• On October 17, 2001 (calendar:T2:October 17, 2001) , Team Alpha were dropped into the mountains of northern Afghanistan. Two of the eight appear in this week’s episode alongside the author of a new book telling the story of the first Americans behind enemy lines after 9/11 – and what a story it is. Justin Sapp was a Green Beret detailed to CIA, he would go on to be a commander in the Asymmetric Warfare Group, and is currently Senior Military Advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. David Tyson was a polyglot former Central Asian academic who fought jihadists at close-hand to help his comrade, ex-Marine Mike Spann, the first American casualty in a war that would go on to become the longest in American history. In an extended podcast that is both conversation and historical document: this is their story.    Award-winning journalist and author Toby Harnden helps contextualize the story of Team Alpha. You can learn more about the book here (https://tobyharnden.com/) .

  • This is a big one, a very big one: our 500th episode & 15th anniversary We have come a long way since we began back in 2006 – it’s quite fitting then, that in this week’s episode I speak to our very first historian and curator, Alexis Albion, who is currently the Curator for Special Projects here at the Spy Museum Alexis actually left us way back when to be on the 9/11 Commission Report, where she was the central researcher on the CIA and US counterterrorism policy before 9/11. Hang on, did you just say what I think you said, she was the central researcher on the CIA…? Yup. I know, what the hell, right, we’ve been sitting on this story all this time! Episode 500 is a good time to thank two of the behind-the-scenes unsung technical heroes – Mike and Memphis who have been involved with more SpyCast’s than anyone else. They are awesome. They are great guys, and they rock. Other people who have been involved in the content side of SpyCast have included Peter Earnest and Chris Costa, our former and current Exec Director, as well as my other predecessors in the Historian & Curator role: Thomas Bogart, Mark Stout and Vince Houghton. The show would of course be nothing without our guests, who have contributed their time, expertise and experience to help educate, inform and occasionally entertain the public on the vitally important matters of intelligence and espionage. Sometimes this past year I have felt like Churchill, in that he got the job he had always coveted: but under the least auspicious circumstances. It has been emotional people, but, we are getting there. Here’s to the next 500. Sláinthe.

  • From your Visa card to your Outlook account, and from the gas you pump into your Ford to your Windows operating system, a cyber struggle is taking place all around us. In this episode Andrew spoke to founder of Microsoft’s threat hunting intelligence center John Lambert, which tracks the world’s most dangerous cybercriminals and state-affiliated hackers, and the head of the Digital Security Unit Cristin Goodwin, who helps provide security support to governments and works closely with John’s team. Microsoft has billions of customers, serves millions of businesses, and works with almost every government department: to say it might have something to do with information and intelligence would be like saying perhaps it would have been a good idea to have bought buy some shares when it first went public in 1986 (June 2021 it was valued at 2 trillion dollars!).

  • He is the Horatio Alger of the CIA. His first job was punching paper. He went on to be a Station Chief. He worked for every directorate.  He lived in several continents. He was in the Soviet Union for six years. He was caught up in the molehunt for Robert Hanssen. He survived to tell his tale.   Christopher is genial, hearty and now lives in the other Washington (the rainy state on the West Coast, not the rainy town in Northern England) in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where he writes for our friends at Clearance Jobs (https://news.clearancejobs.com/author/christopher-burgess/) . He tweets @burgessct

  • What do you get if you cross a Greek Orthodox guy from Athens and a Jewish girl from Long Island; and then mix in two Ivy League degrees and a 26-year career in the Central Intelligence Agency? If you haven’t worked out that this refers to Marc, given that he is mentioned in the episode title, you can probably forget ever having a career in intelligence. Mark is brimming with vitality, chock full of stories, and can talk baseball and wings as well as the finer points of Algerian politics or US grand strategy in the Middle East. If you ever pull up a bar stool next to Mark: you’ve hit a home run!   Mark’s new book, Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the CIA, distills the insights he derived from his career and is available in the International Spy Museum’s bookshop (https://spymuseumstore.org/clarity-in-crisis-leadership-lessons-from-the-cia/) .

  • As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 approached Peter Bergen sought to reevaluate the man responsible for precipitating America’s long wars with al-Qaeda and its descendants. Bergen produced the first television interview with bin Laden in 1997. He has had years to reflect on and study the man. In his new book The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden he captures all the dimensions of his life: family man, zealot, battlefield commander, terrorist leader, and fugitive.     Join International Spy Museum Historian and Curator Andrew Hammond (https://www.spymuseum.org/host-an-event/spy-speaker-series/andrew-hammond/) in conversation with Bergen about the many contradictions he finds in bin Laden and why his legacy lives on despite his failure at achieving any of his strategic goals. Bergen, a Vice President at New America, is the author or editor of nine books, including three New York Times bestsellers and four Washington Post best nonfiction books of the year. He is a national security analyst for CNN and has testified before congressional committees 18 times about national security issues. Thanks to exclusive interviews with family members and associates, and documents unearthed only recently, Bergen has used the knowledge he has gained in the intervening years to discover who bin Laden really was and why he continues to inspire a new generation of jihadists.

  • Dave Terry was with Vice President Cheney on the morning of 9/11. He started work as a PDB briefer the same day as Mike. He went on to be Chief of the PDB. He started out working on grain production at the CIA in 1979. He comes from Kansas. For the rest, it’s best if you hear Dave. “And I think for any intelligence officer, what you're doing is often overwhelming, whether you're in front of the President, or a vice president, or the asset that you're trying to debrief, or your colleagues…And the stakes often are life and death.”

  • Mike Morell was with President Bush on the morning of 9/11. He saw the President several times that day. Ten years later he was with President Obama for the bin Laden raid. He was former Acting and Deputy Director of the CIA. He comes from Ohio. For the rest, it’s best if you hear Mike. “I believe that when we get to the end of the trail, we’re going to find al Qaeda, and we’re going to find an Osama bin Laden. I told him that I was so confident in that judgment that I would bet my children’s future on it.”

  • Kristin Wood was at CIA HQ on the morning of 9/11. Phil Mudd was at the National Security Council. Kristin was a PDB briefer for the VP’s National Security Advisor. Phil was Director for Gulf Affairs. They would go on to work counterterrorism together. Kristen has a Wheaton Terrier. Phil has a farm. For the rest, it’s best if you hear Kristin and Phil.    “… knowing that every day, you had to deliver relevant information to the nation's leaders, it is a feeling of enormous responsibility that all of the 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of intelligence officers who have done amazing work, you want to represent it faithfully.”     I just I didn't want to be alone. I didn't know what was going on. So I stayed at a friend's house, maybe a mile or two from my house just watching through the downing of the Towers. And at that point, I said, I'm going home. My only other memories are realizing I couldn't go to the White House. 

  • It was the 1980’s. “I don't think they'll ever have the fun I had that year, at 23 years old, going to the White House and the NSC, briefing cabinet members…I mean, you name it. It was just incredible!” Three years into her CIA career, Diana Bolsinger found herself on point as the sole person working on the Afghanistan account in her department. Thereafter, she was Acting Deputy to the Ambassador to the Afghan Resistance (“mujahedeen”), a political officer in Islamabad, an analyst at the Counterterrorism Center (CTC), and received multiple awards including for her role in investigating the Boston Marathon bombing. She has a serious Afghanistan/Pakistan resume; Al Qaeda were on her radar from 1990; and, she oozes calm, measured, thoughtful analysis. Ladies & gentlemen: Diana Bolsinger.