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.


Target USA -- Episode 99: Russian agents still meddling in US affairs

Nine months after the historic investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, Target USA speaks with Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Among the stunning developments he shares are that Russia has not stopped trying to interfere in U.S. affairs, that the Steve Bannon revelations in the book "Fire and Fury" contributed to several new threads that will likely extend the investigation, and that some of those who've already testified may have to come back.

Past Episodes

During a stream of New Year's Day tweets, President Donald Trump insulted Pakistan leaders, calling them liars and deceitful while taking billions in U.S. aid over a 15-year period. Target USA spoke with Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., who called the allegations "hurtful and disappointing." Also boiling over right now are longstanding trust issues between the U.S. and Pakistan that stem from the location and killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Chaudhry has a cloaked warning for the U.S. and some advice on moving forward. Note: We extended an invitation to the White House to respond but did not receive a reply.
North Korea, attacks on US diplomats in Cuba, terror attacks in the U.S. and Europe were among the biggest stories of the year, but the undisputed top story of the year was Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Target USA takes a look back.
As of Dec. 20, the very same instructions that Akayed Ullah used to learn how to build the bomb he detonated in the New York subway attack on Dec. 11 allegedly remains online and available to clever terrorists able to find them. That, along with numerous other clearly stated threats from terror groups to U.S. aviation, rail and other surface transportation systems, commands a growing amount of precious time from Transportation Security Administration officials, who are working day and night to stay ahead of the threat. Stacey Fitzmaurice, deputy assistant administrator at the TSA's Office of Security Operations, and Bob Melan, a security specialist at the surface division of the Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement, sat down with Target USA to lay out the threat, some of their counter measures, and how it all impacts TSA's plans to protect the traveling public. Also, Philip Mudd, former CIA and FBI executive, explains what the latest terrorist tactics mean for the future.
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.
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.

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