This Week in AML

National Security Implications of a Delayed Transition

This week, Executive Vice President John Byrne, and Creative Director Elliot Berman of the AML RightSource staff discuss the national security risks of delays in the presidential transition process. Their conversation looks at the risks that moments of disruption present to our country from foreign and domestic bad actors.


National Security Implications of a Delayed Transition Transcript

Elliot Berman: [00:00:00] Hi, John, how are you this week?

John Byrne: [00:00:03] Oh, good. Good morning. How are you doing?

Elliot Berman: [00:00:05] I'm okay. we've lost our late summer weather here in the Midwest and now it looks really like fall.

John Byrne: [00:00:11] It'll be snowing shortly.

Elliot Berman: [00:00:13] That's true, that's true. So there was an interesting, guest column in the Washington post yesterday by Andy Card and John Podesta - both of whom served as white house chiefs of staff, one under a Democrat and one under Republican..

They were focusing on the risk profile for national security during presidential transitions. And while we know that the current presidential transition is going in a little bit of a bumpy way compared to some others, we're not really focusing on the politics here, but more on this moment of disruption just in our normal flow of government. As I recall, the 9/11 commission report talked about the impact of several transitions on what became major terrorist events that I think you're familiar with those. Can you talk about that a little bit?

John Byrne: [00:01:08] Yeah. So there was a 30-day period where the transition didn't complete because of the recount in Florida, which this is totally different from this current situation. And I would suggest it's more than a bump in the road, but the 9/11 commission did say that loss of time, "hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees". And then to your other original thought here regarding transitional time, this is a time where you have to be careful about exploitation, of those that sort of relish uncertainty in the United States. So whether it's international issues or domestic issues, this is when we've seen examples in the past where, pretty dramatic acts have happened during transitional periods.

Elliot Berman: [00:01:56] Yes. And most of those have been by foreign actors, but there's another risk of, any kind of, operational disruption. And that is, domestically. The FBI has certainly been talking about domestic terrorism over the last several years and we've seen some, near misses, recently. So I think we've got, we have risks there too.

John Byrne: [00:02:21] We do. And two things I've mentioned - one is law enforcement will be engaged regardless. So that's always good to know federal state and local law enforcement are not dependent upon information sharing, but having spoken to a few of our, current and former law enforcement partners in the past two days, and during this stop in the transition or prevention of the transition, what they've told me is pretty interesting and practical, if you think about it. They say on the domestic front, this current administration has not given equal weight, to problems on what we would consider that the right wing, the militia groups, the groups that we've heard identified, the poor boys and some of the other groups, they focused almost entirely on the movement known as Antifa.

While there are issues to be addressed on both sides of the spectrum, the focus of this administration, it's only been on one side. So as you wait for this transition to occur, the fear is that an any intelligence, gathering that is currently being done, won't be shared and could potentially help prevent or at least help strengthen the, the guard rails against additional domestic attacks on the right. I think it's safe to say the next administration will focus on both sides of that problem. No matter what side politically you come from, if you are going to engage in domestic terrorism, there's going to be a response. So I think that's a pretty important, gap here, if you will, while we wait for this transition to occur.

Elliot Berman: [00:03:54] Yes there's no question about that. So we really have two significant fronts that both our national infrastructure and our local law enforcement infrastructure need to be paying attention to.

John Byrne: [00:04:08] Yeah, exactly - like I said, law enforcement will be there at the front lines like they've always been, but information sharing, especially of intelligence and security related information is pretty essential. So let's hope, by early next week at the earliest or at the latest frankly, there's a transition that's begun to occur.

Elliot Berman: [00:04:28] Interesting stuff - we want to thank all of you who listened to us for voting last a couple of weeks ago. That was very important. And, we'll move forward. and see how things unfold. Talk to you next week, John.

John Byrne: [00:04:38] Talk to you, Elliot. Take care of yourself.

Elliot Berman: [00:04:41] Bye bye.