Undercover for the CIA

Hosted byIan Punnett

Undercover for the CIA

About the show

Amaryllis Fox was in her last year as an undergraduate at University of Oxford studying theology and international law when her writing mentor journalist Daniel Pearl was captured and beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. Shocked by this brutality, Fox applied to a master's program in conflict and terrorism at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, where she created an algorithm that predicted, with uncanny certainty, the likelihood of a terrorist cell arising in any village around the world. She joined Ian Punnett (Twitter) for a discussion on her life, recruitment by the CIA, and the work of a spy.

Fox detailed how her background and experiences in foreign countries helped provide a framework to make sense of various geopolitical events going on around the world. She talked about growing up with aristocratic British grandparents. "Having my grandparents around when I was little, and having their connection be so close to this era of colonialism that shaped so much of the map that we've all inherited and so many of the conflicts that we live with on a daily basis, was really grounding for me," she said. Many of the current hotspots on the planet can be traced back to the last century's worth of history, Fox added.

She detailed a key difference in how the military and intelligence community tackle problems. The CIA is focused on human intelligence which involves befriending one's enemy instead of annihilating them, she observed. "Human intelligence... is really about building trust with a source who is deeply a part of or involved in your adversary's ideology or planning," Fox revealed, calling it a kind of spiritual warfare. Working as a spy involves trying to find a sliver of commonality in the Venn diagram between one's own experiences and the experiences of the enemy in order to create a back channel to communicate, she explained.

Iran Plane Crash Update

In the first hour, writer and producer Jack Cashill commented on the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner over Iran. He pointed out it was obvious the passenger jet was shot down by friendly fire before Iranian officials admitted responsibility. "It was impressively quick how Iran essentially folded to international pressure... within two or three days the truth was known," Cashill said. He also briefly discussed his research into the 1996 crash and subsequent cover-up of TWA Flight 800, as well as the 1988 downing of Iran Air Flight 655 by the US Navy. "You put humans behind a system this complex and they have to make split second decisions with inadequate control of their own technology, they make mistakes," Cashill suggested.

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