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State Secrets

State Secrets is a weekly interview podcast featuring Cipher Brief experts and national security leaders.
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Now displaying: 2022
Sep 29, 2022

In this episode, Cipher Brief COO Brad Christian sits down with former CIA Officer Brett Davis and Entrepreneur Jeremy Hitchcock to talk about the future of US national security from an investor’s perspective.

Brett is a former Senior Executive with the CIA, and a former Special Operations Officer with the US Navy.  Jeremy is an angel investor who co-founded a company called Dyn in 2001 that grw out of an open source project.  He sold the company in 2017 for $600mm.

The two men are now partners in New North Ventures, which – full disclosure – The Cipher Brief works with.  New North is a sponsor of this year’s Cipher Brief Threat Conference.

Brad sat down with the two men – from very different backgrounds – to get their perspective on investing in future US national security.  

Sep 19, 2022

China’s Communist Party is deep into preparations for its 20th party Congress that begins October 16th in Beijing, where expert observers are expecting President Xi Jinping to be confirmed for an unprecedented third five-year term.

Xi is also expected to announce his new leadership team that will execute on the party’s agenda.  And it’s safe to say that near or at the top of that Agenda is the issue of Taiwan.

For context: When it comes to US policy, Washington’s official stance is that Taiwan is in fact, part of China and that if reunification occurs, it must be through a peaceful reunification.  Beijing, meanwhile, sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be reunified, and has not rule out use of force to do so.  

Washington is bolstering Taiwanese defenses in the event that Beijing grows impatient and makes the strategic decision to reunify the island by force.

So, diplomatically, the US recognizes one Chinese government yet Washington treats Taiwan like an independent nation when it comes to diplomatic engagement and military support.  That’s the reason why China took such offense to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taipei.

Today’s guest agrees that the U.S.’ One China Policy presents a complicated engagement strategy.  How did we get here?  And what is the likelihood that the world’s two most powerful nations could come to blows over Taiwan?

Ambassador Joe DeTrani has focued much of his career on China.  He is not only a former Special Envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea, he is also a former director of East Asia Operations at the CIA.

In this episode, Cipher Brief COO Brad Christian sits down with Ambassador DeTrani to unpack the US’ One China Policy.

Sep 14, 2022

On the morning of July 31, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has been in hiding since 9/11, walked onto the balcony inside a compound in downtown Kabul. The Egyptian-born physician had taken over the leadership of the terrorist organization after US Navy SEALS killed Osama bin laden in Abbottabad in 2011. For 11 years he had directed al-Qaeda from the shadows and there had been many false starts for the US intelligence agencies and special operations team who were tracking him.  But on this day, as he stood outside, a US directed hellfire missile, reportedly fired from a drone killed him.  The missile was incredibly precise, it killed the al Qaeda leader but not his family, who are believed to have been inside the building at the time.

Air to surface missiles like this one are just one of the tools that US counter-terrorism teams have been using as they hunt down terrorist leaders around the globe.  While Zawahiri’s killing was seen as the end of a long and costly manhunt – both in human lives and resources – what does his death mean to the future of the al Qaeda?

I spoke recently with retired Lieutenant Generals Scott Howell and Mike Nagata. Lt. Gen Howell served as Commander of Joint Special Operations Command Central before he retired just over a year ago and Lt. Gen Mike Nagata served as Commander of US Special Operations Command before retiring in 2019.

As the first Air Force officer to command JSOC, Lt Gen. Howell led a force of 14,000 personnel engaged in special operations across multiple areas of instability and was responsible for the readiness and mission execution of highly-specialized forces of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

And Lt. General Nagata’s final position before retiring was Director of Strategy for the National Counterterrorism Center – a job he held from 2016 to 2019. He served as Commander of US Special Operations Command-Central and was responsible for Special Operations across the Central Command region from 2013 to 2015 and was heavily involved in the first two years of combat operations against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.

Sep 6, 2022

Suzanne talks with former National Intelligence Manager for Iran (NIM-I) at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Norm Roule on the impact of a potential deal to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran.  

Aug 25, 2022

The former Director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center joins us in The Cipher Brief Studio to talk about why technology is not enough when it comes to maintaining a competitive edge in national security over China.  If the US doesn’t organize as well as it innovates, there will be no victory. 

Aug 1, 2022

In this episode Suzanne talks with former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence and founder of the Mossbridge Institute, Dr. Julia Mossbridge.

Jul 22, 2022

This week Suzanne talks with former CIA officer and author of new book Victor in the Trouble Alex Finley.  They talk about her career, her path to becoming an author and how she recenlty became an expert on oligarchs and yachts.

Jun 6, 2022

This week, Suzanne talks with Steve Blank, the Silicon Valley Entrepreneur widely recognized as one of the most influential voices in technology today. Blank’s passion for US national security led him to co-launch two classes at Stanford, where he teaches.  One is called Hacking for Defense and the other, Hacking for Diplomacy.  Hacking for Defense later became a federal program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Today, Steve has joined a chorus of voices complaining that Department of Defense ‘culture’ is hindering its ability to truly innovate and it’s putting the US behind it’s adversaries.  What does that mean?  And how could it impact future US national security and US competitiveness in the world?

May 23, 2022

In this episode Suzanne catches up with Cipher Brief Expert and author Admiral James Stavridis (Ret) to talk about his new book- To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision.

Apr 27, 2022

Former Chief of Counterterrorist Operations Ric Prado spent the bulk of his CIA career undercover, taking on the hardest challenges the Agency had, from Nicaragua to Afghanistan. Now, the Cuban refugee shares the secrets of why he did it, and why he thinks it’s time to set the record straight.



Apr 19, 2022

Former Senior CIA Officer Kristin Wood shares her insights on secrets and the world of Open Source Intelligence. Now CEO of Grist Mill Exchange, Wood shares her insights on how businesses and the government can benefit the most from secrets that are sometimes right there in the open.



Apr 12, 2022

Cipher Brief Publisher and CEO Suzanne Kelly talks with retired CIA Officer Beth Sanner, who spent 35 years in national security before recently retiring.  Her responsibilities included serving as Deputy Director for National Intelligence, and as former President Trump’s Intelligence Briefer.   That means that twice a week, for two years, Sanner met with the former President in the Oval Office, sometimes in other locations around the White House, to brief him on the nation’s most classified intelligence.  In order to do that, she had to get inside her customer’s mind, anticipate the questions he would ask and have answers ready.  What are some of the secrets Sanner has for briefing people in positions of power?



Apr 6, 2022

Find out how CIA is thinking about Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) and Data Analytics in a conversation with Marie Falkowski, Director of Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation 



Mar 7, 2022

This week with all of the heaviness with what’s happening in Ukraine and a new world order taking shape, we wanted to give you a break from the stress of reality, and focus on fiction.  What we’re seeing today is something that no many of us could have written about a few months or even a few years ago.  And a failure of imagination comes with a price.  So I think you’re going to find my conversation with author Mark Greaney as interesting as I did.  Many of you already know Greaney as the author of the Gray Man series, and his latest book Sierra 6 is a well-written escape.  If you follow Mark you also know that he wrote several books under the Tom Clancy name.  In this episode we talked about what’s happening in Ukraine right now, what inspires him as an author and how continues to find the energy and discipline to write two books per year.  

I’m your host Suzanne Kelly, and this is the State Secrets Podcast.  

Feb 7, 2022
In this episode Suzanne welcomes General Joseph L. Votel U.S. Army (Ret.) to the State Secrets podcast.  Votel is now the President & CEO of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) organization.  This conversation covers General Votel's perspective on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis and alot more, including the most pressing issues BENS is focused on in partnerhip with the US Government.  
Jan 21, 2022

In this episode Suzanne talks with Cipher Brief Expert and former Director of Intelligence Analysis for the New York Police Department Mitch Silber.  Mitch weighs in on how the recent hostage situation in Texas connects to New York City, and what he learned about protecting NYC during his time at the NYPD.  

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