SpyCast 4.23.24
Ep 630 | 4.23.24

“Navigating a Career in Counterterrorism as a Muslim – with Angie Gad”


Andrew Hammond: Welcome to SpyCast, the official podcast of the International Spy Museum. My name is Dr. Andrew Hammond, the museum's historian and curator. Each week, we explore some aspect of the past, present or future of intelligence and espionage. Please support the show for free, like 30 seconds, by leaving us a five-star review, and recommending the show to a friend. If you want to dig deeper into the content, you can find episode notes, full transcripts, and further resources at thecyberwire.com /podcasts/spycast. Coming up next on SpyCast.

Angie Gad: I think that's what drives me to "if." I love to understand why extremists do what they do. What leads them? What are the motivators and the driving force behind, you know, their actions and their thoughts and their radicalization? [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: Sometimes the most powerful way to learn about the world of intelligence is through the story of an individual. This week's podcast is based on the intelligence career thus far of Angie Gad. We also go onto some interesting places that don't include the more familiar three-letter agencies like CIA, NSA and DIA. Angie Gad is a dual American-Egyptian citizen, who was studying at the British University in Cairo when the Egyptian revolution of 2011 broke out. After grad school at NYU, she worked at the New Jersey Regional Operations and Intelligence Center, or more commonly, the New Jersey Fusion Center, a state-level clearinghouse for intelligence, developed in response to a 9/11 Commission report conclusion that there was a lack of intelligence sharing between state and federal agencies. She's taught intelligence too, and most recently set up her own company, GadIntel. In this week's episode, you'll learn about what Angie loves this line of work, some of the dangers of analyzing extremist organizations, counterterrorism and domestic terrorism analysis, life as a Muslim in the post-9/11 intelligence community, and much more besides. The original podcast on intelligence since 2006, we are SpyCast. Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. Well, I think the best place to start Angie, is just can you tell me how you got involved in the world of intelligence?

Angie Gad: Yes, so, it was actually kind of -- it wasn't planned. It was kind of by happenchance. Basically, I did three years of my undergraduate studies in Egypt. I--

Andrew Hammond: Wow.

Angie Gad: -moved back to the U.S. When I moved back, I had to kind of sort everything out, and one of the requirements to graduate was actually to complete an internship in the field of my study. And the field I was studying was political science. And so, I found this -- the New Jersey State Fusion Center was taking interns. And I specifically checked out intel. And I remember when I got the internship, when I was approved, Dean Faratahou [phonetic], we were just talking about, was talking to me. He's like, "You're the first person to ever select Intelligence. Everyone else wants to work with the New Jersey State Troopers." And I was like, "No, no, no. Intelligence sounds much more interesting to me." So, I kind of finished that internship, and it's very funny. So, my project was to work on an intelligence product or intelligence report during the extent of my internship. And having just moved back from Egypt, I was there during the Egyptian revolution. I protested. I took part. So, I thought, and so this was one year after the revolution, and I was like, "Okay, great. Like I'll write my product on the likelihood of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power and what that would look like for Egypt." Having spent so much time and studied there, I thought, "Okay, I can't get this one wrong." But, let me tell you, I got everything wrong. Every single analysis I made was 100% wrong. So, Dean was talking to me at the end of my internship and he's like, "So, what do you think? Like, do you want to do this professionally, long-term?" I was like, "Absolutely not." I didn't do it right.

Andrew Hammond: I'm not sure if I'm cut out for this?

Angie Gad: Exactly. So, I then went on to kind of do my graduate studies and as I was kind of getting close to completing it, Dean reached out and was like, "Hey, we're rebuilding the analysis bureau from scratch. I'd love for you to kind of come in and interview." And then, you know, I -- I got in and I got accepted and that's how I got started in intel and it's been over -- it's been over ten years now, and I still love it. So, yes.

Andrew Hammond: And was this the American University in Cairo that you were studying at?

Angie Gad: No, everyone asks that. I was actually at their competitor, which is the British University--

Andrew Hammond: Oh, okay.

Angie Gad: -which I'd like to say was a lot more academically rigorous because the British system is much harder than the American.

Andrew Hammond: That's what I've heard. That's the system I came through, so it's to my advantage that I keep pedaling that narrative.

Angie Gad: Right.

Andrew Hammond: So, you're Egyptian-American, is that correct?

Angie Gad: Egyptian-American, correct.

Andrew Hammond: Yes. And did -- were you born and raised in New Jersey? Is that how you ended up with New Jersey?

Angie Gad: Yes, exactly. So, I was born and raised in New Jersey. And then when I was 15, my dad just -- I was on the bus to school, and I remember my dad calling me. Like just started my sophomore year in high school. My dad was like, "I just bought a house, and we're moving to Cairo." And that was it.

Andrew Hammond: Wow. Okay.

Angie Gad: And it was very abrupt, but my dad didn't want my brother and I kind of going down, kind of the high school route in the United States. He was worried for so many cultural and religious reasons that we'd kind of get absorbed in the things that high school kids get involved with. And he decided to move us to Egypt where he felt, in a general sense, like society would kind of regulate, you know, like, "Hey, look, there's certain cultural, societal, and religious norms," that he didn't have to do all of the work at home of making sure that we were kind of staying up to date with like, "Okay, this is what you can and can't do and all that." So, it took me some time to adjust, but after a few months, I completely fell in love and I didn't want to come back to the U.S. So--.

Andrew Hammond: Really?

Angie Gad: Yes. Yes.

Andrew Hammond: Wow.

Angie Gad: Surprise.

Andrew Hammond: Wow. And both of your parents were -- they were born in Egypt?

Angie Gad: Correct, yes. Both my parents were born at Alexandria in Egypt. So, right on the Mediterranean. They immigrated to the United States right in the mid to late 80s.

Andrew Hammond: And it's funny hearing you talk about the concerns that your father had, because I have a two-year old daughter and I also have visions of her at a frat party doing a keg stand and things like that. So, I don't know. Maybe she's going to Cairo as well? Maybe you can hook me up?

Angie Gad: Yes, we -- I also have a two-year old daughter, and that's something we talk about. That like, "Should we send her to the Middle East?" I don't know.

Andrew Hammond: Well, there you go. Our daughters can go to the same school.

Angie Gad: Absolutely.

Andrew Hammond: So, you grew up the whole time in the states. You speak Arabic or you learned Arabic growing up?

Angie Gad: So, I -- so, Arabic, I didn't know English growing up because I'm the oldest and my parents didn't know English. They had me less than a year after they moved to the United States. They didn't really know English well, so I had to spend a couple years in school learning English once I started. And then I kind of became fluent in both, but what happened was my mom was so strict with us at home, once I was fluent in English, she prevented us from speaking English at home, only to strengthen our Arabic. So, I was -- and then we would finish our regular homework from school, and then we'd get into Arabic reading and writing. And then we'd get into Quran memorization. So, going to Egypt, I was already fluent, but then when I went there, I just picked up all the bad words. I mean, you know, the--

Andrew Hammond: The swear words.

Angie Gad: -street lingo. Exactly. But and also to answer your early question, I was born and raised in the U.S. and then moved there when I was 15. So, I lived there from 2005 to 2011, to just a few months after the revolution. And I still go back once a year. My parents spend half the year in Egypt, half the year here.

Andrew Hammond: I'm sure some of our listeners are thinking, normally on the show we have CIA, MI6 and so forth, but can you just tell them a little bit more about the New Jersey Analysis Bureau? Is this in the governor's office? What does it do? And those types of questions?

Angie Gad: Yes, absolutely. So, we were -- it was the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It was, yes, kind of our primary customer was the governor of New Jersey. Secondary customer is obviously the residents of New Jersey, the public. I might not explain this the best way, but we were kind of like an arm of the Fusion Center. We were housed separately from the Fusion Center. We had our own office, but kind of fell under that in one way or another. We -- when Dean kind of -- or Dean came into kind of rebuild the bureau, the Analysis Bureau, we're kind of -- the way I kind of like to explain it is that we were kind of like a small start-up, a start-up bureau in kind of the larger bureaucratic government machine. We had a lot of autonomy to kind of explore and figure things out the best way we could. And we were a small intelligence shop, state intelligence shop, working at the same level and competing with Federal IC. In my very biased opinion, I think we did an excellent job, and you can talk to Dean and others as well. We did -- amazingly worked side by side with FBI and JTTF and NCTC and all of the federal IC, not all, but a lot of the federal IC organizations. And I -- I don't know, I thought we did an excellent job.

Andrew Hammond: Just for people around the world who listen to the show, so, you know, some of them, their only knowledge of New Jersey may be the back in the day, Bon Jovi album or something like that. So, I mean, just to put it in context, after 9/11, New Jersey and New York are inextricably linked, especially in terms of Homeland Security, the Port Authority, the waterways, the airways, and everything. So, this is one of the reasons why New Jersey was beefing up Homeland Security after 9/11, because that was you know, it was technically in New York state, but New Jersey was affected as well.

Angie Gad: Yes. There's -- I mean, there was a lot of activity in New Jersey. There are -- there is a lot of overlap, and like you said, kind of shared state and local responsibilities that kind of overlap between the two states, because we share so many borders and waterways. I'll give you an example with one kind of act of terrorism investigation that we got to work on. I remember very well, it was September of 2016. It was [foreign name]. He was a New Jersey resident, and he planted -- so, I kind of was set up to go and work at the command center when this took place. And he was a New Jersey resident. Set up a bomb at a marine 5K run. And then you know, a day later, we heard that there was someone who placed a pressure cooker bomb in Chelsea, in New York City. Quickly, we realized it's the same person, so we had to work with New York, obviously, to go through the surveillance, go through the information and kind of identify this individual, or find out who this individual is, identified their social media and then -- and he kind of went back to New Jersey and planted something else there. So, it was kind of a multi-state failed attack, thankfully. And we -- he eventually was arrested in New Jersey. So, that was kind of an example of having to work together across state lines.

Andrew Hammond: And what year was that again, Angie?

Angie Gad: September of 2016.

Andrew Hammond: 2016. Yes, okay, that's right, because I remember that I was -- I lived in New York at the time. I remember like, it happening. Do you know, does every state have an intelligence analysis unit, or is this -- it depends on the state? It's a post-9/11 organically grown thing where it's not been there for a long time, so there's no systemization?

Angie Gad: So, after 9/11, what ended up happening was, every state in the country set up their own fusion center. So, some states, depending on size and population, have more than one fusion center. I believe California has more than one. I don't know if it's two or three. New Jersey has one. D.C. has, I believe one. So, each state -- New York has one. So, and there's like certain federal funding that these fusion centers get. And that was kind of -- so essentially, the fusion centers meant to address one of the issues or address one of the problems that was highlighted in the 9/11 Commission Report which was information sharing. And that was really the point of like getting, basically each fusion center has a federal, state and local representation, whether it's from a federal organization or local law enforcement. And basically so, like the fusion center in New Jersey, for instance, has FBI, had local state troopers, had DHS, but basically everyone will come together and share all the information that they had, so that we were not -- there were no like information silos like what happened prior to 9/11 and eventually led to a lack of information sharing between different agencies. So, yes, every state agency has them now. Whether or not they're effective or as -- or have kind of fulfilled their mission, I think is a state-by-state case that you have to kind of go through and see whether or not they have been able to succeed in fulfilling that mission.

Andrew Hammond: Talking about you joining -- going into the intelligence community as well, I've read that you said that you didn't really -- there was nobody that looked like you, nobody from your community to look up to in this field. Can you talk a little bit more about that experience, please?

Angie Gad: Yes, absolutely. So, when I started in this industry, especially when I joined -- I had a private sector job before this, but when I started in the government, this was a completely different ballgame for me, from a personal angle and then also from a professional angle. Personally, I faced a lot of pushback and criticism from my family and my community for -- this was 2014, or 2000 and -- early 2015, January 2015 when I officially started. So, it was definitely a significant amount of time after 9/11, but still not enough where the Muslim or Arab community felt in any way that the government was on our side. And kind of after everything that the community had faced in the aftermath of 9/11 and the backlash that we faced in terms of anti-Muslim attacks or anti-Muslim hate and rhetoric. So, I had to kind of immediately go into this kind of campaign with my family and my community just to be like, "This is why I'm doing what I'm doing, and I'd rather have someone who understands our culture and our religion represent us internally, versus someone else, and also help kind of educate folks on whatever -- debunk any myths that they may have or kind of enlighten them on things that maybe they're -- has been misinformation or they've been misinformed on for -- since the attacks happened. And so, that was one fight that I had to fight. And that was very hard and personally between my family, I mean I -- I think people in general in my community and my family think, "Oh, she works in counterterrorism. That means she's targeting people and putting people on the list," which is not what I was doing. And I think I had my own kind of ethical reservations with any targeting job. Now, within the government, I was the only one who was a young, Muslim female in my bureau. I knew I had heard of like one or two others in different agencies in like the Federal IC, and someone had put me in touch with them, but I didn't have anyone really with me in person. I didn't have that kind of interaction. I didn't have a role model. I kind of had to blaze my own trail. And that was hard because I put a lot of pressure on myself for -- there's people who I'm the first, especially -- even New Jersey, which is a very diverse state. I am the first Muslim that they've ever interacted with or -- well, interacted with maybe sometimes from a noncriminal angle, or the first kind of Muslim friend or Arab friend that they've had. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the model Muslim Arab American. I was like, "I cannot make any mistakes, and I have to make sure I'm representing my community and my faith positively." And so that pressure, plus the personal side, I wish -- it was just a lot on me as a young analyst. And Dean, who was my boss at the time, was very helpful in helping me navigate those two things, and kind of alleviating pressure where he could as a manager. But yes, it was very challenging, and I did face some prejudice, you know, in subtle statements here and there. Microaggressions. And I'll admit that there were a lot of times where I didn't know how to handle it, and there were times where once I figured it out, I think I did a great job. But it did take, I think, a toll on me. And I look back, and I'm like, "I didn't really need to put that much pressure on myself," but I didn't know what else to do. So, and now I'm kind of seeing a lot of young brown professionals, you know, brown professionals who are reaching out and they're like, "Hey, I really want to do this, too," or "I'm in this too, but I'm the only one. Like, can you tell me -- let's talk." And I've had so many conversations with young women in the field, either wanting to embark in -- like on it -- you know, their journey in intelligence, or are already in it and they just don't have an ally, or they don't have the one they can talk to with the same background or experiences. And I was like, "I have an open-door policy." They've reached out, I talk to them, and now I kind of just help talk them through what I -- how I've navigated through this. And what to look out for, what to avoid, how to kind of handle certain situations, and all that stuff. So, and it's been very nice to do that for someone else, because I didn't have that -- I didn't have anyone to do that for me.

Andrew Hammond: Well, that's quite a powerful argument that you -- that you used both your family, like we want someone from our community on the inside--

Angie Gad: Yes.

Andrew Hammond: -helping to look after us and address these problems and--

Angie Gad: Yes.

Andrew Hammond: -and ward off cultural biases and so forth. So, did that work? I'm assuming it took some time, or are you still like not invited to sit in on Thanksgiving dinners, or--?

Angie Gad: No. So, it did take time. And what I'll tell you is, it's funny. So, my mom -- my dad always gave me a hard time for being in this job. He always wanted me to go, you know, the very traditional Arab father, "You should be a doctor or a dentist or a pharmacist or engineer, or something," right? And I just didn't fit that mold. It's not what I wanted to do. And he gave me such a hard time for it. And lots of pushback. He's like, "You should leave this job. You should do something else, etcetera." Every -- almost every day, I had to deal with like phone calls. Talk to him, talk him through it, and talk him off a ledge. But what I found out was a year into my job at the government, my mom told me, she's like, "You know your dad is so proud of you?" I was like, "What?" I was like, "We fight every day about this job." She's like, "He has your business card that says that you work for the government, and he hands it out to all of his friends. And he brags about you and the work that you're doing." And I was like, "Well, why didn't he just tell me this?" So, he, yes, he warmed up, but just never admitted. A very typical Arab father thing to do. But he was very proud, and he is still very proud. I think he just -- it took him time to admit it. So, yes.

Andrew Hammond: Dads can be so weird.

Angie Gad: Yes. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: To help you digest this episode, here's a short primer on the 2011 Egyptian revolution. In 2011, Egypt had been ruled by Hosni Mubarak for 30 years, and his presidency had been characterized by poverty, corruption, cronyism, repression, and rigged elections. During this entire time, the country had been in a perpetual state of emergency. Mubarak was a career military officer who rose to prominence during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. He was Commander of the Air Force when he was made Vice President by President Anwar Sadat in 1975. He was still the Vice President when Sadat was assassinated by Islamists in the military in 1981. They were angry at Sadat for signing the Camp David Accords in 1978, which had brought peace to the tumultuous Egyptian-Israeli relationship. Mubarak was slightly injured in the attack, and succeeded Sadat to become the fourth president of modern Egypt. He stepped down in February 2011 after 18 days of protests across the country, including an estimated four million people in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The Egyptian revolution is known for the prominent role that Twitter, now X, played facilitating organization and the cascading of information. [ Music ] [ Music ] So, I'm -- I think this is an interesting follow-on question. So, personal identity in intelligence analysis, how much of a role does it play? Does it play no role or some role?

Angie Gad: This is interesting that you asked this because I spent most of my career working on identifying my biases, checking my biases, and then making sure I'm teaching the next generation of analysts how to identify and check their biases in the work that they do, because objectivity as an analyst is paramount to our reputation. And I remember early on, I think in the first few months of me joining the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, we were doing like a country assessment. You know, ranking the safety of certain third world countries, and assessing them and kind of giving them like a numerical assignment. And we came Egypt. And the ranking was so high. I think it was like 8.6 out of 10. And I lost it. I was like, "What is this? I mean, I lived there for so and so years, and I went to school every day and I did this and that, and I was safe. There wasn't--." And they're like, "Yes, Angie but I was like." "Well, did you live there? Like please tell me your on the ground experience and I'll -- you know, we can have a discussion." But I got very heated. And they're like, "Right, but in the sun." I was like, "Yes, but most people don't live in the sun. They live in here." And I kind of went on and on, and I remember storming out. So, I remember them having a follow-up conversation with Dean, and I was like, "I," you know, we kind of talked through it and identified, like, "Hey, this is a strong bias recently. You feel very strongly and passionate about -- it doesn't mean that it's not a good place. We're just assessing the security." And we kind of had this conversation. And then, after that, I realized because I was covering ISIS, and this was 2015, so this was peak ISIS time. And I was seeing kind of day in and day out, how they were distorting my religion. The acts that they were committing and then the resurgence of anti-Muslim hate and rhetoric in the United States. And I felt -- I just felt like the walls were closing in on me. It was so hard, and I just -- I think that made me persevere even more in making sure that, "Hey, I need to counter this. I need to make sure that Muslims are seen positively. And I'm able to kind of counter that -- the narrative that ISIS is putting out." So, this is where the personal identity element kind of plays a huge role where I have to make sure that I -- once I was able to figure out like where my biases were creeping in, I'm like, "Okay, I now need to check them, and then I need to have a peer review, and then I need to have my boss review," and we already had a review system in place. I didn't create this. But there were times where I was put on something. I'm like, "I am way too biased to even write this, but I'm happy to be a secondary author, and help fill that person in on -- and update them on the history of this conflict for instance. It does play a huge role. We're not just robots crunching numbers. We are not AI yet. It was just -- just us, kind of doing this. And there were other times where I was also covering militia and far extremist groups. And sometimes they target -- there as a time where the militia groups were kind of targeting -- I don't know if you remember this one man named John Ritzviewer [phonetic], was kind of targeting the Muslim community in the United States for a while. He's pushing out signs of hate. And that was also where like I would get very defensive. It's like, "Why is he doing a Draw Muhammad Contest? Why is he doing this? It's very provoking to the community. It's very upsetting to us." But I have to check that and look at it objectively. Did he violate any laws? Is he kind of committing an act of -- right? I mean, you have to have your list in front of you and be like, "Does it check off these boxes?" If yes, then yes this person is kind of categorized as committing an act of terror or a plot or whatever. If no, then no. Right? You can't -- you can't change that, and that's kind of just the facts. So, identifying your -- knowing that you know, you're still going to have to have that personal identity, but you check -- basically, bottom line is, your check that at the door once you walk into work every day. Physical door, because now we're remote, but you check that at the door, and you can't let that seep in. And if you do, you're compromising your reputation as an analyst, and your organization's reputation. So.

Andrew Hammond: When you think about it, given your background and then the types of things that you are analyzing and the way that you had to deal with your own subjectivity and personal identity and so forth, that's a really kind of powerful case study of identity and intelligence analysis.

Angie Gad: Yes, it was -- it was hard to navigate but I think, you know, we still navigate it now, but definitely much easier than in the beginning.

Andrew Hammond: So, one question which I think is quite interesting. So, being a Muslim and an Arab American, so I'm sure that your coworkers that had particular perceptions of what that meant, or of the Middle East, so did you find yourself responsible for cantering worldwide disinformation but also disinformation on some people that maybe worked alongside you, or that you had to interact with?

Angie Gad: Yes. I mean this was a -- I don't want to say daily, but it was pretty often, almost every other day. I mean I -- some people would come up to me and be like, "Well, why aren't you wearing the hijab? I thought you were forced to wear it." I was like, "No, no." And then I kind of explain, or they would ask -- I mean, it was actually really fun -- it's not funny, but it was ridiculous to be asked that was asked, but I tried to answer with grace. And one coworker, I will never, ever, ever forget. He's passed now. He was much older. We formed a very unlikely friendship. Very polar opposite. I mean, I was young, brown woman, and he was an old, white, military vet. And he was in a different bureau, but we didn't sit too far away from each other. We were very small, open. And we got some kind of joint assignments a couple times. So, we got to work together on a couple things. And we had a couple of like long car rides to D.C. together. And he would just -- would spend these car rides, he'd just ask -- he was a very devout Christian. I'm a devout Muslim. Me and him would drive down to D.C. and he'd be like, "Well, why do you hate Jesus?" And I was like, "No, we love Jesus." And then I'd explain everything to him. And then he'd be like, "Oh, that sounds like us." I was like, "Yes, there's a lot of overlap between our faith -- our faiths." And then that was something that -- that relationship is something I will always cherish because I didn't see it at the time, but other coworkers would come to me and be like, "You really changed his view on Muslims or on Arabs because you're the first one that he's really befriended, and you felt kind of answer all his questions with a very calm demeanor, and we've never seen him this open about kind of this topic before." And I don't think he -- he's not a bad person. He wasn't you know, racist or prejudice or anything. I think he just didn't know, and he didn't have anyone to really go to to ask these questions. And yes. So, I think even a lot of -- Dean would come to me. He's like, "If you've achieved nothing, you've been able to convince at least this one person who I think you've made a huge impact on." And I think as hard as that was, like you said, the weight of the world on my shoulders, as hard as it was to kind of field questions from left and right from different people, the one I enjoyed the most was developing and fostering that friendship with that one coworker. And yes, so I think -- I think it was -- that was definitely worth it.

Andrew Hammond: It's pretty amazing what you human beings can do if they just sat down and actively listen and talk to each other, right?

Angie Gad: Yes.

Andrew Hammond: During your time at -- and then afterwards, how has the threat landscape evolved? So, the rise and fall of ISIS, that was quite an interesting time to be there. Yes, help us understand the world out there as Angie Gad sees it.

Angie Gad: Yes, so I -- I'll do my best. Once I left the government, it was late 2017. And then once I kind of jumped back into kind of an active CT, as counter terrorism position, I decided to fully pursue far right and anti-government extremists. And this was back in 20 -- I had already been covering them the whole time I was covering ISIS in 2015 to 2017. And then, 2019 onwards, I switched to far-right. And the far-right threat had always existed. The anti-government far-right had always existed. It's just ISIS and that group's -- the declaration of the caliphate and all the attacks, the subsequent attacks in the years to follow, really set the world -- it shocked everyone. And everyone just kind of focused their efforts there. And I think one of the best things that we were tasked with when I was in the government was having two main portfolios. It was domestic and international, so that we weren't just experts on one thing. That we had something else to also focus on. And while everyone was focused on ISIS, I still had my domestic portfolio. And when we go into 2019, you kind of -- I picked that back up again and really delved in so much deeper than I ever had. And I realized it's always been a [inaudible 00:31:52]. And there's so many parallels I can draw between the far-right and groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. But that was always a threat, and then we started seeing an increase in attacks from the far-right. We have people come up to us and ask, you know, "Is this an emergent threat or you know, how did this happen? Did this--?" And I'm like, "Let's go back to Timothy McVay. Like, this has been going on for a very long time. We just haven't really addressed it properly in the country." And I think that the -- that was one huge oversight and I think it was -- in my personal opinion, I think it was kind of like a tribal mentality, where it's like the other is, you know, let's focus on the other versus kind of internally and domestically. And a lot of government agencies were not focusing on the domestic threat, or were not allowed to look at the domestic threat for, you know, it didn't for legal issues and maybe sometimes you know, it just didn't fit the terrorism bill or the requirements for terrorism that they wanted, even though by definition they did meet that requirement. The threat I think I see now is either how individuals or these groups are using or employing mis and dis info for their purposes, or any nefarious actor. They don't have to be a terrorist. Any nefarious actor who is able to disseminate mis and dis info at a large scale. I think we were already prior to kind of the amount of mis and dis info that's out there, there are the widespread dissemination of mis and dis info. Prior to that, we were already dealing with so much data and information that we collect that no human will ever be able to process and sort through all of it. Now, add on top of it, like the mis and dis info aspect. And I think that that's so hard. So, whether you're looking at mis and dis info from financial crime, or you're looking at it from you know, putting out or like I worked on deep fakes for some time as well. I think the deep fakes and the mis and -- all that stuff, I think that's where it'll make -- it may not be like a threat to your physical life. What I think the issue here or the big threat is here is that it's harder for analysts and harder for people to discern and distinguish between what's real and what's fake. And that takes up more time for me. So, I will go through and I'm like, I have to, like how -- and then there's -- I mean, obviously there's tools and ways and analytical trade crafts -- intelligence trade craft that you can use to kind of identify these things, but it's so widespread and it's just, I think it's becoming bigger. Now, this is well aside from physical acts of violence and cyber threats and then kind of the big push for AI, and then also identifying the mistakes and flaws that AI's pushing out in lieu of human intellects as well.

Andrew Hammond: That would be interesting, Angie, if you don't mind. What are some of the overlaps and parallels between the far right and groups like ISIS?

Angie Gad: So, when I look at just like ISIS or al-Qaeda, their reference, their main text is the Quran. And then when I look at the militia groups, far-right militia groups, their main text is the U.S. Constitution and how they interpret it. And each group, so ISIS and al-Qaeda are like, "Hey, I have the best interpretation. My interpretation of the Quran is the right one. And I need to behead people to do that." And then you have militia groups are like, "This is my interpretation of the Constitution, and you're doing this all wrong. And I'm going to commit acts of violence to kind of get my point across, or to show you that this is the right interpretation, what have you." And I think at a very fundamental baseline level, this is kind of how I fill in those parallels, where each one will use the excuse of this text and their interpretation to be like, "This is the right interpretation and this is why I'm justified in conducting acts of violence to fulfill what I think is the right way to live under this Constitution or under the Quaran." Does that make sense?

Andrew Hammond: It totally does.

Angie Gad: Yes, it's -- so, a couple things. It's funny. So, the Quran and the U.S. Constitution were meant to be living documents that kind of are not set in a historical time but are meant to kind of be updated or amended and adjusted to current time. That was always and has always been the intent of the Quran, and I believe the same for the U.S. Constitution. What's interesting and very funny, to continue the conversation about the overlap between far-right and ISIS and al-Qaeda and violent extremists on that end of the spectrum, for the neo-Nazis specifically and white supremists, what I started to see, and I wrote -- I remember writing an intel report on this a couple years ago was far right extremists and neo-Nazis using ISIS texts and literature, translated ISIS texts and literature, and using their tactics and justification, and disseminating that to their followers. I was in a lot of kind of different neo-Nazi group chats, and I would see them disseminating ISIS text. And they like, "Look, ISIS has these tactics, 1, 2, 3. We should copy and emulate that." And I had a very smart coworker who, I won't claim that this is my original work, but he called it the horseshoe, where the horseshoe almost becomes almost fully back as a circle, because you become so extreme on either end that you're almost meeting at the end. And that I thought was a perfect way to capture it because you're seeing so far [inaudible 00:37:26]. And then we saw crazy far right extremists or neo-Nazis then convert to Islam. And it was just -- I mean, it was just crazy. So, yes, it was just wild what we saw. [ Music ]

Andrew Hammond: Egyptian history and culture are very old. Okay, cool. I think we know that. One of my favorite tricks as a historian to underline a point such as this, that Egyptian history and culture are indeed very old, is to place it within the context of your own life using an example. The did-you-know formulation is a great way to do this. For example, did you know that Cleopatra is closer to us, you, me and everyone else listening to this podcast in 2024, than she is to the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx at Giza? Now, that is pretty incredible, right? Cleopatra seems forever away from us, but she was Queen of Egypt from 51 to 30 BC, which places even the very first year of her reign a mere 2,074 years ago. Let us use the midpoint of her reign as queen, 40 BC. That was 2063 years ago. But the Great Sphinx and the Great Pyramid date back to the 4th Dynasty, the so-called Golden Age of Old Egypt. And these were built around 2,500 BC. That means that they were around for 2,460 years before the midpoint of Cleopatra's reign. From our present historical vantage point in 2024, we will need to wait another 397 years to reach that 2,460 year point. That will be the year 2421. In other words, it will be your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandkids who can say that Cleopatra is as far away from them in historical time as she was from the Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx. That's 14 generations. Now, you get a sense of just how old Egyptian history and culture is. Right? [ Music ] And this would actually be quite interesting. Did that have any kind of toll on you, of sitting -- working through neo-Nazi extremist websites or ISIS websites, and extremism online? You know, you hear some people talk about secondary trauma. What was that like for you?

Angie Gad: No, it was very, very hard. I had to go to therapy. When I was in the government, I think I had someone kind of come to me and like, "You should consider therapy." It was impacting me so, so much. I spent all day looking at ISIS content and beheadings and images and gore. And then I would go home and immerse myself even more on Twitter and read stuff from experts. And then I would watch an ISIS documentary. And I was like -- my life, just there was no breaks in it because I was so passionate about it. I didn't give myself a mental health break until I think it kind of broke me, and I went to a therapist. And years later when I joined -- I joined a private intel firm, and I continued -- when I continued working on the far-right stuff. And we had a designated mindfulness training once a month that we had to attend that was already paid for. I didn't have to do anything out of pocket, but that was because of the -- how dark the content was. And I, having done ISIS content and having done neo-Nazi and far extremist contest, I think when we don't do -- when I don't look at ISIS videos, the far-right content was worse for me, because the level of visceral hatred and the content and the stuff that they were saying was so -- it's almost crazy to say that it was more extreme to me than ISIS because everyone sees ISIS stuff like the most extreme. And the fringe of the fringe. But the neo-Nazi stuff was very dark. And that definitely takes a toll on you. I think I got to a point now, like even my husband sometimes wants to watch something about like Syria and like what's happen -- I'm like, "No, I can't." I said, "I can't see it anymore." Like, and it's just so hard for me to -- I still obviously read and stay up to date on these things, but I can't see visual content anymore because it just -- that triggers me. I love talking about this because I've had to deal with analysts who've reported to me who don't know how to handle this, and I like to use my experience to help them with their mental health journey or set them up for success in that way, if I can. Yes.

Andrew Hammond: And that's one of the things that we try to do with the podcast. We try to allow people's personal stories to inform the conversation and drive I guess, some kind of hopeful change. Could you just give us, if you don't mind, could you give us an example? You said that some of it's just so grotesque and the hatred is just so evident that it's disturbing.

Angie Gad: So, with ISIS for instance, it was like -- everything was very regulated in what they put out. And it was like, "Well, we're going to behead or kill this person and do a public beheading because they stole something from a store." Okay? And it was all very -- I don't know if you remember, if you saw any of this stuff, but ISIS propaganda is very -- at the time, it was just kind of top of the game. Like they -- it was very well done. It was released in a timely manner. It was heavily kind of reviewed and edited.

Andrew Hammond: There's lots of scripture and footnoting the reference and stuff, right?

Angie Gad: Precisely. It was just very highly -- it was very highly produced, whether the videos or the written content that they'd release. With the neo-Nazi stuff, I was deep into some very dark neo-Nazi chats and forums. And the way that they would describe the things that they would want to do to Muslims or Jews or Black people, was very explicit and very -- it was too detailed. So, how they referred to Muslim, Jews, and Blacks, and how they would describe the crimes and the things that they would do to them. So, they would reference things similar to like gas chambers. They would describe things similar to lynching. They would describe you know, and I'm being very polite in what I'm saying right now because you know, for the purpose of the podcast, but the level of visceral hate and the words that they chose to -- I just couldn't -- I think for me it was just hard to even believe that people had -- even having done what I've done for so long, that people had this level of hatred, and some of them were like 16 years old. Like, how have you developed this much hate and you're so young? And I think that's what really just -- it broke me, because I was like, I didn't know where this was coming from. And I think that's what drives me as an analyst because I'd love to understand why extremists do what they do? What leads them? What are the motivators and the driving force behind, you know, their actions and their thoughts and their radicalization? And I was like, "What happened to you at 16 years old that this is how you're describing what you would do to a minority?" And, yes.

Andrew Hammond: And just flipping over to or speaking a little bit more about misinformation and disinformation. So, can you just tell us a little bit more about your experience with that? Is that something that you moved onto, or is that something that you are always doing, but just in lesser or greater quantities, depending on the position?

Angie Gad: So, that's a great question. I think there's always been a level of mis and dis info underlining all of the work I've done, whether it's stuff that ISIS would put out and it'll be like, "Oh, well, XX did this or the reason we decided to behead this person is because they didn't X like--," that can be almost -- a lot of times it's stuff that's actually not true, or it was -- it was like for propaganda reasons. Same thing with far right and looking at the content that they would put out, they would say, "Well," you know, they would also kind of put out content that just truly and simply was not true. It was 100% fabricated. Things like 9/11 truthers. You have 9/11 truthers on both sides. So, with among Muslim extremists, you have them among the far-right community as well. Like this was a ploy so that the Jewish world order or you know, just can take over into X or 4,000 Jewish people didn't go into work in the World Trade Center before 9/11. I mean, this is always kind of -- there's always a layer of mis and dis info in the work that we're doing. I mean, you sift through that. And identify what's right and what's wrong. And kind of what's true and what's not true. Yes, so that's always kind of existed. I think that just -- that volume of stuff just increased tremendously in the last few years. And then, I ended up most recently kind of working for a mis and dis info company, and kind of looking at mis and dis info from all angles, and not just the extremist side, but even more kind of like -- mundane things like financial stuff or banks or things that impact the tech companies or whatever, like brand reputation.

Andrew Hammond: Give me an understanding of the trajectory of your career after you left New Jersey Analys Bureau. So, that's 2015 to '17, and then did you say that you went into the private sector and then you went back to the government? Help us just understand how we got to where you are now and tell us what you're doing now.

Angie Gad: Yes, yes absolutely. So, I -- after I left the government, I actually just ended up teaching full time at a university as a professor or instructor, and I took my passion for -- it was training other analysts when I was in New Jersey and other detectives who maybe weren't as good at writing concisely or delivery government briefings to senior government officials. Took a lot of extra reading in my real-world experience and built out several courses in intelligence, social security, [inaudible 00:48:21], and then just basic kind of intellect, like how to write as an analyst. How to think critically? All the kind of basics that you need to be a successful intelligence analyst. So, I did that for a little bit, and then moved back to New York and worked at a private intel company, which just essentially serves as a vendor for multiple clients. So, I got to do counterterrorism work still which was excellent for government clients and otherwise, and for private tech firms. And then kind of general things like general threat assessments for clients as it relates to banks like the financial sector. And the spent a little bit over three years there while kind of also teaching at a university on the side, and then most recently was at a -- that private like tech startup, miss and dis info startup and got the kind of lead and run my own intelligence shop, train analysts, and intel, and again, love doing that. And then more recently, I've been kind of doing like independent consulting route, having different clients and kind of providing them with different services in that -- in kind of the intel, general intelligence space. And hopefully in the spring, I'll be teaching in a grad course at NYU on intelligence as well.

Andrew Hammond: What's the course called that you're teaching at NYU?

Angie Gad: It's called "Analyzing Intelligence Foundational Skills." What's funny is it's a full circle moment here. It's the state and graduate program that I graduated from almost ten years go--

Andrew Hammond: Oh, really?

Angie Gad: -at NYU, so I'm going back now as faculty. So, it's pretty cool.

Andrew Hammond: Wow. And do you have any words of advice or wisdom for anyone out there wanting to get into this field, especially people you said that you liked when you were coming up? So, people that are looking to you and they're like, "I'm from a similar background to Angie," or "She's somebody whose career I would like to follow or replicate." What words of wisdom do you have for them, if any?

Angie Gad: I've tried so hard to get -- to make sure that there's more diversity in the field, and I think if you are thinking about doing it, you've nothing to lose by trying it. I think it's an incredibly amazing field. I think if you're naturally inquisitive, if you're a critical thinker, I think this is the field for you. I think a lot of people think that, "I need to be an expert on far-right," or "I need to be an expert on jihadists to do this." And, no. If you have critical thinking skills and you have at least basic writing skills, we can teach you everything else. And it's just such a fascinating field and I think we really need top talent, and we need a diverse workforce, I think. So, I'm very much an advocate for increased diversity in this field.

Andrew Hammond: Well, I very much appreciate speaking to you, and the next time you're in Washington, please let Erin and I know and come and visit us. [ Music ] Thanks for listening to this episode of SpyCast. Please follow us wherever you get your podcasts. If you have feedback, you can reach us by email at spycast@spymuseum.org or on Twitter at @intlspycast. I'm your host, Andrew Hammond, and my podcast content partner is Erin Dietrick. The rest of the team involved in the show is Mike Mincey, Memphis Vaughn III, Emily Coletta, Emily Rens, Afua Anokwa, Ariel Samuel, Elliott Peltzman, Tre Hester, and Jen Eiben. This show's brought to you from the home of the world's preeminent collection of intelligence and espionage related artifacts, the International Spy Museum. [ Music ]