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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: September, 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.  

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