Target USA Podcast by WTOP

Whether its terrorists, anarchists, cyber criminals or nation states, America has a target on its back. WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green investigates the threats facing the U.S., the people behind them, the agencies fighting them and their impact on Americans.


Episode 95: New York Port Authority Suicide Bomber & US Intelligence Community's Crown Jewel

On Monday, Dec. 11, a 27-year-old man triggered a strapped-on suicide vest inside a crowded pedestrian tunnel under New York's Port Authority. He was allegedly upset about Christmas posters and other geopolitical issues inside the corridor he targeted. For some reason, the bomb didn't work the way Akayed Ullah, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, had intended it to. It granted everyone around him and brought to the forefront again the general danger that terrorists pose, the specific dreadful nature of a suicide bomber, and the Justice Department's urgent concern about a key tool to fight terrorists that is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless reauthorized by Congress. Department of Justice Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand joined Target USA to explain why Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is so important. Former CIA case officer Robert Baer and counterterrorism expert Fred Burton, vice president of intelligence at Stratfor, also joined us describe the evolving terrorism landscape.

Past Episodes

Many think that it's just a matter of time before North Korea is an existential threat to the U. S. "As Kim Jong Un said a few months ago, North Korea's determined to build on their nuclear and missile capabilities," Joeseph DeTrani, former director of the National Counterproliferation Center, says on this episode of Target USA. He says the U.S. and its allies have to stop it from happening. But, is it too late? Retired Lt. Col. Dan Davis, senior fellow at Defense Priorities, raises a key question on the program: "Is there a high chance that one day we'll see a mushroom cloud over Seattle?" The two experts breakdown the latest threat, the U.S.' options and what it all means for you.
On the heels of the announcement that the Islamic State group had essentially been ousted from Iraq in September 2017, the Iraqi military along with Iranian-backed militias launched an incursion into Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Almost 200,000 people have been displaced, hundreds have been killed and Kurdish officials say "ethnic cleansing" is taking place. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the U.S., shared the details with us. We also spoke with Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, commander of the Operation Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) coalition in the region, about how all of this is impacting the fight against IS.
Four and a half years after contractor Edward Snowden abruptly left the U.S. with a trove of highly classified secrets, the National Security Agency and its counterparts in the U.S. intelligence community continue to struggle under the crushing impact of his actions. Terrorists, spies and other NSA targets have retreated to the safety of encrypted apps and the deep web. While it's made progress, it will take years before NSA regains its edge. In the meantime, some very nasty things may happen because bad actors are able to hide almost completely. In this episode, NSA Deputy Director George Barnes says Snowden did much more than steal and leak highly classified documents, he opened a window into the NSA's thought process. Although the agency is rebounding very quickly, it's a difficult process.
If you've followed the Target USA podcast, you are familiar with our series of reports called the Anatomy of a Russian Attack. In episodes 83 through 86, we unveiled a nearly yearlong investigation into Russia's meddling, and its attack on the U.S. election in 2016 and American democracy. On this week's episode, we continue the investigation by digging deeper into Russia's operation, why it appeared to be successful and the reality that what we've seen is possibly only the beginning. Former Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt, Dr. Christopher Paul with Rand Corporation and journalist Massimo Calabresi join us with expert context on this episode.
Six months prior to the attack on a New York City bike path, top intelligence officials had an idea something like it was coming. In this episode of Target USA, we revisit a conversation with Nick Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who talks about it. Also, the alleged New York attacker said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was his inspiration. Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), updates us on the search for Baghdadi; and European Union commissioner Sir Julian King discusses how IS is changing its tactics.
In the wake of the New York City bike path terror incident on Halloween, many are asking how authorities can stop extremists like the man who ran over innocent people with a truck in the name of IS. One way is an undercover FBI agent -- or more specifically, an undercover Muslim agent like Tamer Elnoury. Still active in the FBI, Elnoury disguises his voice to tell us a vivid story about his book "American Radical," and the tough job that he and his colleagues do. He also shares the way he moves between his real and undercover lives.
Leaks in Washington, terrorism, Russian meddling in the 2016 election, cyber threats to the electric grid and the opioid crisis all are serious concerns for the No. 2 official at the Department of Justice. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein discusses them all in an exclusive interview with Target USA.
We told you the story on Episode 78 of how "official" Washington was rattled on Aug. 9, when news broke that U.S. diplomats in Havana had been sickened a mysterious illness that no one could put their finger on. Target USA has continued digging into the story, and, in this episode, we now have a better idea of what happened and where. Russia may emerge as key suspect. Retired Ambassador Deborah Jones lays out the risks diplomats face there and beyond.
This is the final installment of our four-part Target USA series "Anatomy of a Russian Attack on the U.S." In this episode, Robert Cardillo, director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, details how Russia's activities have impacted the U.S. intelligence community. Also, Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, discusses how they are going to deal with Russia's efforts. And also, a former Russian spy tells us what we should expect in the coming weeks, months and years. As we've told you, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered operatives to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. A Target USA investigation that began in November 2016 examined how the attack happened, when it started, who was involved and what will lie ahead. We conducted dozens of interviews, in the U.S. and abroad, with current and former U.S. intelligence officials, members of Congress, cyber security and intelligence experts, foreign government officials, Russian nationals and American victims.

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