* Please note all CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.


Register in advance for this webinar: https://stanford.zoom.us/webinar/register/8416226562432/WN_WLYcdRa6T5Cs1MMdmM0Mug


About the Event: Is there a place for illegal or nonconsensual evidence in security studies research, such as leaked classified documents? What is at stake, and who bears the responsibility, for determining source legitimacy? Although massive unauthorized disclosures by WikiLeaks and its kindred may excite qualitative scholars with policy revelations, and quantitative researchers with big-data suitability, they are fraught with methodological and ethical dilemmas that the discipline has yet to resolve. I argue that the hazards from this research—from national security harms, to eroding human-subjects protections, to scholarly complicity with rogue actors—generally outweigh the benefits, and that exceptions and justifications need to be articulated much more explicitly and forcefully than is customary in existing work. This paper demonstrates that the use of apparently leaked documents has proliferated over the past decade, and appeared in every leading journal, without being explicitly disclosed and defended in research design and citation practices. The paper critiques incomplete and inconsistent guidance from leading political science and international relations journals and associations; considers how other disciplines from journalism to statistics to paleontology address the origins of their sources; and elaborates a set of normative and evidentiary criteria for researchers and readers to assess documentary source legitimacy and utility. Fundamentally, it contends that the scholarly community (researchers, peer reviewers, editors, thesis advisors, professional associations, and institutions) needs to practice deeper reflection on sources’ provenance, greater humility about whether to access leaked materials and what inferences to draw from them, and more transparency in citation and research strategies.

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About the Speaker: Christopher Darnton is a CISAC affiliate and an associate professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. He previously taught at Reed College and the Catholic University of America, and holds a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University. He is the author of Rivalry and Alliance Politics in Cold War Latin America (Johns Hopkins, 2014) and of journal articles on US foreign policy, Latin American security, and qualitative research methods. His International Security article, “Archives and Inference: Documentary Evidence in Case Study Research and the Debate over U.S. Entry into World War II,” won the 2019 APSA International History and Politics Section Outstanding Article Award. He is writing a book on the history of US security cooperation in Latin America, based on declassified military documents.

Virtual Seminar

Christopher Darnton Associate Professor of National Security Affairs Naval Postgraduate School

Please note: the start time for this event has been moved from 3:00 to 3:15pm.

Join FSI Director Michael McFaul in conversation with Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. They will address the role of entrepreneurship in creating stable, prosperous societies around the world.

Richard Stengel Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Special Guest United States Department of State

Encina Hall
616 Jane Stanford Way
Stanford, CA 94305-6055

Director, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies, Department of Political Science
Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution

Michael McFaul is Director at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Professor of International Studies in the Department of Political Science, and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1995.

Dr. McFaul also is as an International Affairs Analyst for NBC News and a columnist for The Washington Post. He served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012), and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).

He has authored several books, most recently the New York Times bestseller From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia. Earlier books include Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We Can; Transitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (eds. with Kathryn Stoner); Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (with James Goldgeier); and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.

His current research interests include American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development. Dr. McFaul was born and raised in Montana. He received his B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and his M.A. in Soviet and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his D. Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University in 1991. He is currently writing a book on great power relations in the 21st century.



Panel Discussions
Steve Fyffe
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The United States has a growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants that continues to accumulate at reactor sites around the country.

In addition, the legacy waste from U.S. defense programs remains at Department of Energy sites around the country, mainly at Hanford, WA, Savannah River, SC, and at Idaho National Laboratory.

But now the U.S. nuclear waste storage program is “frozen in place”, according to Rod Ewing, Frank Stanton professor in nuclear security at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

“The processing and handling of waste is slow to stopped and in this environment the pressure has become very great to do something.”

Currently, more than seventy thousand metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from civilian reactors is sitting in temporary aboveground storage facilities spread across 35 states, with many of the reactors that produced it shut down.  And U.S. taxpayers are paying the utilities billions of dollars to keep it there.

Meanwhile, the deep geologic repository where all that waste was supposed to go, in Yucca Mountain Nevada, is now permanently on hold, after strong resistance from Nevada residents and politicians led by U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad New Mexico, the world’s first geologic repository for transuranic waste, has been closed for over a year due to a release of radioactivity.

And other parts of the system, such as the vitrification plant at Hanford and the mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River , SC, are way behind schedule and over budget.

It’s a growing problem that’s unlikely to change this political season.

“The chances of dealing with it in the current Congress are pretty much nil, in my view,” said former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

“We’re not going to see a solution to this problem this year or next year.”

The issue in Congress is generally divided along political lines, with Republicans wanting to move forward with the original plan to build a repository at Yucca Mountain, while Democrats support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to create a new organization to manage nuclear waste in the U.S. and start looking for a new repository location using an inclusive, consent-based process.

“One of the big worries that I have with momentum loss is loss of nuclear competency,” said David Clark, a Fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“So we have a whole set of workers who have been trained, and have been working on these programs for a number of years. When you put a program on hold, people go find something else to do.”

Meanwhile, other countries are moving ahead with plans for their own repositories, with Finland and Sweden leading the pack, leaving the U.S. lagging behind.

So Ewing decided to convene a series of high-level conferences, where leading academics and nuclear experts from around the world can discuss the issues in a respectful environment with a diverse range of stakeholders – including former politicians and policy makers, scientists and representatives of Indian tribes and other effected communities.

“For many of these people and many of these constituencies, I’ve seen them argue at length, and it’s usually in a situation where a lot seems to be at stake and it’s very adversarial,” said Ewing.

“So by having the meeting at Stanford, we’ve all taken a deep breath, the program is frozen in place, nothing’s going to go anywhere tomorrow, we have the opportunity to sit and discuss things. And I think that may help.”

Former Senator Bingaman said he hoped the multidisciplinary meetings, known at the “Reset of Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy Series”, would help spur progress on this pressing problem.

“There is a high level of frustration by people who are trying to find a solution to this problem of nuclear waste, and there’s no question that the actions that we’ve taken thus far have not gotten us very far,” Bingaman said.

“I think that’s why this conference that is occurring is a good thing, trying to think through what are the problems that got us into the mess we’re in, and how do we avoid them in the future.”

The latest conference, held earlier this month, considered the question of how to structure a new nuclear waste management organization in the U.S.

Speakers from Sweden, Canada and France brought an international perspective and provided lessons learned from their countries nuclear waste storage programs.

“The other…major programs, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, they all reached a crisis point, not too different from our own,” said Ewing.

“And at this crisis point they had to reevaluate how they would go forward. They each chose a slightly different path, but having thought about it, and having selected a new path, one can also observe that their programs are moving forward.”

France has chosen to adopt a closed nuclear cycle to recycle spent fuel and reuse it to generate more electricity.

“It means that the amount of waste that we have to dispose of is only four percent of the total volume of spent nuclear fuel which comes out of the reactor,” said Christophe Poinssot of the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission.

“We also reduce the toxicity because…we are removing the plutonium. And finally, we are conditioning the final waste under the form of nuclear glass, the lifetime of which is very long, in the range of a million years in repository conditions.”

Clark said that Stanford was the perfect place to convene a multidisciplinary group of thought leaders in the field who could have a real impact on the future of nuclear waste storage policy.

“The beauty of a conference like this, and holding it at a place like Stanford University and CISAC, is that all the right people are here,” he said.

“All the people who are here have the ability to influence, through some level of authority and scholarship, and they’ll be able to take the ideas that they’ve heard back to their different offices and different organizations.  I think it will make a difference, and I’m really happy to be part of it.”

Ewing said it was also important to include students in the conversation.

“There’s a next generation of researchers coming online, and I want to save them the time that it took me to realize what the problems are,” Ewing said.

“By mixing students into this meeting, letting them interact with all the parties, including the distinguished scientists and engineers, I’m hoping it speeds up the process.”

Professor Ewing is already planning his next conference, next March, which will focus on the consent-based process that will be used to identify a new location within the U.S. for a repository.

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A special guest awaited students in the final class of the fall quarter for INTLPOL 340 / MS&E 296 “Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition - Keeping America’s Edge in an Era of Great Power Rivalry.'' Eric Schmidt joined the group as a guest speaker and was eager to engage each student team during their group project presentations.

Schmidt knows a thing or two about how new technologies intersect with the geopolitics of today. He was Google chairman and CEO, served as the chairman of the Department of Defense’s Innovation Board from 2016-2020, and is the co-founder of Schmidt Futures.

The students, who came from a diverse set of backgrounds and interests – from undergraduate sophomores to 5th year PhD’s – were eager to share their ideas with Schmidt.

Over the duration of fall quarter 2022, they examined the new operational concepts and strategies that are emerging from acquiring, funding, and fielding a range of emerging technologies critical to US national security and global competitiveness.

“This is a unique course,” explained Joe Felter, a course instructor and director of the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation, through which the course is available. “We offer the combination of reading, lectures and guest speakers seen in traditional policy courses. But this is an experiential policy class.”

In small teams, students embark on identifying an urgent national security challenge, validate the problem, and propose a detailed solution. These solutions are then tested against actual stakeholders in the technology and national security sectors.

Over 20 “problem statements,” addressing issues from energy scarcity to AI research collaboration and manufacturing scalability, served as jumping off points for the nine student teams.

Schmidt attested that this approach has a tangible impact.

“The world gets better because you decide on your own to work on a hard problem, and you solve it or with your friends,” Schmidt told students at the final meeting of the class. “Your generation is in such a stronger position to do this than we were ever, and I'm really really jealous that you have that opportunity ahead of you."

Besides Schmidt, past guest speakers have included former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Michael McFaul as well as a range of senior policy makers and leaders from across the U.S. government.

The course builds on concepts presented in MS&E 193/293 “Technology and National Security” and provides a strong foundation for students interested in enrolling in MS&E 297 “Hacking for Defense.”

“This class changed the trajectory of many of our students,” wrote course instructor Steve Blank in a blog post. “A number expressed newfound interest in exploring career options in the field of national security. Several will be taking advantage of opportunities provided by the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation to further pursue their contribution to national security.”

Course instructor Steve Blank addresses students
Course instructor Steve Blank speaks to students at the final fall quarter class of "Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition - Keeping America’s Edge in an Era of Great Power Rivalry."

Here’s what the students have to say about the course in their own words:

"The TIGPC class was a highlight of my academic experience at Stanford. Over the ten week quarter, I learned a tremendous amount about the importance of technology in global politics from the three professors and from the experts in government, business, and academia who came to speak. The class epitomizes some of the best parts of my time here: the opportunity to learn from incredible, caring faculty and to work with inspiring classmates. Joe, Steve, and Raj instilled in my classmates and me a fresh sense of excitement to work in public service." -Matt Kaplan

"This course doesn’t just discuss U.S. national security issues. It teaches students how to apply an influential and proven methodology to rapidly develop solutions to our most challenging problems." -Jason Kim

"Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition gave me an opportunity to dive into a real world national security threat to the United States and understand the implications of it within the great power competition. Unlike any other class I have taken at Stanford, this class allowed me to take action on our problem about networks, censorship and the lack of free flow of information in authoritarian regimes, and gave me the chance to meet and learn from a multitude of experts on the topic. I finished this class with a deep understanding of our problem, a proposed actionable solution and a newfound interest in the intersection of technology and innovation as it applies to national defense. I am very grateful to have been part of this course, and it has inspired me to go a step further and pursue a career related to national security." -Etienne Reche-Ley

"Technology, Innovation and Great Power Competition (TIGPC) is that rare combination of the theoretical, tactical, and practical. Over 10 weeks, Blank, Felter, and Shah manage to outline the complexities of modern geopolitical tensions and bring students up the steep learning curves of critical areas of technological competition, from semiconductors to artificial intelligence. Each week of the seminar is a crash course in a new domain, brought to life by rich discussion and an incredible slate of practitioners who live and breathe the content of TIGPC on a daily basis. Beyond the classroom, the course plunges students into the midst of solving the most pressing problems of nation and mission, getting teams "out of the building" to iterate quickly while translating learnings to the real world. Along the way, the course illuminates compelling career paths and acts as a strong call to public service." -Jonah Cader

"TIGPC is an interdisciplinary class like no other. It is a fabulous introduction to some of the most significant tech and geopolitical challenges and questions of the 21st century. The class, like the topics it covers, is incredible and ambitious - it’s a great way to level up your understanding of not just international policy, political theory and technology policy but also deep tech and the role of startups in projecting national power. If you’re curious about the future of the world and the role of the U.S. in it, you won’t find a more unique course, a more dedicated teaching team or better speakers to hear from than this!" -Shreyas Lakhtakia

Students interested in “Hacking for Defense,” which will be offered in Spring 2023, should join the course mailing list. “Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition - Keeping America’s Edge in an Era of Great Power Rivalry” will be offered again in Fall 2023.

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and her team meet at the Hoover Institution with students and faculty from the Gordian Knot Center.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks Discusses Importance of Strategic Partnerships with Stanford Faculty and Students

A visit from the Department of Defense’s deputy secretary gave the Gordian Knot Center a prime opportunity to showcase how its faculty and students are working to build an innovative workforce that can help solve the nation’s most pressing national security challenges.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks Discusses Importance of Strategic Partnerships with Stanford Faculty and Students
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In the class “Technology, Innovation, and Great Power Competition,” students across disciplines work in teams and propose their detailed solutions to active stakeholders in the technology and national security sectors.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House are currently reconsidering existing policy to manage “dual use research of concern” and research that would enhance potential pandemic pathogens, with expected new guidance in January. 

As biotechnology has advanced with remarkable speed and impact, so have the needs and demands for benefits, along with concerns about risks. Policy for managing these tradeoffs and mitigating risks has not kept up.

Today, two researchers at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, David Relman and Megan Palmer, are among the co-authors on a Policy Forum article that appears in Science magazine, entitled Strengthen Oversight of Risky Research on Pathogens.”

The article calls for a series of specific measures to enhance U.S. policy and spur the development of policy elsewhere in the world to address the serious gaps and challenges of the current guidance framework.

The recommendations include:

  • The ‘dual use research of concern’ (DURC) framework should apply to all human pathogens, not just the 15 agents currently listed.
  • Improved review processes must evaluate the risk and potential consequences of accidents, theft or insider diversions.
  • Research proposals should be required to go through independent, government-led risk–benefit assessments to determine whether the work should proceed and under what conditions.
  • The U.S. government should seek nongovernmental expertise for the review process. Currently, the HHS process involves only governmental experts, and the identity of these individuals is not publicly available.
  • All U.S. agencies and institutions that fund work related to the enhancement of potential pandemic pathogens should have that work evaluated under the revised enhanced potential pandemic pathogens framework.

In addition to Relman and Palmer, the other co-authors are Jassi Pannu, Anita Cicero, and Tom Inglesby at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and Marc Lipsitch at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“It is vital to get these policies right, not only for the US, but to inspire policy development in other countries with growing life science and biotechnology sectors,” write the authors. “Few countries have policies that fully manage these issues.”


Media Contact: Ari Chasnoff, Associate Director for Communications, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

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The White House in Washington D.C.

At White House Summit on Bioeconomy, Work of Stanford Scholars Takes Major Leap Forward

With more funding and resources being allocated to America's biotech sector, CISAC affiliate Megan Palmer and core faculty member Drew Endy describe the opportunities and challenges of developing a more robust, ethical, and equitable bioeconomy.
At White House Summit on Bioeconomy, Work of Stanford Scholars Takes Major Leap Forward
Researchers examine medical vials

5 Questions: David Relman on Investigating Origin of Coronavirus

Microbiologist David Relman discusses the importance of understanding how the coronavirus emerged.
5 Questions: David Relman on Investigating Origin of Coronavirus
The flag of Taiwan flies over a military monunment in Kinmen, Taiwan.

Understanding the Stakes in Taiwan

Larry Diamond and Oriana Skylar Mastro join Michael McFaul on the World Class podcast to discuss China’s ambitions against Taiwan, and how the U.S. and its allies can deter Beijing.
Understanding the Stakes in Taiwan
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In Science magazine, Stanford researchers Megan Palmer and David Relman are among co-authors recommending a reset of U.S. and global policy
to address the gaps and challenges of current guidance.

Honors Student

Chase is studying International Relations and Data Science at Stanford University. His thesis is titled, "Propaganda Build-Up: Understanding the Role of Russian Influence Operations Surrounding Ukraine"

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