S3-EP3: Juliette Kayyem on the Power of Twitter, Trump’s Stochastic Terrorism, and Why She’s an Optimist

Oct 16, 2020


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Debbie Weil speaks with national security and terrorism expert Juliette Kayyem who says that Trump is an aberration and that we WILL get through the COVID pandemic and this period of political turmoil.



Today Debbie Weil speaks with Juliette Kayyem, a longtime national security and terrorism expert with over 160,000 followers on Twitter. She has an extraordinary resume of public and private service, starting with the Department of Justice as a young lawyer, and then joining the National Commission on Terrorism in 1999 and helping to write their report, published in June 2000, recognizing the growing terror threat in the U.S. She gave birth to her first child a few weeks before 9/11.

She became the Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security, where she handled the agency’s response to the H1N1 pandemic and orchestrated the complicated government response to the BP oil spill in 2010. 

Later she became a Pulitzer Prize-nominated columnist for The Boston Globe and started her own consulting company. She’s now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and an analyst for CNN. She’s also, importantly, the mother of three and the author of a terrific book – part memoir, part primer – titled Security Mom: My Life Protecting the Home and Homeland. Disaster is her thing, or as she puts it: “Sh*t happens.”  It’s how you assess risk, prepare for, and respond to disaster that counts.

We recorded this conversation before Trump tested positive for COVID so you won’t hear mention of that. But we do talk about the sense of anxiety in this country right now, both because of COVID and because of the current President. And about Trump’s attempts to stoke fear, and to incite violence, with his veiled but understandable Tweets. She calls what Trump does on Twitter #stochasticterrorism. To her delight, it’s been adopted as a hash tag. It means random and unpredictable violence which, she tells us, is the definition of terrorism.

Debbie loved this brief conversation and hopes you will too. Juliette is an optimist and endlessly energetic. She’s a breath of fresh air during this anxiety-ridden period in the U.S. Towards the end of the interview, she says she has to get off the call to get ready for a CNN appearance. She’s 51, she tells us, so she needs time to do her hair and make-up. The CNN segment, on which she appeared minutes later, showed her ready for primetime, Zooming in from her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Tune in to hear from an optimistic and inspiring Security Mom (a play on Soccer Mom, in case that didn’t jump out at you!).


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