Dead Drop: December 2

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STATE OF AFFAIRS: As The Dead Drop was going to press (or whatever the electronic equivalent of “going to press” is) – it was still uncertain who President-elect Trump was going to nominate as Secretary of State.  One name prominently mentioned was that of retired General David Petraeus. As a possible compromise candidate to mollify both the “Never Romney” and “Never Rudy” crowds, Petraeus has his own set of baggage. The Dead Drop wondered – if Petraeus were confirmed for the post – since he is still under probation – would he need to check out with probation officers before setting off on world travels as SECSTATE?

WATERBOARDING OVER THE DAM: The media seem obsessed with waterboarding.  Witness the above the fold, page one, NY Times story on Tuesday headlined, “Donald Trump Faces Obstacles to Resuming Waterboarding.” Yes, Trump said on the campaign trail that he might bring back “waterboarding and worse” – but the fact is that the practice was last used in 2003 during George W. Bush’s first term. A better question than “will Trump bring back waterboarding?”  – is “Will the Trump administration bring back some of the other interrogation techniques President Obama took off the table at the start of his administration in 2009?”  Over the past eight years, the U.S. has eschewed harsh interrogation of known terrorists – although it has also stepped up targeted killing as described in this recent Washington Post article (which might seem pretty harsh if you were on the business end of a Hellfire missile).

OSS GETS THE GOLD:  Back on September 23rd, the Dead Drop told you that a bill in Congress to award the members of the OSS the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their superior service and critical contribution during WWII, was stuck, and sponsors could not get a vote on the floor of the House. We’re pleased to report that the House finally got its act in order and passed the bill on December 1. Charles Pinck, president of the OSS Society and son of an original OSS member, said, “We look forward to the presentation of this medal next year to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the OSS’ founding.”

COUNTRY FOR THE COUNTRY: The Dead Drop hears that Nashville recently served as the perfect country music backdrop for an exclusive dinner to raise money for two organizations focused on helping members of the Special Operations Community and their families. The ‘All in All the Time Foundation’ was the beneficiary of an invite-only evening where some of Nashville’s best known country music writers took the stage to show their stuff. It was described as a ‘passion-filled event with stories of sacrifice, bravery and loss.’ Navy SEAL Brett Shadle’s widow opened up about loss and the impact it had on her family in a way that had the crowd in tears. Planning of the dinner was pretty hush-hush, likely because the audience was filled with an amazing bunch of men and women who have truly risked it all for their country. Artists like Kid Rock, Lee Brice and Tanya Tucker showed up to offer support. While she will not confirm or deny it, we hear that Cipher Brief CEO Suzanne Kelly ended up chatting up Lee Brice, performer of the smash hit ‘I Drive Your Truck’. He most likely shared with her that “All in All the time” is ‘one of the coolest things I have been privileged to be involved in,” possibly adding that “the event and how it was put together was above and beyond expectation – fun, faithful, and full of people with a fire to make a difference. Couldn’t be more proud to be a part. The boys at Tomahawk really knocked it out of the park.” Tomahawk Strategic Solutions is a training and advisory company based in Nashville and run by a group of elite military veterans. We at The Dead Drop kinda like the love affair between country music and the military and are already looking forward to getting the scoop on next year’s event.  

HIGHER MAP – has an article looking at the work of the CIA’s Cartography Center.  They note that the Agency has declassified and released a remarkable collection of maps “that illustrate – and perhaps even played a role in many significant events in U.S. history.”

POCKET LITTER:  Stuff we found laying around:

  • WATCH THIS SPACE: “Headline and Global News” (whatever that is) reports that before the end of the Obama administration the president will announce that “UFOs exist” and have “Visited Earth.”
  • SCRAMBLING FOR SECRECY: Marketplace reports that the downloading of encryption apps boomed in the days after the election of Donald Trump as president. Apparently, some folks think a Trump administration will be snoopier than its predecessors.
  • BLAST FROM THE PAST: The Guardian reports that 15 former staff members of the ‘70s era Church Committee have written President Obama lobbying to end the “untenable exile” of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
  • “CLOSE” ONLY COUNTS IN HORSESHOES AND NUCLEAR WAR: Business Insider reports on a the CIA’s declassification of a Studies in Intelligence article  on how close the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to war in 1983.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by that members of The Cipher Brief’s Network aren’t in the news somewhere.  Here are some examples from this week:

  • Former CIA and NSA Director, General Mike Hayden, says the private sector, not government, will be the first line of defense against cyberthreats.
  • Former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff says the next big security challenge is transnational organized crime, transnational terrorism, and non state actors leveraging technology, communications and money.

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND?   (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Jeanine Hayden, Member of the Board of Governors of the National Military Family Association:

“I recently finished Birds Without Wings by Louis De Bernieres, set in Turkey at the end of the Ottoman Empire, at the suggestion of my daughter-in-law. The book is a sweeping novel based on events that happened in Turkey at the beginning of the twentieth century.”


“One of the great challenges for us in Afghanistan going forward is patience. Afghanistan is not going to be fixed overnight, and we certainly are not going to expend the types of resources, both human and financial, that would be necessary to make a major short-term impact.

The challenge for us moving forward is going to be doing what is necessary in a sustainable way over the long-term – and that may be a very long-term – in order to nudge Afghanistan in the right direction.”

  • Robert Grenier, former CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan and author of the book, 88 Days to Kandahar

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Got any tips for your friendly neighborhood Dead Drop?  Shoot us a note at