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

In this bonus episode, we present a lightly edited interview about Israel’s technology- and surveillance-heavy approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, Matthew Waxman and I talk to Yuval Shany, a noted Israeli human rights expert and professor at Hebrew University. We cover the particularly fraught political crisis that the virus exacerbated, the use of Israel’s counterterrorism tools to trace contacts of infected individuals, and the significance of locational privacy in the face of a deadly contagion. Our thanks to both Nachum Braverman of Academic Exchange and Ben Wittes of Lawfare for making the interview possible.


Continue Reading Episode 309: How Israel is fighting the coronavirus

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.

Paul Rosenzweig leads off with This Week in China Tech Fear – an enduring and fecund feature in Washington these days. We cover the Trump Administration’s plan to blacklist up to five Chinese surveillance companies, including Hikvision, for contributing to Uighur human rights violations in the West of China, DHS’s rather

Episode 190: Interview with United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

In our 190th episode Stewart Baker has a chance to interview United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has a long history of engagement with technology and security issues.  In this episode, we spend a remarkably detailed half-hour with him, covering the cybersecurity waterfront, from the

Episode 173:  Interview with Richard Ledgett

Today we deliver the second half of our bifurcated holiday podcast with an interview of Richard Ledgett, recently retired from his tour as NSA’s deputy director. We cover much recent history, from Putin’s election adventurism to questions about whether NSA can keep control of the cyberweapons it develops. 

Episode 162: The Law of Armed Vibrators

In this episode, I debate Michael Schmitt, a prime mover in two Talinn Manuals on international law and cyber operations. We are joined by an expert on the topic and a new Steptoe partner, Brian Egan, who was formerly the State Department legal adviser, among other accomplishments.