Futurist Logo

Spies, Lies, and Nukes


Valerie Plame

Former CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame exposes the future of espionage and spy craft. The advent of artificial intelligence, especially deep fakes and a flood of disinformation, has made the task of gathering reliable intelligence exponentially more difficult, with big implications for democracies. Listen to this episode to learn about the 17 US intelligence agencies, how 9/11 changed spy craft, the impact of disinformation on civic society and government, how undercover agents cultivate sources, and how artificial intelligence raises the stakes in the effort to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Analysis complete. No addtional information is required for context. Proceed with transcript display ...

View Transcript

document button

this week on the futurists Valerie PL critical thought is in such short
supply uh because we as humans we love to feel affirmed and validated so when
our views are confirmed or Amplified by say propaganda or something well of
course that's the truth it's of of course you know and we C we have to be
on guard against that [Music]
hey welcome back to the futurists I'm Rob Turk your host this week my co-host Brett is traveling once again yes he is
like a tumble weed the guy never stays in one place for more than a couple days we'll catch up with him sooner or later
I think this week he's in the Middle East and it's a bummer because I know that he would be interested in talking to our guest he's keenly interested in
the topic um so we'll have to find a way to get the two of you together this week
week I'm talking to Valerie PL Valerie welcome to the futurists thank you for
having me I'm delighted excited to have you here I'm sure some of the folks listening are familiar with your name
then others are going to say wait a minute I sort of vaguely recall her name from some period before President
Obama's era so we'll have to re refresh those people's memories before I do that I want to let folks know um the way we
were introduced uh so I'm in the process of organizing an event that's going to happen in Santa Fe New Mexico in the
beginning of November on November 10th and 11th um the event I'm working on is called creative experience in Santa Fe
so CX SF and um it's a very small gathering for people who are concerned
about the new technologies artificial intelligence uh uh 3D worlds or immersive media and the metaverse uh and
our question is is is there a way for us to harness those Technologies to build resilient communities and we've
assembled a very interesting cross-section of people from the southwest and other parts part of the
world uh who are convening to talk about that to find a positive way to apply those Technologies and while we were
organizing this event a friend of ours a mutual friend introduced me to Valerie who turns out is organizing another
event that's going to EXA occur on the exact same dates on November 10th and 11th in Santa Fe so someone said why not
the two of you get together and talk uh so Valerie as a way of introduction just tell me a little bit about what you're
doing in Santa Fe in November yes thank you Robert yeah uh your conference in
mind spies lies and nukes there's definitely a ven diagram uh where uh some mutual
interesting ideas in intersect so uh this is our third running it will be
November 10th 11th and 12th uh at leonda and I basically called up my former CIA
colleagues operations officers truly Heroes uh I have nothing but the utmost
respect for the speakers I've invited I mean these they really are the real deal they have walked the walk um and so they
will be coming and we will be talking Hot Topics hot places in the world of
course Russia Ukraine China Israel Gaza
uh I have a former head of CIA disguise to talk about uh you know how we kept
our operations safe and really hostile environments we'll be talking a little
bit about what we will be talking about today the ubiquitous technical uh environment surveillance and it's open
to the general public like yours it's intimate I wanted it that way so the
folks can interact easily with speakers and speak to them on the sidelines and
uh I'm really excited and proud to put that together so if your listeners are interested they can find more
information at spy nuk.com Spy nukes so um the last word nukes that's important
because your experti is in nuclear proliferation or I should say preventing non proliferation non- proliferation uh
tell us a little bit about what that means what is non proliferation right essentially my job at the CIA was making
sure that bad actors whether they're terrorists Rogue nation states black
marketeers do not get access to nuclear capability and that meant recruiting
sources within the supply chain of which there's many in the go into a any
nuclear program uh delivery uh the the scientists the
businessmen and try to get some good intelligence to shut down networks uh I
worked with a variety of teams through the years and I loved what I did now
when people talk about nuclear proliferation um you know there are plenty of countries that would love to
get their hands on nuclear weapons actually plenty of non entities that would like to get get
their hands on nuclear weapons and actually the International Community does a pretty good job of policing this
uh you so it turns out that the expertise to enrich nuclear um nuclear energy you know to to to create a weapon
not an easy thing to come by I know you can find the instructions on the internet that's what number always says but but you know going from those
instructions actually doing it that's a tricky thing to do and it requires uh specially equipment and so what you
would do is intercept that equipment in the supply chain um which are the countries that are best at producing
these things besides the United States the actual widgets you mean the
the Germans always seem to turn up right when it's about exporting stuff into the Middle East highly no surprise uh the
highly industrialized nations uh Germany is really good uh Austria Switzerland it
precise you can imagine they're known for you know Swiss are known for making great clocks well that
Precision uh the the machines that go into that um the other uh other things
that are necessary are testing making sure that your gimbals are right and you
know there there are so many different aspects that go into a whole program so uh our search to find these Bad actors
was truly worldwide and and how did you do that like you know when you work for the CIA
I know you were working in Europe I think in places like Belgium and Greece and sometimes turkey and so forth um how
would you like kind of igle yourself into the network of people who are smuggling this equipment because it's
all you know under controls right so it's not like you can just go out there and advertise and say hi you can buy centrifuges here at centrifuges exactly
although we did call um famously the Pakistani nuclear engineer who's
actually a metallurgist AQ con who just died I think last year um we called you
know we were joking around saying you know you want a nuclear weapon 800 AQ conon he really was selling everything
on the black market uh without him we wouldn't have to worry about Iran or North Korea having nuclear programs but
um back to your question it's this is what we're trying to do with the CIA uh
there's in pedological terms it's uh you know spot assess develop recruit uh you
are looking for those people that have access uh whether it's in the supply
chain or whether in the ual program them itself as a scientist um you're assessing them
uh who are they what would their potential motivations be to want to cooperate with the with United States
what's going on in their lives uh there's as many different motivations as are are individuals as you might imagine
and then recruitment ideally uh this is by the time you reach
that stage of actually making the recruitment you should know what the answer will be there should be no
surprises occasionally does happen but you have again this is in a traditional
sense of recruiting rather than a cold pitch where you like in the runup to the war with Iraq there was no time you just
kind of went in and said what you know see what the answer would be but
typically when you're recruiting uh ideally you want your target to say what
took you so long because you have built up a reservoir of trust they know that
you are going to keep them safe uh they are working with you for whatever reason
it might be money ideology a combination ego whatever uh so that's how that
methodology works so you have to be sort of like a Charming psychologist in order to like basically make friends very
quickly with people get to know them and then sort of assess uh their psych iCal strengths and weaknesses and their
motivations and so forth if someone's got financial trouble great that's a l if someone's like going through a
divorce that might be an opportunity if someone has ax to grind or you know a brother who's been imprisoned unfairly
or something there's all sorts of motivations that people have um now my knowledge of spying is all
from like James Bond movies and books so unfortunately I've got kind of like the Hollywood version of spying in mind and
what I know about James movies is like that's exactly how you would not operate if you were a spy don't flash a lot of
money don't go to a casino don't but they're so entertaining right it's super fun right they've created this kind of
romantic world is it really that romantic or is it uh is it less uh is it a little bit more um bureaucratic like
tell me about the reality yes and yes I mean there are elements but there's you know punctuated by long periods of
boredom uh depending on what it is you're doing no the the reality of intelligence gathering is uh one usually
a gun in the room does not help with intelligence collection uh you have buil
up a relationship ideally uh I don't think you cannot fake
being authentically genuinely interested in someone they know that uh you have to
build you have to make them feel safe that you will keep them safe in some cases of course if their
cooperation with the United States government was known they they'd be killed you know so very simple um and uh
and you're reading all of this and you're superimposing upon those psychological
elements what you know from your training of how to keep your operation safe and you're constantly pushing the
ball you know down the field as best you can you have as a Ops officer which is
what we call ourselves not spies that's who we recruit but I have always my mission in mind
what I'm trying to do in the larger picture I see okay now um let's talk
about the context you're doing this in so you're not doing this in the United States you're typically doing this in some other country where they have their
own domestic intelligence service that's probably trying to keep an eye on you or at least someone like you they know that
people like you are operating on their undergrounds and it might also be the case that the person you're trying to
recruit isn't even a citizen of that country they might be
working and so um there's a you it's like the old cliche of a spy going after
a spy you know people into different intelligence services are trying to keep track of who's dealing with whom is it
dangerous uh is there a possibility that you get caught is this well understood you know when you go to belum do they
know that you're a CIA agent it absolutely can be dangerous
uh for many years we had what would be called hostile environments and that
would have been say the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War in China in
India where there has long been because of author more authoritarian regimes a a
history of ubiquitous surveillance you know you pay someone 50 cents on the
street in India just to watch for the Westerner to walk by and he reports to
his service well you know how how do you how do you conduct operations securely
in an environment like New Delhi which is just teaming with people that are
watching you walk by uh however that has changed and I'm sure we'll get into this
in a little bit more detail going forward but uh this ubiquitous technical
surveillance which uh is far more advanced than what we've uh you know in
past op operational environments and now you H the intelligence world has to
consider we're in a time where it's not just the the more classic hostile
environments of Moscow at night um it can it can be anywhere I mean give be the device in
your pocket that's betraying you absolutely look at London which of course is a very westernized uh you know
it's a western capital and yet their surveillance
is uh really topnotch I mean they know who's coming who's going and and what
car most surveil places on the planet so we're gonna talk a little bit about total information awareness to use
Admiral po Dexter's term we'll get into that and and you know these days a lot
of folks are worried about artificial intelligence taking their job or displacing labor I have to imagine in
spycraft that's actually an issue so we'll talk a bit about that but before we do there's another topic I need to
cover here because for folks who are not familiar with you I think it's important for us to little learn a little bit about your past and you've been telling
us so far about building a trusted network of people uh people who you're really extending yourself to on a
personal level to build trust and to do that successful you have to know that you can trust the government that you're
representing that the government's got your back um and in your case that was true for many years while you worked for
the CIA until it wasn't and you learned about it in the most dramatic way tell me a little bit about what happened uh
under the Bush Administration because I think that'll refresh people's memories about why they know this name Valerie PL
right well what happened was in July 2003 my then husband Ambassador Joe
Wilson wrote an oped piece for the New York Times entitled what I did not find
in Africa and in it he went after the primary rationale that the Bush
Administration gave for taking us into this uh occup ation of Iraq the war and
the Conquering and the occupation of Iraq which was an imminent threat of nuclear attack remember you know we
don't want to see The Smoking Gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud and in the op Joo like this this is bogus this is not
true um I know this and uh it's completely bogus and he was the
ambassador to that place so he he was well aware of what he was and it's important to know that in the he he was
the acting Ambassador in Iraq in Baghdad during the first Gulf War with Saddam
Hussein and uh and in the runup to the war he spoke publicly often uh vifly
about how stupid it was to go to how stupid this war of choice was why that
was risky at the time right because if we if if people are listening can recall to the the time after the 9/11 attacks
that period of time was a period of intense patriotic fervor in the United States even in Congress uh the opposing
party the Democratic party was hesitant to voice objections or even criticize or
investigate uh any of the claims that were being made by the Bush Administration in the runup to Operation Desert Storm because of this dipl this
sort of uh feror of uh of patriotism Americans wanted the government to do
something and they wanted the government to punch somebody back and so it was kind of indifferent to a lot of
Americans who they punched back and President George Bush took the opportunity to punch back at Iraq even
though in fact they had nothing to do with the 911 attacks it was a great lie
that was told to the American public but at the time to call out that great lie took tremendous courage and one of the
few people that did it was Ambassador Joe Wilson um so the government
retaliated the government struck back they did yeah we could have a whole conversation on uh the leadup to the war
what what caused it and how we still haven't come to grips with it but what happened after this oped piece came out
in July 2003 a week later a conservative communist by the name of Robert Novak
who's now dead he wrote a column about uh Joe Zed and he in it he said oh and
by the way his wife Valerie plain works for the CIA and she sent him to uh find
she sent him to nier and what was referring to a year before the CIA sent Joe to nier to check out these reports
of yellow cake uranium going from ner to Iraq any in any case immediately as I
read that article like 500 am in the Washington Post in our home in Washington I knew that my covert career
was over the assets that had worked for me or even people uh that um you know
knew knew me in a in a benign fashion were at risk uh and then on a personal level I I
was worried sick about my three-year-old twins U because of the personal security
aspect of it all so um and that started years of like this crazy down the rabbit
hole political Scandal that was it it affected of course both my husband and
me so both of us were in bred and it it just it was a really really dark time
where I feel looking back that it was just I was in survival mode for much of it in 2007 the vice president's Cheney
Chief of Staff scooter Libby was convicted on four out of five counts uh
including an obstruction of justice and lying um and
I it's taken me it's hard to believe that this year was the 20th year of our
invasion of Iraq so it was a moment to pause and I believe that the United
States is still not to terms with what our government did it lied to us we
certainly haven't you know millions of lives have been ruined in the process of that war um and we also haven't come to
terms with what happened to you uh you know to to clarify for folks who are listening that Robert Novak piece that
she mentioned that appeared in the Washington Post that blew her identity basically blew her cover and revealed
that she was a CIA agent that was a kind of retaliation uh the way he obtained
that knowledge uh about uh about Valerie plain working for the CIA that was the subject of some debate and some
investigation and it was never actually clear who leaked it to him although a number of people have been implicated in
the matter Richard Armitage in the state department scooter Libby as you mentioned who worked for vice president
Cheney certainly vice president Cheney Carl Rove were certainly suspicous suspected there was allegations made and
so forth um but like many things in Washington the matter really never got resolved and you know scooter Libby got
punished and went to jail or didn't didn't go to jail he didn't go to jail and he was pardoned by Trump in 2017 and
and he wasn't even like the one who like gave the information away we were talking about leaking information these days it's important because of course
some people are saying uh you know there there's there's new focus on this because of President Trump and and uh
his uh you know unauthorized uh taking of large numbers of confidential
documents without any justification um so anyway before we diverge into that the point here is that
you had worked loyally for the United States government in a role as an undercover undercover operative correct I was covert despite the best efforts of
uh the butch White House Advocates to make it out as though um I was just a
glorified secretary I mean we we were called Traders we were called you know all manner of things uh trying to make
story you for a number years to prevent proliferation of nuclear yeah that was my job and I I love my job and I was
proud to serve my country okay so that's the history for folks who are listening um and since that time you've done a
number of things you've been a writer uh you've run for Congress uh you've uh you've gotten involved in political
activities and so forth um we're going to talk more about the future of Espionage and your new interest in
artificial intelligence after the break but now we're going to take a short break before we do that what we love to do is just get acquainted a little bit
with the people who we were talking to in the show um so we ask a few short questions these are these are for short
answers uh so I'm gonna I'm G to give you a couple quick questions this is this is the lightning
round uh so okay Valerie PL um tell me about your first experience thinking
about the future maybe it was a science fiction story or a science fiction film that you saw as a
child oh well I think that's kind of easy I Star Wars
1976 great I remember sitting in the theater I mean we had never I know this
is hard for people that are you know younger but the special effects oh wow
you know which today of course are a little risible but uh back in the day
that was phenomenal and the story which which of course is really based on good
evil you know themes that are uh weave through Humanity forever and yet brought
to the Future and so that just that's a memory that I sticks on my head I was a
kid sitting in that theater yeah super duper okay next question uh in this in
this show we're always interested in people who are thinking and talking about the future is there anyone who influenced you anyone who inspired you
that you can think of U maybe a writer or a teacher or someone who taught you to think about the future or gave you an
idea about the future that inspired you oh that's such a great question to think
about um I suppose when you as a young adult
and I had just started in the CIA and sort of like well believe me I no idea what I was
getting myself into it's not like I grew up thinking I wanted to be a spy but all of a sudden being around you know there
you are and uh we're going through our pretty intensive training but to be able
to work with incredibly smart people with integrity and putting it
into context I guess of what we were doing and why and then thinking about in
a broad sense I don't mean to sound like paana here but you know like this was the height of the Cold War and what's at
stake here are these principles and values that we hold dear and how do you carry that ahead by what you're doing um
that's not science fiction stuff but it made me think it it put it into context
for me if that makes sense yeah sure so is a chance to put your values into action which is always inspiring and by
the way a good way to proceed into the future uh okay is there any particular forecast that you think is really
resonant you know is there a particular prediction or forecast that you've heard that you're aware of that you think is
really pertinent right now for our audience I would just have to say because uh we are taping this in the
midst of all the in uh what's going on in Israel and Gaza and will there be a
WID wider regional conflict and so I I enjoy uh something that drops in my
email box every morning it's letters from an American by Heather Cox Richardson she's just like straight you
know it's like just a facts ma'am occasionally she'll throw in her a little opinionated but uh M she I just
love in this world we live in of opinion all the time she just kind of lays it
out yeah it's a good newsletter it's letters from a historian by letters from a historian yes from Heather Cox uh
Richardson and um she's a professor of American history and she's writing about
history as it unfolds on a daily basis so if you haven't read the newslet millions of people millions of people read that newsletter uh for the American
listeners it's a chance to understand American history as it unfolds she writes it every single day and she's been doing it since the Trump
Administration kind of a heroic effort it is a heroic effort and I so
appreciate it so that's right now because it's just like too much news so
she helps get you know sort it through she tells you what the his the future historians are going to notice about
this particular episode or what happened today in today's news or something okay that's great fun folks we're talking to
Valerie PL on the futurists I'm Rob Turk we're going to take a short break stti stay with us though because after the
break we're going to talk about artificial intelligence and total information awareness it's actually
coming true we'll see you in just a minute after these announcements provoke media is proud to
sponsor produce and support the futurist podcast provoke FM is a global podcast
Network and content creation company with the world's leading fintech podcast and radio show Breaking Banks and of
course it's spin-off podcast breaking Banks Europe breaking Banks Asia Pacific and the fintech 5
but we also produce the official finate podcast Tech on regg emerge everywhere
the podcast of the Financial Health Network and NextGen Banker for information about all our podcasts go to
provoke FM or check out breaking Banks the world's number one fintech podcast
and radio show hey welcome back to the futurist I'm Rob TK and this week I'm talking to
Valerie Plame uh Valerie is a former CIA operative or officer uh and she's been
sharing with us some personal context and some historical context to help us
understand how spycraft is evolved now before we jump into the future what I thought would be helpful is for people
to understand the different ways that governments use intelligence how do they gather intelligence and why do they
gather intelligence in the US we have a bunch of different agencies we've been talking about the the CIA the Central
Intelligence Agency but of course there's also a domestic security Force which is the FBI and then there's things
like the NSA and I think that's where people start to get a little fuzzy because the NSA by Design doesn't really have a very high profile can you tell us
about the different mechanisms the government has for gathering information and what they do with it sure first of
all it's important to understand there's at least 177 agencies or may be more
right that yeah 17 at last count under the United States uh that are dedicated
to intelligence gathering of some sort for instance the treasury Department has their own Financial intelligence sector
uh the state department has the uh in uh uh INR um anyway you know in their own
intelligence shop uh but the big ones that you hear about of course CIA
primarily although not exclusively they try to do human human intelligence that
is what we were talking about recruiting human sources to provide intelligence
actionable intelligence to us policy makers National Security Agency NSA
they're devoted to cryptology and signals intelligence they also do open-source intelligence signals
intelligence is what it sounds like you know picking up uh all sorts of signals
using satellites and other means uh open source is what it sounds like that
there's intelligence actually in the public domain you just don't realize it because but it helps connect newspaper
headlines yeah exactly it's connecting dots um of course the mil each branch of
the military has their own intelligence gathering mechanisms as well and be
after 911 and I thought this is not a great idea but they did it anyway uh be
they gathered all these different pieces they thought they would basically
Congress uh passed a law that you needed to put in yet another lay of of of uh
bureaucracy and that is of course um the ndi National Defense uh National
director of intelligence and that office ostensibly is coordinating all of these
I thought that's what the CIA was supposed to do in the aftermath of World War II and portl harbor but no they
needed another layer so um there's on I think it and the national ndi reports
into Homeland Security doesn't it uh so you have another oh no that's a different thing yeah it's a different thing well Homeland Security I think
feeds into ndi um obviously there's simply too
much uh I I believe that our whole intelligence sector through across the
board is bloated um but that's a conversation for another time uh no it's
a really important one after 911 there was an enormous growth in the in the kind of intelligence industrial sector
all these big black buildings that were built around the Beltway in Washington that no one knows what's inside of them
they're all fed from a fire hose and how can any one person or organization make
sense of it all um so that there's some real problems there uh but that gives
you the idea the very basic breakdown of
different intelligence and where it's now president Trump has been pretty critical of um of the intelligence
agencies that's partly because they released some non-f flattering information about him and he took it very personally he famously got a thin
skin so he retaliated how accurate do you think the criticisms uh of the CIA and the FBI and
the other intelligence services are H uh the terrible answer of it
depends some of that criticism is absolutely rightly deserved um every
everything what I personally saw in the aftermath of 911 was that we were
abysmally short of qualified Lang language speakers you know we had like two people who spoke Dary from uh you
know that you you uh in Afghanistan and farsy speakers and Arabic speakers all
the hotpots and we started uh bringing in
contractors um so there was this big revolving door you would be trained at us taxpayers expense to hund you know
hundreds of thousands of dollars you would leave go work for what we call what we call known as the Beltway
Bandits and come back in um and so there there's a yes there's a lot of problems
uh of how it's structurally set up and the bureaucracy around it that
said uh there's a lot you know there's people with thank goodness they go every
day and um really trying to keep America safe uh and no one knows who their names
are they eat their lunch at their desk and they are working all out to try to
make us safer keep us safe that's the thing I think a lot of people don't realize it's a dangerous world and there
are lots of people that would like to knock the United States down a peg or two um and they're tireless they're
working tirelessly to do that and it's those nameless people in the security agencies that keep Americans safe we
tend to take that for granted right we don't really spend a lot of time thinking about it uh for security reasons of course we don't learn much
about those organizations so we're not really aware of them um and as a result it's pretty easy for Americans to get
complacent do you think we are too complacent do you think this world is rif with dangers that we should be more
alive to Yes um I believe there's two existential
threats uh one that I worked on for my career which is the nuclear threat the other one of course is climate change
and um which I'm and quick on their heels is something we'll
be talking about a little bit more is artificial intelligence as a national security
threat uh I I disagree though with your statement that we're
complacent I Fe for those that are reading the news uh there's sort of like
one dumpster fire after another whether it's our own demestic politics or you
know what what's happening in Russia Ukraine and now is Israel Gaza uh
it's it it people I people are angry upset um and you see this in playing out
in our really vicious domestic po you know politics day in day out to some
extent that's the that's a byproduct of information Warfare which is not too distinct from what we've been talking
about so far we've been talking about gathering information but information can be a weapon depending on how it's
deployed and now we have social networks and you know hyperconnectivity everyone's online all the time and The
Gatekeepers the the newspaper editors and the and the the Publishers and so forth the apparatus used to filter the
news for us um those Gatekeepers are gone now you can get information all the time from anybody and other countries
have used this to great effect to destabilize democracies not just the United States but around the world we've seen this happen in the Philippines in
Thailand in India um other parts of the Middle East and in South America it's so we're St and in Eastern Europe uh you're
seeing disinformation campaigns waged on a daily basis and uh in some cases those
are uh directed by governments uh we know that the Chinese government has the 50 Cent Army so-called because that's
what they're paid to post uh information um the Russians have a policy of disinformation called U asymmetric
Warfare nonlinear Warfare they've been practicing that for 20 years this is not new they're well they're well honed in
these skills uh American citizens are not that aware of it and sometimes we
fall prey to it when we're on social media uh we'll share something that is pure disinformation we'll share
something that is confusing to us it seems to resonate with something we feel emotionally uh and I found that outrage
is a very easy way to get people manipulated uh if you if you encounter something in your social media feed that
causes you to feel outrage think twice before you share it because chances are the person that posted it is trying to
manipulate you and they're trying to bypass the intellectual filters they're trying to get an emotional reaction so
that you don't think twice about it or think critically about it and that's a way to kind of disable your own intellect uh and turn you into a useful
tool we see that happening all the time I think most Americans don't take it too seriously as far as I can tell
anecdotally uh people tend to dismiss this they're like well maybe that's happening but it's not happening to me I'm smart enough you know we tell
ourselves this story but I don't think they realize the degree to which we are subject to this how you can be detected
is when you go to another country uh you discover that the social media feeds in other countries contain very different
kinds of me and very kind different kinds of conversations an example for instance very obvious example if you
enjoy Tik Tok in the United States I don't use it anymore but if some people do some people like it a lot if you go
to Taiwan and you look at Tik Tok it's filled with conspiracy theories it's just like a basically it's
like a cable TV channel that's full of nothing but conspiracy theories and why would that be the case what's that about
well the Chinese have a policy of creating strategic uh dis uh disagreements basically the F to get
people to not trust anything that they read to start to question everything they read this undermines democracies
because it makes it hard for people to trust their politicians that are leading them or to trust perhaps politicians in
the opposite party people don't know who to trust uh so just that idea of fostering conspiracy is a way to
undermine faith in democracy uh why don't you tell me a little bit more about how the intelligence agencies
navigate in this enormous sea this exponentially growing sea of disinformation and social media and some
of it's accurate some of it's variably accurate some of it's total nonsense you know it's stuff that's been fabricated
how does an intelligence agency deal with that because now it's like you're hunting for a a needle in a stack of
needles uh Robert you set the table really well uh the real dangers that are
there and we know as a fact from 2016 on
in the 2016 election the Russians who by the way are are relatively poor country
and have few resources but recognized the low the low cost of
information Warfare and they set up an entire shop devoted to this to causing
Americans to generating disagreement many online
accounts uh and they they were so good at it to how to get into those wedge
cultural issues and the next thing you know Americans are shouting at each other and worse you right that you know
the the incidents of death threats over school board members and so forth is and
and this is really been eroding at our democracy I think there's it it is it's
relatively cheap and they have been really really good at it because Americans are more divided than ever and
I this is just me talking this is just my speculation of course we have seen that as well in Israel right where it's
been a deeply divided country we've seen protests for months and months on end in Israel and the next thing you know
they've taken their eye off the ball and they had this horrific attack from
Hamas I think it's worth asking the question anyway of you know were there
any outside influencers in Israeli Society to generate like who benefits
from that I mean look we we don't need to zero in on on Israel that's a very complex situation that's unfolding right
now but you could say the same about many other countries uh I think of the Philippines because I know that these
kinds of campaigns have been waged there this is also a factor in Hungary where the populace is split question but even
things like the brexit campaign if people are unaware of or don't want to find out about the extent of Russian
interference in the brexit campaign how much they funded the brexit campaign okay but my interest here today is more
to find out about how intelligence agencies deal with this because you know they're in the job of finding good information and I would say the amount
of good information relative to the explosion of bad information is going to make that job a lot harder does
artificial intelligence help here can it find patterns and help them discern things and and maybe be a little more
efficient or does artificial intelligence a problem yeah that what a great question I think we are in a midst
of tremendous TR a period of transition right now in our intelligence Services I
what I know best is the CIA and I'm no longer there but from what I know from speak speaking to colleagues and so
forth they are putting their arms around this and really grappling with this how
what does this look like going forward um in terms of both operations and
security talking about that ubiquitous uh technical surveillance uh as well as moving
through an environment which can be Rife if not overrun by misinformation or
propaganda it makes it makes everything harder but having that knowledge and
what you were talking about earlier actually um critical thought is in such
short supply uh because we as humans we love to feel affirmed and validated so
when our views are confirmed or Amplified by say propaganda or something
well of course that's the truth it's of of course you know and we C we have to
be on guard against that uh at the end of the day the people serving intelligence services are humans
as well so we have to uh you know and have those impulses that you want to be
validated all the time you have to be trained to constantly think about that
and and apply critical thought and that let's talk about the eny
critical the enemy of critical thinking is confirmation bias that's where you hold an opinion close that you you kind
of filter the information that's coming in and only see the information that reinforces what you already believe of
course this is a great way to make a big strategic blunder right and as a forecaster I have to be very conscious
of this because this is the number one people number one way people go wrong with forecasting or uh any kind of future planning is confirmation bi you
know when you hold an idea so tightly you identify with it so much that you start to look at the world through that
lens and everything you see reinforces that exactly and I I'm sorry to you but
can't I think about the analysts like the whole half of the House of the CIA
these are intelligence analysts that are sorting through all the information
that's coming in through the different sources we talked about signals intelligence uh through satellites
through human intelligence open source and they have to constantly question
themselves confirmation bias this is what I think put's going on I mean and
you their job at the end of the day is to provide the president and other
senior US policy makers with good intelligence and of course you always put caveats about around it but it's
becoming that so much harder understanding that the co the the world
the the water in which this is all swimming is far more murkier than it
ever has been and in the past there was a certain amount of credibility that our intelligence Services had I don't think
they ever had it easy certainly in my lifetime or since the Nixon era uh rightly they've been under scrutiny from
Congress but today the members of Congress can find information that supports any Viewpoint that they hold so
you're talking about confirmation bias on like a superhuman level like in Congress yeah uh any member of Congress
can come in equipped with rebuttal arguments that they find conveniently uh on the web or their staff can dig up for
them and this has got to make the job of being a a National Intelligence officer even more more difficult because now
you've got to deal with a highly politicized environment where anyone can find any argument to any kind of document to support any argument any
opinion uh and all you're trying to do is come in and say Here's an intelligence assessment and I'm sure it must be 10 times more difficult these
days to deal with Congress because half of them are skeptical half of them are equipped with talking points and some of
that stuff is pure disinformation look the foundation of a
democracy has to be truth and fact and we have
seen and and it's been increasing over the last at least decade 15 years a
real erosion in the US government's or the American public's trust in
government institutions across the board whether it's Congress uh whether it's
the FED whether it's military the church uh we have been assaulted uh
constantly by we've they've been shown to lie and to be wrong and and uh we've been
encouraged in fact by political leaders don't trust the government um
and yeah and uh so we find ourselves where we are today where
democracy what we what we thought this great experiment was over 250 years ago
is now in qu whether its longevity is being questioned can we stand can we
withhold there's a rising number of people who believe that we should not be a democracy they actually want some sort
of uh you know centralized control um okay before we delve into that though uh
what I'm trying to drive to here is a question about artificial intelligence and I guess I'm gonna frame
it like this so on this show what happens a lot when we talk about artificial intelligence is we hear the common fear that artificial intelligence
or some form of deep learning or maybe generative AI is going to displace workers so it's going to have a negative
impact on workers there's an alternative view there's a counter view uh it's not as widely shared but it's the optimistic
Viewpoint and that is that these Technologies actually confer superpowers on the people who use them uh I am a
user of artificial intelligence tools I happen to like them I think they do superpower people if you embrace them
and put them to work but I can also see the argument where if you if you choose not to embrace them you probably will
get displaced not by a machine but by a person who uses the tools well so in my life uh and actually everyone I know is
embracing these tools and using them as much as they can tell me how it is inside of the Espionage community and
the intelligence Services is AI viewed as a threat is it going to displace workers or is it a
superpower that's a great question I think of any new technology that
presents itself always has the ability for the
greater good as well as a greater evil take for example uh nuclear fision you
know when they figured out how to split the atom and and tremendous energy that was released well nuclear power the
Fantastic rather than rely exclusively on on uh petroleum products of course
the flip side to that the really dark side is nuclear weapons and our ability
to blow ourselves up so here we are fast forward 50 some 60 years later uh after
that advent and here we are in the brink and we we really are only at the very baby steps of artificial
intelligence um already we have seen the incredible things that it can do for instance in medicine as doctors are
literally operating on patients brains they're using artificial intelligence to
tell them how how far to go what to do as in it's it's incredible on the flip
side of that in intelligence world just one example would be deep fakes where
you have a leader of a country appearing to say something that is something he or
she never said but it causes great popular reaction you know that benefits
a group versus another uh so in the intelligence World they are they are
putting all of this in obviously and these are the I'm sure as you and I are
speaking right now there are rooms uh in the CIA at the director's office in the
Pentagon at the White House Situation Room talking about the very same things no one there's no answer on this yet uh
how but how we choose from a regulatory side of
Congress we've already seen a parade of some AI leaders thought leaders before
Congress um talk about this how do we choose to regulate this it's it's we
already know that most members of Congress certainly in the the senate or I don't know what's the average age like 72 they don't even use email on a
regular basis much l social media Tik Tock that's for our kids
um and they were shocked to find out that it was owned by China and you know
but um so I really Congress is so not to harp
on that so dysfunctional right now they don't as we speak there is no speaker they can literally do none of the
people's business um and we are in a world facing tremendous challenges and
this is a big one Robert artificial intelligence how are we as the world's leading democracy going to provide uh
leadership on this issue what does this look like okay so you are an expert in
nuclear nonproliferation and you've got a keen interest in artificial intelligence you're actually Gathering a group of
experts on the subject in Santa Fe next in in next month and yeah I have a question for you that our audience is
definitely thinking about right now which thing should we be more concerned with nuclear weapon proliferation or the
Advent of artificial intelligence which one present a big and more present threat oh
uh well given my background and
my what I've done my whole adult life I have to go with the nuclear
threat why because the threat is here right now it is imminent a
miscalculation an accident uh we've just gotten lucky so
far we have just gotten lucky the near misses of unintended nuclear explosion
are in the multitudes in the dozens it's when you start reading about them we've just gotten lucky so uh which
is not to you know artificial intelligence I I I'm just only beginning to figure it out and get my read about
it and think about it in serious terms so uh but what's right in front of our
noses right now and we can do something about it is the nuclear threat well what can we do about it
because a lot of people are concerned that Iran is in this a place where they're now starting to enrich uranium
and on the way to building a nuclear weapon um many people say that that's actually imminent yeah yeah there uh
what can we do to we've tried sanctions we've tried to negotiate we've tried every possible thing we can um I don't
think the United States is in a position to invade know some people on the right that's their kind of fantasy but it's a
very large country with a huge population under the age of 25 be very
difficult for any country to try to invade them what can we do about that I'm gonna pull back the lens and answer
on a a broader uh Embrace of that question what can we do about the nuclear question and I think there's
three things that the United States could do right away uh with congressional action and presidential
action that would significantly lower the temperature and that would be uh and
so use uh Authority which means right now the United States there's only one
person the president of the United States who has authority to launch nuclear weapons when we have uh
impulsive presidents Reckless presidents uh that that possibility becomes much
more obvious so we should do away with that um because that is predicated on
the notion that um there's not much time you know that the Soviets back in the
day were going to launch uh bold out of the blue and you needed one person to respond immediately that is no longer
the case the second thing we could do is declare sole purpose that is the United
States says we will never use a nuclear weapon offensively we will only use it uh in a defensive
action um that's that was our policy no it's not um and has never so we maintain
strategic ambiguity around that we there's a lot there's a lot and the third one would take icbms off uh what's
called launch on warning these icbms are ridiculous we don't need them anymore
they are the ones in the silos and some Nebraska cornfield uh you can be sure that Russia and every other major power
knows EX exactly where they are it's like a big Target uh our we have the
United States now has about 5200 nuclear warheads
um we our defense is more than adequately covered uh by our nuclear
launch submarines for instance um so those three steps which I'm not saying they're simple but they're pretty
clearcut and that could be achievable would do a remarkable amount to lower
the temperature to keep our future safe that's encouraging so those are
steps the United States can take unilaterally without having to engage anyone else um what are the mechanisms
right now to deal with this issue there's a un uh nuclear energy commission that I think has not been in
effective right they they actually have [Music] beens you they're always got as a tool
to go to other countries so over the last decade or so all the guard rails
the arms control treaties that have been built up over over decades have gone to
the Wayside the one that is there's two that are left that are worth anything one would be the nuclear
non-proliferation treaty and the second one would be What's called the new start treaty which I believe is due to uh to
end in 2026 and the Russians like you know we're not gonna reup again where we are today yeah I saw I noticed that me
what of that are the Russians choose not to uh renew that uh
bad we're we're screwed I mean the technical term is we're screwed um
because great yeah um unfortunately Biden for those of us who care about
these things who initially was really good on uh trying to uh bring down the
nuclear temperature if you will the threat uh their new nuclear posture
review has just poured trillions more into the so-called modernization more
nuclear weapons more you know more into the as you the the intelligence industrial complex uh I believe nuclear
weapons to be immoral they do not make us more safe and we have more than enough to blow up the world many times
over wow all right folks that is it uh Valerie PL former C operative a advocate
for uh advancing the understanding of artificial intelligence in the intelligence Community um super fun to
have you on the Futures thanks for joining us here of course I framed that question maybe in a false dichotomy
where I said is it you know should we be worried about AI or nuclear weapons it occurred to me as you were speaking
maybe the answer is both and because the combination of two could be even more
perilous let's leave that for a future episode uh if folks if you're interested in attending uh Valerie's event it will
be taking place in Santa Fe the month in next month November 10 11 and 12 and
Valerie where can we find out more about that event and where can people find out more about you yes you can go to spies
lies.com that has all the information on the speakers how to buy tickets a little bit about me and uh I just am so
appreciative of being able to be on your program today thank you so much well thanks thanks for it's interesting
subject matter for us uh it's not often I get to talk to someone who can explain how the intelligence Services work not
sure I understand it maybe we need to do another round super thrilled to have you here in the futurists and folks who are
listening I want to give a big shout out to Kevin hon and elizeth sance uh they are the producers who make the show
possible thanks to everybody at provoked media uh for making the show and distributing it and most of all thank
you to the listeners the folks who listen to the show are the ones who help us help other people discover it one way
to do that is by giving us a five-star review if you've enjoyed this episode and other episodes the festar reviews
important because that's how people find content on this on the podcasting platforms and we do appreciate every
single person who's done that we encourage you to do it and share it with a friend thank you all very much and we will see you in the future we'll be back
next week with yet another futurists I'm Rob Turk signing off for this week see you in the
future well that's it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share
it with the people in your community and don't forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people
find the show and you can ping us anytime on Instagram and Twitter at
futurist podcast for the folks that you'd like to see on the show or the questions that you'd like us to ask
thanks for joining and as always we'll see you in the [Music]

Related Episodes