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May 25
Washington, D.C.

Spring term may technically be over, but Washington Term students are still going strong. We are kicking off our fifth of six weeks on this beautiful Memorial Day.

Friends who took standard four-week spring term courses have asked me why I chose to take a six-week course. To them, I say that I wouldn’t trade six weeks in Washington, D.C. for anything. Most of us have only recently hit our stride, and I don’t think any of us could imagine ending our internships already. In fact, I’ve loved my internship so much that I’ve decided to extend my time at the Weekly Standard for two additional weeks beyond Wash Term. There is just no way to have a full internship experience in only four weeks.

In those final two weeks of my internship, after everyone heads home, I’ll definitely miss the friends I’ve made during spring term. Although I didn’t know many of my classmates well before being selected for Wash Term, I’ve really enjoyed bonding with everyone over dinners out, movie nights in, metro rides to and from talks, and—one of my personal favorites—our trip to the Newseum this past Friday.

It’s hard to believe that we’ll soon part ways but, for now, I’ve got to push that thought to the back of my mind because this is the week we have to hunker down and finish our term papers. Once my paper is done, I’ll be able to look forward to our visit to the Brookings Institute, where Jonathan Rauch will speak to our class. Those of us who have taken other courses with Professor Connelly have read Mr. Rauch’s work before, so we are excited to have the opportunity to see him in person.

Speaking of “in person,” we’ve had some great encounters over the past two weeks: some of us saw Ralph Nader at his book signing the other day, and I sat two tables over from Thomas Friedman while out to lunch with the Weekly Standard’s Vic Matus and Daniel Halper. With so many people and things to do, it’s easy to forget that D.C. is actually a fairly small city—you never know who you’ll run into!

Washington Term Students with Ralph Nader

As for my own internship, I’m still relishing all the hands-on experience I’m getting. Last week, I offered to help Managing Editor Claudia Anderson copy edit the final galleys on press night. Although she was hesitant to allow me to do so at first, I managed to find two mistakes on what she said were near-perfect galleys, and since then, she has asked for my help on other occasions. Earning her trust gave me a great feeling and finding the mistakes made me feel like I was contributing to the publication in a significant way.

I have also felt this way about the research I’ve been doing for some of the staff writers; it’s a great feeling to read their final pieces and know exactly where they found their statistics and facts. Often, writers will go out of their way to thank me for my help, which is especially rewarding. Not only am I enjoying the work but these experiences are teaching me a lot about political journalism, my interests, and myself. I now have a clearer vision of my career aspirations, and as I continue to learn from the Standard staff, I am looking forward to writing a piece or two for the Standard’s blog in the coming weeks.

Although I still have four more weeks of my internship, this is my last blog post for W&L’s spring term blog. I sign off with a few final words: No matter what your major, I highly recommend participating in Washington Term. Our nation’s capital is an exciting place to be, and you’ll learn so much about politics and working in the real world.

 

Going Native in the District

May 9
Washington, D.C.

Greetings from the car! I’m writing this as I say goodbye to the Capitol for a few days to attend this weekend’s biggest political event: Washington and Lee Mock Convention’s Spring Kick Off.

With two weeks of internship experience under my belt, it’s exciting to head back to Lextropolis. I’ve been thinking a lot about just how much I have already learned about political journalism since I last set foot on campus. I know that my classmates feel the same way about their respective internships; many of us quickly went “native,” as Professor Connelly puts it, meaning that we have adopted the perspectives that dominate our offices.

This enthusiasm for our work created (and I can imagine will continue to create!) a unique energy in the classroom. Last Friday, we were all eager to share our experiences. Since we each work in offices with different political orientations, our classroom feels like a microcosm of Washington. We’re interning with lobbyists, journalists, organization members, and Hill staffers but we’re united by our desire to learn from each other. Now I can see why, as my class has been told on multiple occasions, first-hand experience is so essential to learning.

I admit that I went native almost immediately. It was hard not to with a staff as open, embracing, and supportive as the one at the Weekly Standard. Not only has almost everyone there reached out to me to give me advice to maximize my internship experience and to get to know me, but they have also given me numerous opportunities. Since I arrived, I have helped at an event at which Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal spoke, met Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and sat in on an interview with feminist author Christina Hoff Sommers. I’ve also visited the One America News station twice to see how a show is broadcast and to watch Weekly Standard Assistant Editor Jim Swift commentate. This is on top of learning to properly copy edit articles, research, and fact check. I’ve even been encouraged to begin working on some pieces. There’s the potential to get something published by the end of my internship.

Although most of my day is spent at the office, I’ve also really enjoyed bonding with my classmates over the past two weeks. After hearing the Honorable Mark Kennedy speak at George Washington University last Friday, we all migrated to Georgetown to celebrate the end of our first week with Baked & Wired cupcakes (way better than the hyped up Georgetown Cupcakes!). Later in the week, we got together to watch a movie and celebrate Pacqui Toscano’s birthday. We’ve also done a lot of sightseeing. On Saturday, a group of us took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked all around the city in search of frozen yogurt (somehow we managed to pick the two places that were closed on a Saturday!). On Monday night, Callie Ramsey and I crossed a D.C. goal off our bucket list by going for a night-time run around the monuments.

In a nutshell, we’ve had a very fast, full, and fulfilling two weeks and are now geared up for the next four!

 

First Day on the Job

April 28
Washington, D.C.

Loading up my car Sunday morning to head to Washington felt surreal. When I landed my internship at The Weekly Standard back in December, I felt like it would be an eternity before I would be slipping into my professional attire and riding the Metro to my office each day. Yet here I was, car packed to the brim and ready to take on my dream internship in the heart of the nation’s bustling capital.

Luckily, I had a fellow Washington Term student with me for the sunny ride to D.C. Our lighthearted conversations soothed any nerves I had and replaced them with an insatiable excitement for the experiences that awaited me. I knew that I was not only going to have an incredible, hands-on experience in the office, but I was also going to be surrounded and supported by a great group of peers.

There are 16 of us participating in the Washington Term program. We live together, attend classes led by Prof. Connelly and intern at locations all over the District. After move-in, we all gathered together for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. What better way to bond than over the fast food that’s missing from Lexington? Only W&L students know how true this is — we can fully appreciate a Chipotle and Starbucks next door to each other.

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My roommates and I decided to call it an early night so we would be refreshed and ready to start our internships in the morning. I was relieved to find that I had less trouble navigating the Metro than I had anticipated; in fact, I had 30 minutes to spare, which gave me just enough time to grab a cup of Peet’s Coffee and compose myself before finally getting to meet my boss.

When I entered the office, I was greeted by warm smiles and a wholehearted series of “welcomes” that immediately made me feel at home. Within my first 30 minutes, I met almost the entire staff — including magazine founder and legend Bill Kristol — and was invited to attend the weekly editorial meeting, which allowed me to quickly pick up on the dynamic in the office. As a loyal reader of The Weekly Standard, it was even more amazing for me to be able to hear writers toss around ideas that would eventually become the articles I’m accustomed to reading. This made me even more excited about the editorial work I’ll get to do in the near future, before the staff closes out each weekly issue.

I was struck by the deep sense of camaraderie at The Weekly Standard. Not only did staff members treat each other respectfully, but they extended that same respect to me by happily showing me the ropes and answering my questions. A group of them even took me out to lunch so that they could get to know me better.

Overall, this was a wonderful first day and a great indication of what the rest of the summer will be like. I cannot wait to see what’s to come!

About Alexandra Seymour

Alexandra Seymour is a rising junior, double majoring in politics and journalism and minoring in environmental studies. At Washington and Lee, she is the Arts and Life section editor for the Ring-Tum Phi, a justice for the Student Judicial Council, the state chair of Maryland for Mock Convention, an anchor for the Rockbridge Report, and a member of the dance company and the all-female a cappella group, JubiLee. Alexandra hopes to be a political journalist and to explore public service later in life. During Washington Term, she’ll be interning at The Weekly Standard.

  • Class Year: 2017
  • Majors: Politics and Journalism
  • Minor: Environmental Studies
  • Hometown: Trenton, N.J.
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May 21
Accra, Ghana

“What are you liking most about Ghana?” my classmate asked me the other day.

“Dancing,” I said, without hesitation.

During last week’s visit to the central region, which is northwest of the greater Accra region, our bus stopped in a rural village where we were to help build the foundation for a library. When a rainstorm kept us from getting to work, we began to dance in the rain with some of the local children. A couple of street drummers made music, and we moved to the rhythm of their beat. Although our original plan had fallen through, the afternoon was not a loss. We danced the time away with our new friends.

Last night, dressed in the traditional African clothes we have each accumulated over the last three weeks, everyone in our group gathered together for a farewell dinner. While we ate, we were entertained by a group of drummers and accompanying dancers. The music pumped during dinner, and once we finished eating, the dancers called us all up onto the dance floor to teach us some of their moves. It was a perfect evening for dancing.

My second favorite thing about Ghana, I told my classmate, is the food.

Months before I ever left the United States for Ghana, I began anticipating the food. Having some African friends at home and at school, I’d already had the pleasure of tasting delicious dishes from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries in African. Here I am, eating Ghanaian food three times a day, and loving it. I love jollof rice, foo-foo (a soft mixture of cassava grain and plantains) and red-red (bean stew made red by the addition of palm oil). Then there is grilled tilapia, fried plantains and banku (another cassava mixture that tastes something like sourdough mashed potatoes). The food is spicy and delicious. And the best part? Everything is eaten with one’s hands. At first, some of us were a bit apprehensive about forgoing silverware, but now we’re fully embracing this new way of eating!

After deep consideration, the third thing I told my classmate I’d miss about Ghana is the timelessness.

The only way I can think to describe this aspect of Ghanaian life is to introduce its opposite: the rushed, time-efficient nature of life in the United States. Even in a little town like Lexington, Virginia, I am always trying to efficiently and productively manage my time. Here in Ghana, we certainly have an everyday agenda of activities and classes, but we are also aware that time is fluid and our plans are subject to change. You would think I might be frustrated or feel unproductive but that’s not the case. I am relishing the relaxed nature of life here. There is plenty of time to retreat from the unrelenting sun and sit in the cool shade or to spend a little more time at lunch in the company of friends. It is a new and refreshing way of life for me and I am enjoying every bit of it.

I realize that the three things I love about Ghana will soon become the three things I miss about Ghana. But I plan to continue dancing to African music. I bought a cookbook full of delicious Ghanaian recipes. And I’m learning to walk a little slower, sit a little longer and enjoy my time. Although I am leaving today, I believe I will bring a little bit of Ghana home with me.

 

How Do You Define “Nice”?

May 15
Accra, Ghana

“Ghanaians are nice,” said Winni, our tour guide. It was our first full day in Ghana and she was leading our orientation.

Several thoughts popped into my head in response to Winni’s claim: “How could a whole country be nice?” and “Of course she’s going to say that, she’s Ghanaian!” I quickly dismissed her comments as tour guide rhetoric, but that was on the first day of our trip to Ghana, and the experiences I’ve had in the two weeks since have proved her right.

If you read my last post, you’re already acquainted with the nice taxi driver who saved my housemate Cathy and me from being hopelessly lost in Accra. Well, the story doesn’t end there.

Two mornings after our misadventure, Cathy and I were enjoying our breakfast of mangoes and oatmeal when our other roommate’s phone rang. It was the original taxi driver calling—the one who had driven away with Cathy’s phone in the back seat of his car! He had found her phone that night and returned to Jerry’s to give it to us, but we had already left. So the next day, he went out and bought a charger for the dying phone. With the battery revived, he telephoned one of Cathy’s recent calls and reached Caroline! Cathy and he arranged to meet at a nearby plaza where she retrieved her phone. The three of us were shocked by this turn of events and extremely overwhelmed by the kind-heartedness of the taxi driver.

The returned cell phone alone would have been enough to make me reevaluate my quick dismissal of Winni’s claim. But soon after the phone’s return, our housemother Auntie Lydia made an announcement, “We’re going to a wedding this Saturday!” Two people from her church were getting married and, according to Auntie Lydia, “everyone was invited.”

On Saturday morning, my two roommates and I drove with our host family to a beautiful house where the wedding was to be held. Before the ceremony even began, we enjoyed some pre-show entertainment. Two jolly women sang songs, cracked jokes and contributed to a spirit of merriment that rippled through the crowd of more than 100 people.

Just as the wedding was about to officially begin, a woman shuffled the three of us out of our seats and into a small backroom. We glanced at each other, confused, wondering why we had been removed from our seats. Soon we found out that we had just been appointed the newest members of the wedding party! We fell into line with several other women and processed down the aisle with the bride, dancing along to calypso music. The guests in the audience clapped and smiled at us as we returned to our seats.

Wedding in Ghana

After the two ceremonies had ended (a traditional African ceremony was followed by a Western-style one), we stayed to enjoy delicious food at the reception. My housemates and I approached the bride to give her our congratulations, somewhat embarrassed that we had crashed her wedding. But she was as gracious and nice as Winni had promised. “Thank you so much for coming!” she said, offering to take a picture with us. The new groom welcomed us heartily as well, even expressing his hope that we would attend services at their church on Sunday.

These two experiences—as well as a number of others that I do not have the space to transcribe—have me convinced that Winni was right and Ghanaians are truly, genuinely “nice.” I consider myself blessed to be able to enjoy their company this month.

*Take a look at our Instagram page instaghana288 for more pictures of our adventures!

 

A Calamity of Errors Teaches a Valuable Lesson in Ghana

May 4
Accra, Ghana

Yesterday evening, my roommate Cathy and I decided to go meet up with the rest of the students on W&L’s Ghana trip at Jerry’s — a local dive bar that’s well known and came highly recommended. With few cell phone minutes between us, it was difficult to make plans. The group finally agreed to simply meet up there “sometime after dinner.”

After a delicious meal of mashyam (mashed up yam covered in a spicy soup) with our host family, we left the house for Jerry’s. Cathy made sure to save the location of our house on her phone’s map so we’d know how to get back. There are few street names in Ghana, so people must rely on a combination of arrows, landmarks, and ubiquitous road signs to get around.

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With our professors’ advice to “stay away from isolated areas” in mind, we quickly made our way through the mostly empty streets of our neighborhood. It took us a while to realize we were walking in circles. Eventually, we found ourselves on the main road and hailed a cab to Jerry’s. When we arrived, we hurried out of the cab, eager to find our classmates and spend a night on the town in Accra.

Once inside, we began to look around for our friends but we didn’t recognize anyone.

“Let’s call them,” I suggested.

Since my phone had not yet become acquainted with Ghanaian cell service (which is spotty at best and utterly frustrating at worst), I turned expectantly toward Cathy. She shuffled items around in her purse.

“Uh oh,” she said.

“Don’t say that.”

“I think I left my phone in the cab. It was on my lap and must have slipped off when we got out,” she said desperately.

We stood there silently, coming to terms with the fact that we were stuck. We had no contacts, no map, and, we soon realized, no friends at Jerry’s. Apparently, they had all left while we had been wandering the streets of our homestay neighborhood.

All that was left to do was sit down, have a beer, and figure out a game plan. The only resources we had were the landmark, “Magnolia Lodge,” near our homestay and my rapidly fading sense of direction. We were feeling pretty hopeless.

We soon decided we should leave. Neither of us knew how long it would take to get back and we needed to make it home before the lights went out (Ghana is enduring a country-wide power shortage; only a certain number of power hours are allotted per day and many people rely on generators).

Unfortunately, none of the taxi drivers we approached knew where Magnolia Lodge was. After paying five cedis (Ghanaian dollars) too much for a cab ride down the street and feeling more and more like an oburoni (“foreigner” in Ghanaian Twi), Cathy and I came upon a hotel where the receptionist graciously searched online and found us a loosely-drawn map to the lodge.

Reinvigorated, Cathy and I returned to the street and hailed another cab. We got lucky — this cab driver was actually an angel. After several twists and turns, he got us back to Magnolia Lodge.

That should have been the end of the story but, as it was only our second day in Ghana, Cathy and I were unsure which house was ours. It didn’t help that, by this time, a power outage had blanketed the city in darkness.

The cabbie pulled over to ask directions from a group of guys on the side of the road. They seemed helpful at first but soon started jeering at us and getting too close to the car. Cathy and I were freaked out, but thankfully, the driver was unfazed. He drove off, leaving the group of guys in a cloud of dust.

“Wait! That’s it!” Cathy suddenly called out. Sure enough, just down the street from where we had left the group of men, was our homestay.

Once our taxi driver/angel saw us safely inside the house, we could finally relax and even laugh at our series of misfortunes.

Coming on this trip, I didn’t expect to find myself so unprepared. Our professors talked about Ghana’s challenges, including its lack of infrastructure, but it was hard to envision how those challenges played out in daily life. Going without cell service, power and even road signs has helped me see the picture more clearly. While I acclimate to life in Ghana, I appreciate the genuine kindness and helpfulness local Ghanaians are showing this oburoni.

About Faith Pinho

Born and raised in Everett, Massachusetts, Faith E. Pinho is a freshman at Washington and Lee University. She is double majoring in Politics and Journalism, and minoring in French with the intent of becoming a political journalist. Faith works for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on campus, writes for W&L’s student-run newspaper The Ring-tum Phi and plays saxophone for the University Jazz Ensemble. When she is not participating in a number of other student diversity organizations, Faith loves to indulge her creative outlets, which include exploring her surroundings, cooking and crocheting.

  • Class Year: 2018
  • Major: Politics and Journalism
  • Minor: French
  • Hometown: Everett, MA
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May 15
Washington, D.C.

Throughout this trip, I’ve had high expectations for our fourth and final day of visits.

We were lucky enough to be able to talk with Jason Wright, the former attorney for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11. I think a lot of us came into this meeting alarmed by the fact that someone would take on this job in the first place. I definitely had questions. For instance, how did Wright balance doing his professional duty with keeping his conscience clear as he defended this man and other Guantanamo Bay detainees?

I came out of this discussion with new thoughts about international law, particularly how it pertains to Guantanamo Bay. Understanding the conditions of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is key; many are in indefinite detention and aren’t given the right to a trial, which is illegal under the Geneva Convention. Wright detailed the corruptive measures taken during his time as defense counsel; attorney-client privilege was broken when letters between his client and his counsel were read and when they found a hearing device in the room during their conversations. Wright holds firm in his belief that everyone deserves a fair trial, although he did say that, of course, it is hard at times to defend someone for whom you have distaste. Wright’s conversation opened my eyes, and I very much enjoyed the discussion.

From there we went to the CIA, where we were greeted by David Moore and his wife Elizabeth, both of whom work at the NSA. Of the agencies we’ve visited, the CIA was by far my favorite. First off, it has a beautiful campus, and I felt like I was in an episode of Homeland on our drive in. We toured the CIA’s museum and met with the vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council and the national intelligence officer in counterintelligence, which was a treat. At HR, they took us through the different job opportunities in the CIA. I came out of that meeting with a much better understanding of the CIA. It’s not just sexy case officers running agents out in the field!

We then met with a lead analyst in the CIA’s weapons intelligence and counter proliferation arms control center. He took us through the process of developing a briefing – from the initial brainstorm to the final analytical product. He taught us the importance of BLUF – bottom line up front – which emphasizes cutting out the fluff in an intelligence memo and providing only the important details in clear and concise writing. He is perhaps one of the most brilliant people I have ever come in contact with.

We were lucky to have some of our hosts join us for a group dinner. Some good Italian food was the cherry on top to a wonderful trip. I am sad that we are packing up to head back to Lexington, but I know that our conversations in the remaining week of class will provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on our incredible trip in D.C.

 

Following the Money

May 14
Washington, D.C.

We headed out early on our third day to the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is located on the Potomac River. There we met with civilian and military analysts who spoke with us about their role in the intelligence community and about the hiring process for prospective employees.

I hadn’t learned much about the DIA before this visit and found the concept of strategic military intelligence fascinating. The DIA is a defense all-source intelligence agency that deploys agents worldwide to provide mission support and warning analysis. Knowledge of a foreign language is not required of prospective recruits but it did seem as if a second language would be an asset at the DIA.

The analysts we met with were hesitant to answer any questions that even teetered on the line of sharing classified information. I think they were prepared to give a standard talk about how to get a job in the intelligence community but were less prepared to address a group of students who are enrolled in a class about intelligence. Because of everything we’ve learned, we’re naturally very interested in the inner workings of the DIA. Even without being able to get into too much detail, their presentation was very helpful.

From the DIA, we went to the FBI, where we toured their intelligence exhibit, which includes a moving display about 9/11. It was the most engrossing and informative exhibit I have seen so far on this trip, partly because the FBI was so involved in post-9/11 intelligence collection and law enforcement.

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I found our discussion with Department of Justice lawyers Mark Bradley and Jeff Breinholt later that evening to be my absolute favorite part of the trip so far. Mr. Breinholt led a discussion on terrorism financing and took us through real-life examples to illustrate how the DOJ deals with the growing threat of non-state terrorism. They have an incredibly difficult job that requires them to walk a fine line; they’ve got to push back on terrorist threats while at the same time safeguarding U.S. citizens and sustaining our rights in a post-9/11 world. To do their jobs, they examine and analyze money-laundering patterns, as most international terrorism organizations are being funded in the U.S. The life of a DOJ lawyer seems exhausting, but I came out of the meeting with a newfound interest in the law and the analysis of the non-violent aspects of terrorism: funding.

We will continue the conversation about international law and human rights tomorrow when we meet with Jason Wright, a Washington and Lee law professor and former defense attorney for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11. We are all highly anticipating this conversation and the chance to visit the CIA.

 

Military Intelligence and James Bond

May 13
Washington, D.C.

We began day two of our D.C. trip with a meeting at our hotel. Col. Daniel Pinnell and Col. Mark Haseman are officers in the U.S. Army and gave us an overview of how military intelligence systems work. Then they ran through an interesting simulation that helped us see how military operations are conducted. The intelligence community is increasingly moving away from utilizing human intelligence (HUMINT) sources in favor of signal intelligence, and they warned about the possible consequences of this trend. It could become easier for the military to overreach and it’s possible that analysts will lose touch with the reality of what’s happening at the street level.

It shocked me when Col. Pinnell told us that, during the course of a four-year deployment in Baghdad, an average of two car bombs a day affected the military’s ongoing operations. Their assessment of our failures and successes in Iraq was very though provoking, and I appreciated learning how communication with local government officials played a key role in our counter-insurgency efforts. Both men were very compelling storytellers, and when they talked about the power of pattern analysis in military intelligence, I think it left a strong impression on us all. Their visit has definitely been one of my favorite discussions during this trip.

Next, we went to the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which is located in the State Department. We spoke with Julie Johnson, the director of professional development, and two analysts who work for the terrorism, narcotics and crime branch. In the early 2000s, INR was the only agency that dissented when the rest of the intelligence community agreed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; their assessment was largely ignored as we prepared for the 2003 invasion. INR is an interesting agency because it reports directly to the secretary of state and is the only intelligence agency that co-locates with policy makers to jointly serve foreign relations interests. One of the INR analysts who spoke with us focuses on drug trafficking in Central and South America, and it was interesting to learn more about an issue that is less widely publicized. We also got to hear from a foreign service officer and decided that the job seems like a sweet deal—getting paid to travel and move around every few years doesn’t seem so bad!

We ended the day at the National Spy Museum, a crafty spot that was as entertaining as it was educational. We heard from Peter Earnest, the museum’s founder and a former CIA case officer, who told us about some of his “James Bond moments” in the field.

All of our visits have been very rewarding. As the week goes on, I’m enjoying being able to compare and contrast each agency, all while exploring the extraordinary restaurants and bakeries of northwest D.C.!

 

Espionage, the Enigma Machine and Edward Snowden

May 12
Washington, D.C.

I’m enrolled in Professor Seth Cantey’s Intelligence in Practice spring term course, and one of the things that attracted me to the class was that we got to travel to Washington, D.C., to visit some of the agencies we’re learning about in the course. We had two weeks in the classroom before making the trip, so by the time we arrived in D.C.—the homeland of espionage—we’d already learned a good bit about the roles of the 17 agencies that make up the American intelligence community.

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After checking in at a boutique hotel called the Normandy Hotel, we ventured out into the humidity to grab some grub and enjoy some live music around Dupont Circle. Professor Cantey told us to expect early mornings and long days. For four days, we’re attending meetings with intelligence officials, touring museums, and exploring the greater D.C. area.

On our first day, we started off at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a homey cache of buildings that looks nothing like the daunting compound that is the National Security Agency (NSA). At the DHS we met with members of Intelligence and Analysis (IA), visited the National Operations Center, and spoke with analysts who specialize in border security, cyber-intelligence, and counterterrorism — particularly as it relates to English language violent extremism propaganda and female radicalism. Contrary to what I had thought, the DHS is made up of more than just the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard. The DHS is a relatively small intelligence agency but with very broad capabilities — 90 percent of its employees are stationed outside of D.C.

We were lucky enough to get to talk to Francis X. Taylor, the Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security. Both he and his colleagues stressed the fact that what they write goes into the hands of local and state law enforcement officers, and that it’s those men and women who play an important role in stopping attacks at their point of origin. Mr. Taylor also emphasized that, with a more unified approach to intelligence sharing, government agencies can work more efficiently. I very much enjoyed our Q&A with the analysts; they were all relatively young and talked enthusiastically about how their research and writing skills are central to their day-to-day jobs, which involve sifting through pieces of information and deciding on the parts that are most critical, particularly so they supply the best information to policymakers.

We then left for the National Cryptologic Museum, which is located in the suburbs of D.C., next to the heavily monitored NSA (the one place we couldn’t get inside to tour). At the cryptology museum, we learned about the Enigma machine’s role in WWII. One thing I found interesting was that, during WWII, the Allies used Native Americans to transport radio signal in their native Navajo tongue, as the language acted as its own form of encryption.

After the museum we went back in the hotel and met with an NSA traffic analyst, David Moore, who also happens to be a W&L alum. Mr. Moore took us through a simulation of deception analysis, teaching us the aspects of fabrication, manipulation, conditioning, diversion and feedback. This was particularly interesting in relation to the deception surrounding D-Day in WWII. We tried to pose some questions about Edward Snowden, which he graciously dodged! It’s a topic that we will continue to discuss as the week progresses.

About Chandler Wickers

Chandler Wickers is a first-year student from Portola Valley, California. She plans to pursue a major in global politics and a minor in film studies. Chandler is on the women’s soccer team, is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and volunteers with Lifestyle Information for Everyone–an organization that provides students with health information and resources. Fanatic about both food trucks and the San Francisco Giants, Chandler enjoys spending her free time lakeside, in the snow or wandering around national parks. The Intelligence in Practice class is perfect for Chandler because of her interest in international relations, and specifically the Middle East.

  • Class Year: 2018
  • Major: Undeclared
  • Hometown: Portola Valley, CA
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