State Secrets

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

May 18th, 2023 State Secrets

Ukraine’s New Cyber Force

One man knows better than most, just what cyber tactics Russia has been using to attack Ukraine – not just since the full invasion in February of 2022 – but since the war began in Crimea in 2014.  Since then, Ukraine has served as an unwitting testing ground for Russian cyber aggression with an impact that has often spread well beyond the country’s borders.  State Secrets host Suzanne Kelly sat down in Kyiv with the head of Ukraine’s Department of Cyber and Information Security at the Security Service of Ukraine to dig in on Illia Vitiuk’s frontline perspective on what he calls the first cyber war in history.

May 11th, 2023 State Secrets

A Strategic View on Global Security

Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly interviews the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen Robert Ashley to discuss Ukraine, Russia, China, and the impact of technology on todays complicated world. Listen in on what Gen. Bob Ashley has to say about the private sector’s mission in today’s security landscape.

April 23rd, 2023 State Secrets

The Basics of AI and how it’s Impacting U.S. National Security

State Secrets Host Suzanne Kelly is joined by co-host Brad Christian in this conversation with Lt. General Michael Groen (Ret.) on the basics of AI and how it’s impacting U.S. National Security.

March 29th, 2023 State Secrets

The DIA’s Global Intelligence Picture

In this week’s State Secrets, host Suzanne Kelly talks with Dr. Trent Maul. Dr. Maul was appointed to Director of Analysis for the Defense Intelligence Agency in May 2021. Dr. Maul discusses the Defense Intelligence Agency’s global outlook on the Russia-Ukraine war and the possibility of Russia trying to expand its influence in the region to other neighboring countries.

March 15th, 2023 State Secrets

Which Cards Could Beijing Play on Ukraine, North Korea and Taiwan?

Ambassador Joe DeTrani has spent much of his career centered 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 discuss senior leadership changes in Beijing and a potential phone call between Xi and US President Joe Biden.

March 10th, 2023 State Secrets

What I Know About Havana Syndrome

Former Senior CIA Officer and Cipher Brief Expert Marc Polymeropoulos was in Moscow in late 2017, when he woke up in his hotel room with a blinding headache. It was the beginning of a 5-year journey that landed him in Walter Reed’s Traumatic Brain Injury Program. What happened? Marc believes he was the victim of a targeted microwave weapon attack – something that’s become known as Havana Syndrome, after US government employees working at the Embassy in Cuba reported similar debilitating symptoms. Now, the Intelligence Community has issued its latest assessment on Havana Syndrome, which it refers to as Analogous Health Incidents and Polymeropoulos says the report leaves a lot to be desired.

March 1st, 2023 State Secrets

The War in Ukraine is Changing the World

In this episode of State Secrets, Suzanne Kelly talks about the ways in which the war in Ukraine is changing the world with author Rajan Menon. Menon, a nonresident scholar in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is co-author of the book, Conflict in Ukraine: The Unwinding of the Post-Cold War Order. Menon, like Kelly, recently returned from Ukraine and shares his first-hand impressions about what’s happening there and how this war is changing the world.

February 21st, 2023 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Ukraine’s Next Move with General Phil Breedlove (Ret.)

State Secrets host Suzanne Kelly and guest co-host Brad Christian talk with the former NATO Allied Supreme Commander (and former F-16 pilot) about what comes next in Ukraine and what is actually needed in order to win.

February 10th, 2023 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

China and the Ballooning National Security Threat

In this week’s State Secrets Podcast, Host Suzanne Kelly talks with The Hon. Susan M. Gordon, a career Intelligence Officer, former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence and current member of the Defense Innovation Board, about Balloons, China, Ukraine, Russia and the new world order as well as the role that AI plays in all of it.

February 2nd, 2023 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

The Classified Mess and How to Clean it Up

In this week’s State Secrets, host Suzanne Kelly talks with former Deputy Director of National Intelligence and Presidential Briefer, Beth Sanner about the discovery of classified documents in the homes and offices of former and current political leaders. Beth shares first-hand accounts from her time serving as former President Donald Trump’s briefer and helps pull back the curtain on where the gaps are in securing classified information.

January 26th, 2023 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

NATO’s Priorities for Intelligence and Security

In one of his very first public interviews as NATO Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security, David Cattler sits down with State Secrets host Suzanne Kelly to talk about one of the most trying times in the alliance’s 74 year history. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is re-shaping the alliance, and fueling expansion as NATO keeps a close eye on China’s global rise.

December 20th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Meet The ‘Apocaloptimist’ of National Security Dr. Jason Matheny, President & CEO of The RAND Corporation

This week, I’m talking with RAND CEO Dr. Jason Matheny about a host of threats to US national security – how technology is playing a role and why people call him an ‘apocaloptimist’. Dr. Matheny has been fascinated with existential threats to the human race from the get go and penned a 2007 paper on how to reduce the risk of human extinction. If that isn’t worth reading – I don’t’ know what is. Matheny brought that kind of curiosity and insight to the Intelligence Community in 2009 as the Director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity – that’s the research arm of the Intelligence Community that invests in fascinating research projects. He’s also served on the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and was the founder of the Center for Emerging Technology at Georgetown University. He left that role to become the Coordinator for Technology and National Security at the National Security Council – and at the same time – served as Deputy Director for National Security at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Matheny became the CEO of the RAND Corporation this past summer. Needless to say, I learn a lot every time I talk with Dr. Matheny. So let’s get started.

November 22nd, 2022 State Secrets

The Mission to Give Back

This week we're talking about the mission to give back and we're highlighting three organizations that are doing just that. Suzanne is joined by Brad for three conversations with charities that are making an impact. First up is the Special Operations Care Fund known as SOC-F. SOC-F really targets their giving efforts to the special operations community in ways that you wouldn’t normally think of. They support things like treatments for traumatic brain injury but they also focus on providing therapy sessions to save marriages that are often strained by the multiple deployments that affect families. They also provide therapeutic and restorative experiences for gold star kids. We spoke with Co-Founder David Kramer and new Executive Director of SOF-F Jeremy Morton. Next up we spoke with CSM (Ret) Mike Hall, Executive Director of Three Rangers Foundation an organization that serves the Ranger community. Three Rangers manages a significant network of former Rangers who mentor new veterans as they are transitioning, and beyond and offers some pretty impressive ways to build professional networks in the civilian world. Last but not least we spoke with the Executive Director of the CIA Officer's Memorial Foundation John Edwards. John is a retired senior executive with CIA and now leads the organization that was created following the death of Mike Spann in 2001. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan, and was a CIA officer and it became clear very soon after that CIA needed a new type of way to support fallen officers. We talked with John about how the foundation works to provide scholarships and support for the children and spouses of fallen CIA officers.

November 15th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Curator of Secrets

In 1972, former CIA Executive Director William Colby proposed that the spy agency set up an employee museum as a way to share the unique mission and the impact that CIA had around the world. It took 16 years for it to come to fruition. And some 34 years after that, a new museum expansion and renovation is helping the Agency mark its 75th Anniversary. Now, the museum hosts artifacts from some of the Agency’s most successful – and some unsuccessful missions. In this episode of The State Secrets Podcast, Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sits down with the CIA’s Curator of Secrets – Museum Director Robert Byer, who gave The Cipher Brief team a tour of the new space and the new exhibits. Some of them stretch back to the days of the OSS – the World War II Precursor to CIA. And some, were used in active intelligence operations as recently as this summer. All have been declassified. Here's a peek inside the world’s most secretive museum at CIA Headquarters, and Suzanne Kelly’s conversation with Museum Director Robert Byer.

November 7th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth- Director, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

In this State Secrets episode, Cipher Brief CEO & Publisher Suzanne Kelly sits down with the Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth at NGA Headquarters in Springfield, Virginia to talk about what’s going on in hot spots like North Korea, as the North undertakes a series of missile launches, about NGA’s expected role with the artificial intelligence program known as MAVEN, and about how the agency is partnering with commercial businesses to know the world even better. Vice Admiral Whitworth took on the role as Director this past June and he brings an impressive intelligence background in the military to the new job. His command tours included serving as commander of Joint Intelligence Center Central, commanding officer of the Navy element of U.S. Central Command and commanding officer at the Kennedy Irregular Warfare Center. He also served as director of Intelligence for The Joint Staff and as director of Intelligence for U.S. Africa Command and as director of Intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command. The list goes on.

October 31st, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Author and journalist Renee Dudley

In this episode, I’m talking with journalist and author Renee Dudley. Renee is a technology reporter at ProPublica who stumbled onto a band of what she describes as misfits while reporting on the rapid rise of ransomware. What she found was an incredible group of individuals who decided to be a change for good by helping fight cybercrime. She tells the story in a new book she wrote with co-author and fellow journalist Daniel Golden, The Ransomware Hunting Team: A Band of Misfits’ Improbable Crusade to Save the World from Cybercrime. Here's my conversation with Renee Dudley.

October 25th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

How close are we to war with China?

China remains the top concern for long-term US national security and tensions over Taiwan have increased steadily over the past several months. Chinese President Xi Jinping used the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party to cement his grip on power – and to make clear where his party stands on its future ambitions, to include the reunification of the self-governing island of Taiwan. So just how close are China and the US moving toward war over Taiwan? That's something that Cipher Brief Expert Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) has been contemplating for some time. He is the author of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War - that he co-wrote with journalist Elliott Ackerman - played out just how that war might start.

October 18th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

China’s Grand Ambitions

Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October - with a speech that makes clear where his party stands on its future ambitions, to include the reunification of the self-governing island of Taiwan. But tensions between the US and China over Taiwan’s future are really just one part of the story. Beijing has made clear that it has a thorough and organized strategy to achieve its ambitious goals while the US – in part because of a democratic system that can change leadership every four years – is realizing that it must do something different if it wants to remain a dominant power in the world. I can’t imagine anyone better on this issue that my guest in this episode: former assistant secretary of defense turned Harvard Professor Graham Allison. Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Harvard and he is also the author of the book, Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap? If you haven’t read it, it’s a master class in understanding just where both countries are coming from and what advantages they hold in this great power competition. Here's my State Secrets conversation with Harvard Professor Graham Allison.

September 26th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Investing in Future National Security

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.

September 19th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

The Complicated Case of Taiwan

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.

September 14th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Terrorism and Special Operations

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.

September 6th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

The Impact of a JCPOA Deal with Cipher Brief Expert Norm Roule

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.

August 25th, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

Lt. Gen Michael Groen USMC (Ret)

August 1st, 2022 State Secrets
State Secrets Podcast

The Potential for Integrating Intelligence & Intuition

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