Asha Rangappa

FBI Special Agent in Counterintelligence, Legal & National Security Analyst for CNN
Asha Rangappa
  • Assessed national security threats through classified investigations and undercover work in the FBI
  • Published op-eds in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post.
  • Experienced in intelligence trade craft, electronic surveillance, interview and interrogation techniques, firearms, and the use of deadly force.

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Asha Rangappa is a former Special Agent of the FBI who worked in the New York Office and specialized in counterintelligence investigations. Her work involved monitoring foreign agents working on behalf of other countries and neutralizing their activities. As a part of this effort, Asha conducted behavioral assessments on targets to determine their suitability and vulnerability to be recruited to work as double agents for the United States.

She later transferred her skills into a new context – as the dean of admissions at Yale Law School. Responsible for crafting the incoming class for the most selective law school in the world, Asha evaluated applicants based not only on their academic promise but on their character and fitness to enter the legal profession. Because of her background and experience, Asha also served on the disciplinary committee of Yale Law School where she helped adjudicate ethical issues and academic misconduct. She also served for six years as a core member of Yale’s University-Wide Committee on sexual misconduct, where she participated in and chaired hearings involving both student and faculty allegations.

Asha graduated cum laude from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study U.S. counternarcotics policy in Bogota, Colombia. She received her law degree from Yale Law School and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Juan R. Torruella of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is an editor for the online outlet Just Security and a legal and national security analyst for CNN.

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The Infrastructure of the Con

How do people get away with bad behavior without being held accountable? Often, when we look back at the big stories of misconduct and corruption – be it Silicon Valley, the Catholic Church, government administrations, Wall Street, #MeToo, or sexual misconduct on college campuses – it’s hard to believe that the pattern of unethical or illegal behavior which was exposed could have gone on for as long as it did.

Answering this question requires looking beyond the actions of the few individuals who got caught. Typically, their conduct wasn’t a secret -- and was enabled by a supporting cast of characters who helped perpetuate and shield them from accountability. Who are these people, and how should we think about them?

Asha moves beyond the simplistic “bad vs. good” dichotomy that tends to dominate analysis of these scandals and the people associated with them. Instead, she explores the incentives, fears, and goals of the people surrounding the central bad actors -- those who choose to either actively participate, look the other way, or blow the whistle on the system they are in. Creating a behavioral profile of these individuals provides insight into their motivations and a way to compare them across different environments. It also offers lessons for managers and policymakers to create structures that can prevent these behaviors from taking root and empower those in a position to stop it.

Preserving Democracy in the (Dis)Information Age

The 2016 presidential election highlighted the ability of Russian intelligence to exploit social media to target and manipulate the American public. Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa explains how Russia adapted the KGB’s Cold War tactics to the Information Age and successfully took advantage of an already existing fabric in America’s social fabric. She explains how the intersection of technology, low social trust, and Russian active measures creates an existential danger to democracy – and what American citizens can do to counter it.

Lessons From Quantico

How does a first-generation child of Indian immigrants from southern Virginia end up as a Special Agent for the FBI? Asha Rangappa describes her unique (and often humorous) career path and the personal challenges she encountered along the way, offering inspiring life lessons for anyone who’s considered the road less traveled.

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