Dead Drop: April 24

NATIONAL SECURITY SHOUT OUT: Outfits like the Pentagon and NASA like to brag about products the public loves – that were first developed for government use.  Microwave ovens, mammograms, and mini-batteries are examples.  Now we have another candidate. Slate tells us that authorities have found new uses for unmanned aerial vehicles (AKA: drones). Authorities in Italy, Spain, and the United States are using drones to shout at people. In this era of social distancing, instead of sending law enforcement officials to tell folks to quit hanging around each other in public – drones are being used to yell: “Hey, you! Get off the beach!”  Police in New Jersey are also reportedly using drones to sing “Happy Birthday” to socially distanced kids.

LIVE! FROM THE LIVING ROOM: One of the many changes brought about by the COVID-19 crisis is that television networks have been unable to bring the usual assortment of commentators and experts into their studios to do interviews. So, they have resorted to asking their sources to do interviews from home using Skype, Facetime, Cisco Webex and other video services.  This has resulted in interesting glimpses into the homelife of the “talking heads.” That, in turn, has created a new phenomenon – a Twitter account called @ratemyskyperoom.  Started just this month, the proprietor (who calls himself Room Rater) had over 75K followers in less than three weeks.  Room Rater offers sometimes snarky comments on the décor of interviewees.  Given The Cipher Brief’s focus on national security – we singled out a few national security-related people @ratemyskyperoom has rated to bring to your attention. For example, reporter Sasha Ingber of Newsy earned an 8/10 rating for the “beachy vibe” of her living room as she talked about “new challenges for intelligence officers.” Former Secretary of State John Kerry also earned an 8 – but Room Rater oddly changed to a scale of 1 to 20 for him. CNN commentator Samantha Vinograd also got an 8 – but Room Rater thought she needed a few more books for her shelves. NBC’s national security correspondent Ken Dilanian managed only a 6 and earned an admonition that he should add a little art to his life. MSNBC consultant and former CIA and Pentagon chief of staff Jeremy Bash bombed with a 2 out of 10.  He was described as “Smart guy but with bad art and a few obligatory books.”  Canadian astronaut CDR Chris Hadfield on the other hand, aced the test with a 10 out of 10 and General Stanley McChrystal also earned highest honors. The general’s room was described as “Elegant, tasteful, and one you’d expect a war hero to have.”  We wonder how many authors are secretly zooming in on the photos to look for their past works on interviewees’ bookshelves.

The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

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