In this episode, Brian Beckcom speaks with United States Congressman, Will Hurd. Will talks about what it was like to work undercover for the C.I.A., his passion for problem-solving, and the role technology plays in the global power struggle between the U.S., China, and Russia. Will is the kind of politician we need in our country; he's a leader, a problem-solver, and a true patriot.
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Brian and Will discuss:
- C.I.A. 101: Will explains what it's like to work undercover for the C.I.A. He tells listeners which popular mainstream movies "got it right"
- Intelligence vs. Action and the importance of maintaining international relationships
- China's Communist Party, their violation of international agreements, and the decay of democracy in Hong Kong
- China's goal to surpass the United States as the global superpower by 2049 and the importance of a first-mover advantage with regards to 5G and A.I.
- The recent Black Lives Matter protests and the difference between symbolic changes and substantive advancements
- The need to rethink the way the U.S. looks at The War on Drugs
- How "binary thinking" is burdening America's ability to handle the COVID-19 pandemic
- Vladimir Putin's efforts to erode trust in democratic institutions across the globe
- Will's decision not to run for reelection in Congress in 2020
- And other topics
Will Hurd is originally from San Antonio, Texas. He attended A&M University, where he majored in computer science and served as the student body president. After college, Will joined the C.I.A., where he worked as an undercover operative in places like Pakistan. In 2015, Will ran for Congress in Texas's 23rd congressional district and served three terms in the House of Representatives. To connect with Will, visit https://hurd.house.gov/.
Read the show notes
[00:00:00] Brian Beckcom: welcome to the lessons from leaders podcast. I'm your host, Brian Beckcom. My next guest is us. Congressman will Hurd. Well is originally from San Antonio. We'll went to Texas a and M university where he majored in computer science and took a minor in international relations. He was also the student body president at Texas a and M after he graduated, will join the CIA where he worked under cover Pakistan among other places, as an undercover CIA, after getting out of the CIA, they will run for a us Congress and the podcast.
Will and I talk about the politics of the future, what it was like being an undercover agent and the CIA, how he got in the CA. His thoughts on China, Hong Kong, the pandemic, race [00:01:00] relations, artificial intelligence, the future of technology who our adversaries are and what we should do about it. And other things a will is the kind of politician that we really, really need in this country will as a leader.
And he is a problem solver. And he's solving problems that are important and problems that we really need to pay attention to in the future, including China, Russia, and technology, and where that's taking us. This was a great interview will gave me an hour of his time and he's a super, super busy guy, super smart guy, wonderful Patriot, and just a great person in general.
And now I give you, Congressman will Hurd. Hey, everybody, Brian Beckcom here and I have got US Congressman Will Hurd, Congressman Hurd. How you doing today,
Will Hurd: counselor? I'm doing fantastic. And you gotta be doing it. You better call me with the rest of this. [00:02:00] I feel a little too long.
Brian Beckcom: I know. You know, I've been thinking about that for the past year.
Couple of days, Congressman representative will. What's the appropriate thing, but well, thank you for saying that we'll. Before we get started. I just wanted to tell you how much I look up to you. I mean, you serve our country both as a CIA officer and as a representative. And I just think you're a great American.
And so I really, really appreciate you coming on the podcast before we get started. How you doing man?
Will Hurd: I look it's, we live in crazy times. I'm actually in Washington, D C I see. As we speak I'm on the appropriations committee. And so we're trying to fund the government and, um, it should is, you know, being in Texas, but in time between Texas and DC is just.
It's wild times. I think 2020 is definitely going to go in the, the record books and decades from now. I think there's going to be people, anybody who was around at this time, they'd be like, tell us more about what [00:03:00] happened in 2020. It's just so many interesting things happening.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. We're living through history and you know, this idea of the end of history.
I think 2020 kind of proves that we're not there yet, but so how's the family doing everybody doing okay.
Will Hurd: Yeah, everybody's fine. You know, my folks, my dad's 87, I'm 76 and they're healthy. And my brother and sister also live in San Antonio. So we're able to get them provisions and take them supplies. And my dad always jokes.
He's like, There's no problem staying at home. Cause he always says the best times in his life is when he's been by himself. They're good. Everybody's healthy. And you know, my brother has young kids and so, you know, what's going to happen with school. You know, these are all questions that they're grappling
Brian Beckcom: with.
Is that the brother who's, because I think you have a nephew who is a quarterback. Baylor university. Is that right?
Will Hurd: That's correct. That's correct. We, you know, he toured a and M as well, but he decided on, [00:04:00] on Baylor. And so, yeah, so it's, but that's my, that's the son of my sister.
Brian Beckcom: Your sister. Okay. That's your sister's son.
Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, a lot of people will know who you are. You're a national figure for good reason. I think. But for the people that don't know who you are, do you mind telling us a little bit about where you come from, where he went to school a little bit about your work history. Okay. Before you became a Congressman.
Will Hurd: Sure. I grew up born and raised in San Antonio and I tell them my father's black, my mother's white, and they met in LA in 1960 70 and got married and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1971. And the house they live in now, they lived there for all of my life. Well, over 43 years. And was the only house in San Antonio that would sell to one of the few neighborhoods that would sell to an interracial couple.
Right. So even in 1971, it wasn't invoked to be an interracial couple. And I'm the baby of three [00:05:00] grew up with the public schools all through San Antonio and then tech st. M and. My sophomore year in high school, I had a internship at Southwest research Institute, San Antonio, the largest private research entity in the United States of America.
And I worked for this, uh, amazing female engineer who was a robotics expert. She got me interested in technology and computer science. And she was graduated from Stanford. So I was like, I'm going to go to Stanford. And so I applied got accepted, was going to go even got a scholarship. And then I had a counselor from my high school who was a big Aggie.
And he said, you know, kept hounding me to go to a and M's campus. And I said, if I go, will you leave me alone? And he said, sure. So I called some buddies that I had played basketball with in my high school and stay with them one week and fell in love with a and M and decided to go there, you know, over Stanford and study computer science.
But my, my freshman year, [00:06:00] I'm in the engineering building, the old Zachary building. And I see a sign that says, take two journalism classes in Mexico city for $425. And I had 450 bucks in my bank account. And so I went to Mexico. Fell in love being in another culture. Uh, seeing things I had only read about in books.
And, uh, I thought it was amazing. That's why I added international studies in my minor. And the first class I took international studies. I had this guest lecture who was as former CIA tough guy, cold warrior, tell these amazing stories. And that began my interest in the CIA. And when I graduated from a and M I went into the agency.
And so I was a case officer. So I was a dude in the back alleys at four o'clock in the morning, recruiting spies, and still in secrets. It was special up on the planet. The two years in D C I used to call the super secrets CIA training facility called the farm. And now it's on Google maps. I did two years in India, two years in Pakistan, two years in New York city doing interagency [00:07:00] work and then a year and a half in Afghanistan where I manage all of our undercover operations.
And in addition to collecting intelligence, I had to brief members of Congress. And I was pretty shocked by the caliber of our elected officials. And my mama said to you the part of the problem, part of the solution. And so I left the job. I was good at and moved to my hometown of San Antonio to run for Africa.
And I lost my first election by 700 votes. And I don't tell that story anymore. I helped start a cybersecurity company and then ran successfully. And so I've been doing that now for almost six years. Nice.
Brian Beckcom: Awesome. Well, you said a lot of things there. I want to, I want to kind of flag a couple of those. You were the student body president at a and M and then you worked in the CIA after college.
You were a computer science major with a, and I was a computer science major too. I got a degree. I actually, I was a general studies major. Cause when I was at a and M at first I was playing on the basketball team and I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I liked computers and I tell people, you know, I ended up being a lawyer because.
I spent four years behind a computer screen and I didn't want to [00:08:00] spend my whole life behind a computer screen. And now 20 years later, I spend most of my time behind a computer screen.
Will Hurd: Right. Yeah, exactly.
Brian Beckcom: But, but you know, you said a lot of things there. And one of the things I wanted to ask you about will is you've always, since I've known you and before you've always had this drive, this passion, this leadership ability.
I mean, from the moment I knew you. And from a very young age as well. And so where do you think that drive or passion or purpose or whatever you want to label it? Where does that come from for you?
Will Hurd: No, I appreciate the question and the sentiment of the question I asked my parents. I'm a mama's boy, right?
Like I had, I had a speech impediment. And until late middle school, early high school, my mother was the only person that can understand me. And, and I always, I always ask her, I'm like, what do you think this was? And part of it, I think it's kind of like this engineering model mindset, even as a kid, I liked building things.
I [00:09:00] liked solving problems. And so, so yeah, excepted, when I see a problem, I literally can't and I think I could fix it. I literally can't. Not try to fix it. And that's, I've been that way my entire life. And I've actually stopped trying to figure out why it's just w you know what, when you're hungry, what do you do?
You eat, right? This is just if I see a problem and I think I could fix it, I got to try to fix it. And on the flip side of that, you know, I think the Dalai Lama, I, and I'm going to butcher this a little bit. If you have control of a situation, don't worry. Cause you're gonna be able to do something about it.
But if you don't have control of the situation, don't worry because there's nothing you can do about it,
Brian Beckcom: right? Yeah. That's like the serenity prayer, I think, similar to the serenity prayer. Right.
Will Hurd: And so I think that's what it is. And I've also learned that. When you're able to solve, when you approve that you can solve problems and the feeling of solving a problem, you're like, Oh man, that's awesome.
And then you continue to solve problems [00:10:00] and then you're not afraid to try to tackle bigger problems. And there's a cumulative effect and, and I've been lucky. That I've had people at every level of my life suggest me to do things and I've tried it and I've enjoyed it and I've learned from it. Right. And so I think that's what it starts with.
I like solving problems.
Brian Beckcom: It's awesome. You know, and one of the things you said there, a success. They get success. The more success you have, the more encouragement you get and the more you do it. Yeah. Well, I, you know, I remember when I was very young, my mother who died when I was 10, I was, we were in a car and she was with her sister and I was in the back seat.
I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. And she said, Hey, Brian, add the numbers one through 10 together as quickly as you can. And for some reason, my mind was able to go one plus nine, two plus eight, some plus three, six plus four or five, 10 55. And my mom was like, Oh my God, my son is brilliant, but it really encouraged me.
I took a liking to math and so that's kind of why I got into [00:11:00] computer science and. And you're right. The way it teaches you, how to think the way it teaches you, how to solve problems is I think it's kind of a meta skill. You know, it's a, it's a skill that you can port with you anywhere you go. And it's something that'll be with you your entire life.
Will Hurd: You know, the other thing my mom meant she wouldn't let me slip. If I had a 96 on the report card and the next six weeks, it was a 94. She was on my right. I remember, I remember the first time I ever got a B right. I'm on the bus crying because I'm going to go home. My mom was going to be outside her mind.
Right. And so, so she, she put very high, high expectations and having that, you know, at a young age, again, if you can do this big, a small things, well, then you're gonna be able to do big things. Well, if you can't do the small things, you can't do the big things for sure.
[00:12:00] Brian Beckcom: Let's uh, before we talk there, there's a number of, uh, issues of that.
I think you're kind of an expert in that you have a very big interest in. Uh, China, Russia. I want to talk a little bit about artificial, artificial intelligence, maybe a little bit about what's going on in Hong Kong right now. But before we talk about that, you know, I've been, cause I don't, I don't know the answer to this cause you and I have never talked about it.
And I think there's a lot of people that may be listening who are interested in joining the CIA or the FBI or something like that. So how was it that, I mean, do you just like. Fill out an application and apply, or you recruited, like if somebody is interested in joining the CIA, how would they go about it?
Will Hurd: It literally starts with an application and interview process, right? It truly, it truly is a meritocracy and there's certain things like you have to have a certain GPA, you have to have an undergraduate degree. Usually they like folks that have a graduate degree or a certain amount of experience.
Beyond undergrad. I [00:13:00] was rare as an undergraduate going straight in the agency only, literally only a handful of folks that do that. And usually they want someone that has the language skill or experience overseas. And so what I tell when I tell stories, students that are at an undergrad, get a language.
And then go, go work in that language or at a minimum study in that language a one semester, so that you can show that you have proficiency and are able to work in a culture and a unique house. That's ultimately what your job is when you're in the CIA. There's also a great book by a friend, a boss, a mentor, and then a.
A business partner later in life, his name is hay Crumpton, and it's called the art of intelligence. And it's a great book. It's kind of like on what the director of operations, or what's now called the national clandestine service. And to be able, for me, I knew know no one has served my country, but I also have problems following [00:14:00] rules.
Right. So kind of like the military with probably not going to be a great track from me. And so, but to go to exotic places, And do crazy things. That was, that was perfect. And it was literally the best job on the planet. I'd still be doing it if I didn't think, I thought I could help the intelligence community in a different way.
Yeah. And by running for running for office. And so had I not thought that I would have stayed in, cause it was the best job on the planet.
Brian Beckcom: So it wasn't like somebody just came up to you in a restaurant, like tapped you on the shoulder and said, Hey,
Will Hurd: we're recruiting you. So there was, there was a recruiter at a and M and Jim, Olson's his name?
He's pretty well known. And he was that guest lecture I was talking to and about. And literally after I heard him lecture, the next day I went and knocked on his door and I was like, tell me more that began a friendship and a relationship. And having someone that can kind of hold your hand through that process is one of the reasons why I was successful also at, at the time, uh, Bob Gates, dr.
Bob Gates was [00:15:00] interim head of the Bush school. This was before he went on to be secretary of defense and having him, you know, having had run the CIA as well, uh, was a great mentor also. But in the end, it is you say application and the interview process and all these crazy tests, you know, that you really, you can't prepare for.
And so it was a great, great gig. I recommend it to everyone.
Brian Beckcom: That's awesome. And, and you actually, you spent time, there's probably some things. Yeah. Maybe you still can't talk about, but you spend time under cover in the middle East. And you said something about learning a language. I was looking on your Wikipedia page.
You are fluent
Will Hurd: in Urdu. Is that right? Right. You know, I've tried to change that. I was never fluent in Urdu. I had survivable or redo. Okay. Yeah. I knew I could get by. And when I grew up my beer and wore a shower, committee's kind of a local, local garb. My Urdu was good enough to get the locals discount in the Bazaar.
Right. And so [00:16:00] it was good enough to get by, but I was not fluent. I remember a few phrases, a few phrases now.
Brian Beckcom: You're your Urdu. It was probably like my Spanish, you know, I could get by, but that's about it. So tell us, you can tell us about, because I know there's going to be a lot of people that are really interested in what it's like to be undercover in a foreign country.
And so, so first of all, give us the timeframe, if you can, in which you're over there and then kind of tell us as much as you can about what it's like. I mean, is it like what you see in the movies? Is it totally different from that? Is it like that sometimes just. Tell us what you can tell us about that experience.
Will Hurd: Sure. So I left San Antonio, Texas, and my Toyota four runner the day of the USS Cole bombing. So the USS Cole was enabled to show Scheuer. That was bombed by Al-Qaida in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of the country of Yemen. And then my career ended, that was, that was October of 2000. And then I [00:17:00] left the agency in August of 2009.
And that was literally a couple of months. Before the base in coast was bond where it was probably the deadliest attack on, on the CIA, in our history. And so those were those kinds of where the bookends of my tour or my time in the agency. And I was say a really great movie on the CIA is the movie with Ben Affleck Argo.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah, sure. Yeah.
Will Hurd: Margo Argo is a great, and that's a very unique case. That's actually a case that is, that is taught in CIA one on one, which is literally a class like everybody takes, you know, a couple of weeks to learn about the, and it's called CIA one-on-one. I don't think I'm a billing secret. That's an extra book.
And then the movie zero dark 30. It's pretty close. It's an amalgamation of a lot of different characters about some of the work, but [00:18:00] part of the way the national clandestine service, the PE the guy, the folks like me and the guys and guys like me that were to collect intelligence. We are the collectors of last resort.
So if you can't get a piece of information the other way, so diplomacy through signals, intelligence, taking something out of the sky, through imagery, intelligence, then you go to the CIA because human intelligence humans is the hardest and the most expensive way of collecting intelligence. And part of the job is you have people that are sharing intelligence with you and it's protecting them.
And my number one job is to make sure a lot of movies get this part wrong. My most important job was to protect the life of the individual. That's sharing information with me and that individual's family. And a lot of these videos, a lot of these movies try to act that those relationships are throw away.
No, that is, yeah. I would literally, I may have had assets that could get a piece of information, but them getting it was going [00:19:00] to put them in such harm harm that it would, it would potentially get them. They'll get identified and killed. And so, so you, you protect those folks. And then if you say, okay, there's a unit within a military that has some information that we need.
How do you get access to someone in that unit? Right. And so you have no leads, you have no reason. And then you try to figure out how you make that happen. And so that's ultimately the job is so, you know, you have a big issue. Like what is the plans and intentions of the Connie network? In Afghanistan. And then our job from a strategic intelligence point is to try to figure out what they're going to do.
And then you have the military, military intelligence would slide what's happening over that Hill, right? Yeah. And so that's kind of different than the strategic and the tactical one. Then if there's something impacting you. Yeah. I'd say it's America, FBI gets involved, but oftentimes there's joint cases between the CIA and the [00:20:00] FBI.
So that's what it's like. And living under cover. So I was most of the time in true name, right. I worked for the state department and I actually did a lot of work for the state department, but then there was times that I was, I was traveling in alias, you know, uh, wasn't connected to the government and that's a little trickier, especially when you run into people that know you and true name, but you might be an alias.
And so, uh, Well that situation. And that, that happened to me a few times. You
Brian Beckcom: know, when you first started talking about how your first job is to protect your sources and their family, you know, kind of the first thought that came to my mind is why would we care? I mean, what's the point? Like why, why would you care?
And it seems to me like maybe one reason that that's so important, it is because if you want people to help the United States, they have to know. That you will do whatever you can to protect them and them and their family as an initial matter, is that kind of where that
Will Hurd: comes from 100%. And so you'll always have this debate between [00:21:00] intelligence versus action, right?
You collect information oftentimes to do something about it, and there's always a tension, but you also have to realize that when you act on the information. You could burn that source. You could put that source in trouble and no longer have access to that information. So that's why policymakers are the ones that ultimately make that make that decision.
And you also, so the way you are able to get people to cooperate. It's because they have a motivation to work with the United States government. Usually it's, there's a problem with their country or their regime, and they want to make sure that their society is free and fair and open, and they recognize the helping the U S government have a best understanding of the situation is the most important.
So. To get to a point where someone's willing to share it information that could ultimately get them killed. Um, there has to be trust and that [00:22:00] trust is built on the fact that I'm going to be able to keep you safe and protect you and your family. If something were to happen.
Brian Beckcom: Nice. Well, and you know, the other thing I think people may not realize, and I'm sure you've got plenty of friends in the military.
I got plenty of friends. Yeah. Since I was in the Corps cadets and my dad, granddad, et cetera. But I've got a friend who was a United States Marine Corps officer who was in Afghanistan very, very shortly after nine 11. And the CIA was already there. Like he said, they'd landed. And CIA officers came up to them.
On horseback. So truly the point of the spear, the tip of the spear.
Will Hurd: Yeah. When you talk to Afghans about the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, they're like what invasion? Because when, after September 11 happened, we had a group go in and we had relationships and this is why allies matter. Right. You can't, you gotta, you gotta maintain relationships.
Cause when something bad happens, you got to have something that you can actually leverage and work with. And by the way, time Kandahar airfield [00:23:00] Kandahar was a city in Southern Afghanistan, which was really like the capital of the Taliban that fell in in late December of 2000. And one, by that point, there were okay.
Only 400 Americans on the ground in Afghanistan. 100 CIA officers, 300 years special forces. Now the greatest air force the world had ever seen for sure, but we killed 75% of avocado leadership and push the Taliban, all the Taliban out of the entire country. And we did that with only 400 Americans working with our Afghan allies.
Right. That was why that. Operation was so successful because the footprint was incredibly low and we did it with our partners
Brian Beckcom: that is on believable. And I think it's a, it is a really, really good lesson for us, especially nowadays. And how important it is to have allies, whether they can do anything thing for you immediately or not having somebody to rely on when you're in those situations is really important.
Well, well, so in my view, and [00:24:00] you know, I think a lot of people, frankly, you're the kind of a politician that I wish we had more of in this country. Like what I mean by that is. For some reason, and I don't know how you do this. You always have seemed to me at least really focused on hard problems and problems that are 10 years down the road, five, 10, 20 years down the road, rather than problems that we've been fighting about.
For 30 years, some of which may be important, but some of which really probably aren't that important. So if it's okay with you, I'd like to kind of bounce around a little bit on some of your thoughts on some various issues. And so I think the first thing, if it's okay, the first thing I want to talk about is Hong Kong.
And one of the reasons for that is because I'm. About three quarters of the way through rereading 1984. And man, I got to tell you what it's frightening read 1984 and then to read what's going on in Hong Kong, these to be China's. So [00:25:00] tell us if you don't mind kind of lay out a little bit for the listeners who don't pay attention to that sort of thing.
What is going on right now? Sure. In Hong Kong as it relates to China.
Will Hurd: So we got to go back to 1990s. I believe it was where Hong Kong was a protector of the United Kingdom. And so, uh, at that point, uh, the UK was kind of getting out of the, out of having all these far flung protectorates. And they, in essence said, we're going to give Hong Kong back to China.
With some preconditions that, huh. Well, Kong had to be allowed to operate as an independent entity for, I want to say 75 years, there was a time horizon. Right. We still have about 35 years on that clock. Right. And so this was this whole notion. Of two [00:26:00] entities, one China, one China policy, two instance, geez, I'm butchering the name, but, but Hong Kong was supposed to be an independent entity, but it was going to be a city of China in 35 years.
So what the Chinese have done, the Chinese communist party has done has basically violated that international agreement that they made, not only with the United Kingdom, but with the broader United nations. And they have in essence, taken over over Hong Kong. Hong Kong was free. Hong Kong was a financial center of Asia, not just Asia, but, but the rest of the world.
And now the Chinese government has come in and. Banning books that talk about democracy and are trying to crush this, you know, the will and the backs of these folks. Now, this is a premonition of what they're going to try to do with Taiwan. Now, Taiwan [00:27:00] recognize Taiwan as a separate for country. The Chinese believe that Taiwan is also part of their country.
So for the Chinese. They were going to get Hong Kong. And part of it was, if they waited 35 years, it was going to come their way, but they saw the opportunity that coronavirus is presiding, is presenting. They saw the Europe and the tension, the transatlantic tensions between the United States and our E U allies.
And they pushed hard and they've been successful in basically taking over Hong Kong. You had protesters in Hong Kong, that was, that was trying to fight this overage, singing the national Anthem, saying, America, we need your help. Right? They were marching on our embassy, waving our flag, say, this is an example of how we have to make sure democracy continues.
And democracy is dying right now in, in Hong Kong. And it is, it is unfortunate. And then [00:28:00] this is going to be an example. Of the playbook that Chinese are gonna use when they try to take over.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. And so the recent, most recent thing I read will was that they have passed a law of some sort that you can get arrested by the Chinese authorities for criticizing what's going on in Hong Kong.
I'm not, I haven't read all the details of that, but, you know, as I read through 1984, I mean, the parallels are just absolutely stunning. I mean, the idea of quote, big brother, which would be China in this case in 1984, is we're going to get rid of the past. We're going to get rid of books. We're going to change the language.
So there's not even any concept of democracy anymore. And so there's not even a word for that. Then consciously people don't even think about that. And I, and I worry a lot will that Hong Kong is going down that direction so fast that it may be, it may be too late to do anything [00:29:00] about it.
Will Hurd: Absolutely. Or the only way that you're going to be able to stop it is with force.
And then that becomes a broader, broader question of when do you use forest and that kind of situation? And if we're going to be the ones using forests is the American public prepared for that. And the question is going to be why, and you talk about the laws. So everyone was talking about this, this national security law that the Hong Kong, uh, parliament ultimately passed and it was implemented.
But once that happened, They pass a number of successive, uh, pieces of in essence, our equivalent of an executive order to follow up on the banning of the books and all these kinds of things. So, so this is not going to stop and again, unless here's the other thing I've learned over my years, If there is not a consequence for negative behavior, that negative behavior will continue.
And so what is the rest of the world going to do to the Chinese in response to this? Is it, [00:30:00] is it, um, sanctions, right? Like what are the steps that we can be doing to show? Cause this is an essence. Yeah a takeover, right? Like I could equate what the Chinese have done at home, calm to what the Russians have done in and the Don reason of, of the Ukraine or Crimea or what try to do and South obsession in Georgia, right?
Like this is, uh, th th th the Russians have done this and this, you know, I think the Chinese saw that place. Well, they're also a little more sophisticated on this, and then now, They have the technological superiority to, uh, to do even crazier things. And then what was sh then what we saw in, in 1980, 84.
And so this is, this is a broader issue because this authoritarian activity, this really is a question about authoritarianism versus democracy. And if we don't stand up for [00:31:00] democracy, when it gets attacked, then who, who will.
Brian Beckcom: Yeah. And that's the thing it's not free. It doesn't happen automatically. And I would even argue will historically democracy is generally the exception, not the rule.
I mean, it's, it's historically it's been Kings and Queens and people like that. And so, so you have to fight for it. Well, what is the end game for China in your opinion? Like what are they trying to accomplish through Hong Kong and Taiwan? Because, you know, w one of the things that. We've see, like for instance, a Daryl Morey, the Houston rockets, GM had a very anidine criticism of China and boy, the reaction from China would just seem completely and totally.
Over the top. And then, you know, LeBron James, who, who I admire a lot is a former basketball player. And as a human being, I'm as human being, even LeBron James, back down from China a little bit. And so what, what is it that China is attempting [00:32:00] to accomplish? And why is it that. Uh, it's so it's so difficult to stand against what they're trying to do.
Will Hurd: So the Chinese are very clear on what they're trying to do by 2049. They're trying to surpass the United States of America as the sole superpower in the world. Now this is not my assessment. This is not me collecting intelligence on the Chinese, right. This is literally what the Chinese have said themselves.
Why does 20, 49 matter? That matters? Because that will be when they celebrate a hundred years of communist rule in mainland China and the way they believe they're going to do this is by perfecting and becoming the global leader in 10, 12 areas of technology. And being able to project power, a part of that is this broader.
They feel like they have to write a number of wrongs. Right. You know, in, in the middle East, this was the version of a, of a blood feud, a blood feud though in the millions goes out in someone's lifetime. The Chinese are going [00:33:00] to say, Hey, we got screwed. In Thai, by Taiwan and Hong Kong and Macau and some of these places, and we're going to go, I take that back to right.
Those wrongs. And we can say we did this and unified and essence the middle kingdom, right? Yeah. So there is a cultural piece to solidify nap, but then their effort is to make sure that they become leaders in things like artificial intelligence, 5g, uh, quantum computing space. Advanced optics and why, you know, everybody's talking about Walway and why does this matter?
You know, the global tech Titans are American companies because America had the best four G network. We have all those things because they were able to put everything on these things right now, the next trillion dollar companies are going to be companies that leverage 5g infrastructure. Why does 5g matter?
It's going to be [00:34:00] awesome to download a 4k movie on my phone in three seconds. That's great. But that means the numb, like being able to push data quickly to a device, but the real value of five G is a thing called latency and latency. As you know, I do something on my phone and make it come in on my phone.
This goes to the cloud and then you get a response back. The time it takes for that handshake to happen is going to invite GE is going to take 10 nanoseconds. Why does 10 nanoseconds matter? We make decisions in eight nanoseconds. So now you're going to have the entire power of the internet in real time.
Yeah. What is that going to be able to allow us to do? I don't know. I have some ideas, right? The Chinese know this, so they said, Hey, whoever masters five G. It's going to master all these other entities. And then when you have the infrastructure of the five G infrastructure, [00:35:00] this is when artificial intelligence becomes interesting.
Right? So then what do you need? An artificial intelligence? You need data to train the algorithms. The Chinese don't care about privacy. They don't care about civil liberties. So they have as much data as they want. Guess what, why did the OPM hack happen from a number of years ago? And the fact that people still know what OPM is?
It's because the Chinese stole 24 million records of American working for the government. Yeah. How many of those, you know, had some, some reasons going to be in China and that's why they took that kind of information. So now you have the Chinese go into Hong Kong, a financial center in the world. Right.
If that data was a move, now the Chinese have access to all that. Yeah. Right. And so these are some of the things that they're, that they're trying to do and they're good. And so ultimately all of these efforts are steps. And this is to answer your original question. Sorry. I went a little long. [00:36:00] All of these were the steps in order to be the world's superpower in what, 20 you good with math and what, how many?
Brian Beckcom: 29 years. Yeah, not long at all. And you say, you said a lot there will, but you know, one of the things, as you said at the very beginning, which I think is really, really important for people not only to understand, but also to do is this is not us guessing this is China saying exactly, exactly what it is they want to do.
It's kind of like with ISIS, If you wanted to know what ISIS, his goals were, you could read them because they had a magazine that they publish, I mean, and a list of goals.
Will Hurd: And so. It's important.
Brian Beckcom: I think that not only do we know what their goals are, but then we take what they're saying seriously. I mean, this is actually what they want to do.
And, you know, you brought up what about some of the technology stuff? And we could talk, we could have a whole nother, two podcasts about the technology stuff, but. You know, for instance, I've been talking to my kids about tick tock and you know, there's some [00:37:00] news out right now that president Trump is thinking about Bannon tech talk and I've been telling my kids, man, you gotta be super, super careful because that is essentially Chinese spyware.
And anything you do on that is not private mine. My 14 year old boy came up to me last night. He said, Hey dad, I deleted all my posts on tick talk and stop following everybody. But, but this stuff is real and you know, there's a lot of things coming down the pike and technology, like you're talking about artificial intelligence and we can have a discussion about what intelligence is or isn't, but at the very least.
Nowadays most artificial intelligence involves what's called D learning, which makes basically, yeah, just brute force gathering as much data as you can feeding it into the algorithm and then using neural networks to go from there. But, you know, let me ask you this question. Well, just cause you mentioned five G and how important five G is.
And you know, I've been reading some things on very social media sites, about five G causing brain cancer or other sorts of weird [00:38:00] things is that. Uh, w what are your thoughts on that? It cause to me, it sounds like that that is something that may actually be coming from. Some of our adversaries,
Will Hurd: whether it's coming from some of the adversaries or not, I don't know the answer, but it's just all the, all the reviews, environmental impact statements, this stuff has been reviewed.
And it doesn't have side effect. There was this rumor that five G was causing COVID and there was somebody that put some maps, right? Five G is, is a. Safe usable technology, and it's going to be the future. And the problem is there's a first mover advantage. And, and not only do you need the infrastructure because wherever the infrastructure is built, that is where all the entrepreneurs and people that are building things we'll work on five G are going to go to test their systems.
So making sure that, you know, there's little problems like some cities and counties. We're trying to nickel and dime, [00:39:00] uh, companies, because five G requires more antennas is because of the wavelength at which they're operating and cities. We're trying to use this as an AGL and charging outrageous fees. Um, in order to put this up, which was impacting.
The services that constituents would be able to take advantage of. And there was even a court case in, or a piece of legislation moving through them, the state house in Texas, I'm on this topic, but, but yeah, it's just, it's such a foundational. Technology for so many things of the future is coming and we're in a race.
And in my opinion, we're losing that race
Brian Beckcom: we're behind.
Will Hurd: We can catch up, but yeah, but it's going to take us Herculean Africa to do it. And so for the
Brian Beckcom: people that aren't really involved in these issues, the idea of the first mover advantage basically says whoever's there first is going to have a huge advantage with AI and computing.
I think that's, that's a, there's like jet fuel poured on that because, you [00:40:00] know, there's this idea of the singularity, there's this idea that, that wants. So for instance, once a machine was able to beat a human in chess, they will always be able to beat a human in chess for the rest of history. Uh, it's the same thing with things like driving cars.
Once you reach a certain point, it's a machine that can build a machine. You have such a massive, the advantage over everybody else. That it's really, really important not to get too far behind. Well that, well that's really, really good stuff. We'll and I, and I know I don't have you for a whole bunch of time today, but there are a couple other issues if it's okay that I really want to hear from you about, because I know people listening are going to want to hear.
From somebody like you about this. So I want to talk a little bit about the protests and also a little bit about your thoughts on the pandemic and kind of what we're looking at over the next, you know, six, eight, 12 months. So, but, but let's talk about the protest versus you. You were [00:41:00] actually at a protest in Houston.
I saw you on the news, a black lives matter protest, which, you know, it was a protest for racial justice basically. But what are your thoughts right now? Because what I'm seeing. Will is a lot of symbolic behavior, a lot of symbolic stuff, but I'm not really seeing, you know, real substantive change. And I think most of the protesters would prefer.
Substantive change over symbolic change. So what, what are your thoughts on the protest right now?
Will Hurd: I agree with your substantive change rather than symbolic is what's what's necessary. And you also, th there's different kinds of protests, right? Like I would say what happened in Houston. 45 days ago or so it was a March because it was a March in solidarity with George Ford's family, George Floyd, born in Houston and the 6,000, some people that were there were polite, they were chanting, you know, they weren't saying things, nasty police [00:42:00] was there, hell holding, you know, handing water to people at the beginning, all 60,000 people, you know, prayed together, said amen together.
Right. And then everybody walked in and then left. Right. But some folks have been taking advantage of these peaceful protest to try to, to create general havoc and anarchy. Right? Yeah. And so it's okay. Everybody who saw the video and audio of George Floyd being murdered was horrified. Right. And it's okay to be outraged by that and say, a black man should not die in police custody.
It's happened too many times, but you can also be upset by criminals taking advantage of peaceful protest to loot. Kill cops try to kill cops. Those kinds of things. It's okay to have. You can do both. And unfortunately I think people are trying to act like this is a binary choice. No, we can. Most people Americans agree.
Don't let [00:43:00] this happen to people in police custody and follow the law at the same time. And let's see some change now. Frustrating thing for me, try to negotiate this up here in Washington, D C. And talking to all the players on both sides of the political aisle, everybody agreed on the two or three things, right.
It really would affect change, but in the end, politics got in the way, and we're not, I'm going to pass something that could of had been signed the law. Now the president, they do an exam. You kind of order that is going to say training, federal dollars is going to only go if you're following the best in class kind of training.
And I always use health as an example, one out of 10. Police stops involves, uh, interacting with some of the mental health issue. Yep. Yep. The average police department only takes eight hours of training on how to deal with mental health. My hometown San Antonio, where I lived the San Antonio police department does 40 hours of training on mental health.
Right. So let's make sure that [00:44:00] we know what best practices look. We know what best practices are from from great law enforcement officers. Let's make sure those things are happening. You know, at all police departments. Okay. So some of that is going to be able to happen.
Brian Beckcom: Okay. Can I ask you this? Well, because this is something I've thought a lot long time about.
I worry sometimes that we are, you know, in Vietnam, for instance, my dad flew 10 or common missions over Vietnam and, and it was pretty clear about two years before the war that it was, we were not going to win that war. The war on drugs is the same way, and I worry that we are sending good police officers.
Into a war that we're never going to win. And so I wonder if part of the solution might be to rethink the way we look at the war on drugs, because it seems to me like a lot of the police interactions with, uh, not just minority communities, but all communities has to do with [00:45:00] the drug issue. And I also think that this drug issue has had effects on Mexico.
That we really wish didn't have. So do you have any thoughts on where that piece might fit into the picture?
Will Hurd: Sure look, one of the big issues was about, you know, not being no knock warrants when it comes to drug possession cases, right? Yeah, because this is, this is Brianna Taylor in Kentucky. This was, there was a no knock warrant put in.
And the boyfriend thought that they were being robbed and reacted. And then also, uh, you know, how do you handle the criminalization of some of these cases? This is something, you know, a little bit better about, so you're not having as many people in our systems that look, there's a, there's an addiction problem.
Right. So you got to address that piece, right? Yup. And then you also have to address it's my friend's name. Sorry. Say it's the, it's the drugs and the guns that are coming from the United States that are fueling. The narco traffic days in Mexico. And I [00:46:00] think I, I actually think we should be using more intelligence with our Mexican partners and with partners throughout central America to address the supply side issue though.
My experience is on is, and I know how to dismantle networks. And so I talked about supply side issues. The demand side has a big piece as well. And so how do you do that? How do you address those kinds of issues? That's a broader conversation, but, but for me, there, there are more things we can be smarter on how we, how we address, you know, dealing with the producers of this issue.
Brian Beckcom: W you know, one of the things that I would do on this issue is I would say, what's the goal? Where are we trying to get to? Are we trying to get to a point where nobody ever does illegal drugs that we decide to. Tag as illegal that everybody just stops at. Yeah. I don't think that's realistic is the goal to get the problem under control.
Well, what would that mean? Like, like where, where are we ultimately trying to get with this? Well, well, let's [00:47:00] talk a little bit about now the pandemic, the Corona. What, where do you see us? It's now July, beginning of July, July 7th. 2020, where do you see this in four months, six months, eight months, 12 months.
What's the end result?
Will Hurd: Let, let's start with the Ana work back. Most of the conversations I've heard on folks working on a vaccine, uh, and, and the people that are working on a vaccine are confident in their results that they're also working on ways to distribute the vaccine. Usually what happens a company would develop the vaccine and then worry about distribution, but the five's about five U S the companies are doing that concurrently.
And so most of the projections that I've heard is that by Q two of next year, Is when we'll start seeing, you know, a, you know, a vaccine potentially as early as, [00:48:00] as in the Q1 and then the distribution and widely accepted use of the vaccine, uh, by, by Q2. So we're, we're more than six months away and going to have to continue to deal with this.
And, and this is always going to be in the background. We know what we need to do. Aggressive testing. Right? The problem is when a system is stress, you know, everybody at the beginning before the stress has all, this is, this is how it works. This is only how much time it takes, but when the system actually gets stressed, you realize that it shouldn't take 10 days to get a response from a COVID-19 test.
We should be getting that immediately. So you have to have aggressive testing and part of aggressive testing needs a response to that test. Quickly. So then you can corn team and separate that individual and do the contact tracing to do that. We should be using technology to do contact tracing rather than, you know, basically people call and folks on their phone book and remove where they were.
[00:49:00] Brian Beckcom: Where, where are you? Who'd you talk to what'd you? I mean, and what I eat for breakfast yesterday,
Will Hurd: you can
Brian Beckcom: remember that.
Will Hurd: Yeah, exactly. And so. So these are the systems that need to be in place. And as we start talking about schools, getting back to where everybody wants to see schools open. Right. For sure.
Absolutely. But you know, uh, right now, today I can say, you know, there's 300 kids under the age of 12 and just El Paso. That have COVID-19 and, and I think in San Antonio, it's about 1900 kids under the age of 19 that actually have it. And so, so what happens and how would that spread and this and that environment and, and can we make sure schools.
Have PPE that they have aggressive testing and that, that we ensure that that population is taken care of. And so this is, this is going to be hard for, and it also requires individuals to have the [00:50:00] discipline and the tenacity. We all want to want to increase our social. Contacts, right. We want to go hang out with our friends and the way this is being transmitted is not because you got at the grocery store.
It's because. You're hanging out with people that you haven't hung out with in a while. And that's what, that's, how it's being spread. And so, and again, in San Antonio, this is doubling every, like all elements, infections, the number of people haven't go to hospital, hospital, bed, use, and desks. It's doubling about every six or seven days.
Brian Beckcom: that's one of the things, you know, somebody with with some math chops, like you, and a little math experience with me, it's very hard for people to really wrap their head around the concept of exponential growth, like how quickly exponential growth happens. And, you know, you said something earlier about binary thinking will, and I think that was a great comment.
The coronavirus is not. It's either bad or it's not bad. It's, it's, it's not [00:51:00] a binary thing. It's something where I think if, if we're smart about it, we can have it, the economy open, we can have some schools, but there's like you said, you're going to have to take some steps to make sure you protect yourself.
I mean, you know, I'm constantly reminded of the bombing of London during world war II, where the Germans were bombing London, basically on a daily basis that the British didn't just quit. I mean, they kept going about their business, but they had to take precautions. And you know, to me, it's kind of the same thing here.
Well, real quick. Well, because I know you're super, super busy guy running out of time, but give us a couple of your thoughts on cause that, cause I know Russia is, is a big part of interest for you. Some of you are very interested in give us your thoughts on Russia right now. Some of the idea behind. Maybe some of the interferences that they've had with, with some of our electoral system, with a social media, which I, I worry about a lot with the manipulation of social media and the psychology behind social media.
Give us your thoughts on what Russia is trying to [00:52:00] accomplish and how we respond to that.
Will Hurd: So we got to think Russia is a regional thug. Not a global superpower, right? But there are a regional thug. That's able to project power in different areas, depending on what day of the week it is. And they're in gold and vitamin Putin's end goal is to reestablish the territorial integrity of the USSR and what is getting in his way, a little thing called NATO.
And who's important in it who backs NATO, the United States of America. And so if, if flat Amir Putin is able to, to erode trust, And institutions erode trust in NATO, erode trust in America, support to our transatlantic partnerships, erode trust in the media, erode trust in our legislative branch. Right. And we had these internal fights they're winning when they mess around in our, in our elections.
That experiment is going to go down as the greatest covert action campaign in the history of mother Russia, because [00:53:00] we're still, still talking about it. We're still fighting about it. And when we're fighting about ourselves with ourselves about this, what are we not doing? We're not talking and trying to help our friend Ukraine and pushing the Russians out of Georgia knows that assuming at a Ukraine, nobody knows about Southwest set.
Yeah, ended up Cassia in Georgia. And these are two places that the Russians try to try to influence. They don't know how they're using their energy policy, you know, to threaten countries in their sphere of influence. Right. And so that's the real goal of the Russians. And the more that we fight amongst ourselves, the better off they they are.
And that's why we have to do trust. Like, you know, this issue with social media. It's real simple to me. We all were taught. Don't get into a car with a stranger.
Brian Beckcom: Yup
Will Hurd: right now, asterix now, unless it's Uber or Lyft, right? Why are people reading and sharing information on social media from people? They have no clue who they are.
[00:54:00] They don't even know the identity of some of these people is something that basic that, that we have to rethink and reteach our kids and teach in school on the credibility of information and how to decipher between facts and fiction.
Brian Beckcom: Well, you know, I agree with you on that, but I worried as well. And this is something that I think is a there's a lot.
It's not a binary thing at all, but the social media companies, social media is basically the largest psychological experiment that's ever been conducted on humanity. And we didn't plan this it's just happening right now. And the way social media companies use the defects, the weaknesses and the human mind and the cognitive psychology.
I worry that we may get to a point, at least some of us may get to a point where we don't even realize we're being manipulated. Like they become so good at the subtle manipulations that, well, we don't even realize what's happening anymore. So, uh, we'll we'll I just have a [00:55:00] few more questions for you, cause I know, I know you got to go.
Will Hurd: Yeah, I got jumped soon. Yeah.
Brian Beckcom: You're not running for reelection and. Is there any possible way that anybody could change your mind? Well, yeah, because I mean, I just, well, again, you're exactly the type of politician of leader that this country is just a star for. And you know, when, when I saw that you weren't running for reelection, I was upset.
I gotta be honest with you because you know, you're the kind of guy that I think a lot of us just look to. As you're the future, you're solving real problems. You're hard to corral, uh, ideologically a lot of the time. Is there any way you would read that
Will Hurd: better? I appreciate that. I appreciate those kind words and look.
I'm not dying. Right. Um, my job, I left the CIA, cause I thought I can help the intelligence community a different way. I'm leaving Congress. Cause I think I can help the country in a different way. And I'm gonna continue to talk about national security and technology issues. Politically. I'm helping [00:56:00] other candidates to make sure that they win and ways that they can be, you know, people that I would have loved to serve with.
I, you know, doing some stuff in academia, you know, in order to build the next cadre of tech and policy professionals. And so. I'm going to stay involved in these, these debates. And again, if I had the opportunity to serve my country again in the future, I'll evaluate this. I'm still I'm 42 years old. I'm just getting started.
Brian Beckcom: You're just a young man I'm 47 year ago. Well, well last question for you. So one of the reasons I started this podcast is because I wanted to get some positivity out in the world during some tough times. And so I've, I've always, I've asked all of my guests to give us, it's kind of in closing kind of some thoughts.
And I think this is particularly important coming from one of our country's leaders and you are one of our country's leaders. Give us. It give the listeners something positive that they can take away from them. It's like, w everything seems so bad right now. The election, the coronavirus, a protest, you just go on and [00:57:00] on and on.
Will Hurd: My father taught me to always have PMA, positive mental attitude. Right. And what has always happened in our 244 years of existence is when we've always gotten better. Right. And so while we're going through these tough times, I'm not seeing a recovery recovery means going back to a place where we've been.
Good point seeing an advancement, right? Yes. At every level of government and civic society, people are rethinking what we are doing. I also think that this process has, she made us realize how important human interaction is. This, make us all a little bit nicer. When we see our friends, like when you want to not having been able to hug him, I think it's going to make us remember the importance of our communities and those connections, and that people are looking at how do we become a better country and a better society, a [00:58:00] better civilization outside.
Um, once we get on the other side of this and so, so why it's uncomfortable when you're going through it? I think we're going to be even stronger when we get out of it.
Brian Beckcom: Amen. Well, that's a great way to end will again. Thank you very, very, very much for your service to our country. Thank you for being the man.
You are. Thank you for being the leader. You are. And a man. I know we're going to hear big things from you in the future. I,
Will Hurd: that I appreciate the time, man. You take care.
Brian Beckcom: You got a man