Stratfor's Pen and Sword podcast hosted an exciting list of top-selling authors and geopolitical experts from around the globe this year. Each had its special moments, from the laugh out loud "Right Kind of Crazy with Clint Emerson" to the truly tragic and intense investigation into the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. We thank our wonderful guests who shared their knowledge with our listeners. Boiling the list down to 10 podcasts included a lot of debate, but we managed. Check out Stratfor's Top 10 Best Pen and Sword Podcasts of 2019.
When it comes to a classic geopolitical thriller, no one can top the author of one of the original Cold War thrillers, James Grady. When Grady wrote "Six Days of the Condor" in 1973, he had no idea his work of spy fiction would see repetition in the real world. But from an international assassination to a complete government-run espionage department, that's what happened. More than 40 years after the book was first published, with an Oscar-winning movie, a TV series and several sequels behind him, Grady says his hero is still human. But "one thing that has changed completely," he says," is that society is so much more complex and individuals are more… isolated than we were in the 1970s." And that makes today's world infinitely more vexing in terms of security, geopolitics and diplomacy.
"In a perfect world, the State Department is able to work out the conflicts that we're having with other nations. And the second option, traditionally, historically, is war. If diplomacy fails and war is unwise, call on the CIA's Special Activities Division." Those are the words that investigative journalist and author Annie Jacobsen uses to describe the work of the CIA's paramilitary arm. In this fascinating conversation, Jacobsen reveals long-held secrets and personal stories about her brushes with an element of U.S. foreign policy that is played out in secret.
A lyrical, deeply personal and incisive memoir of one man's return to battlefields where he fought, former Marine Elliot Ackerman discusses his efforts to learn the names of those he fought against in "On Places and Names." His journey back to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he served 5 tours of duty and received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart, is a profound and emotional conversation.
London's Great Smog of 1952 came in a wave of stagnant weather that turned daylight to dusk and dark to oblivion. No one could see. Many could not breathe. Amid the terror, a different, equally sinister drama was underway. The estimated 12,000 people killed by the smog were not the only people who died in those dark days. Kate Winkler Dawson speaks about murders hidden in plain sight during London's Great Smog.
Fans of the Netflix series, Mindhunter, will appreciate this down-to-earth conversation with the man who started the FBI's criminal profiling project, John Douglas. This podcast with Douglas and his co-author, Mark Oleshaker, reveals details of four of the most disturbing cases they ever took on. Their book, "The Killer Across the Table," describes the crimes of different killers. This podcast is a must for fans of true crime.
Karen Piper grew up in a company town, where every employee was a civil servant of the U.S. government. The town was China Lake, the nation's largest weapons facility, where jobs revolved around building missiles. Her childhood, while seemingly ideal, was filled with secrets, surprises and political awakenings. With revealing moments from Piper and host and Stratfor military analyst Paul Floyd, this podcast is an engaging conversation for anyone who has ever served in the U.S. government.
This serious discussion about a deadly new battlefield is both frightening and hopeful. From the Russian compromise of 2016 U.S. elections to the 2019 U.S. cyberattack on Iran, it's clear that cyberspace is no longer the battlefield of the future. Alongside a sobering estimation of how prepared the United States is to weather an attack, Robert Knake discusses what business leaders can do to protect companies from a devastating ransomware or hack. This is a clear window into tech warfare.
A journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon, Zahra Hankir discusses a series of essays in this podcast that deliver a unique and unprecedented look into the lives of 19 women journalists who report for western media both from and about the Middle East. From breaking with traditional female roles to reporting on civil war and its aftermath, this interview will resonate while it provides a remarkable glimpse into an often misunderstood world.
What can one learn from the anti-establishment movements of the mid-20th century? Plenty, according to investigative reporter Bryan Burrough. "Domestic terrorism" is a term that brings to mind post-9/11 images of seeming endless episodes of mass shootings. But it predates online radicalization and the U.S. wars in the Middle East and South Asia. In fact, a series of domestic bombings, and other actions by radical underground groups were all too common during the 1970s. Those "Days of Rage" and what can be learned from them are the subject of Burrough’s conversation in this podcast.
In this podcast, author and journalist Mike Giglio describes the rise of the Islamic State and "the ramshackle coalition — aided by secretive Western troops and American airstrikes — that was assembled to break it down village by village, district by district." This frightening lesson on an effort that worked — and how easily it can be undone — is worth a listen.
With close to 120 podcasts, the Pen and Sword Podcast is chock full of experiences of espionage, spy-catching, personal stories and geopolitical significance. Be sure to listen wherever you download your podcasts.