In this episode, I interview Thomas Rid about his illuminating study of Russian disinformation, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare. It lays out a century of Soviet, East European, and Russian disinformation, beginning with an elaborate and successful operation against the White Russian expatriate resistance to Bolshevik rule in the 1920s. Rid has dug into recently declassified material using digital tools that enable him to tell previously untold tales – the Soviets’ remarkable success in turning opposition to US nuclear missiles in Europe into a mass movement (and the potential shadow it casts on the legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover, father of the US nuclear navy), the unimpressive record of US disinformation compared to the ruthless Soviet version, and the fake American lobbyist (and real German agent) who persuaded a German conservative legislator to save Willy Brandt’s leftist government. We close with two very different predictions about the kind of disinformation we’ll see in the 2020 campaign.


Continue Reading Episode 312: Russia’s online disinformation has a 100-year history

While attention is necessarily focused on the nation’s response to COVID-19, defense contractors should not put aside the need to prepare to meet DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) requirements. In fact, early this month the CMMC Accreditation Body announced on its website it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DoD related to

David Kris, Paul Rosenzweig, and I dive deep on the big tech issue of the COVID-19 contagion: Whether (but mostly how) to use mobile phone location services to fight the virus. We cover the Israeli approach, as well as a host of solutions adopted in Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and elsewhere. I’m a big fan of Singapore, which produced in a week an app that Nick Weaver thought would take a year.

In our interview, evelyn douek, currently at the Berkman Klein Center and an SJD candidate at Harvard, takes us deep into content moderation. Displaying a talent for complexifying an issue we all want to simplify, she explains why we can’t live with social platform censorship and why we can’t live without it. She walks us through the growth of content moderation, from spam, through child porn, and on to terrorism and “coordinated inauthentic behavior” – the identification of which, evelyn assures me, does not require an existentialist dance instructor. Instead, it’s the latest and least easily defined category of speech to be suppressed by Big Tech. It’s a mare’s nest, but I, for one, intend to aggravate our new Tech Overlords for as long as possible.


Continue Reading Episode 308: Location, location, location. And the virus.

Our News Roundup is hip deep in China stories. The inconclusive EU – China summit gives Matthew Heiman and me a chance to explain why France understands – and hates – China’s geopolitical trade strategy more than most.

Maury Shenk notes that the Pentagon’s reported plan to put a bunch of Chinese suppliers on a blacklist is a bit of a tribute to China’s own list of sectors not open to Western companies. In other China news, Matthew discloses that there’s reason to believe that China has finally begun to use all the US personnel data it stole from OPM. I’m so worried it may yet turn my hair pink, at least for SF-86 purposes.

And in a sign that it really is better to be lucky than to be good, Matthew and I muse on how the Trump Administration’s China policy is coinciding with broader economic trends to force US companies to reconsider their reliance on Chinese manufacturing.


Continue Reading Episode 259: Why France understands Chinese policy better than the rest of us

I know. That could be any national strategy written in the last 15 years. And that’s the point. In our interview, Dr. Amy Zegart and I discuss the national cyber strategy and what’s wrong with it, along with the culture clash between DOD and Silicon Valley (especially Google), and whether the Mueller report should lead to a similarly thorough investigation into how the Intelligence Community and Justice handled the allegations at the start of the Trump Administration. Plus, Amy answers this burning question: “If a banana republic is a country where losing an election means getting criminally investigated, what do you call a country where winning an election means you get criminally investigated?”


Continue Reading Episode 256: National Bloviation Strategy

The backlash against Big Tech dominates the episode, with new regulatory initiatives in the US, EU, Israel, Russia, and China. The misbegotten link tax and upload filter provisions of the EU copyright directive have survived the convoluted EU legislative gantlet. My prediction: the link tax will fail because Google wants it to fail, but the upload filter will succeed because Google wants YouTube’s competitors to fail.


Continue Reading Episode 251: Executive Orders and alien abductions

Today we interview Doug, the chief legal officer of GCHQ, the British equivalent of NSA. It’s the first time we’ve interviewed someone whose full identify is classified. Out of millions of possible pseudonyms, he’s sticking with “Doug.” Listen in as he explains why. More seriously, Doug covers the now-considerable oversight regime that governs GCHQ’s intercepts and other intelligence collection, Britain’s view of how the law of war applies in cyberspace, the prospects for UN talks on that topic, the value of attribution, and whether a national security agency should be responsible for civilian cybersecurity (the UK says yes, the US says no).


Continue Reading Episode 235: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s … Doug?