Suprise! Sonni Efron Visits for IAS Speaker Series on the Intelligence Community

On Friday, September 28, IAS and the Career Center had the honor of welcoming Sonni Efron to speak on US national security and blind spots within the American intelligence community. Her insight into the intelligence community provided a valuable lens into behind the scenes of national security—a world we rarely see if the job is done right. Ms. Efron has had more than 25 years of experience in international affairs, journalism, and the NGO sector through her roles as foreign correspondent, an op-ed editor, and speechwriter to Hillary Clinton, and she currently serves as writer-in-correspondence for the RAND Corporation. Ms. Efron highlighted the existence of “black swan” threats looming on the horizon of US national security—events considered so extraordinarily unlikely to occur, that no one expects for them to happen. Conversely, “white swan” security issues are predicted and handled by intelligence agencies on a regular basis. Black swan events, including the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks on 9/11, have indubitably reshaped the US intelligence community and public consciousness of foreign relations. Lacking the novelty of their counterpart, white swan events include security problems which “are predictable...and predicted” by the intelligence community, yet fail to gain the necessary attention by the policymakers on the receiving end. After illuminating possible white swans on the national horizon, the event ended with a workshop by Ms. Efron on writing and speaking for effective reception. A key takeaway from the workshop was concision. Often, intelligence is lost in rambling jargon that proves inaccessible. Truly great communication is made for many audiences. Messages can and should be delivered not only to capture attention, but also to hold it.