Joe Rogan | Is the Military Industrial Complex Necessary? w/Annie Jacobsen

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Annie Jacobsen

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Annie Jacobsen is an American investigative journalist, author and 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist in history. Her latest book "Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins" is available now.

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And there's also probably some concern about other countries getting ahead of us. So you have to do what you have to do if your job is to protect the American people and to keep the military strong. You just have to operate with that premise that there's a bunch of other people out there that are doing the same thing for their country and trying to take down the United States and we got to stay ahead of the curve and make human eating robots that can shoot missiles. Absolutely. And I was reporting the Pentagon's brain, which is about DARPA, and I was sitting there with scientists who were working on limb regeneration, right? Whoa. Right? Really? Yeah. What are they doing? Oh my God, they have these little salamanders. I mean, they're showing that salamanders can regenerate their limbs. And so human, their idea, they're down at UC Irvine, they have this incredible lab and they're funded by DARPA because that's where the money comes from, right? And their idea is that humans should be able to regenerate their limbs. And 50 years out, we'll be doing that. And they're working on the science for that. Well, that's the same science that allows for cloning. And so in our discussions, because that's how I try to report, is really ask people what they think about future consequences. And they said to me your exact question, which is, well, Annie, what if one day we wake up and we find out that China has cloned the first human or a dark horse like Saudi Arabia? The American people are going to freak out and go, where the hell was DARPA? Why aren't we ahead of the curve? So it's that there's a chicken and the egg problem with that of like, well, we have to stay ahead. We're on top. We want to be on top. It's kind of terrifying. I mean, everything I write about is terrifying. How do you sleep? Do you sleep well? Do you have to take Ambien? No, God, no. I'm more worried about coming on your show and being asked tough questions than I am about teasing you. But then I am about, I mean, this stuff is informative. It's informative and it's a longer conversation. That's why I think what you do with your podcast is awesome because people can really get into the thinking about things, right? And they can move away from their own preconceptions, their own biases they're bringing into it. And they're stopping for a minute and they're going, what do I really think about that? And to really think about something, you need information. And information can be boring unless it's interestingly presented through conversation, through uncomfortable conversation. Well, also uncompromised conversation where you don't have a certain time period that you have to smush something into like a four minute segment on CNN or something. I mean, that's impossible. Well, it's so difficult. I see people have these conversations about books or something that they're trying to, a complex, very nuanced subject that they're trying to discuss. And there's another person on other side like, that's not true. And they're shouting over each other and like, boy, just the pressure. People have to understand that, people do understand, but you have to reiterate it and it has to be kind of drilled into your head. When you're pressuring someone and you're yelling back and forth, you're not even going to get a good version of whatever this person's argument is. Like, you should have the best version. I want, like, if I'm going to have a disagreement with someone, I want the best version of their point and I want them to get it out with no pressure. I want to help them get it out. I'd like to reiterate it with them. I'd like to give them plenty of time. I want to know how you think. I want to know what you're thinking about. I would love to talk to these guys. I would love to, but the thing is like, they can't tell you a lot of this. There's a mean for national security reasons. There's a lot of reasons. I'm sure if they want to keep their job and stay alive, they have to shut the fuck up. They can't just talk about what they do and how they do it and decisions that maybe they made that were uncomfortable. Well, they killed somebody that didn't think maybe needed to die. But... But that's the reporter's job or at least my job. So in other words, okay, so I go to visit Billy Waugh at his home and I knew, I heard stories about he's this legendary operator, right? And he's also what's called a singleton, so he works alone. And when I was at... They call him a singleton. A singleton, right? Which is like he's got one guy giving him orders. Whoa. Right? And he's out there alone. Oh my God. I mean, Billy Waugh is, right? I mean, back, can we back up for a second? Yeah. I'm not going to give you the story of him. Please. Okay, so here's this guy. He's in Vietnam and he's part of what was called MACV SOG, right? And they're doing cross border missions into Laos and it's so dangerous. It's like, it's a CIA program that SOG stands for Studies and Observations Group. I mean, it's supposed to sound like a bunch of guys in an Ivy League tower with bow ties, right? But the guys on the ground called it Suicide on the Ground. That's how dangerous it was. Jesus. 100% of the people had casualties, right? Billy Waugh has nine Purple Hearts from the work he did. Nine. Okay. I mean, they get shot. They bandaged themselves up there. You know, they're up in an aircraft because they're limping instead of on the ground, you know, viewing the missions. The war ends. Everybody's furious with the government, with the military. There's no room for special operators. I mean, everything, it's called the time of troubles by them. Billy Waugh is working in the post office and he gets this knock, you know, and it's like he's back in the CIA now in 1977. So he was out for a while? He was out. It was over in Vietnam. I mean, he was, you know, it was over. That was it. And he was working in the post office? He was working in the post office. Seems like a Stallone movie. He was working in the post office. We need you. Right? The team needs you. I mean, but he said the most incredible thing to me because he said I, and he doesn't ever talk about fear. And he said there's only one time in my whole life I've ever been afraid. And that was in the post office. Whoa. Because he was getting back into it. Probably he'd like recycled his mind and put himself in a place. I'm just a civilian now. And he said I'm going to wind up being one of those old guys drinking beer at the end of the bar talking about the war. Right? And instead he gets called up by the CIA and they send him to Libya in 1977. And his cover is that he's training Gaddafi's paramilitary guys in paramilitary tactics. I mean, that's the beginning of his career. And it goes on all the way until we were in Cuba, I think was actually some kind of a mission because it was like, what are we doing here in Cuba doing infiltration and exfiltration techniques, allegedly with Che Guevara's son? But in any event, you know, when I went to visit Billy Wall the first time, he's got this, you know, he's got certificates and awards and medals all over the walls of his home, but there's one framed item that I'm looking at and it's a knife. And there's a seal from the CIA and it says, in appreciation to the assassin. And I said, Billy, tell me about that. And he said, you know, I can't talk about that. So I, you know, stayed with him for two years. I mean, stayed, we conversed, we traveled, I interviewed him, you know, hundreds of hours. And I kept asking him about that award and he kept saying, you know, I can't talk about that. But as I write in the book, he couldn't talk about it, but others did. So that's how a reporter works. You get introduced to enough of his friends, enough of the others who are involved, you make sure they're a legitimate source and you begin to find out what he can't talk about. And that's what I report in the book. And that is very explosive because President Bush right after 9-11 created what was called a stalker team. And ironically, you know, people have this idea that we've been, you know, sending a team of assassins around the world in NATO partner countries. And that, what I learned had never happened until right after 11 with the stalker team. 12 men and actually one or two women, the femme fatale, and they would go after bad guys. And they adopted the term from the Reagan era. So it was called preemptive neutralization. Who was, who were the women? There's always one woman on the team. That's what I was told by the guy who was in charge of the stalker team. And why is that? Well, I mean, he, he gave me this great example. I don't report it in the book, but I'll tell you, right? He said, so women have a different presentation and this, like he told me a story of a woman sitting on a bench, you know, in embracing a man, right? And no one thought anything of it. And it allowed her to spy on someone in a manner that would, a man would, it would have drawn attention and then the stalker team could go. So what their job would be is to conduct surveillance of a target and they call it making book. They have to make book on that individual. So they know exactly where the guy is and they're waiting on the president's orders, whether or not they should take action. And you know, that's where the, that's where the information stops, right? I say, well then what happens? Well, that's all we can say, Annie. That must be so exciting. Like to live like that, like all cloak and dagger, it's gotta be so exciting. Like it's, I would take that over a cubicle every day of the week. I really would. Well, you might get killed. I might die in that damn cubicle too. I think it's why so many of these operators stay in it long term, right? Did you ever see the television show, the Showtime show, what the hell's it called? With the Fox that show called that the, the Homeland, yes. Well, that's like the whole premise. Like she's completely addicted to being in that world. Adrenaline. I mean, that's what that is. Imagine jumping out of an aircraft landing in, you know, behind enemy lines and then your work begins and then you have to get out. That's why surprise, kill, vanish. I mean, you gotta surprise your way in, kill them and then get out. And if you do a job, they frame your knife and give you a plaque. Jamie, I'm going to get you a knife. It's an appreciation of the assassin. You're a killer. It's just such a crazy way to live your life. But you know, I'll take that over a boring life. I would take that over a boring life every day of the week.