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Rational Security

A weekly discussion of national security and foreign policy matters hosted by Shane Harris of the Washington Post and featuring Brookings senior fellows Susan Hennessey, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Benjamin Wittes.
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Now displaying: 2020
Aug 12, 2020

Russia wants to “denigrate” Joe Biden and China would prefer Trump lose in November, viewing him as “unpredictable,” the nation’s top election security official says. An investigation by The New York Times raises questions about whether intelligence officials are softening their views on Russia to avoid upsetting Trump. And Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate. We look at her national security positions and how those issues will or won’t influence the 2020 campaign.

Aug 5, 2020

The Homeland Security Department compiles “intelligence reports” on protestors and journalists—including the tweets of our own Ben Wittes. Massive explosions in Beirut compound that country’s political and economic crises. And officials are increasingly warning about foreign interference in November’s election.

Jul 29, 2020

Attorney General Bill Barr testifies before Congress—about a lot. State and federal officials negotiate how to remove federal forces from Portland amid continuing protests. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faces his own day on the Hill after a blistering report on State Department dysfunction.

Jul 22, 2020

Federal officers descend on protestors in Portland, over the objections of state and local officials. Why did Trump choose this city, and what does he hope to gain from this expanding campaign of federal authority? And the U.S. hits back at Chinese spies, indicting two hackers and shuttering a consulate in Houston.

Jul 16, 2020

Chinese tech giants once again find themselves in the crosshairs of Western governments. The CIA has expanded its operations in cyberspace. And intelligence veterans warn that repairing the U.S. relationship with Russia is a fool’s errand.

Jul 8, 2020

The Trump administration issues new restrictions on immigration in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A major witness in the impeachment hearings retires amid concerns the White House might try to block his military promotion. And progressives mount an effort to shape the future of national security—sometimes to the dismay of the Biden campaign.

Jul 1, 2020

Trump’s aides say they never briefed him about a Russian plot to kill U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Former aides say the president has been “delusional” in his dealing with foreign leaders. And as the coronavirus continues spreading, some federal workers are being furloughed.

Jun 24, 2020

Bill Barr's Justice Department is accused of politicizing law enforcement across an astonishing array of subject matters. A federal appeals court orders the judge in the Michael Flynn case to dismiss charges against the former national security advisor—at Barr’s request. And Israel is getting ready to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Jun 18, 2020

John Bolton is finally publishing his tell-all book, and the White House is fighting back. A CIA investigation blames “woefully lax” computer security for the biggest leak in the agency’s history. And experts weigh in on how to change U.S. national security to prepare for the next pandemic.

Jun 10, 2020

Who ordered what and when as police cleared peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park? Those protests and others in every state have sparked a national debate about policing. And former Trump administration officials speak out against the president, after possibly holding their tongues too long.

Jun 4, 2020

Americans have taken to the streets in dozens of cities to protest the death of George Floyd, police brutality, and systemic racism. President Trump has focused his attention on looting and violence, which he calls “domestic terror” and insisted governors “dominate” the protestors. The gang talks about the role of the military and the Insurrection Act, the role of Bill Barr and the Justice Department, and Trump’s use of other federal forces as America heads into another day of public demonstration amidst a still raging pandemic.

May 27, 2020

Twitter starts fact-checking President Trump as social media companies face calls to ramp up their election security efforts. China again encroaches on Hong Kong, this time using the pandemic as cover. And the judge in Michael Flynn’s case is told to explain his delay in granting a motion to dismiss.

May 21, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in hot water over the firing of an inspector general. A newly declassified email shows that Barack Obama wanted the Russia investigation handled “by the book.” And around the world people are slowly emerging from lockdowns and quarantines.

May 14, 2020

This week, the Rational Security gang is joined by listeners from around the world for a special live show. Unmasking, China, life after Trump/under Biden—we took listeners' questions and shared stories about how we're spending our time during the pandemic.

May 7, 2020

Congressman John Ratcliffe faces questions from the Senate in his quest to become the next director of national intelligence. Americans are detained in an apparent botched invasion of Venezuela. And former national security adviser Michael Flynn claims he was set up by corrupt FBI agents.

Don't forget to register to take part in next week's live taping!

Apr 30, 2020

Democrats and Republicans finally have something to agree on: China deserves more scrutiny for how it has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim Jong Un is alive, maybe. And the courts take up the argument on whether Congress can sue the executive branch.

Apr 23, 2020

Protests break out against states’ stay-at-home orders. China is linked to a disinformation campaign about the coronavirus. And Israel forms a unity government. 

Apr 15, 2020

State officials say tracing the contacts of people infected with the coronavirus will help keep it from spreading. The Trump administration withdraws funding from the World Health Organization. And Russia takes advantage of confused U.S. policy on Libya.

Apr 9, 2020

President Trump removes two independent inspectors general, including the one at the center of his impeachment. The acting Navy Secretary is out after he removed the captain of an aircraft carrier who complained that his sailors were at risk from the coronavirus. And despite health concerns, Wisconsin goes ahead with elections, offering a test case for November.

Apr 2, 2020

State and local governments are on the frontlines of the fight against the coronavirus. But there’s a lot the federal government can, and arguably should, be doing. What is the pandemic showing us about the strengths of a democracy versus an autocracy? And a new report finds significant problems with applications for FISA surveillance.

Mar 26, 2020

It took weeks for administration officials to persuade Donald Trump that the coronavirus posed a significant threat to the United States. Did those delays hinder the fight against the virus? The coronavirus may pose a threat to democratic values, as governments deploy aggressive surveillance to combat the pandemic. And there are shakeups in the senior ranks of U.S. counterterrorism.

Mar 18, 2020

Much of normal life has ground to a halt. We’ll reflect on the state of the pandemic and how it’s affecting us. What exactly happened to a White House office set up to respond to pandemics? And Congress kicks the can on an all-important surveillance law until the end of May.

Mar 11, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, U.S. officials face a public health crisis and the threat of economic recession. The World Health Organization has officially declared coronavirus a pandemic. How are other countries responding, and what can the U.S. learn from them? And there’s tumult in Saudi Arabia amid another power grab by the crown prince and an oil war with Russia.

Mar 5, 2020

President Trump picks Congressman John Ratcliffe—again—to be the new director of national intelligence. The United States signs a peace deal with the Taliban. And an appeals court rules that former White House Counsel Don McGahn does not have to testify to Congress.

Feb 27, 2020

Coronavirus is spreading, and the administration’s message has been a jumble. Intelligence reports suggest that Russia has developed a preference for Trump in the election and is trying to help Sanders. And world leaders call for action to halt a humanitarian crisis in Syria.

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