Richard Clarke | Warnings, Cassandras, and Catastrophes (Episode 645)

Richard Clarke (@ghsrm) is the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism for the United States, and is the co-author of Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes.

“When you’re a bureaucrat — an unelected official — it’s not a popularity contest. You don’t have to be popular; you just have to get the job done.” -Richard Clarke

The Cheat Sheet:

  • What is the Cassandra Coefficient?
  • Discover how to use the Cassandra Coefficient to filter signal from noise when it comes to warnings.
  • Understand how to spot our own cognitive biases and what we can do to diminish their effect on our decisions.
  • Learn to persuade people to see things from our perspective and motivate them to take action.
  • Find out what someone at the top levels of government does when their personal politics don’t agree with those of the current administration.
  • And so much more…

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Predicting the future is a tough job, but getting colleagues to agree on what to do about protecting that future is doubly so. Just ask Richard Clarke, who, as National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, warned us about the inevitability of September 11th — and bin Laden’s likely involvement — when nobody would listen.

If you’re wondering how he could have possibly predicted such a tragedy, Richard joins us to talk about the book he recently co-authored, Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

With the highly polarizing political climate we’re experiencing in the United States today, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone who can hold a job in the President’s inner circle for the duration of one administration — but we tracked down someone who served through four!

Richard Clarke, co-author of Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes, worked for the State Department under Ronald Reagan, was appointed as chair of the Counter-Terrorism Security Group and given a seat on the United States National Security Council by George H.W. Bush, was promoted by Bill Clinton to National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-Terrorism and Chief Counter-Terrorism Adviser on the National Security Council, and continued serving through most of George W. Bush’s first term with the additional responsibility of Special Advisor to the President on Cybersecurity.

He’s also the guy who tried to warn us of the likelihood of a major terrorist event before September 11th, 2001. And even though he was among the most experienced staff serving the White House at the time, it was difficult for him to get the administration to take his foresight seriously.

“At the beginning of June [2001], I asked to be relieved,” says Richard. “They were shocked by that…they said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘Well, you guys don’t understand this issue. You’re not paying enough attention to it. But something bad is going to happen and I don’t want to be the guy on duty when it happens because you didn’t do enough.”

He was hoping to prompt a response beyond reassignment — he wanted them to understand the gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, 9/11 did happen on Richard’s watch because his reassignment was slated…for October 1st. Like Cassandra in the mythology of the ancient Greeks, he saw the future, but no one believed him. (Fortunately, he was reassigned before succumbing to complete madness.)

“I took the reassignment in October, and I probably should have just quit the government altogether,” says Richard. “But I had some things I wanted to get done — and one of them was to create a cyber-security…program in the government. And I did spend about 18 months — two years — putting together the first national strategy on cyber-security. About the time I was done with that, it was very clear that Bush was going to invade Iraq no matter what. And so I gave him the national strategy; he signed it, he approved it. And I quit the next day.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about what someone at the top levels of government does when their personal politics don’t agree with those of the current administration, what happens when someone in such a position gets “agenda inertia,” what Richard means by “First Occurrence Syndrome” and how it makes preventable disasters — from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait to 9/11 to Fukushima — more likely, how we can use the Cassandra Coefficient to filter signal from noise when it comes to warnings, how to spot our own cognitive biases and what we can do to diminish their effect on our decisions, how to tell a “Cassandra” from a kook, how we can persuade people to see things from our perspective when we find ourselves in the Cassandra position and motivate them to take action, and lots more.

THANKS, RICHARD CLARKE!

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AJ Harbinger - author of 1047 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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