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Welcome, welcome, welcome to armchair expert experts on expert Dan Shepherd, I'm joined by Miniature Mouse.


Super interesting guest today, John Brennan, who is a former American intelligence officer who served as the director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017.


Boy, it's not often you get to chat with the former director of the CIA. We got inside knowledge we might get classified information so there might be coming for us.


He has a new book out now called Undaunted My Fight Against America's Enemies at Home and Abroad. John is is so original. He was such a methodical conversation. Right. The way he processes info and communicates is just so unique.


Yeah, I wish I could be in the CIA. Maybe I am. Oh my goodness. You wouldn't know now. You would never blow your cover. You would be a great operative. Thank you. Mm hmm.


Well, let's find out if John Recruit's either of us after this wonderful episode with John Brennan.


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You might not like this, but I just want to say on first glance, judging a book by its cover, you just look like a very kind, nice person. If I saw you at the grocery store, I would not go, oh, that guy was definitely the director of the CIA.


Oh, the glasses are off. There it is. There's that steely glaze.


My wife complains. I never smile when I'm on TV, but usually the things I'm talking about not reason to smile at all. I think I'm a nice guy also.


You know, I would imagine, too, is you get like, desensitized to stuff. I know that when I it sounds like I'm bragging because I bring this up a lot. I went on to USO tours to Afghanistan, and when I would talk to the soldiers, it becomes immediately clear what they're used to. And you could interpret it as them being cavalier. But it's just normal life so it doesn't have the heightened emotional reaction we might expect or be judgmental of.


So I would imagine, even in your case, you talk about this stuff all the time, you're not going to have the same shock and awe every time you bring something up.


Right? A lot depends on the environment. As you point out, if you're in a war theater, you tend to have a certain attitude but context and also the type of conversation having the people you talk to. So I think sometimes people find it surprising that I sometimes have a sense of humor. Yeah, yeah.


I would imagine just sometimes when you've been on television, you must, I don't know, maybe not have a little talk with yourself or you go like, oh yes. Remember, this will be the first time people are hearing this.


And I need to bring a certain level of, I don't know, performance to it a little bit.


And maybe I've had the opportunity to appear in front of Congress multiple times. And sometimes depending on the issue as well as the committee I'm appearing in front of. And, you know, I have to prepare myself for the theatrics that I'm going to witness on the other side of the table.


I don't know how you handle that aspect when you see someone peacocking and grandstanding and, you know, it's just a performance. I would be so irritated by that.


Well, I'm not a good poker player, so usually my face feels my feelings. And more than a couple of commentators have pointed out my expression and my furrowed brow.


When a Congress person or senator says something that is totally foolish or has no value to the conversation other than they've made some declaration on record that they hope will get quoted or something else for their next campaign.


Yeah. Now you have a new book called Undaunted My Fight Against America's Enemies at Home and Abroad. And I unfortunately have not read it yet. I will because this topic interests me greatly, but I've read a bunch of excerpts from it, and there isn't a topic that I'm interested in that's not in this book. There's so many things covered and it seems so comprehensive. I guess my first question is like, how long does it take you to write a book like that and decide what you're going to put in it?


Well, first you have to have a career be willing to write about in a memoir. So that took me three years or so and I decided about a year and a half after I left government that I was going to actually write a memoir because I never thought I would. But then after talking with my family and friends and former directors as well, they said that you can really make a contribution to the historical record. So I was hoping that I was going to be able to get access to my files when I was director so that I could, in fact recount a lot of my experiences with accuracy.


But unfortunately, since I have irritated Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump directed the CIA not to share anything classified with me. So I had to rely on my memory as well as some conversations I had with former colleagues. But all former directors who wrote their memoirs were given prompt and full access to their classified files when they were directors so that they could, in fact write their memoirs with some degree of not just accuracy, but also a depth of coverage.


Yeah. Now, what conventionally happens when people retire? I'll even start with, does an ex-president still have access to, like, classified information or briefings or are they let go of that?


Well, they can request a briefing at any time a former president, and they don't get the daily president's daily brief, which is what they get when they're in office. But a lot of former presidents and I have briefed former presidents who requested a briefing on this matter or if they're going to be traveling overseas or meeting with foreign officials, they retain their clearances for the rest of their life. Former directors of CIA also retain their clearances. It's for the benefit of the government because it allows their successors to contact their predecessors and have conversations about would you think about this person or why did we do it that way?


Or can you give me a little bit of context in terms of this capability or whatever? So it facilitates those discussions. So even though Mr. Trump or the White House announced to great fanfare in the summer of twenty eighteen that he was revoking my clearances because they had the audacity to speak out against him. My clearances were never revoked because there was no legal basis to do so. However, he did send a written directive to the CIA and the intel community forbidding anyone from discussing classified information with me, which is why then the CIA was unable to share my classified files when I was writing my memoir.


So it's probably safe to assume that your access to that will resume here shortly then.


Yeah, I would think that the Bush administration, many of the people I know who I think are going to be joining Mr. President elect Biden and I know Joe Biden very well, having worked with him for eight years, I would presume that they're not going to continue a lot of the activities and actions and decisions of Mr. Trump. So I would only go into reviewing my classified files for a purpose. I was granted some access when I was going to be interviewed by the Department of Justice for, you know, the investigations that Mr.


Barr, the attorney general, has initiated at Donald Trump's request. But I was granted that access or given that access only after I finished writing my manuscript.


And do you have pet interests like I imagine if I were you and I had spent 30 years in this job, I would have been tracking some things towards the end that my own curiosity would really want access. I would want to be able to check up on some things that I care deeply about or spend a lot of time trying to help resolve. I have to imagine just also your own curiosity would want to check in on some things, wouldn't it?


Well, I am very curious about a number of things that worked throughout the course of my career, but I don't believe that former officials should be allowed to access classified material in order to advance their own maybe personal interests or financial interests or whatever. There are a number of individuals and former directors who retain clearances because to serve on certain boards of directors or companies that do classified work, it requires individuals to have current security clearances, top secret clearances. I never pursued any of those types of positions or role, so I didn't need the clearances for that purpose.


But I can see why former presidents, vice presidents would need it if I had a real reason. And I think if the reason was in the national interest to gain access to something. For example, if I was invited to go overseas and speak to foreign officials or my former counterparts, and I needed to have better sense of what it is that they might be doing or up to, then I would make that request. And I believe the CIA then would grant the access as appropriate.


But I think you can think of even the most simple example of someone taking over some managerial job at a business and they cannot figure out how to get the break room cool. You want to be able to call the previous guy and go like, hey, what was the trick to get the break room cooled off without making the rest of the building icy cold? That same thing exists in your job that whoever takes over your job certainly has some just questions that they would benefit your knowledge on.




When I was director, I met with my predecessors many times. I call them in either collectively because once a year I would have all the former directors and deputy directors in so they could be brought up to date about what's happening inside the agency. We would talk about what we're doing. I would seek their feedback and reaction because I think, you know, they have tremendous insight based on their previous experiences. But also I would ask individual directors to come in so I would have lunch with them to talk about a particular issue or something that they were deeply involved in.


It really helped me.


And unfortunately, since I've left government, the only time I was asked to go back in, Gina Haspel, the current director of CIA, after she was confirmed, called me into her office and just ask a few questions. But that was before I think I got involved in this country.


Terms with Donald Trump before you had the Scarlet Letter. Yes. So I'm going to start with just some of the most generic stuff that I guess we could assume most people know. But I think maybe some people would not know, which is just the distinction between the CIA and, say, the FBI. And you would be best to delineate that difference for us.


Well, the CIA is a organization of the US intelligence community, which consists of about 17 organizations. The CIA's mission is to understand what's happening around the world outside of the United States in terms of the threats to our national security interests. The CIA basically has five missions. One is to collect intelligence clandestinely and CIA officers go overseas and recruit spies so that they can provide CIA information about what's going on in different parts of the world. Another mission is all source analysis, which is that the CIA analysts, the ones that take in all the information, whether it be clandestinely acquired, whether it be open source information and provide the assessments to the president and to other senior officials.


Another mission is counterintelligence, trying to understand the threats. To the United States that Russia, China or other countries pose another mission is the foreign liaison side.


CIA officers spend a lot of time interacting with their counterparts around the globe. I spent a lot of time traveling and speaking to our allies and partners, as well as to the heads of services of Russia and China, because we need to have that interaction. And then the mission is covert action. This is when a president decides to do something overseas to try to shape developments and events, but to hide the hand of the US government. And he will tap the CIA to carry out those types of activities, such as the CIA's detention interrogation program, the raid against bin Laden.


These are things that are kept quiet and covert until a president decides to uncover them. So, again, the CIA's focus is overseas. The FBI has the domestic law enforcement responsibility to investigate crimes against federal law, but they also have an intelligence collection responsibility. So they have confidential contacts. So they will try to get people to provide information about organized crime or narcotics trafficking or even proliferation activities. They also have representatives overseas called legal attaches who work in embassies and coordinate closely with their CIA counterparts.


But the real difference is FBI is law enforcement. CIA is intelligence. FBI focuses primarily on the domestic scene while CIA focuses on the foreign field.


OK, so now as we dive into some of the stuff, I want to say that I have an immense gratitude for the work that the CIA does. I feel just so grateful that we have such an accomplished agency that is doing the work it does.


And I am also very critical of a lot of the stuff that the CIA has done. So I just want you to know where I'm coming from.


I share those views on both sides. OK, great. Yeah, I don't think I'm like coming from it from a left or right. I just have a deep admiration and I have deep criticism. So as this unfolds. But one of the things I just wanted to go into is an operation that I found incredibly impressive in one that begged the question to me, why don't we put more resources into this approach? Could you tell us a little bit about what happened in Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11 with the CIA?


Well, the CIA had been involved for many years in Afghanistan when the Soviets had occupied Afghanistan and the CIA, it was the organization that worked with a lot of the Afghan rebels, the Mujahideen, the ones that were fighting the Soviet occupation. And so the CIA worked with other services in the region, providing weaponry, providing training, providing assistance to those locals to push the Soviets out, which was successful.


And then once the Soviets were pushed out of Afghanistan, I guess the CIA's presence there became less prevalent and less numerous. But Osama bin Laden was one of the members of that mujahideen. The CIA never really worked with Osama bin Laden when he was a member of that opposition Afghan opposition.


But after 9/11, the CIA was tapped immediately to go back into Afghanistan to resurrect a number of those contacts they had with the various Afghan groups. And there are many different ones of different parts of the country and different ethnicities and languages and so on.


And so CIA officers were the first the U.S. government officials on the ground in Afghanistan and the aftermath of 9/11. Within two weeks, we had CIA boots on the ground working with the locals, trying to find out exactly where al-Qaida was.


It was only around 100 hundred agents or operatives. It was even less than that. Initially, it was only a few dozen that they came in. They crossed the borders, different borders. Some of them came in on horseback and on vehicles. It was in the northern part of Afghanistan. It was also in the southern part. And it was a way to try to, again, understand exactly where al-Qaida members were, where the training centers were, and to understand who within the Afghan environment was willing to work with the CIA to try to crush al-Qaida.


And so over time, over the subsequent months, the CIA's presence increased. We were preparing the way for the big U.S. military to come in, but it was, in fact, CIA blood that was shed first when Mike Spann, a CIA officer, a case officer who was out there working with local Afghans, he was killed in November of 2001 when there was an uprising at one of the detention centers for the various elements of al-Qaida and the Taliban.


And so then soon thereafter, the U.S. military came in in large numbers. But the CIA frequently is tapped because it's a very agile organization.


Well, they were hugely successful on that mission. No, they had pretty much taken over this enormous valley with around one hundred folks enlisting the help of all the Afghan locals. But the amount of just real estate they were able to get control over is just incredibly impressive. Now, I mean, sometimes they got less successful as we had tens of thousands of people there.


Well, the CIA went in with a fair amount of money as far as weaponry. And in Afghanistan, you can frequently get people and the tribes to work with you if you're willing to provide support and money and weapons, you know, is the currencies in Afghanistan. So al-Qaida was composed of a lot of non Afghans. And so there was a fair number of Afghans who are really resentful of the fact that these al-Qaida members had basically come in and taken over parts of their country.


And so the CIA was looking for the different elements, whether it be in the north, the Northern Alliance and other parts of the country, to rally support against it. So the fact that the CIA had these contacts and were able to then again bring them up to date quickly and then bring in support and again, money and weaponry, I think it really made a crucial difference in terms of those early days.


Now, the people that execute those type and that was the fifth thing you listed, I forget the word. Did you use covert action?


Yeah. Drawing heavily from Special Forces. Is that safe to say? Are a lot of those guys seals?


Yes. The CIA has a paramilitary capability. It's called the Special Activities Center Division or whatever.


And these are either CIA officers who have been trained in military tactics, paramilitary tactics, and many of them, a very large number of them are former SEALs or Green Berets or Special Operations military folks who've left the service and then came over to CIA and then are CIA's paramilitary group.


We also, over the course of the last several decades, CIA paramilitary officers worked very closely with the U.S. military's special forces so that a lot of times these units work very closely together and like many times are integrated together. And so this movement back and forth.


So the CIA's paramilitary elements are the ones that are the pointy edge of the spear for CIA to go in. And they were the ones who worked with the Mujahideen earlier on against the Soviets and the. Also, the ones that went in to take the fight directly to al Qaeda, so I'm curious, that's one route in you yourself. As you said, you were in the CIA for 30 years and you started as a motorcycle riding dude from New Jersey.


How did you personally climb that 3000 foot ladder up to director of the CIA in two minutes?


The same question, how would I do that? I had gone to school in Egypt when I was in a junior in college going to New York. So I learned some Arabic. I had some street cred, as you pointed out, you know, maybe riding a motorcycle, wearing an earring, smoking hashish, whatever, whatever it took.




I was hired by the agency to be an operations officer, hoping that they would be able to deploy me overseas to recruit spies. When I got into the agency, I felt that my skills and interests were better aligned with the analytic side of the agency.


Well, really quick, you had a psychological examination at that time and that administrator of that determined you weren't a good candidate for that. Is that true?


Well, before the CIA hire somebody, they'll conduct a number of tests, polygraph tests, as well as psychological testing. And and so when the psychologists reviewed my test, said that I really wasn't the type of extrovert that would go out and try to cultivate individuals and try to recruit them as spies and woo powerful women, I tended to agree with her that I wasn't cut out for it, but I tried to get into the CIA organization.


So I said, well, I really am an extrovert. I just hide it with my introversion. And I was battling. It wasn't making much sense at all.


But I'm already undercover as an introvert. Right.


But again, I think it was my foreign experience as well as my Arabic that really, I think, convinced them to take a chance on me. And then I was an analyst in that I served overseas twice in Saudi Arabia. I spent five years in Saudi Arabia.


What years were those? From 82 to 84.


I was a rotation with the Department of State and I was working as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. And so my wife and I were over there and really enjoyed it. I was able to go out and spend a lot of time with the tribes, went down to the border with Yemen and really got to know the kingdom of Saudi Arabia quite well. We went back then in 96 to ninety nine. I was the senior US intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia responsible for the entire kingdom.


And we had our three children with us at the time. So a total of five years. It was a wonderful experience. I saw how U.S. intelligence operated overseas.


How old were your kids during that period? They were in elementary school. They were between 2nd and 5th or 6th grade or so.


And are you kind of confined into some kind of military family situation where they're going to school in English and stuff?


Well, by the time I return to Saudi Arabia in the 90s, the U.S. embassy had moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which is the capital. It's in the middle of the country. And there's a diplomatic quarter where the embassies are located and where the residential compounds are located as well.


So it was rather, you know, it's a Westernized. You still had to conform to a lot of the local customs, but it was, you know, a diplomatic enclave there. And then they came back to the states. In ninety nine, I became George Tenet's chief of staff.


George Tenet was the director of CIA at the time. I had worked with him previously and then became deputy executive director of CIA. I was in the right place at the right time. I had the opportunity to be President Clinton's daily intelligence briefer back in the early 1990s. And sometimes it's just, again, having the opportunity when people say, are you willing to do this? Are you willing to go overseas? And I seized it because I was trying to gain as much experience as possible throughout my career.


And I retired from the CIA back in 2005. After twenty five years of service, I went out to the private sector to see what it was like to earn a living outside of the appropriations of Congress, which was interesting and challenging, came back in when President Obama was elected and he was gracious enough to invite me to work in the White House with him.


I had the office underneath the Oval Office. It was his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser during his first term.


He also had submitted you to be the director and you withdrew that nomination. Yeah. Yeah.


We after he was elected and I had never met him during the campaign, but a week after he was elected, he invited me to Chicago. We spent some time together and then he invited me to be the nominee to CIA. But given that I was in CIA during some of those controversial periods and advanced interrogation techniques, period, right.


Yes. And even though I wasn't in the chain of command at the time or wasn't involved in that program, I was still a senior CIA officer. And so the left came out of the woodwork and said, hell no, Brennan shouldn't do this. And I told President Obama you didn't need that type of headache early on in his administration. So I bowed out. But in fact, I think it was fortuitous because I got to know President Obama very, very well during those first four years, working with them every day in the West Wing of the White House.


Did you guys ever play one on one any basketball and not one on one? But we took some shots together and. Yes. Oh, OK. And you saw that incredible shot. In front of Biden, right? This is a big chip on my shoulder about this is too cool, you can't look that cool in front of the guy campaigning. He's got a very, very smooth shot. You know, he's a lefty, but I told him everything he knew.


So now you've served under six different administrations and very conveniently three Republican, three Democratic. Is there a pattern or does each era evolve so much that there isn't a pattern or a stereotype?


Well, there are similarities as well as significant differences. As you can imagine. All six of the presidents that I serve, from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama, all approach their responsibilities and duties with great seriousness and try to do everything they could to advance the interests of the American people and the United States. And even though I disagreed with a number of the policy decisions that those six presidents made, I never once doubted that they were doing things again in the best interests of the country.


And we're not doing things to advance their own personal interests. And so that was a strong, I think, similarity. They all had different ways of absorbing information and interacting with people, but they all respected the intelligence profession. They all admired intelligence professionals. But that pattern or similarity really did change when Donald Trump became president.


He was unlike any individual who had occupied the Oval Office previously.


So though they were Democrats, Republicans when they were elected, and they continue to, I think, have partisan feelings and sentiments, they really tried to represent all Americans and conducted, I think, their responsibilities in a very, very appropriate, thoughtful and admirable manner.


Well, what's interesting is we've interviewed a few mayors and they both have similar things to saying that regardless of whatever your politics are, once you get the job, the reality of running the city becomes your number one mission. It transcends whatever political opinion you might have. You have to get the trash picked up. You have to get this and that done. It becomes a very pragmatic job. And I would imagine the Democrats must enter that job with a history of some cynicism and loyalty to civil liberties and some may be distrust of the CIA, whereas I would say historically the Republicans had seemed to be more embracing of the intelligence community.


Are those fair assessments historically?


Yes, I think that's right. Certainly over the last 50 years or so.


And then so Trump came in and he is on a Republican ticket in a Republican president. And yet he seemed to have the least amount of trust in the intelligence community or, you know, disdain I almost at times.


Well, he also came in with the least understanding of the intelligence community, the least appreciation for the US government's role, organization, ethos. He has no sense of history. And so he was really ill prepared, ill equipped and lacking, I think, the attitude that is needed.


So although he embraced some of the Republican positions because he knew that that was going to help solidify his standing with the Republican base with a very conservative right wing base, I don't think he has strong feelings about any of these policy issues, quite frankly. He just tries to determine which way his political winds are going to blow and then try to put his sails out accordingly.


Well, the reason I brought the mayors is I would imagine I've thought a lot about this with Obama, who someone I deeply admire and just love truly. And there have been a couple of things that I guess ended up shocking me once he was the president, one of them being his militaristic bent. I guess not that I think he made any wrong decisions, just I thought, oh, that's a little different than what I was expecting. And I guess my conclusion was, you must get in that office and you must get that first brief.


Your eyes must open up very wide to what's going on around the world and the reality that you're the person who's been tasked with protecting all of us. And it must be a big eye opening experience to really start understanding what's happening around the world in its totality. Yes.


And you said you were surprised by his militaristic bent. I don't agree with that characterization, but I can understand how you and others have that feeling because of a lot of the counterterrorism practices in particular.


Like I said really quick, I just want to be very clear. I didn't disagree with any of them. Say I just was like, oh, I guess that's not what I was expecting. Yeah, yeah.


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Well, as you point out, once somebody becomes president, they have the responsibility to protect American lives wherever they may be. That's the foremost responsibility of a United States to ensure the well-being, the welfare, the prosperity of the American people.


And I think Barack Obama had very strong, idealistic views and still does. But I think and when I talk about in the book, is that over the course of his presidency, he was confronted with the harsh reality of the threats, the challenges, the issues that he had to deal with, that he had to make some very, very weighty decisions about whether to act or not act. And either course of action has implications. And so just like Barack Obama, I wish I never had to be in a position to either decide or to recommend that some type of lethal action be taken.


Yeah, the reason why it was taken was to save innocent lives. And war is hell. It absolutely is hell. And I'm sure President Obama doesn't regret what he did, but wishes that he didn't have to do a lot of those things.


But that obligation, I think he took very, very seriously. And he agonized just the way I did agonize over these decisions to try to do the right thing.


Well, that's the great quandary, is you have your own philosophical set of values and how you wish everyone could work out their differences and be that through diplomacy or sanctions or all these different things. And then the stark reality of, well, not everyone's playing by those rules. So you also have to account for the people that are not in line with your philosophical point of view or playing by your rules. And you really can't let them weaponize your ethics against you in some way.


Right. How do you stay true to your values, your principles when you're living in a world where, as you say, the others are not playing by the same rules and principles and ethics that you have? And that's why I talk in the book about how when I went to Fordham University, I majored in political science, but my philosophy courses were the ones that were most impactful on me, especially dealing with issues like just war theory and trying to understand exactly what are the considerations that go into the waging a war, you know, in terms of also what type of considerations have to come in when you're going to take a strike against the terrorist issues about whether it is wise, whether judicious, whether it's proportional.


It's all those factors that come into play. So, yeah, I consider myself an idealist, but at the same time, I consider myself a realist that unfortunately we don't have the opportunity all the time to avoid some very, very tough decisions. Now, let me ask you this.


Having been there for six different administrations, which were the ebb's in which were the flows of the CIA's power of persuasion, obviously, I would imagine in the wake of an attack, a terrorist attack, we're going to defer much more to the input of the intelligence community. And in a long stretch of peace, I have to imagine that input gets devalued.


Yeah, so much depends on how a president views that intelligence mission and how it wants to use the CIA. During the eight years of the Reagan administration, Bill Casey was the director for five or six of those years who had a very close relationship with Reagan.


And Casey had some very strong views about what should happen. You know, Iran-Contra happened under Casey's watch and Reagan gave him a fair amount of leash and latitude to do these things.


And so a lot depends on the aggressiveness, I guess, of a president as well as a CIA director.


But over the course of the last 20 years, terrorism really has been very much at the forefront of the intelligence mission, trying to understand the nature of the threats that are out there, trying to dismantle and destroy Al Qaida, trying to find bin Laden doing a lot of that. And the CIA was in large respects, very much instrumental in doing all of this. Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, I think, saw that the CIA's capabilities, its authorities, its expertise, its presence in parts of the world were really critically important to trying to mitigate the threats against the United States.


Now, I think in the aftermath of 9/11, there were some decisions that were made and some authorities given to the CIA that I think were inappropriate.


But the CIA is almost duty bound to salute when they're asked to do something that is duly authorized by a president of the United States, which is deemed lawful by the Department of Justice. And that detention interrogation program and even those enhanced interrogation techniques and waterboarding were deemed lawful by the Department of Justice. They were authorized by the United States. And so that's why I take issue when people refer to it as torture, because torture is illegal by definition in US law.


And you can criticize the Department of Justice determinations at that time, and I do disagree with those memos that are written by John Yoo and others, but those CIA officers were really looking at what they needed to do in order to stop this existential threat to US security, because we knew that al-Qaida was planning second and third wave attacks after 9/11 strikes and they were chemical, biological and nuclear options that they were exploring.


So CIA was racing against time. And I think CIA officers also felt that the bore some responsibility for not being able to stop the 9/11 attacks themselves.


My position on the waterboarding is I don't think falls in line with the left or right cleanly, which is I actually would be fine with it if there was pretty good evidence that yielded the results. And my objection to it is just so many different people in your line of work, as well as psychologists and experts saying it's not actually the most effective strategy for getting information. So once that's been determined, then it makes that for me a very clean. Well, then why the fuck would we do this if it's not even the best way?


But yes, what? I waterboarded someone to prevent a nuclear weapon from going off in Manhattan a million times. But if that's not going to yield any result, then why are we doing it?


Yeah, and there are differences of view regarding efficacy, whether or not they did result in some useful intelligence and some useful intelligence was obtained after the application of these enhanced interrogation techniques.


Now, it is unknowable whether or not that information could have been obtained maybe more quickly and more thoroughly if they were not employed. You know, so this efficacy. But then there's also morality. And I think to your point, I think there are, you know, most considerations here. And I object to the program on both those grounds, on the moral ground as well as on the efficacy grounds. I also believe that it was inappropriate for the CIA to be asked to do that.


CIA had no history of having a detention program. It had no history of doing interrogations of these individuals, the U.S. military, the FBI, they are the ones that have had that experience.


But unfortunately, in the Bush Cheney administration, they wanted to do everything sort of covertly and the CIA was ready and available there. And so they opted for that, which again, I think was was a mistake.


Now, I guess I asked how much power of persuasion they've had over various periods because I see a little bit of a parallel. Again, it's exactly what I want the CIA to do. But I also want someone above the whole thing recognizing that I would infer that CIA is similar to an oncologist and you have a singular goal of killing cancer cells. And within that singular goal of killing cancer cells, you might lose sight of what someone's overall experience of dying will be like in the pursuit of that.


So I think it would be the nature of the CIA to be singularly focused on threats and very, very concerned with threats, as they should be. But I also think therein lies a potential problem when advising the president. Does that make any sense?


Yeah, and I think one of the issues that the CIA has had to confront and CIA officers have to confront is that I don't think the end justifies the means. And I think sometimes people feel that way. And I think there needs to be principled intelligence work, ethical intelligence work. Otherwise, we're going to resort to the types of tactics that our adversaries use that the terrorists use. I mean, CIA is not going to go out there and just, you know, off somebody because they suspect that they are terrorists or even if they have intelligence, that is there has to be a set of, I think, rules of ethics, the principles that govern the approach.


And that's why I think depending on who is at the helm of CIA as well as who is in the White House, how are you going to wield that very, very formidable intelligence weapon, which is in many respects, what are you going to do to try to gain insight into what the threats are?


To what extent are you going to go into that digital environment of the cyber sphere and try to gain access to information that could, in fact, compromise privacy and civil liberties of US citizens?


Yeah, so there's just a lot of issues that I think really have to be looked at from the standpoint of, again, efficacy, a necessity as well as appropriateness and consistency, not just with the rule of law, but also with our ethics and values as a country.


And I think there needs to be some level of acceptance that it is and will be an imperfect pursuit. I would compare it to I majored in anthropology. So there was a time when some anthropologists taught some folks to separate where they were washing their dishes and where they were going to the bathroom. Great. It saved a bunch of people. Then there was an enormous famine and way more people died of starvation. And we learn this concept of blowback, which has been pretty well documented with the CIA in terms of, say, you brought it up earlier, helping the Russians will.


Great. Now, we also have all these Mujahideen that know how to use these rocket launchers and they have the rocket launchers and now we leave and then in this void, this happens. That's one documented case, I would imagine. In Iran with helping keep a bit of a puppet leader in charge and then a very fundamentalist faction overthrowing him and then giving rise to tons of fundamentalist regimes around the Middle East, so many of them can be very well intentioned and their outcomes are largely unknowable, are hard to mitigate.


Isn't that the great challenge of all this?


Yeah, intelligence and national security and foreign policy are messy. You may have the best of intentions and the best of objectives, but sometimes a lot of times it doesn't turn out the way you want. And also in trying to pursue those objectives, sometimes you do things that have other ramifications and implications that can be adverse to what it is that you're trying to accomplish. And that's one of the things that I really admire about President Obama.


He would seem to always be playing four or five dimensional chess because he really had a good understanding about if he did this on this one chessboard. In terms of these issues, how is it going to affect the United States position and opportunities on this other board? He had this amazing ability to see all the different connections and try to think ahead three, four or five moves on all the chess boards, which is critically important.


Yeah, and I'll go directly into that. I just wanted to say, would you ever get frustrated in your role as the director that the failures are generally well known and documented, yet you aren't really allowed to brag or advertise the big successes, the attack that was thwarted. Maybe you intercepted some plutonium going somewhere. Generally, you can't really come out and say like, hey, look what we did in the pros category, can you know?


And but you also cannot refute things that are, you know, just totally, totally specious as far as the types of things that CIA has done, because otherwise you'd be, you know, stomping out these brush fires all the time.


You know, somebody claims that the CIA assassinate somebody. Well, if you say no, he didn't, then what happens when something else goes on? You have to say it. So, yes, it was frustrating, certainly as a director. But when you grow up in the intelligence profession and business, you understand that your successes are not going to be, you know, the source of ticker tape parade. Very rarely does the CIA's success make it to the front headlines of the paper.


Bin Laden was a good example of one that did, unfortunately. But there are so many in CIA's history, both on the failure side as well as on the success side, that are will continue to be shrouded in secrecy.


Did they get declassified after some period of time? Are there some that know there's a regular process to declassify certain materials? And some things are, but some things will always remain, even things related to the JFK assassination.


A lot of things there that, you know, documents, cables, other things that for a variety of reasons, usually it's sources and methods protection. That's what it has to really be.


Yeah, it can't be just because it's embarrassing, but I would love to hear the greatest hits. So I know some of the greatest stumbles. I would love to read about the greatest hits. I think it would be of value.


Yeah. And a lot of them are things that were done heroically by women and men of CIA over the years, putting themselves at great risk to get behind enemy lines or to go into adversarial countries and try to collect clandestinely information, meeting with contacts and sources and CIA officers, going to great lengths to protect the identities of those who spy for us overseas. Really, the creativity, the ingenuity, as well as just the skill and daring is really quite impressive.


And CIA, over the course of its history, have had many, many of those instances where, again, valor and bravery and success really were the result of these operations.


Well, I hope the office party was really rowdy. I hope internally you guys got to really high five one another, if not in public, than individual components.


If if something happens that people are holding their breath. And I was involved in many of those things where I would hold my breath because something was going wrong. And, you know, a lot of things were at risk. When things go well, there's some champagne corks that popped out.


OK, now back to the multiple chessboards. What I think it would be really qualified to help us understand, and this was one of my frustrations over the last four years, is what felt like a pretty naive understanding of what national security entails. So I think keeping our safety is a little more complicated than it may appear. On the surface. You could look at maybe aid we're giving to a country and think, why on earth are we subsidizing that country or why do we invest so much in NATO?


But that investment we make in other countries is really pennies on the dollar, isn't it, when measured against what a full scale war costs us?


Yeah, although the United States, I think, is unrivaled in terms of its superpower. On the military, political, economic fronts, the real strength of our international position is due in large part to those relationships that we have established over the course of the last 75, five years since World War Two, the alliances, the partnerships, the leadership role that the United States has played in multilateral organizations, helping to forge different types of agreements. And so it's very important for the United States to continue to leverage that because Russia and China are our main global competitors.


And it's important for the United States to not just rely on those relationships as we do and help to invest in democracy in those countries because democratic systems are going to be ones that we want to align with. But also it allows us to use those relationships to push back against the Russians and the Chinese and others, whether it be at the U.N. or whether it be as a result of Russia's activities vis a vis Ukraine or take over annexation of Crimea and other types of things.


So if the United States does not have that, that suasion that moral standing, those relationships, its ability to really counter a lot of our adversaries around the globe is far more limited.


Well, and we can easily imagine a country on the brink of a famine. And we know that in the event of this famine, there's this military rebel faction that will most certainly gain power of the country should they fall into actual famine, like there's all these many layers that we're hoping to avoid. Three steps ahead. Right. That might not seem on the surface when you read in the newspaper why we give this country or that country this amount of money.


You might not be being told the whole story, which is this growing coup happening. And we allow this water rights issue to happen, then we're just ushering them in and now we're looking at an actual war.


Yeah, you're right that there are multiple objectives frequently or multiple considerations when the United States is involved in certain issues. I worked very closely on the Yemen issue when I was in the Obama administration. And I think President Obama was surprised at how much time he had to spend on Yemen. It was certainly a locus of very, very dangerous terrorist activity on the part of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. And a lot of the attacks were launched out of Yemen.


But there was also a real humanitarian crisis in the country of Yemen has been impoverished and it has been beset by foreign intervention. And so when we pursue our counterterrorism programs and activities, I always wanted to keep in mind that the Yemeni people also needed help. They needed the assistance we needed to help develop their institutions of governance and of justice and making sure that they're their law enforcement and military and security services were going to be professionalized and and not just fall into, you know, this self-destructive activity.


And some of those objectives frequently are at odds with one another, because, as you point out, sometimes you're trying to do something in a part of the country, but you know that there are extremist or terrorist groups that are there. And you say, well, we don't want to do anything that's going to allow those terrorist groups to thrive. Well, no, you don't want to do that. But at the same time, do you really want to drive the Yemeni people into the ground?


I mean, the amount of poverty and malnourishment and medical diseases and so it's just in Yemen is just awful.


And that's why the United States, I think, has a particular responsibility to look at the variety of concerns and interests and objectives that we need to pursue in these countries.


Well, and if we recognize that in countries where opportunity is prevalent and fulfilment is obtainable, that the drive towards fundamentalism, militaristic actions, those things are all inversely related. Right. So we benefit generally from countries flourishing and being democratic.


And that could be a lot cheaper for us to help those places be flourishing with opportunity, then deal with the result of no opportunity. Absolutely.


And Somalia is another good example of a country that really has just been so maltreated both by its people as well as outside.


I can remember in the Obama administration, there were regulations or rules, policies against allowing al-Shabab, which was the Somali extremist terrorist group, to gain any financial benefit at all from anything that was going on when we were trying to send assistance into Somalia to get into those areas of the camps and malnourished areas, the distributors of these assistance had to provide the taxes tolls to those who own the roads and the ones that own the roads were al-Shabab. And so a lot of people were opposed to allowing the assistance to get in because al-Shabaab was going to get, you know, hundreds of dollars of thousands of dollars.


And so I pushed for relaxing that because I just thought that the benefits that would accrue to the people who were starving outweighed whatever monetary gain al-Shabab would get.


It wasn't going. To really effect al-Shabaab lethal capabilities, but it was going to make a difference in the lives of the people.


Oh, that would be my deepest frustration if I were you, is knowing that you could cherry pick for a headline or funding this rebel group as opposed to we've sent this much aid and prevented this many people from being angry towards the West, whatever it is that every one of these global geopolitical issues are so complex. And at best, you're hoping to get a decision that was 60 percent good and 40 percent bad in the expectation from everyone here is that they're 100 percent good options.




And criminally also a domestic element to it. And Cuba is a good example.


For 60 years, that island nation, I think, has unfortunately been beset by, you know, misgovernment. But here's the United States, big, powerful United States. And one of the reasons why the Obama administration decided to reestablish relations with Cuba was to try to incentivize the Cuban government to start to relax a lot of its oppressive policies. But, you know, then when the Trump administration came in, that was stopped immediately because of a very strong anti Cuba government lobby here in the United States.


And the same thing I think is true when it comes to Iran.


There are a lot of people who are absolutist in their views and they will oppose any type of opening that may, in fact, provide any type of perceived or real benefit to those individuals that they adamantly oppose.


And it's very, very unfortunate because it's not either or. Right, right. Right. It has a mix of it. And again, I think President Obama recognized that when it came to Cuba, when it came to Iran, when it came to other of these challenges, he recognized that the United States is not just going to be able to reverse the situation because we want to.


It's that we really have to find a way to maneuver to a better place for those involved.


Yeah, it's the total lack of downriver thinking that kind of plagues everyone. Now, on that topic of the bizarre ways that our national security and maybe not what you would think of immediately when you think of national security, but many people, many experts believe that climate change will have serious national security implications. And I'm curious if you believe that. And if you do, could you explain how a changing climate could ultimately threaten us?


Well, in fact, I tweeted out and it was four, six weeks ago or saying that I think that climate change is the most serious security and national security issue that we face in the coming decades. It already has had, I think, a very serious impact when you look at the rising seas and how it is pushing coastal communities out and into cities, the dislocations of people, employment opportunities, as well as just economic issues showing the migration of people across borders.


We see what's happening in places in Africa that it's led to the massive movements of people. We see the melting ice caps. It's led. In fact, there was a piece in the paper today about the, you know, Russia, the United States vying for, you know, the competition, applying for access to a lot of the rare earth minerals that are up there. There are so many national security implications of it that if we continue to go down this road, I think there's just going to be even more and more challenges that we face.


You know, the fires, the extreme weather patterns, it has economic, political, social and cultural impacts that will have a national security impact on the United States as well as countries around the world, as well as the competition for resources, for power and the fact that it's going on at a pace that if we don't take action soon, it's going to accelerate and these various trends are going to intensify.


And the ability to not even reverse it, I think will pass that we can't reverse these things. But to try to stem the rate of acceleration I think is critically important.


And the fact that we're still debating whether or not we should phase out fossil fuels because of the tremendous impact on, you know, the atmosphere, these are things that unfortunately, given the fact that we're involved in this partisan bickering over almost trivial stuff and we're ignoring the bigger issues like climate change, like the digital environment and how we're going to grapple with those problems there.


It just shows that we really need to get our act together, both internally and states as well as internationally if we're going to have a effective, concerted effort to try to stem some of these more strategic challenges that are out there. But unfortunately, it frequently gets into the too hard to do category. And with our unfortunate political election cycles, as people are worrying about how are they going to acquire enough funding for their next election campaign, they're not focusing on these substantive issues.


When I listen to the congressional hearings, it's embarrassing when I hear people talking about whether it be technological issues or other issues. There's not that depth of understanding and attention, I think that is needed.


Yeah, I mean, just in simplest form, stability is what we desire for all of our neighbors around the world. In stable countries, we have less problems and environmental changes at the very least, incredibly destabilizing it is.


And unfortunately, I think a lot of the recent trends globally in countries that having to deal with these very, very serious challenges, democracy is messy. And I think too many governments and countries are opting now for more authoritarian practices. I think that's one of the reasons why Donald Trump was able to become president, because he was appealing to those individuals who want that strongman to sort of deal with these issues. And it doesn't matter if the person is just speaking lives, basically.


And unfortunately, the Chinese model, which, you know, as Xi Jinping, who is the head of government, military and party, you know, he doesn't have to deal with elections or it's this messy democracy stuff. And I think that's a very, very dangerous trend that we're seeing around the globe.


Yeah, I'm sympathetic to actually the folks because complexity and nuance is exhausting. And I understand the desire for binary. I understand the desire for they're good. They're evil. That's a shithole country. That's this country. Like, it's not that I can't understand the appeal. I just wish everyone had more of an appetite for complexity, I guess.


Stay tuned for more on air expert, if you dare.


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So there's a great documentary on HBO right now about the Russian troll factory, I imagine you saw it, you might even be involved in it somehow. Yeah, it was. It was in there. OK, great, great. I'm not done with that thing. I'm only halfway through the first one.


But, you know, there's this interesting predicament we're in, which is we have had enormous military dominance throughout the world. And that is really afforded us because we have this enormous GDP and we give a pretty huge percentage of that GDP we earmarked for defense. So the financial barrier has kept Russia's military power from keeping pace with ours. But on the Internet, there is no barrier for entry. It's very affordable to be on the Internet carrying out missions. And I have this bizarre fear that with the history of the Russian chess players, OK, they have historically been much better at chess.


And so if we're just going head to head with the mind to mind without any advantage of our GDP, that makes me nervous. Could you tell us what we're facing right now with Russia and how on earth we will employ our great resources to give us some advantage over just heads up hacker war?


Well, resources certainly are very useful in terms of defending the country. You need that. But it's not just the amount of weaponry you have.


It is the type of weapons you have. It's also how you employ them, how you use them to leverage them. One of the reasons why the North Koreans, Kim Jong un, have been so successful that they wanted the nuclear capability because they see that as a leveler as far as dealing with the big powers, especially the United States, it's a real deterrent. So with the technological advancements that have been taking place in the last two decades and the ability to put either munitions on target or to exploit that digital environment in order to disrupt, disable, destroy the mechanisms for using weaponry or using capabilities and resources, that is something that I think we, the United States, need to continue to work on and refine because, yes, Russia has a very formidable nuclear weapons arsenal.


That's one of the reasons why they are a major global competitor. China doesn't have as large a nuclear capability, but it has one.


But nuclear weapons alone are not going to be what is going to make a difference in the future. I think there are other types of things. I mentioned digital, very sophisticated cyber actors that are out there working on behalf of the Russians, the Chinese or, you know, non-state actors that also have tremendous capabilities in that area. What are the areas in terms of genetic engineering or different types of biomedical exploration and experimentation? When I was at the White House and as a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, I really got to know a lot about the biological agent field.


And it's a scary field that you don't need an actual military weapon. You know, if there are these biological agents that are developed and then distributed, they can cause great havoc, both in terms of deaths, but also the psychological impact. So I do think that the United States, looking out over the next 80 years of the century, really has to anticipate the different mechanisms and means that adversaries and players are going to use and that international environment.


And it's not just going to be tanks and planes and drones and missiles. It's going to be other types of things in order to leverage capabilities and frequently the insidious ones that can really make a difference.


As far as trying to push one's agenda, you know, I think we're starting to learn, thank goodness, with the documentary you're in and also say the Social Sláma social dilemma.


We're learning that we have been led down paths with technology. And quite often the holder of the reins has been actors in Russia, actors in China.


And I guess what I'm looking for from you is a blanky.


Why are we positioned to outcompete them if it ultimately is just devious plans that can be unleashed on the Internet without any huge cost to the actors?


Well, I think there are a lot of things that are going on inside the US government, inside the US scientific community that give me confidence and hope that we're going to be able to sort of work on these issues in the future. A lot of things don't see the light of day, but there are a lot of super secret programs and Department Defense and other places to try to understand what our adversaries might be throwing at us so that we can develop some type of defensive systems in order to counter them, as well as to figure out how things can be developed on the offensive side even before our enemies do it.


Not. For us to employ it, but again, to understand just the limits of science and technology, you know, when I think about over the last 40 years when I started CIA back in 1980, we didn't even have personal computer scientists. There has been such an acceleration of technological advancements and people who are born today or, you know, 10 years ago or so, they don't understand just how rapid that change has been.


Yeah, when I look at all the next 20, 30, 50 years, that is just going to continue and then even an accelerated rate. And it's going to fundamentally change our lives, just our daily lives, but also is going to change the ability of individuals or countries to be able to exploit science, technology, you name it, in order to advance their interests. And unfortunately, we have a world that is composed of people who are doing things for the betterment of mankind.


But we also have individuals who are trying to find ways to hurt others. And that's where I think the responsibility of government, of a president, the United States, of the CIA and others is to try to understand all of those shoals that are out there that really could be quite disastrous for our country as a whole.


I'm so happy that there are instruments of the government working against that. I mean, we're very vulnerable now. The personal weight of your job, I guess every single time I watch a movie with CIA operatives, my immediate thought is there's no fucking way. I'm not telling my wife stuff. There's just no way. I think everyone that watches this stuff goes, yeah, but you tell your wife or you tell your husband or you, whatever it is, what is the toll of being in a relationship and having an enormous wall up from some sector of your life?


Or do you tell your wife? You can tell us. We won't tell anyone what will flow from you? Your answer?


It does take a toll.


And as I relate in my book, my wife and I, we've been married forty two years, but after my joining the agency within the first year, we separated for a year is because I was taking my obligations very seriously as I needed to. But she was no longer part of my life, you know, then she was used to and I didn't do a good enough job of trying to explain to her exactly why I couldn't. It was more of a wall that was created.


And so I would always tell new CIA officers when I would administer the oath of office to them that they needed to be mindful not just of their professional responsibilities, but also their personal obligations on the homefront to try to ensure that you give the type of love and support to those that provide you the type of love and support to do your jobs.


But the bin Laden raid that I was involved in, my wife, Kathy, didn't know about it until the night that it actually happened.


Oh, I'd be pissed at you if I were her. I mean, I come on. You got you're going to kill Osama and you're not going to tell me.


Yeah, well, you know, I called her up and I said, you turn on the TV because the president's going to make an announcement to the world and you're going to be very excited and happy about it. And I think she recognized that I had certain responsibilities and obligations that first of all, I didn't want to burden other people with the secrecy that's required because I'm not that they're going to do something willfully, but they could, in fact, inadvertently say something that could, in fact, compromise a very, very sensitive mission.


So I think once the spouses and family members understand exactly what the obligations are and responsibilities are of the officers, I think they are obviously very supportive.


But in my experience, my secrets made me feel very lonely. I feel very isolated in my secrets. And I wonder if you have experienced that sense of loneliness.


Well, there are times, but also the fact that I could talk with my deputy or the other people inside the CIA and work it through. And then we'd go down to the White House and I'd be in the Situation Room with the president and others. So we had a cocoon that was around us. Yeah, but we could share everything, you know, within that environment. But when we go home, we talk to our neighbors or our family or friends or whatever, then you have to really it's sort of almost a schizophrenia.




Yeah, very compartmentalized. Like, I have to imagine people are constantly trying to get shit out of you. Is that safe to say? Like, if I was talking to you at a party, I noticed you had a few scotches, I'd be trying to charm the shit out of you to get at least some yummy tidbit. And you're doing it right now.


Yeah, well, but I'm doing it professionally now. But I'm saying I've I've even more scandalous if you and I were hanging somewhere.


Yeah. And that's one of the reasons why I decided to write the memoir, because so much of the intelligence work is shrouded in secrecy and mystery and people have these wildly, wildly exaggerated, exaggerated ideas about it. And so I decided that I was going to at least lift the shroud a little bit. And I do think there needs to be more transparency in terms of what the intelligence community does, because without that transparency, it just leads to all these wild stories and allegations about abuse and misuse of authority.


But over time, I think, especially since I became more comfortable with having this sort of dual personality, one where I could talk openly about secrets and one where I had to protect it, you get more used to it. And so you could if you gave me lots of bourbon's or whatever, I still would not. If you didn't have clearances, I wouldn't share the secrets with you.


Is there a personality type when you guys are recruiting that you look for or is it just willy nilly?


And can I join the CIA if you ever fast tracked anyone agent status? Absolutely. There are 63 different types of professional disciplines in CIA. So you have people that you want to be able to go out and actually, you know, work as a spy and recruit spies overseas. But you have analysts, you have logisticians, you have security officers, you have lawyers, you have scientists, you have engineers, technologists. And so the CIA really has to be almost self-reliant.


So you basically develop a community of experts from all the different areas. You want to have someone who is trustworthy. You want to have somebody who really is committed to this, this country's security check.


Check so far, so check, check. OK, continue.


You have to be humble and that's why I'm out of it. And a sense of teamwork, because no matter how good you are or how smart you are when you come into the CIA, you're going to be surrounded by a lot of smart and very talented people. And the people I saw flame out in CIA were the ones that wanted to do things on their own, as opposed to really try to leverage the skills and capabilities of others around you.


We might have discovered that might strike you as a big strike for both of us. OK, one last question. This is a juicy gossip question. Now, I have a good buddy, Mike, who works for the FBI, and I've always been interested in asking him, like, you know, you guys are always carrying money and you're paying informants in like you're trusted with all this money. You know, what's the failsafe for that? And he said, well, we take polygraphs all the time.


Like they constantly have to come back and take polygraphs. I want to know what's the biggest chunk of change in agents ever taken off with?


Well, it's probably an unknown. OK, I guess.


Is there anyone in the public sphere that you're allowed to tell me? Because I would just be interested, because sometimes I know even in reading blowback, like some of these payments to the Mujahideen were in the millions like this, a lot of money transferring from here to there, you know, multiple millions.


And I must say that the overwhelming majority of CIA officers are honest and trustworthy. But like any organization, you're made up of people and people are imperfect and some people are far more imperfect than others. And so the CIA has had bad apples over the years. We've had people who have worked for the Russians while the CIA officers committed treason against the country.


And I'm sure that there were a number of officers who put some money in their pocket when they shouldn't have done it.


It was one of the things that I really tried to instill in CIA officers the sense of ethics and making sure that, you know, you live up to the trust that the American people have put in the organization and then CIA officers themselves.


But yeah, and that's where I think, you know, trust is so important if you're going to give a CIA officer not just millions of dollars, but also access to secrets that in and of themselves are worth millions of dollars that people sell to foreign countries.


That's why you do have polygraphs. You do have security reviews and checks to make sure that somebody has not gone down the wrong path. And you also do a very, very rigorous job of vetting people before you bring them into the family of the CIA.


Now, with all that due diligence, is anyone made off with like 10 million bucks? You've got to have to ask your FBI friend that because the FBI would be months to investigate something like that.


I mean, look, I can see the murky ethics of it. Like, if you give me DAX Shepard, the briefcase of five million dollars, I have a contact in Islamabad and this guy is a piece of shit. Now, he's our best option, but he is a piece of shit. And I think to myself, does this guy really deserve five million more than I deserve one of those millions? You can see where the gears was turning.


When you really just start comparing yourself to the person getting the money, you might feel more worthy of it. I'm just saying, yeah, I think, you know, humankind, there are people who do ask those questions.


And I'd like to think that, again, the overwhelming majority of CIA officers will do the right thing and what they are obligated to do, as opposed to just putting that million dollars in their pocket.


I think I just inadvertently exposed another strike against me. Yeah, you're definitely already trying to figure out how to steal some material if you decide to apply for the agency. Please don't put me down as a reference because I relate this conversation to.


Well, John Brennan, what a pleasure to talk to you. Undaunted, my fight against America's enemies at home and abroad. I cannot wait to read this book. Every one of these topics that you cover interest me great. And I think will interest a ton of people and I'm glad I hate this notion, like, oh, people in intelligence should never write books or why every other wing of the government should. As to your point, I think transparency would help the cause on some level because in shadows of secrecy, you can make the worse assumption or the best assumption.


And I think the more trust we have in these agencies, the better they can do their job. And we all benefit from that. So I just thank you so much for being a guest. It's a real honor to talk to you. Well, thank you.


That's a pleasure to be with you. It's been a great opportunity for me to talk about my life in the CIA and the security community. And it's a great community made up of the very, very patriotic women and men from across this great country of ours. And one of the reasons why I wrote the memoir, as I say in the preface, is to encourage young Americans of all different professional pursuits to think about public service and getting back to this country of ours because we benefit so much from living in the United States of America.


And, yes, we have our imperfections. But if we want to stay strong and secure and safe and prosperous in the future, we need young Americans to get back to the country in some form of public service. So I'm hoping that they will do that. Yeah.


And also, it's not unpatriotic to want us to be even better, though.


It's not. Yeah. In fact, I'd argue it makes us patriotic. Thank you so much, John. Good luck with the book and we hope to talk to you again. OK, thanks for.


And now my favorite part of the show, the fact check with my soul mate, Monica Bannermen. Well, to the last fact check of the year, Santa Claus, there is a man outside doing some potted plant. Is that what he's got going on in planting poinsettias? Oh, why ho. Me too. Although aren't aren't they poisonous for small animals?


Babies. That's kind of the fun of it. It's like heavy. Oh yeah, you're right.


There's a plausible threat and it heightens everything. Kind of like the pine needles during the under a Christmas tree. Oh yes. Hi. Oh for a Koide. Yeah, for Quidam. As I said, this is my first real tree by myself and it's because you shamed me.


Oh you said that the most Indian thing about me was I hate Christmas tree so I got a real one and it smells delish.


Well if that was a thank you. You're welcome. OK, sure. Thank you.


Thank you for shaming me into getting. Well, let me just ask you this. Do you like the real Christmas tree more than the fake one?


Yeah, except I do anticipate very much not liking this Christmas tree once Christmas is over. Uh huh. And you got to drag it out and I got to figure out what to do, how to get it out. He's drag it right out just as the date of the Christmas tree. So maybe he'll take care of it for me. Yeah, but I normally can't because I go home. Yeah. And I'm not going home this year, so I get to relish in the smell.


Isn't it intoxicating. It's the best smell. I just don't smell enough. I'm really disappointed with the smell factor. Well, man, I used to get a big Christmas tree for my tiny one bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. It reeked in there like Christmas tree, and I loved it.


Have you ever sprayed the branches? Every time I spray the branches, I feel it gets a new kick of smell.


Oh, it's like a catalyst for the stuff. I should do that for sure. A little miss. You have a cute little Mr. Bottom. Yes, he is in an old hairspray bottle or. Oh, it's that.


Oh my God. That copper thing. Yeah. You are so fancy. Well, when I come here I am like I'm intimidated by how classy it is. And we already know you don't like fanciness. No, I like your fanciness a lot.


Well, good. I like that. Your fancy. Well that's mixed messages. Sure. That's my signature. Anyhow, spraying the needles seems to give it an aroma.


A little cloak turbocharger. Yeah. Speaking of turbo charged, we watch the race, the Formula One race. Danny Yeah. Danny. Riccardo Yeah.


We keep an eye on him. Close eye on him. I was sad because Verstappen crash in the first lap. Yeah.


Were they in Monaco.


They were in Bahrain. Oh they're second week in a row. That's one thing I am excited about when I marry Daniel and become the Princess of Monaco, Monica of Monaco.


Yeah, they go to very specific locations for their races and they're all very exotic, incredibly exotic.


Yeah, I'm excited about that.


People tour with him during the season and cheer them on.


What a what a wonderful, supportive wife you're going to be. You don't think your own career is going to interfere with being on the road with him? I'm sure we'll have fights about it.


But I. I want to be at all the races. I can be OK. Good. Yeah, I'll do my best.


You'll be nervous though, right? Cause I'm already nervous when he rides dry.


So you'll want to be there but you'll be very nervous.


Yeah. Oh and you think now he doesn't want me there. No. The nervousness. I know how to pretend like I'm normal.


OK, I just know if you're going to enjoy that. I'm not going to enjoy it.


I'll be nervous but also feel elation when he's safe. Yeah. And when he wins, do you think he'll attack him in the hotel room after he's been safe? Because you'll be so grateful he's still alive. Yes. It's like he's returning for more every weekend. Exactly why I'm sure. Again, I'm sure it will cause many problems, but it will also be fun.


You'll be willing to take those on. Yes. Yeah. You're up for the challenge. Pure and brave. And or Paffendorf. Gryffindor. Yeah. Yeah. So that you're not you're not running from any challenges. Oh, no, no, no, no, no. What's your favorite ornament on my tree.


Can you see. Well from over here. Yeah. My far vision is still pretty good. OK, my nearsightedness is in a fucking nosedive like daily. I notice it's worse.


Yeah. So you can have I tried to read, I tried to read the lyrics and hold the microphone. A phone close to the microphone couldn't be done. I had to pick whether I wanted the music to be there or I could read it. Yeah. What is how do you feel about that. I'm not.


I'm pissed. Yeah. I hate it. It's like a sign of age, although can I give this update. So in the last month I had a heart scan. Yes. With the contrast and they can literally look in every vessel of your heart and the. Tell you how much plaque you have and there's many vessels in there, I want to say there's like 13 well, that came back zero percent plaque, which I was so delighted about and quite frankly, shocked.


Yeah. Then I got my colonoscopy end to end up and end up end the endoscopy endoscopy. They put the camera down my throat and my butthole up my butthole down my throat all to me in the middle. Oh I wish zero Pelops zero Pelops. I'm very grateful. Oh, me too. Those are the two big whammies. Yeah. So guys, get checked.


Get checked for sure. For sure. Anyways, my sight. I got distracted. Yeah.


Because it's OK if your site is going a little bit because your arteries, your body seems to be doing well. Yeah.


All things considered I'd rather have no polyps and yes. Shitty nearsightedness or at the gates. I love the snowflakes. Oh thank you. They're wonderful. Yeah. And I've said this to you before. Generally these trees, when people get white Christmas lights, that's what the rich families of my town did. And so I generally don't like it. And then there's this whole story I made up about. It was they don't like color and fun, that they'd rather look fancy than have a colorful thing in their house.


So that was my judgment. And I'm of backed off that great. And I actually really like your Christmas tree. It's elegant. It's beautiful. And I don't think you're a snooty snob. Thank you. Or Snooty Steve.


There is a well, I thought you might like where's the whale? The whale is that kind of steel. The metal piece above the pink macaroon and metal piece do you think?


I can't see from my angle. Perhaps you can look at it later, but I do think that's going to be your pick. Is it a humpback or a blue whale? I don't think it's a hybrid that you don't think it's a humpback. Do you have a favorite whale?


Uh, I like the blue whale because that's the whale. I'm going to create the hotel and for the sex party.


That's right. Yeah. So. So the blue whale. Yeah, mine's the orca. And then second to that, it's the blue whale. You don't like humpbacks? No, I don't dislike them, OK? I'm just not drawn to them.


I don't particularly think about whales often, not even dolphins or orcas.


For anyone who is in the audience who just bristled at the fact I said dolphins, I just want to say dolphins are to whales.


OK, so don't get mad. So our orcas orcas are two other whales.


People don't think orcas are whales. Well, a lot of people point out that orcas are dolphins. That's the. So really. I mean. Yeah, but they're all whales. Yeah. Killer killer whale. Right. Ad That's right. But that could they might say that just means it kills whales.


Oh I'm going to say that I could see some bonehead saying that. But all things are true in this case. They're dolphins and they're whales and they're toothed whales.


I do like orcas now that I'm looking at them.


I like their coloring, can tell you some things about them that might make you like them more. Sure. So I want to say, and I could be wrong about this, I think they're the only animal on planet Earth that has a larger neocortex to mass ratio than humans, really. So conceivably, they're smarter than us. Wow. Minimally, they're very, very smart.


And, you know, they can talk like five miles underwater. They talk to each other and they live in these pods and they're very communal and they teach there. It's not instinctual for them to kill those seals down on the beach in Peru. So they have to teach. It's like military training. Yes, they beach themselves, which is crazy. They only do it one part of the earth. They beach themselves and grab a snehal, and they've taught themselves how to go back into the ocean and they spend tons of time teaching their little babies.


And that's why you think they're malicious, because when they get a seal, they don't eat it right away. They take it out into the water and they play volleyball with it. They kick it back and forth with their tails off to celebrate.


So the kid will get excited about the whole thing.


It's it's a way to celebrate God to encourage them to try it.


Oof! Not cool. I just found a whale poster that I like. Oh, let me buy it for you for Christmas Eve. So many things about if I got a busy day out.


OK, looking at this, I think the type of whale I have on my Christmas tree is a sperm whale. Sure. The Moby Dick whale. Yeah.


Yeah. OK, I like that kind. I like that it has a flat face. It's very traditional. Yeah. OK, blue whale.


But I like blue whales because I like that they're blue and elusive and very limited edition. The most the most limited edition. Yeah. Really. Yeah. Then I like that the most.


There's so elusive. There's almost no footage of blue whales. They live so far in the deep end.


Should we go over some of their stats. Two hundred thousand pounds. They weigh their tongue is the size of an elephant.


I'm feeling less and less ethical about having that. No sex. No, no, no. You're going to find a beached blue whale carcass and use the rib cage and stuff. Don't worry, there's nothing. You feel sad about, you know, we're not going to hunt one. OK, so really quick, 12 pounds tung's the size of an elephant like twenty thousand pounds. Insane.


Their heart is as big as a Volkswagen Bug. Oh, you could crawl around through the chambers of their heart.


And you will at my hotel.


Oh, my God. I'll be in every kinky position you can imagine in that part.


Hey, let me tell you about some other whales, OK? Sperm whale fin whale. Bowhead whale. Oh, sure. Uh huh. Humpback grey whale. Beluga, beluga whale.


Baby beluga. That's also a tooth whale nor wall. Oh, the weird horn on its nose and minke whale. I don't know that one. What's happening with the minke whale?


What if it looks just like Minka Kelly.


I like this poster's cute. Yeah, I like whale posters. We buy me one for Christmas. Yes. And I'll give it to you for Christmas. Yes.


So I. I mean, I guess this is a real 20, 20 thing, I don't really have any facts. Oh, OK.


Because John Brennan, like, knows those facts, you know.


Well, also, his facts would be unsubstantiated, but you wouldn't even be able to look ugly.


There are a few things on this list, but I can't look them up. His job is to make sure I can't look it up.


That's right. He could say that like they arrested four aliens. And there's no way for you to find out. And it could be true. OK, but guess what I do have. Tell me another quick. This is something of a deal. This is a personality quiz for that you take at the CIA. Oh, let me give it to you. Of course, you know where my mind's going immediately. You know where it's going. Where will the CIA operatives often had to have sexual relationships with these people?


They were turning the Russians. Well, whoever it was, they wanted to get on the inside track of the Germans, you name it. That was a tool in their tool kit. Well, the sexuality Americans, femme fatale. So, you know, my first thought is, would you be willing to do that for your country?


Mm. If he was hot. Oh, yeah, yeah, you know, every now and then, like a question, I'll get out. That's on a Google interview. I go to work at Google and one of them famously is wire manhole covers around, you know, this one.


They'll ask you that and the know to see if you can pass that Riddel test. Yeah. Why are manhole covers round?


Because the manhole is round. Good guess. It's the only shape that can't fall in on itself. So when you take the cover off, it can't fall in the hole. But if it was a square, there's a way for it to fall in the hole if you went diagonal with it. So to protect the people who go down into the hole. Yeah, but I didn't know that. I thought it was a riddle. That's why I answered it in riddle, like, oh, I thought it was like, why are the covers real.


All right. Well ask me why. I mean, OK, why are manhole covers round.


They're not manhole covers, they're man and woman hold while we both did a great job.


We're getting hired. OK, this is the quiz. A quiz. This is a quiz.


OK, are you more street smart or book smart books. I'm a little of both. I'm more about logic. I'm more about street smarts, a more about book smarts.


I think it's more about that's a shitty question they kind of introduce to different factions of it. It's like either about street smarts or book smarts and then they through logic in the middle of it, I think I'm more logic than street or book.


Are you a good shot? I practice regularly. I never fired a weapon. That's that right. Never fired a weapon. Which television crime show do you like best? Criminal Minds, NCIS, Hawaii five Law and Order Special Victims Unit.


I don't like any of those shows. An option wasn't danowski on one of them?


I think so. If I had to pick, I guess I was a criminal minds.


OK, right. We don't even know what that means. But yes. Which brand of the military are you more likely to join? Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines.


The answer to this one. You know the answer for you. Yeah. What is the Marines exactly? Well, here's what's tricky about this question is the Marines are officially a part of the Navy. That's what I thought.


Yeah. Yeah. So I don't understand. OK, but people in the Marines will say the guys in the Navy are the ones that bring them to battle, that they're the guys that give them a ride to war. So there's a lot of animosity between it. But it is under the same category for the armed forces, I guess, army. OK, was that what you were going to guess? No, I would have thought Air Force. No.


Have you ever been arrested? Never. Exclamation point. I don't want to talk about that. I was handcuffed but not arrested. I was falsely arrested once. Never. Are you a good team player? I'm an excellent team player. I prefer to work alone. I'm a better leader. It depends on the team. Mean these are bad answers like.


Yes, yes. I say it depends on the team. Could you pass a polygraph test about your past? I'm sure I could. I don't want to take a polygraph. I wouldn't want to be asked about certain things. It depends what I'm asked about. Like those two are the same answer. I hate a bad quiz. It is. I see.


I would take one. OK, how do you cope with stress? I work out. I let it pass. I meditate. I confront the source of my stress.


I mean, I think it's a mix of all but maybe confronting. I think so.


Could you stay away from home for large periods of time? I love being away from home. I like sleeping in my own bed. I could do it for a few weeks at a time. I wouldn't want to be gone for more than a week. I could do for a few weeks. Do you scare easily? Yes, it takes a lot to on me. I am very jumpy after dark. I only get scared when it comes to if I don't like sudden noises.


I think I'm very jumpy after dark. Sure. Can you tell when someone is lying? I'm a human lie detector. I tend to believe everyone until I have reason to disbelieve them. I can usually tell. I know when my kids are lying. I'm a human lie detector. OK, do you ask a lot of questions? I want to know a lot. I try not to question things too much. I don't ask them, but I look them up.


It depends if I'm interested in the subject. I ask a lot of questions.


What was your favorite subject in school history? Math, English, science, English. What is your highest level of education? I know this. I have a bachelor's degree. Which spy movie do you like the most? The Bourne Identity. Oh, True Lies. Spy Game. Casino Royale Spy Game. As Bill Gates. He is so clever. Well, I've only.


This is easy for an identity. It's obviously my favorite. Can you make the caveat because of Matt Damon? Sure. Have you ever smuggled anything? Goodness, no. I smuggled tobacco from another state. I smuggled vodka past my parents once. I smuggled snacks in my child's diaper bag.


Oh, well, Kappus parents.


Yeah, probably. Would you be happy living in Langley, Virginia? Yes, I need to be near headquarters. I've never been to Virginia. Virginia is where I live now. I would prefer living at Virginia Beach.


This seems so random. Sure. I don't remember the first couple. Yes, I need to be near headquarters. Yeah. Which government agency are you most likely to work for? CIA, IRS, FBI, DHS, CIA? Yes, ma'am. What law enforcement job would you like the least? Judge, police officer. Lawyer. Parole officer. Police officer. Oh, I would have that parole.


Well, yeah. I mean. But what do they do exactly? People get out of prison, you got to monitor them. They got to come in and beat a cop. You got to make sure they got it right. I don't want to get this one. How would you try to disguise yourself? I would wear a wig. I would wear sunglasses. I would dress as the opposite sex. I would hide behind a newspaper.


Oh, I got this inciting a child. I made this one.


I would I would wear a wig like the Americans. Do you think you are sneaky? I can be very sneaky. I can't keep secrets long enough to be sneaky. My partner thinks I'm sneaky. It depends what I'm sneaking about. I can be very sneaky. Yeah. How many hours can you stay awake? Forty eight. Twenty four. Seven to 12.


Twenty four. Maybe forty eight. Oh wow. Do we watch one forty eight. Oh you think so. Yeah. OK, would you ever go skydiving. I have been skydiving. No thank you. I would try it. I may need to be pushed out of the plane but I would do it. No thank you.


OK, what kind of weapon would you choose in a zombie apocalypse. Rifle, machete, crossbow, sword, rifle. OK, keep your hands clean. Could you run for five miles? I frequently get five miles and I could walk five miles. I could easily do three miles. I would probably croak. I could easily do three. OK, which are the following experiences have you had? I can speak more than one language. I won a football scholarship.


I have lived abroad. I'm familiar with other cultures. I have lived abroad. Yeah. How would you describe your current job. Boring, stable. Easy.


Challenging, uh, challenging.


I mean, it's not that's not. But of those options, none of the other three is very stable.


I mean. Maybe we'll see how would your boss describe your work, they'd say it's accurate, they'd say it's late. They'd say it's timely. They'd say it's acceptable. They'd say it's accurate. How would you pass a secret note to a co-worker? I would send an encrypted file. I would drop a piece of paper on their chair. I would write it in invisible ink. I would signal for them to meet me at the water cooler.


I would signal. Yeah, that's a good answer. OK, you got future CIA agent. Do not go any further. Head directly over to the CIA's employment website and begin the application process. You are more qualified to be a CIA agent than most people who would hold high level government jobs. You can keep secrets and a level head to solve complex problems. The country will benefit greatly from having you in the CIA. Wow, regulation.


Thank you. I got to tell John. Oh my God. Let's call John and tell him to look for you in the halls the next time he's there.


Exciting, exciting, exciting. Well, I love you.


Merry Christmas. I love you. Merry Christmas. Thanks. Arm chair. Thanks, Cherrie's.