the impact of the President's comments towards the Intelligence Community leaders, following a firestorm of debate after the presentation of the worldwide threat assessment by the Intelligence Community leadership to Congress.

Jan 31, 2019

This week we’re presenting a special bonus episode of the State Secrets podcast.  Each year at the Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat Conference, we open the event with a presentation of our Annual Threat Report.  In 2018 former Director of the CIA and NSA, General Michael Hayden presented the annual threat report.  

He began with an overview of the top global security threats.  On that list were issues related to China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and Terrorism, as you would expect.  But Hayden also adds a rich description of how the global world order, the one based significantly on the post WWII, American-led system is changing.  That change, he argues represents a major concern for the entire world, in particular for U.S. allies, and represents very serious challenges to the United States.

Jan 7, 2019

This week we are pleased to welcome John Carlin to the show. 

John was Chief of Staff and Senior Council to Bob Mueller when Mr. Mueller served as FBI Director. Carlin also worked as the National Coordinator for DOJ’s Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Program – better known as CHIP, and he has served as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

John currently chairs Morrison and Foerster’s Global Risk and Crisis Management practice and is co-head of the firm’s national security practice.

John has written a book recently with author Garrett Graff, titled, ‘Dawn of the Code War: America’s Battle Against Russia, China and the Rising Global Cyber Threat.

Dec 17, 2018

This week we're pleased to welcome former Deputy Director of the NSA, and Cipher Brief Expert Rick Ledgett to the show.  Ledgett retired from the NSA as a senior civilian leader in April 2017, capping a career in government that included leading the NSA's Media Leaks Task Force from June 2013 to January 2014, just as the NSA was dealing with a particularly damaging leaker named Edward Snowden.  

Now in the private sector, Ledgett works with CEO's, CISO's and CSO's to help them better understand the cyber threat landscape and find better ways to build resilience as cyber threats continue to impact companies bottom line.  

We also spoke with him about educating all Americans on basic internet hygiene.  

Dec 6, 2018

This week we are pleased to welcome General David Petraeus.  Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sat down with the General, as he was preparing for one of the many international trips he takes these days in his role as Partner with the global investment firm KKR.  

On a rainy afternoon in Washington, we spoke with General Petraeus about global security issues, public-private partnerships, innovation in government, U.S.-China relations, Saudi Arabia, Russia and America's leadership role in the future.  

Nov 11, 2018

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly talks with David Sanger, The New York Times national security correspondent and author of The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age, about the current threat environment and what needs to be done to help people better understand how cyber threats impact them.

Nov 5, 2018

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly talks with former CIA and NSA Director General Michael Hayden about today’s biggest threats, foreign and domestic. 

Oct 29, 2018

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly talks with former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff about the new threats to the homeland as well as privacy threats, and what to do about Exploding Data…only in the State Secrets podcast from The Cipher Brief

Oct 22, 2018

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sits down with (Ret.) General Stanley McChrystal to talk about Jamal Khashoggi, Pakistan’s Incoming Intelligence Chief, and the Generals’ new book: Leaders: Myth and Reality…as well as whether the General himself would consider running for public office.

Oct 15, 2018

Cipher CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sits down with the Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina to discuss spies, strategies for catching them and how foreign agents are using social media to identify potential recruits.

Oct 6, 2018

The Cipher Brief’s ‘State Secrets’ podcast sits down with the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Susan Gordon to talk intelligence and innovation.

Dec 31, 2017

As 2017 comes to an end, we review the relationship between the United States and one of its closest allies, the United Kingdom: how do they address the same security threats the U.S. faces? On this week’s episode of 15 Minutes, The Cipher Brief’s Bennett Seftel, spoke with Nick Fishwick who spent nearly 30 years in the British Foreign Service, and served as Director of Security, Director for Counter-Terrorism, and Director General of International Relations. Looking ahead to 2018, Fishwick offers insights on threats to soft targets, the UK-US relationship, and cyber threats in the new year.

Dec 24, 2017

Is Israeli-Palestinian peace achievable? It’s a staggering question, and one that The Cipher Brief explores in this episode of 15 Minutes. Executive Editor Kim Dozier recently spent some time with Amos Yadlin at a forum in Washington D.C. Yadlin is a former Israeli Air Force general, Israel Defense Forces military attaché to D.C., and was head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate. Along with discussion around the two-state solution, the two examine neighboring threats to Israel, and the recent decision by President Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. 

Dec 18, 2017

As Former Deputy General of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, Ram Ben Barak is right on the pulse when it comes to Israeli security. And on this episode of 15 Minutes, he spoke on current Israeli security concerns and it’s partnership with U.S. intelligence channels with The Cipher Brief’s Executive Editor, Kim Dozier.

Dec 10, 2017

On December 6, President Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ordering the State Department to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move is seen by the international community as cementing Israeli soverignity over the holy city, and has drawn condemnation from leading figures around the world. On this episode of 15 Minutes, Cipher Brief executive editor Kim Dozier spoke with Farah Pandith to get some insight on the effects this move will have on Muslim communities in the region. Pandith was the first person to hold the position of Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the US State Department under Secretary Clinton, and had much to share.

Dec 3, 2017

The White House recently released a charter providing transparency into the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, known as the VEP. Around the conversation of how the U.S. government handles software vulnerabilities, The Cipher Brief asks, how are our allies handling the same issues?


On this episode of 15 Minutes, Cyber & Technology Analyst Levi Maxey speaks with Robert Hannigan, the former director of GCHQ, the United Kingdom’s counterpart of the NSA. Hannigan provided some insight on the practices applied in the U.K., and how it differs from the U.S.

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