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Power Corrupts

Podcast Power Corrupts
Podcast Power Corrupts

Power Corrupts


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  • Fake IDs
    Could you fake your death and get away with it? In this episode, we look at fake identities, from people who've tried to fake their own deaths to an audacious wine fraudster who made millions as he sold new wine in old bottles.     We speak to a private investigator who proves that people are, in fact alive, and a wine merchant who decided to act like an FBI agent in his quest to stake out a man who was making fake bottles of his wine. And in the process, we see glimpses of how identities are harder to forge in the 21st century.         Guests in this episode: Steven Rambam, private investigator; Laurent Ponsot, master winemaker; Peter Hellman, author of In Vino Duplicitas; and two eminent historians, Helen Watt and Paul Dryburgh.     Support our work here:     And buy Brian's new book, Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us here:  
  • Do Not Disturb
    Is going into exile safe any longer?   A few years ago, a former Rwandan intelligence chief hiding out in exile was found strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel room. Hanging on the door outside was a “Do Not Disturb” sign. It had been placed there to buy the assassins a bit of extra time as they fled the country.   This episode looks at the alarming rise in transnational repression and cross-border killings, where dictators and despots hunt down their enemies no matter where they are in the world. In the process, we ask whether dissidents can ever be safe in the 21st century, or if it’s just a matter of time before their murderous authoritarian regime hunts them down.   This episode features Michela Wrong, a phenomenal journalist and author of Do Not Disturb: The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad, which you can and should buy here:   It also features the voices of Isabel Linzer and Nate Schenkkan at Freedom House, and you can find their report on transnational repression here:   And we speak to Geoffrey York, who has reported on Rwanda for years as the Africa Bureau Chief of the Globe & Mail. You can find his reporting here:   Pre order Brian's book -  Support the show on Patreon at
  • Click Here To Kill Everybody
    In early 2021, hackers infiltrated the software that controlled the city’s water supply in Oldsmar, Florida. Through dumb luck, they caught the intrusion shortly after the hacker tried to poison the city’s water.   This hack was part of a growing array of attacks against the Internet of Things, objects that used to operate offline but are now connected to the internet—and therefore vulnerable to hacking. From Wi-Fi enabled tea kettles to cars that can be taken over remotely to knocking power out for entire countries using smart thermostats, the risks are everywhere. We’re just lucky there hasn’t been an Internet of Things attack that has been on the scale of 9/11 or Hiroshima – yet.   Guests this episode include Bruce Schneier, the author of Click Here to Kill Everybody; Nicole Perlorth, a reporter for the New York Times, Ken Munro, an ethical hacker, and Chris Valasek, a hacker who remotely took over a Jeep a few years ago and now works as the Director of Product Security at Cruise.   To check out Nicole’s book, click here:   To buy Bruce’s book, click here:   And to read about Chris’s Jeep Hack as reported in Wired, click here:   Pre order Brian's book -    Support the show on Patreon at
  • The Shell Game
    When it comes to understanding the underworld of corruption and criminality, you can’t just look at the rich crooks. You also have to look at the lawyers who help them dot the i’s and cross the t’s as they try to stash their illicit cash somewhere offshore. And to accomplish that goal, you have to understand the world of shell companies, corporate entities that often exist only on paper to shield vast sums of wealth from the taxman or the prying eyes of journalists.   It’s a dangerous world, and it has led to the assassination of at least one journalist who tried to expose the secrets of the world’s super rich.   In this episode, we speak to the two journalists who broke the Panama Papers – the largest leak of offshore documents in the history of illicit finance. They walk us through the world they uncovered at Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama, that helped set up some of the world’s shadiest shell companies for some of the world’s shadiest people.   Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier (who are not related) took immense personal risks to blow the story wide open.  They tell us how they did it – and what secrets they uncovered about the ways the world’s richest people make up their own rules.   For further information about the Panama Papers, go here:   And for the Daphne Project, visit this site:   Pre order Brian's book -    Support the show on Patreon at  
  • The Billion Dollar Shack
    We all know that offshore areas of financial secrecy exist. In this episode, we’re going to take a look at the origin story of one of them. It’s a story that will make you question the caricature you probably have in your head about why shadowy offshore economies develop. And it’s a story that involves, quite improbably, seabirds that made people rich, a failed musical about Leonardo Da Vinci….and a shack worth a billion dollars.   You may not have heard of it, but you can rest assured that terrorists, Russian mobsters, and rich oligarchs trying to set up their own banks know its name. This is a tale of greed, corruption, environmental destruction, and how – and why – the Davids of the globe can become Goliaths of illicit finance.   This episode features interviews with Jack Hitt, an award-winning journalist; Selena Shannon, a former journalist and a senior producer at Audiocraft; and Lisa Hollander, a former actress who starred in a doomed musical about Leonardo Da Vinci’s love life, funded by seagull droppings on a little island in the Pacific that you’ve probably never heard of.   To read Jack’s New York Times reporting about Nauru from 1999, click here.   And for a review of the Leonardo Da Vinci musical published in 1993, go to this link:   Pre order Brian's book -    Support the show on Patreon at  

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