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04 October 2007

Filling those iPods, intelligence edition

The quest for a continual supply of good podcasts on topics relevant to the intelligence studies field is one of the markers of a truly engaged Beltway professional – and particularly notable in those who must spend a good deal of their lives trapped in traffic. (We can’t all be lucky enough to be handed our lectures in neat, pre-packaged form – but luckily enough, we don’t have to be.)

We have been fortunate enough to enjoy a recent flood of some of the more interesting sources of community relevant material. Many of the think tanks and academic environments are realizing the benefits to their reputation (and increased audience) by making available the archived recordings of their events – particularly involving prominent speakers. The podcast form, long believed to be re-inventing the otherwise dying art of the radio broadcast, is also starting to drive the revival of managed productions for specific commercial purposes. Many of these happen to cover items of interest to us as well.

Among the better sources of good podcasts for the busy young IC professional:

  • Office of Force Transformation / Johns Hopkins University Seminar Series – This is an innovative speaker series involving both DOD and the academic side of the house that has been running for a number of years now, in which serious SME’s discuss the future of warfare and the soft instruments of national power. The 2007 series just wrapped up, but archives are available of the many hours of previous years’ lectures, and funding for 2008 has been confirmed.
  • Council on Foreign Relations podcasts – The well known think tank not only offers recordings of its well respected events, but features in particular a series of short interviews and discussions with some very notable figures within the community: including DNI McConnell and DCI Hayden. Topics for other speakers range from diplomatic history to a wide range of current social, political, and strategic issues.
  • Stratfor – We have long held mixed opinions regarding the first firm to brand itself a “private CIA”. It is however one of the few shops willing to broadcast its analysis briefings in the form of podcasts open to all, and sometimes they are worth listening to. If nothing else, they are also an excellent case study in alternative dissemination for intelligence products – not to mention a fascinating example of the ongoing response by the market to the privatization of intelligence itself. Depending on how and when one accesses the site, registration may be required - but this seems to change quite frequently, especially for those using popular RSS readers and third party content aggregation services.
  • Pritzker Military Library podcasts – An excellent audio series which features presentations by prominent authors and historians, as well as oral histories recounted by Medal of Honor recipients. For those too busy to read as much as one might otherwise prefer, it is also an excellent way of keep abreast of the growing literature through the author’s own gisting and summaries, which can serve as an excellent filtering mechanism by which one can identify the truly interesting and high value works for the “must read” list.
  • Competitive Intelligence Podcast – A very much amateur production aimed at those in the commercial and business worlds, but nonetheless of potential interest to a broader audience of intelligence professionals. We have noted its evolving sophistication over recent episodes and hope to see it flourish in the future.

These should help keep the inevitable frustrations of traffic in the greater DC metro area at bay for quite a few hours. Now, if only more academic intelligence studies institutions would start their own podcast series….

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