Philadelphia native Malcolm Nance may look like a familiar face, and not because he graduated from West Philadelphia Catholic High School when it was West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys.
Nance, 55, is an intelligence and terrorism expert, author and U.S. military veteran who frequently appears on MSNBC and other national news networks as an intelligence and foreign policy analyst. His first book, the “Terrorist Recognition Handbook,” was published in 2004, and revised in two more editions since. He’s written seven books to date.
In an interview with the Tribune, the go-to counterintelligence and terrorism analyst described a typical day for him, which begins around 3:30 a.m. with collecting news from around the world and writing before he heads to a Mt. Airy café to talk politics with “a bunch of guys my age.”
Always skilled in foreign languages, Nance said he left Catholic school to attend Edwin H. Vare Jr. High which had advanced languages at the time. There he took Spanish, Latin and French. He explored Russian and Chinese for free at South Philadelphia High at a Saturday program then.
“The school was packed on Saturday mornings,” Nance recalled during an interview. “They should really go back to that.”
Recently, Nance caused a stir when he commented on Donald Trump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phone at Trump Tower.
Nance told Joy Reid on her show “AM Joy” on MSNBC:
“If there are any questions coming from the White House starting today, or anytime in the foreseeable future on how they actually do collections, it means they’re preparing for a cover-up, because they want to know how they’re actually getting this information. This is what happens when a target starts getting buggy because he knows that he’s caught.”
Elaborating during the Tribune interview, Nance explained, “Being buggy is when a target starts to understand that compromising intelligence is out there about him and he doesn’t know what the source is so he starts behaving in a crazy manner.”
After Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump’s phones, Nance said, “He immediately went to accusing the President of the United States of a high crime. That’s as buggy as you can get.”
On March 16, Nance will moderate “Talking Terrorism” with former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. The event will examine the challenges Trump faces against violent extremism, regional turmoil and persistent threats even if the Islamic State, the jihadist group that controls parts of Syria and Iraq, is defeated.
Currently, Nance runs the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideologies, a counterterrorism think tank. Previously, he served in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence collections operator and field interrogator. Fluent in Arabic, Nance founded the Advanced Terrorism, Abduction and Hostage Survival School and worked for more than 20 years on antiterrorism and counterterrorism operations in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and South Asia.
Raised in a family of veterans who have served in the armed forces in every war since the Civil War, he was also a first responder to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
As a Philadelphia native, Nance knows first hand why Black Philadelphians should care about foreign intelligence threats and other news coming out of the Trump administration.
“It’s simple,” Nance said. “They’re coming for our world.
“African Americans...we built this country on our backs, literally. So we need to wake up and pay attention to what’s going on out there,” he continued. “That vote is the only weapon you have.”
Nance’s most recent work, “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election,” examines the Russian hack into the Democratic National Committee.
The Trump administration’s ties to Russia have been a near-constant U.S. public issue, especially with national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation over lying to Vice President Mike Pence and others about conversations with Russian officials. More recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation into possible links between the Trump camp and Russian authorities after it was discovered the former U.S. senator left out two meetings with the Russian envoy during his confirmation process.
Nance’s newest book “The Plot to Hack America” explores part of that relationship, detailing the Russian interference in the 2016 election by hacking the emails and other sensitive information of the Democratic National Committee.
Said Nance on a YouTube clip of a radio interview, “The Russians didn’t hack the RNC [Republican National Committee] because they’re working for the RNC.”
“Talking Terrorism” takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, 3803 Locust Walk.
For more information, visit https://penncurrent.upenn.edu/events/talks/talking-terrorism for more information.