In the security world a “SCIF” [‘skiff’] or “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility” is a special, secured room where some of the most sensitive conversations about our national security take place.

With this podcast national security expert Juliette Kayyem brings you inside the security world, exploring the planning and decisions behind our own safety, and helps takes some of the mystery out of what makes us safer.

Follow the podcast on Twitter: @TheSCIFPodcasts


Episode 129: Something Has Got To Give
As Juliette says goodbye to The SCIF, she describes the four competing doctrines that are driving global security, and encourages listeners to step up and fight for our democratic norms.
Episode 128: We Shouldn’t Even Be Talking About This.
It seems hard to believe that for nearly a week now, the focus of our national attention has been drawn to a spat between the president of the United States and a gold star family grieving their loss. But this is where we are. In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette speaks with Pod Save America Co-host and former spokesman for the National Security Council Tommy Vietor about his experience in the Obama White House, how it contrasts with the Trump administration’s approach to national security, and how he hopes his work at Crooked Media will provide an outlet for others who have been outraged by the president’s actions in his first nine months in office.
Episode 127: The American Dreamers
With DACA under siege, the woman who led its creation as Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, now finds herself leading the charge against her old agency to protect it. In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette speaks with Napolitano, now the president of the University of California, about how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was conceived and implemented, and why she chose to sue the federal government on behalf of the UC system after the Trump administration’s recent decision to end the program.
Episode 126: Guns and Motivation
Following the horrific shooting on the Las Vegas strip, we are still left to wonder about the killer’s motivations. But while the incident in Las Vegas was unprecedented in scale, mass shootings have become a regular phenomenon in the United States, perpetrated by killers with a wide variety of motivations. In this episode, Juliette focuses on the common denominator by arguing that while motivation can be important, we need to pay more attention to the easy access to weapons that allowed him, and others like him, to create mass carnage.
Episode 125: Clap Back
After more than 50 years in service of eight White House administrations, James Clapper was one of the least likely figures to publicly question a sitting president’s fitness to serve. But that’s exactly what the former Director of National Intelligence did in a widely-shared appearance on CNN after President Trump’s recent rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Clapper’s comments even drew the ire of President Trump on Twitter, who questioned why Clapper previously sent him a “beautiful letter.” In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette sits down with Clapper to discuss the subsequent attack levied on him by President Trump, what his interactions with the president were like, and why he worries about Trump’s behavior.
Episode 124: Where are the Adults?
In the field of international security, the world has long looked to the United States as the “adult in the room.” Yet in word and deed, President Trump seems to relish in relinquishing that title, despite the appointment of several respected former generals in key positions in his administration. Now, as tensions continue to rise between the United States and North Korea, Juliette can’t help but ask, “where are the adults in the room?”
Episode 123: Unprepared for the Rising Sea
In the coming decades, humanity will be forced to respond to the devastating consequences of Global Climate Change, and on the front lines of that response will be the United States Coast Guard. But are we prepared? In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette speaks with Admiral Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the US Coast Guard, about the Coast Guard’s role in keeping America safe today, and our lack of preparation for the enormous emerging threats posed by a melting Arctic, rising sea levels, and more powerful storm systems.
Episode 122: China v. America: Avoiding The War That Nobody Wants
Is war with China inevitable? While the Peloponnesian War may have taken place a quarter millennia ago, there are striking parallels between the forces that drove Athens and Sparta towards conflict and the modern Sino-American geopolitical dynamic. In this episode, Juliette speaks with Harvard Kennedy School Professor Graham Allison, author of “Destined For War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?” to learn more about how these “great powers” conflicts get started, and most importantly, how they can be avoided entirely.
Episode 121: Trump, The Enabler
Following the G20 summit, which hosted the first face to face meeting between the presidents of Russia and the United States, Juliette makes the case that President Trump’s words and actions have provided an enabling mechanism for Russians to repeat their sabotage in 2018 and 2020.
Episode 120: Following The Lone Wolf: The Path To Online Radicalization
On the anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, Juliette hosts a “Right of Boom” discussion with Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, recounting his experiences during and after the attack, and identifying lessons that other leaders can use should they face a similar crisis in the future.
Episode 119: One Year Later, Lessons From the Pulse Nightclub Shooting
On the anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, Juliette hosts a “Right of Boom” discussion with Orlando’s Mayor Buddy Dyer, recounting his experiences during and after the attack, and identifying lessons that other leaders can use should they face a similar crisis in the future.
Episode 118: Lordy What A Testimony!
Former FBI Director James Comey’s public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee certainly lived up to its considerable hype, leaving plenty for the public to dissect and analyze. In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette offers her five key takeaways, giving context to Comey’s statements, explaining what this means for the larger Russia investigation, and perhaps most importantly, reading between the lines on what was left unsaid.
Episode 117: Are Protecting Your Family Post-Manchester
The bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England last week was a tragic demonstration of every parent’s worst nightmare. While the fear was most acute for the thousands of Manchester parents who frantically searched for signs that their children were safe in the attack’s immediate aftermath, millions more across the globe couldn’t help but worry about the safety of their own children. In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette Kayyem discusses that fear — a fear she’s all too familiar with — and describes what parents can do to prepare their children for the worst, while cautioning against going so far as to change summer plans. She also discusses how several high-profile intelligence leaks have caused significant damage to our relationships with close allies, which could eventually erode our ability to protect against future terrorist threats.
Episode 116: Are We Tired Of Winning Yet?
On this special edition of The SCIF, host Juliette Kayyem breaks down everything that’s happened in the news over the past week. From Trump firing Comey to the bombshell story in the New York Times about Trump asking Comey to end the investigation into Mike Flynn, there’s a lot to discuss. While the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia continues, Juliette offers her take on why the cover up maybe worse than the crime.
Episode 115: Comes Gone, The Road Ahead, and When To Speak Up
On this episode of the SCIF, host Juliette Kayyem provides her thoughts on Sally Yates and James Clapper’s testimonies on Russian election interference, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and President Trump’s flurry of seemingly threatening tweets in regards to he and Comey’s conversations. Then, she sits down with former Homeland Security Advisor and Newton, Mass. native Lisa Monaco to discuss what her litmus test was for waking up President Obama with national crises, what life is like after working in homeland security, and the importance of being transparent with the public about the threats they face.
Episode 114: True North In The Age Of Fake News
Fake news isn’t new according to Charlie Sennott, founder of the GroundTruth Project and former Boston Globe Middle East Bureau Chief, but in the digital age it’s a lot harder to discern. On this episode, host Juliette Kayyem sits down with Charlie to discuss being a journalist under an authoritarian regime, how we can combat fake news, and the meaning behind “GroundTruth.”
Episode 113: The Trump Doctrine
What is the Trump Doctrine? Between strikes in Syria, the use of the MOAB in Afghanistan, and escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it can be hard to discern. But the question isn’t just academic, it’s how we signal our intentions to allies and enemies alike. In this episode of The SCIF, Juliette Kayyem tries to make sense of President Trump’s foreign policy doctrine by breaking down his recent military maneuvers.
Episode 112: The Humble, Private Person
Gold Star father Khizr Khan was launched into the spotlight after his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention drew public criticism from then candidate Donald Trump. Since then, the humble Pakistani American lawyer has traveled the country talking to communities about the importance of standing up and speaking out against islamophobic language and policies. On this episode of the SCIF, host Juliette Kayyem sits down with Mr. Khan to talk about his speech & the aftermath, his thoughts on the Muslim bans, and how he and his wife Ghazala have handled their new public profiles.
Episode 111: A Case of Intelligence
On March 20th the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first public hearing on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US presidential election. Testimony from many top intelligence community officials could possibly reveal critical information as to scope of Russia’s role and if there were any communications with campaign associates here in the United States. So what should you be looking for as the House starts to take a deeper dive into Russia? In this episode of The SCIF Juliette Kayyem discusses 5 things that will be on her watch list for this hearing.
Episode 110: He Loves WikiLeaks
For candidate Trump WikiLeaks was a tool that allowed him to draw a clear line of distinction between who you could trust and who was “crooked.” It didn’t matter that it was an outside actor clearly working to interfere with the election, the leaks made his opponent look worse and that was good business. Looking at the long game of how such condoning and validation could impact national security simply didn’t factor into the October campaign game plan. In this episode of The SCIF Juliette Kayyem discusses the danger of unleashing the mayhem of WikiLeaks as a candidate and the reality of the organization now faced by President Trump.
Episode 109: What’s In A Name
The phrase “radical islamic terrorism” was a major point of contention between leaders in both parties long before the 2016 election. But throughout the course of that election it seemed to be the major foundation on which Donald Trump was building his policy towards ISIS and the war on terrorism. And now in a speech to a joint session of Congress, the President of the United States has made that phrase officially part of the US approach to combatting terror. In this episode of The SCIF Juliette Kayyem discusses why there is more to that phrase than just words, and how such a contentious tone could shape the Trump administration’s policy on terrorism moving forward.
Episode 108: Out Like Flynn
When General Michael Flynn was first named as President Trump’s National Security Advisor many wondered how long he would last. A polarizing figure, as National Security Advisor Flynn spent time on conspiracies, fighting intelligence agencies, and misrepresenting his dealings with Russia during the Presidential Transition. In the end his tenure in the position was less than a month. And in this episode of The SCIF Juliette Kayyem explores 3 main issues surrounding his departure: Flynn’s dealings with Russia, the possible connection to Russian Intelligence and the 2016 presidential election, and President Trump’s current challenges in the area of national security.
Episode 107: From Russia With Love?
Long before all the Executive Orders and power shake-ups of the Trump Administration there were a number of reports about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our national election. And exactly how far and how involved Russia was able to successfully involve themselves is still very much under investigation. Susan Hennessey, General Counsel of the Lawfare Institute and Managing Editor of the Lawfare blog, joins Juliette in this episode of The SCIF [‘skiff’] to sift through Trump’s disruptive first few weeks and explain the facts behind the ongoing investigations into possible Russian involvement.
Episode 106: Trump’s Team of Rivals
By almost every measure the Trump Transition has been like no other. And with Trump some of the most telling signs of how his administration will govern can be found in his own cabinet. They are certainly a unique blend of experience and unlike any cabinet we have seen in the modern era. They do not all agree nor do they all seem to be on the same page with the President, but soon they will be faced with the daily and drastic challenges of governing and protecting the United States. In this episode Juliette Kayyem breaks down the testimony of Trump’s key defense and security appointees and looks ahead at what this “Team of Rivals” might bring to the new administration.
Episode 105: Protecting POTUS Trump
The Presidential Transition is a very sensitive time for security. But the final day of that process, Inauguration Day, is a particularly challenging day for one very specific branch of our national security structure: The United States Secret Service. And that day will only be the beginning of years of protecting POTUS Trump and the entire First Family. Mark Sullivan was the Director of the United States Secret Service from 2006-2013. He served in the USSS for 30 years and joins Juliette in The SCIF to discuss some of the challenges of protecting the President and the First Family.
Episode 104: 2016, A Year In Need Of A Do-Over
What a year to forget. 2016 seemed a relentless run of mayhem. From January to December the events that shaped this year broke all the rules and redefined (even respelled) unprecedented, again and again. Back in December 2015 no one could have predicted or believed that this is where we’d be today. In this episode of The SCIF [‘skiff’] Juliette takes a look back at some of the events in national security and in our culture that shaped the year that was, then shares her thoughts on what she’ll be focused on in 2017.
Episode 103: Building for the Worst Case Scenario
Climate change isn’t something that can be debated, but must be mitigated or, failing that, adapted to. How we build our cities for those changes will not only impact our ability to respond to natural disruptions, but arm us with the tools needed to handle any threats that might put our communities at risk. Eric Cesal, “Architecture’s First Responder” is a designer, writer, and noted post-disaster expert, who joins Juliette in The SCIF to discuss what it takes to build our regions to be more resilient and ready to handle any worst case scenario they might face.
Episode 102: Inside the Presidential Transition
The Presidential Transition is the process of preparing our democracy for the reigns to be passed from one administration to the next. Back in 2008 Juliette Kayyem was on the transition team for President Elect Obama working side-by-side with members of President Bush’s administration to shift the control of government from the last day to the first. It was the first time the process had taken place in a post-9/11 world. In this episode of The SCIF Juliette discusses her experience and explains more of what this formal process entails.
Episode 101: Democracy in the Age of Cyber Security
Is Russia deliberately trying to impact the U.S. presidential election? What are the consequences of these cyber leaks for our democracy and our society, not just in the remaining days of this election, but beyond November 8th? Jonathan Zittrain, professor at the Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Engineering,and Applied Sciences, and author of ‘The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It,’ joins Juliette in this inaugural episode of The SCIF to discuss.