Nic McKinley

Real Life Jack Ryan, Pararescue, CIA, Fighting Human Trafficking

Season  1Episode  1093 MinutesJanuary 13, 2024

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Get ready for an eye-opening ride! On this episode of Interesting Humans, our host dives deep into conversation with Nic McKinley, a real-life hero with a jaw-dropping backstory.

From his humble beginnings as an orphan to serving in the prestigious U.S. Air Force and CIA, Nic takes us on a wild journey through his life.

But that’s not all – Nic’s story takes a remarkable turn when he discovers his true calling: battling human trafficking. As the founder and CEO of Deliver Fund, a trailblazing organization at the forefront of the fight against human trafficking, Nick’s passion and determination shine through.

Join us as Nic unpacks the twists and turns of his personal and professional journey, revealing the heart-wrenching realities he’s faced and the incredible impact he’s making today.

Trust us, this is one conversation you won’t want to miss! Tune in now with Jeff Hopeck and prepare to be inspired.

Key takeaways from Nic:

  1. Help fight human trafficking. Learn more about human trafficking and get involved in the fight against it.
  2. Learn how to think under pressure. It’s important to stay calm and think on one’s feet, even in the face of imminent danger.


Tune in to hear more inspiring stories from fascinating individuals.

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2:55 Difficult upbringing.
5:06 Adoption and changed trajectory.
9:12 Air Force pararescue opportunity.
19:09 Mental and physical toughness.
21:28 Water as a great equalizer.
24:51 Selection process and personal growth.
30:35 Evaluating skills for special operators.
34:10 Living in different countries.
37:19 Marriage and military life.
42:06 Learning from business titans.
46:24 Legal commodities and law enforcement.
53:12 Using data to fight trafficking.
55:13 Retiring from the CIA.
58:39 Bags full of stuff.
1:03:10 Sensitive information and national security.
1:10:36 Foreign fighters and language barriers.
1:14:17 A risky encounter with gunmen.
1:18:39 What is human trafficking?
1:23:30 Child abduction statistics.
1:26:53 The fight against human trafficking.
1:30:18 HT safeguard app.

Show Transcript

In a North African country, we were doing a thing with a guy, right? And we’re in this disarmored SUV and we were by an airport and again, I can’t get into the details of what we were doing, but we were trying to get out and we ended up in a checkpoint like this, this impromptu checkpoint, right? Some ragtag foreign fighters had put together.

And they had an anti aircraft cannon mounted in the back of a pickup truck. And bullets that come out of anti aircraft cannons will cut through bulletproof cars like butter. And so we,  couldn’t exactly take the safety of our, of our, our ballistic protection. And so  we ended up. Talking to these or trying to communicate with these foreign fighters, but none of us had the language skills.

Things are escalating pretty quickly until all of a sudden this like little Egyptian dude, this little nutty professor guy walks up and he says, excuse me, sir, I speak English. Would you like me to translate for you? I was like, heck yeah, that would be very helpful.

Welcome to another episode of Interesting Humans. Today I have with me Nick McKinley. Nick started off life as an orphan,  then U. S. Air Force.  very compelling, interesting career as a CIA operator, living all around the world. he’ll talk about all the different countries  see something very, very, peculiar in a country that was really the pivotal point for him to start what is now Deliver Fund, the leading organization in counter human trafficking folks.

This story is remarkable. I’m blown away. I’m excited for him to be here. Nick, grateful for you, brother. And thanks for taking the time with us today.

Hey, thanks for having me. It’s, it’s awesome to be here and, it’s just gonna be a fun conversation.

Nick, why don’t you start off and just, just tell us,  where are you right now in your life?

And then we’ll go, then we’ll go all the way back.

Right now, I’m in a place that I’ve finally figured out is on the path I’m supposed to be on. It’s why everything in my past happened and allowed, allowed me to get to this point. And for, I think the first time in my life, I have a very clear.

Understanding of where I am headed personally, I’ve always had a clear understanding of where I was headed professionally. and for the first time in my life, I now understand where I am, where I am going and, and how my personal path and my professional paths have, have intersected. So,  that’s kind of where I am, if you will, from a mental, Mental standpoint, where I am professionally is the founder and CEO of DeliverFund.

we’re a counter human trafficking organization that builds tech and data sets and provides intelligence to law enforcement so they can go find human traffickers and put handcuffs on them and put them behind bars where they belong.  That’s incredible.

How about, family,  that, that type of thing, kids, wife?

Yeah, couple,

couple young kids, most amazing wife ever, anybody who knows me  and has known me for any period of time will, will often question why my wife would put up with somebody like me who does the things that I do, especially professionally, but I’m, I’m a pretty ordinary man who’s married to an extraordinary woman.

There, that’s, that’s awesome. Very encouraging, very inspiring. Let’s go all the way back now. Let’s, let’s learn about, let’s learn about Little Nick. Talk about, siblings, upbringing, parents, family, maybe some early childhood memories that you would have. And basically we’ll go from like zero to say ten years old, that range.

So, Little Nick, I was born in, the, the Midwest.  kind of central U. S. and was abandoned by my mother, no father in the picture from what I’ve been told. Abandoned by my mother at, I believe, around a year, 18 months, somewhere in there. Uh,  uh, just on the. Basically the steps of a, of an orphanage. And I, so I became an orphan and I had no idea how that would impact my entire life.

I never, ever thought about it, ever thought about it. And then I was, because it was the seventies, I was, early eighties.  put into a closed system because that’s the way it worked back then. There was really no such thing as having open adoptions, put into a closed adoption system, which is kind of like a, a witness protection for orphans.

It’s kind of the way it worked back then. I, I was taken to Wyoming and put into a foster system in Wyoming, and that’s where within, I believe it was a matter of months, I ended up meeting my adopted parents. They met me at a child’s birthday party and ended up deciding that I was, I guess, worth their time and resources and they adopted me and whisked me away to Montana, which is a pretty idyllic place to, to, to be raised.

But let’s step back and think about that for a second. So when you look at the statistics on orphans in the United States of America, or even globally,  had my parents not stepped in. and said, we will care for this child. We will love this child. They always loved me as if I was their own. Now, granted, we were not of the same genetics, so they will be the first to tell you.

There was many times they didn’t, didn’t really understand me or why I was doing the things I was doing, but they loved me as if I was their, their own,  biological child and obviously resourced me. And had they not done that, I would probably be dead or in prison. That’s what the statistics show. And they completely changed the trajectory of my life by stepping in and say, we’ll take, we’ll take that one.

Well, we’ll go help that one. And that made all the difference. So they took me to Montana, got to be raised in a very, very typical middle class, you know, A home with, another adopted sister. And then my parents had two biological girls. so there were four of us in the home all with it within, a five year age span.

So we kind of were all in school together. And being the, the only boy I think toughened me up, ’cause. Sisters would do things like lock me out of the house and in the winter in Montana, right?  As sisters do,  you know, beat me up until I finally got old enough and big enough to, to, to not be beat up anymore.

But, they, they were absolutely amazing sisters, amazing family that, that took me in and raised me in Montana.  That’s incredible. Growing up in Montana, all you can think about, especially as you’re a teenager, is man, I gotta get out of here. I gotta go see the world. You have no idea how  really lucky and fortunate and privileged you are when you get to raise, you get to grow up in a,  really rural America.

That’s, that, that, that, it’s a privilege. I didn’t realize it then. I, I barely graduated high school.  you know, like probably like bottom third of my class, bottom half of my class or something like that, because I figured out, how to hack the attendance system, right? The computerized systems were just coming online, figured out how to hack the attendance system so that I,  it appeared that I was there in the computer system, but I was never really in the classes and I would show up enough to.

My teachers were like, yeah, I think I saw him. And I would talk to friends and understand when test days were, and I was pretty good at taking tests. And so I would, I would take tests that, you know, in physics that I knew nothing about and I would get a good enough grade to pass. And so I wasn’t one of the kids who was failing.

I also wasn’t one of the kids who was showing a lot of future promise. So my teachers, I think were Pretty checked out on, on me. I didn’t require a lot of their attention. And so I went skiing a lot. I didn’t really know how to ski, but I just figured you go to the top of the mountain and you start sliding down and eventually you’ll get it figured out.

so that was, that was my. Really, my, my childhood growing up in Montana and then at 18,  actually at 17, I enlisted in the Air Force,  to be an Air Force para rescue man. I’d originally wanted to, enlist in the Navy to be a SEAL. I wanted to be a SEAL corpsman. And when I went in the Navy recruiter, they said, well, we can, we can get you a SEAL contract to get you to go to BUDS.

You know, try out for the SEAL teams, but we can’t guarantee you that you’ll get to be a corpsman. You’ll need to be a medic. You’re going to be assigned whatever the Navy. Decides to assign you. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted, I wanted to be a combat medic. I wanted to be, you know, I wanted to be a special operations medic basically.

And, and, in the eighties, the movie Navy Seals had come out with Charlie Sheen, right? Every man over 40 knows exactly what I’m talking about. And that was kind of the inspirational driver, right? And you had the Rambo movies coming out. And, and so I, I went to the.  When I went to the Navy recruiter, then, you know, Marine Corps recruiters, tried to talk to me.

I was like, I want to be a combat medic. And they were like, well, get out of here because we don’t have combat medics. We use Navy corpsmen. And so then I talked to the army, wanted to be special forces. Back then you couldn’t go directly into special forces. You had to do regular infantry time and then you could go try out for special forces and they couldn’t guarantee me a combat medic job.

And Air Force recruiters came by and.  Talk to me about this thing called pararescue. I was like, and how the PJs were all combat medics and some of the most highly trained combat medics and  air force, like what’s, what’s that? Right. I wanted to be, you know, in the dirt and in the mud with face paint on.

And, you know, like you see those recruiting brochures and I mean, that’s what I wanted to be. And, and I never thought the air force had anything like that. And so. He convinced me to come in the office and showed me the recruiting video  that Pararescue had put together and gave me some brochures. And I was like, well, that seems pretty cool.

And, and then he,  he told me about how I would be guaranteed the medical training that I wanted and I’d be guaranteed to be a combat medic. And then he really hooked me when he told me that I’d be. You professionally trained in rock climbing and ice climbing and,  every single PJ was going to be a combat diver and HALO qualified.

And at the time, again, this is pre September 11th, right? So this is 1996. At the time, the only special operations force in the entire inventory where every single one was a combat medic and a combat diver. And Halo qualified and was being professionally trained in, you know, rock climbing and mountain rescue and things, which is something I really had an interest in.

The only one was pararescue. So that actually made the decision to go into pararescue pretty easy. And then the, the Air Force recruiter smart guy said, said the words that really hooked me, which was, well, So over a 90 percent attrition rate. So you probably wouldn’t make it anyway. And I was like, give me that contract sign right here.

I’m going to show you.  And so, so that’s, that’s how I, ended up, ended up in the air force.

Incredible. What, do you remember your parents reaction the first time you said you’re gonna, you’re gonna apply for the military? It

wasn’t the most welcome,  reaction, I think, at the time, just because  I believe in the,  in the My parents generation, the military wasn’t really something that you did.

that was their parents generation, right? The greatest generation. They fought in the wars. They, and then they all raised their children to not have to be in the military and not want to be in the military. And then of course it was, Clinton years. So we had the big peace dividend and all of those things.

So the military was kind of looked at as, The thing that you did when you didn’t have any other choices, which is completely wrong, and that we can get into that later, but that was the mentality of that generation. And so,  uh, I think they understood though, that it was probably a real waste of money to send me to college because I’d probably just figure out how to hack that attendance system.

And I was not mature enough or grown up enough to, to, to go to. To go to college,  my grades weren’t really good enough to  obviously get any, I could probably get in, but not get any scholarships or anything like that. And so I think my parents  would have preferred at the time, they’re, they’re proud of me now, I think, but they would prefer it at the time that there was something else that I could do.

However, I think they were wise enough to understand that this was probably a very good direction for me to go.  And so, they, my mom actually then started going to the recruiting centers and getting brochures and things. And so my kind of scoping out the military is happening while my mom actually is starting to do some research on her own.

And so she brings these brochures home and One of the things that she brought home was the Air Force Pararescue brochure. And, I’ll never forget it. Mike Maltz, who’s a PJ who died in Afghanistan, actually ended up being my supervisor for a period of time, but he’s this like Captain America looking guy, right?

Chiseled jaw. He’s a huge, just. just a real big guy, you know, very, very handsome, good looking guy on that, on that brochure with his beret and uniform is all perfect. And then you open the brochure and it’s all, you know, guns and ropes and knives and jumping out of airplanes. And, and I think between the two of those, when I, when I realized that even my parents thought.

That Air Force pararescue was probably the best fit for my personality based on the different research that they had done as well. Again, we’re talking kind of pre internet, so research was not easy to do back then. Sure. And they said, all right, well, we’ll go. you know, give this a shot. And my dad went into the recruiter’s office with me  and to sign the contract and,  which was awesome, right?

Because I’m sure he had a lot of trepidation, but he was giving me a lot of support and I wanted to go in with a pararescue contract. You couldn’t do that back then. What, what you did was you signed up for something else that got you into the air force. And then when you were in basic training, you were offered the opportunity to try out.

to, to take what’s called the pass test. Right. So it was the first step in a tryout to go,  be able to, to then go to pararescue selection.  And so I’m in there and, and,  in the recruiter’s office and the recruiters, the recruiter says, all right, Nick, you need to pick a job. that we’re going to put on your contract.

And I was like, I don’t care. Like, just pick whatever. I’m, I’m going into pair rescue. He’s like, well, but you don’t understand. Like you, you have to pick something and you probably want to pick something that you’re interested in because just in case you don’t make it, that’s what your contract says. And so that’s what they’ll, you’ll fall back to.

And I, I just didn’t take it seriously, right. In my youthful arrogance. And so finally I, I I was just like, no, like, why, why do I have to pick something? I’m going to be one of the people who make it. And my dad was like, Nick, you need to pick something. I was like, all right, fine. Just put me down for like mechanic or something.

And I think my dad was like, you know, just  face in his hand, just like, oh my gosh, you can’t teach this kid anything. Well, maybe, maybe the, you know, maybe pain will be a good instructor. So,  so that’s, that’s how I ended up, in. in the Air Force. And then in basic training, I was offered the opportunity to try out.

I went to the tryout. There was, I mean, hundreds of people who try out for every class. I think it was over 360 people tried out for my class.  A hundred and, I believe it was 180 something, made it into the first selection class. And then  10 weeks later, eight of us graduated.  And so that’s kind of what we’re looking at from, from the, the attrition standpoint.

It was, it was pretty significant. Now they, when you say you have 180 people start, that sounds like, oh wow, that’s a lot and it is, but you got to keep in mind, we probably lost, I’d say half of those people within the first two days. I think the reality of what they had signed up for hit them and they were, yeah, we’re not, we’re not doing this.

So my, my actual selection class only ended up being around, I want to say it was somewhere between 90 and a hundred and then eight of us ended up graduating.  That’s

incredible. Oh my goodness. So at this point in your life then, right there, were you looking, were you looking forward saying, here’s exactly what I want my life to look like and here’s what I want to be or do?

Or were you just sort of living in the

moment? Okay. No. So when you’re in a selection process like that,  Anybody who says that they were looking that far ahead as a better, better man than I, you are literally just trying to make it through that hour. You, you are that in the moment. You are like, okay, I’ve just got to do,  I just got to make it through this next hour.

Because in one hour, this pain is going to stop and another pain is going to start, but at least this pain will stop and then it’s okay. Now I just got to make it through that next hour and, and then, oh my gosh, like we’re, we’re going to get 15 minutes for lunch. It was like the most welcome break. So.  Uh, you know, so then it’s like, okay, well now we’re going to, I’m going to shove as much carbs and rice and stuff, you know, basically rice and butter and salt, I’m going to shove as much of that in my face as I can over the next, over the next three and a half minutes.

Because then, then I’m going to go use the bathroom and then I’m going to try to take an eight minute power nap,  right? And so we would, we just lay down, but right there in the chow hall, up against the walls, we would lay down and you’d be surprised at, how much sleep you can get in eight minutes.

And then it was run back to. run back to the selection compound from the chow hall and  continue to get beat for the next, and you just did that over and over again for weeks. And so you, you, you don’t even start thinking about like the graduation, because if you’re in the second week of selection, that’s, that’s eight weeks away.

and you’re watching people who are stronger, faster, and smarter than you just fail out or quit. So you’re just. You’re just constantly like, okay, what, what, what is the next thing I have to do? And you’re pretty solely focused on that next thing. And it’s actually a very simple existence because  you only have that next thing to focus on.

That’s it. Yeah. And if you, and if you start focusing on anything else, you probably won’t make it.

What’s the percentage breakdown mental versus physical?

70 percent mental, 30 percent physical. And I say that in that you don’t have to be a world class athlete to get into any of the special operations communities, but you better be able to get your brain under control and your mind under control.

And you better have some grit and just sheer tenacity. And there are, there are. So many people who went through my selection class who are better athletes than I could ever even hope to be. And they were smarter than I could ever hope to be. And yet, they didn’t make it through and a lot of it just came down to, the tenacity piece.

It’s one of the things David Goggins talks about, you know, he tried pararescue and didn’t make it. And,  part of that was because of some, I believe it was some medical screening.  that he, that, that they make everybody do all this, you know, pretty intensive medical screening because when you’re, when you’re an air force pararescueman, you are on flight status.

So you have the exact same medical screening standards as fighter pilots. And, and so he ended up with some medical screening issue that had to be sent in for some, some further testing. And that’s very normal. Like I watched that happen in, in my selection process where they put you through a medical screening and then.

they, they see some indicator that could potentially be a problem. So they pull you out of selection for a day or two while they run deeper tests to figure out if it actually is going to be a problem. And he ended up being one of those people. And after a couple of days of not being in freezing cold water and getting trashed, because pararescue selection is a water based selection, or at least it was back in the day, I believe it still is.

And the water is, is a very interesting equalizer,  where your other selection processes in Special Ops, you know, Special Forces, the Ranger Battalion, I believe the, I believe MARSOC to an extent, I might be wrong on that, but they’re primarily land based selections. In, you know, in the seal teams for buds in, in pararescue, you’re spending eight plus hours a day in the water.

And so the, the thing that makes water kind of a great equalizer and a real mental test is if you’re really strong, you can always. Push harder on a push up. You can always pull harder on a pull up. You can always run just a little bit harder. We start taking your hair away and put you 10 feet underwater.

And every human being that is made of cells reacts pretty much the same way, give or take about 20%. And when we talk about 20 percent in, in regards to taking your air away and putting you underwater and putting you in that environment, 20 percent is like 20 seconds or less. So, so it really tends to be a great equalizer on who can keep their mind under control and who can’t.

Now you do all the physical land stuff.  pararescue is extremely high. In fact, some of the highest physical standards,  and, and all the, all the special ops selection processes are, are awesome. I am one of those people who I’m not of the mindset that, you know, special forces is easy and Ranger Battalion is hard or any of that stuff.

I think that’s all just a bunch of bro that.  Just arrogance  for the most part. All of the special operations selections are kind of equal and they have things that are harder about some and easier about others, right? And in pararescue and the SEAL teams, you get a lot of food. They fuel you through your selection processes and the army tends not to do that,  but the army also doesn’t make you spend near as much time in the water.

And the Navy and the, Air Force. Do make you spend a bunch of time in the water. So, so pretty much anybody who would have made it through one selection process probably would have made it through another selection process.  but when you’re in the water that way, it really. It, it forces the individual to keep their mind under control and not make the choice to go to the surface and get the water.

Instead, you have to make the choice to continue to go without air, to fight your survival instinct and override your survival instinct for mission accomplishment because the mission is tie those knots at the bottom of the pool. The mission is  do a mask recovery, right? Whatever the case is, you have to overcome your want to breathe  and replace that with a higher desire to accomplish the mission.

So it becomes very binary. And that is, I think what those selection processes are made to find is not the best athletes, not the smartest people, but it’s made to find the people with the most. Mental control, who have enough physical ability to get through the process. I mean, if you can run a six minute mile and you can run multiple six minute miles in a row, you’re, you’re a good enough athlete to get through.

those selection processes right now, six minute miles, not exactly, you know, world class speed. It’s not, I mean, it’s, it’s not shabby, but it’s not that hard.  if you can do some pull ups, you can do 10 pull ups, you have probably enough athletic ability to get through. If you can do a hundred pushups, you have enough to get through.

Right. I mean, it’s not, those are not world class numbers,  however. If you take those same people and you, you know, incredible athletes and then you stick them  10 feet underwater,  that is a different calculus and it, it tests a different part of the individual. Sure. That’s, that’s kind of the, the story of, of how I got into pararescue and what those selection processes look like.

And that, that was a very defining moment for me because I am coming out of what was a, a pretty great childhood, right? My parents were awesome to me. Now I had this trauma that had happened to me. I didn’t realize that that was trauma. I didn’t realize that that would affect me, but that trauma also is probably the reason why, or one of the reasons why I made it through that selection process.

And so,  yeah. So what was a lesser strength  was also. The strength that helped me get through these things. Right. So I, but I hadn’t put all of this together yet.  so that’s, that’s kind of the origin story of, of how I  got into pararescue and then it was just being a PJ, which is probably one of the best jobs in the United States military.

It’s a jump and dive club and a gun club and a go do cool things and rescue people, which there’s, there’s few better  feelings in the world than. than rescuing somebody from,  you know, the, the jaws of death, so to speak. Right. there, there’s, there’s few better, better feelings. In fact, I was with,  my wife,  we were just dating at the time and we were driving through Southern New Mexico  on our way to Vail.

And there’s a,  like gas station rest stop area in, I think it’s Raton, New Mexico or something like that. Anyway, in the New Mexico, Colorado border and. So we go in to probably get some Red Bulls and, you know, some almonds or something to make the rest of the trip better. And there’s this guy who is standing in a line and sees me and goes,  he looks at me and he goes, Sergeant McKinley?

And I was like, Oh, and I was out of the air force is actually working at CIA at the time. And I was like, or I’m sorry, I was out of the CIA now. And I was like, Oh, Hey man, like, you know, I recognized the guy and he was the gunner on a helicopter crash, that I had been,  I had responded to, I was in another helicopter and long story short,  helicopter crashed.

So our other helicopter comes in and starts pulling people out. And,  he kind of teared up a little and he looked at, he looked at my wife and he said, he said, This guy saved my life. I’m here today because of him. Right. And then he like, wanted to introduce me to his wife and he had his little girl there.

And there’s, there’s just no better feeling in the world than that. And,  so  that was my kind of pararescue experience. I did 27 real world missions as a, as a PJ.  I did,  trying to remember, I think it was, 16 combat deployments,  through my time as a PJ. it was, Pararescue is just an incredible, incredible community of people.

It has its problems like anything else, right? Nothing’s perfect, but it’s a credible community of people, an incredible legacy. I was, I was really honored to get to be part of it. And then I ended up. After I left Pararescue, I went into the first startup that I worked for and then eventually got a call, from a unknown source asking if I would be interested in trying out for a program that they couldn’t tell me about.

And the answer to that is always yes. Right. I mean, what, what, what, what grown man, especially coming out of the special operations community is going to go, Oh no, I’m not, I’m not interested in seeing what that is. And so I flew, right. They said, great, we’ll,  did a couple of phone interviews  and then they told me, you know, we’re, we’re sending you a plane ticket and  we’ll see you in Virginia report to this location.

And so I did and I went in the room and they said, first step,  they, I didn’t even know who they was yet. You know, you got some ideas, but I didn’t know for sure who they was. Wow. Yeah. Brought us all into the room and, and said, here’s a series of tests that we need you to take. It’s paperwork we need you to fill out.

So we took the tests and, and, and  filled out the paperwork and all that. And then they just kind of released us in this little lobby area. It was very like gray, drab, nondescript building. You know, outside of,  the, the DC Beltway area in Virginia. And then they  called us all back into the room and they started reading off names and they said, we need you folks to go to, you know, another room and, those, if your name was not called, thank you for coming,  go see this person over here and they’ll reimburse you for any, you know, food and.

taxis and anything like that. And you’re dismissed. you,  have not been found competitive in the first step of the program. So I was lucky enough to have my name be one of the ones that was read and went in and, and then they told us that they would pick us up the next morning from our hotel and take us to a, another place where then we spent 30 days being evaluated for skills, primarily in shooting.

Physical fitness and those types of things, as well as decision making under stress. And so we did that. And 30 days later  of those of us who our names were read off is probably a dozen of us. We probably, we had  probably seven or eight of us left, right? Most of these are all experienced special operators who were there.

And then.  Yeah. Then they, they told us, exactly, obviously we’d kind of figured it out at this point, but they told us who we’d be working for, that this was, you know, part of a CIA program. And,  once we made it through, then it was, when can you deploy? It was pretty, pretty straightforward. And like, when’s, when’s the next, you know, here’s the next deployment dates that we have,  who, which one do you want?

And so that’s, that’s how I ended up in the Central Intelligence Agency.  That’s

incredible. Okay. So there was a startup in between there. What, what was that startup? It was a

private,  a little bit, it was a private personnel recovery company doing kidnapping ransom cases and private personnel recovery for really the fortune 10, which means that you’re working for the insurance underwriters and the insurance companies that you’re working for.

that underwrite those types of policies.  So I did that. the company is still around and I did that for a few years, but I quickly realized that You were in  a really a no win situation because you were not incentivized to do what was best for the individual on the ground. You were incentivized because it’s business to do what was best for the people paying the bills.

And  yeah, and there’s, there’s, there’s nothing wrong with that. It just is what it is. It just didn’t really fit with my personality and the way that I had been trained to make decisions. It was always. You people first and I hadn’t learned the mission first mentality yet, that can sometimes come from business.

And so it wasn’t the best fit for me. So I left and, and at the same time,  the central intelligence agency was putting me through the clearance process. So when, you know, I, I really shortened the, get the phone call. You know, show up at, at the vetting process. It was  about a year between those because even though I had a,  a high security clearance in the air force,  the central intelligence agency doesn’t care what your.

What your security clearance was from any other entity, they do their own due diligence and they start from scratch. So I had been all around the world at that point and that actually complicates the security clearance process because they want to then do their own investigations to make sure I wasn’t,  you know, compromised in Morocco or, or something like that.

So So it took a little bit longer than I would have liked, but obviously once I got through the security clearance process, then I ended off going out to vetting.

Okay, then you go out, so you’re now employed by? this new agency. And this is the point, this is the point where you go out and live in a bunch of countries around the world?

Yes. I can’t, I can’t say specifically which ones. however, what I can tell you is I was not on the tea and crumpet circuit. I was on the dirt circuit. So, it was all, you know, pick a stand and pick a place where there were, you know, there was a lot of military operations going on. And that was the whole purpose.

So the, the agency set up my unit in 2003. There had been amalgamations of it that had kind of existed before, but it never existed in its, its, its formal entity until 2003. And it was because there traditionally was really only one unit at the CIA that carried guns and anger. Contrary to what the movies would have people believe, most people at the CIA are  you know, they’re, they’re very, very bright, but there’s no physical capability required.

And, and  they, you know, aren’t shooters. They’re not fighters. They’re, they’re thinkers for sure. And everybody at the agency is there, but But it’s not a bunch of Jason Bourns running around.  And, and so  the, the group within the CIA,  usually it’s referred to as special activities had usually done all of this type of work.

And even within that group, there’s only a small subset that does, that does this type of work. And keep in mind, the central intelligence agency was limited from, with the number of shooters it could have. per, and this all happened during the Reagan years because the Congress was essentially  afraid that the CIA would become some type of like Gestapo or something like that.

Right. And so, and started infringing on civil liberties and things. And so they, they really reigned in the capabilities of the central intelligence agency so that it was relatively small, right. We’re not talking about something that’s the size of the DOD. However, it does need to have those capabilities.

Well, when the, the U S government.  found itself in multiple wars and multiple fronts. Well, that meant that you had an extremely hostile environment where you still had to do intelligence operations. And this one unit couldn’t really handle the sheer volume of intelligence operations anymore. And a lot of those operations were being done in conjunction with military special ops units.

So The CIA just went and recruited a bunch of former military special operators to essentially be their entity that would help their case officers work within these environments. And it was an incredibly successful program.  So that’s, that’s how the whole thing ended up.  Got

it. Fascinating. Okay. Before we get into the big plot, the, the, the birthplace, I’m going to call it the birthplace of Deliver Fund.

I want to stay a little, I want to stay in this phase of your life for a little bit longer.  okay. So you, you had high demands of travel and, and, and all that other stuff that comes along with it. At the time, were you, were you married and sort of like what age were you and what stage of life were

you there?

So I was married.  it was my, my first marriage. I was  28.  Okay. Yeah. 28 years old  when the whole thing  first started. And I went from  being gone a lot as an air force pararescue man, where I wasn’t, I wasn’t married when I was a PJ,  until the last year. that I was a pararescueman and I was an instructor at the schoolhouse.

So I wasn’t gone that much, about three months a year, you know, not, not really very much at all by pararescue standards as PJs are gone 10 months a year easy. And so I,  I.  I hadn’t experienced that with my wife at the time. And then with the work that I did with a startup, I wasn’t really gone that much about, about 25 percent of the year, right?

About a week a month I was gone. So it wasn’t really that big of a deal. And then obviously once I started working for the agency, then it very quickly went back to 10 months a year. And that is, there’s many reasons why that, that marriage was a. Colossal crash and burn into the side of a mountain.

and, but my, my being gone was definitely a big part of it.  Okay.

So,  physical and intellectual, how, how were you, did you have a workout routine? Were you a runner? What were you into there? And then just segue right into like books. Was there, were you a reader? If so, was there anything you liked or where did you get fed, so to speak


So, from a physical perspective, right, I’m 28 years old. I was coming out of the Air Force pararescue teams in the last few years in pararescue as a instructor, which is not near as demanding as being on a team, so you have a lot more time to rest. So, from a physical perspective, I was probably in the best shape of my life.

at least, at least at the time, actually got in better shape later, but, but that was the best shape I’d been in, in my entire life. I still ate like a trash compactor, but my, my, my physical performance was still, was, was pretty spot on.  didn’t figure out the diet thing till later. And then.  From an intellectual perspective, anybody who knows me or worked with me will always tell you that I kind of have a reputation as a, as a nerd, I was a prolific reader.

I would read  pretty much incessantly. I always had a book in my rucksack or, when we would deploy, I would, my bags would always be right at the weight limit because I would have Books stashed in with my scuba gear and  books stashed in with parachutes and in with combat gear. And so I always, always had books everywhere.

And, and from a,  a reading perspective, I just always been intensely curious. So remember I was reading good to great when it came out on the side of a mountain while I was waiting for some pararescue students to show up.  this cause they were supposed to navigate to the point that I was at and I’m sitting there, you know, under a poncho with a red headlamp reading good to great because I didn’t know anything about business.

I’m like, Oh, this sounds really interesting. And, and so I, I started reading it and I, as a,  as a pararescument, I had a subscription to Harvard business review, which is a. pretty significant financial investment actually for a, you know, an E6 in the military. And I, I was always interested in, in how the economy worked,  extreme interest in economics  and different economic models and understanding how markets worked.

and so I, a lot of my, a lot of my teammates didn’t always find me as the, the best conversation because I wanted to talk about. economic models. And I wanted to talk about,  you know, technology and all these different things that were kind of drier conversations around a team room, so to speak.  So I,  I was always reading and Always interested in learning from other people, because I think one of the best hacks in life is to learn from the people who went before you.

So whether or not you agree with or like the way that Steve Jobs lived his life, you better be reading about how he made business decisions and the mistakes that he feels like he made. Same thing for Bezos. Same thing for Musk, same to an extent, the same thing for Gates.  you know, there’s so many business  titans that you can learn from who are very open and honest about the mistakes that they made.

And I think that it doesn’t matter if you’re a heart surgeon or a business leader, or you’re developing new tech, or you’re a podcaster to. Learn from the mistakes of those who went before you is kind of the ultimate life hack. And so I was always reading about people  and, I believe it was Picasso who said that good artists imitate and great artists steal.

And I, I actually, what I podcast not too long ago. I think it was on Dire of a CEO where,  Michael Buble was, interviewed. And he said that  one of his keys to success was that he stole from all the artists who went before him. And he uses the word stole and he said,  and I don’t remember who it was that he was talking to, but they told him that when you steal from one person,  you’re called a thief.

And when you steal from everybody, you’re called a researcher.  And  that, that, so, so that mentality is really stuck with me about what, what can I learn from all of these people who went before me? Right? And, and you can learn, I, I am such a bad artist. I couldn’t draw a straight line if you gave me a ruler.

Yet I can learn from Picasso.  I am never going to build an apple. I have no desire to do that, but I have a lot I can learn from a Steve Jobs. I have no desire to leave the atmosphere of the United States ever. And yet I can learn a lot from an Elon Musk, right? That’s kind of the way that I. I tend to think about things and, and it’s not that you can’t learn from everyday people.

In fact, you can learn a lot from everyday people. They just don’t tend to write books about everyday people. So those are, those are harder, you know, harder lessons to learn because it’s harder information to come by.  Yeah.

Okay.  So you’re traveling the world, you’re a bunch of countries in whatever.  Something monumental happens that now I would consider as a pivotal point in your life and career.

you see something,  you then act on it and I’m going to let you fill in the rest because welcome Deliver Fund at this point.

Yeah. So I’m in, Southern Afghanistan,  you know, working for people and  I was working with a, Joint Special Operations Command counterpart and we ended up having some, collecting some, we’ll just call it smoking gun intel on a, a human trafficker and to make a very long story short and, and so that people can understand the context as well.

When you’re at the Central Intelligence Agency, there’s nothing in the government that is off limits to you. You have the highest clearance you can get, which, you know, is a top secret with a full, what’s called a full scope poly.  a TSSEI with a full scope poly, it’s, you cannot get, there’s no such thing as a higher clearance than that and the Central Intelligence Agency system kind of sits on top of everything else.

So, people can’t reach, you can’t reach up in the government, but you can reach down. And so In the process of collecting this intel and like, this is a very, very dangerous place, one of the most dangerous places in the world. And this is the kind of thing that you sign up to do, right? It’s like, oh my gosh, you know,  narco traffickers?

Like, let’s go after them. Terrorists? And let’s go after them, but  Human traffickers? Like really? Like, and this was specifically a child trafficker,  this is, this is, this is why you exist, right? This is the ultimate justice. And what we found over a period of weeks was that there’s nowhere to send that information.

And you already know this. Because if you think about,  think about the government agencies that we have,  we have in the United States, we have a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are all legal.  I was at a Christmas party last night and I guarantee you, Somebody in that room was armed because it was a Christmas party in Montana and there were alcohol and tobacco in the room, right?


You probably have all three of those things within arm’s reach of you right now  And so we have a Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms We spend billions of dollars a year fighting the illicit sale of those legal commodities  We have a drug enforcement agency that we spend billions of dollars a year fighting the illicit sale of legal drugs.

90 percent of the drugs that the DEA,  you know, fights the sale of, the illicit sale of, are legal.  100 percent of human slavery is illegal. And where’s our counter Human trafficking agency.  So I had just assumed that, you know, we as the, the U. S. government, right. And here I am at the, you know, relatively high level within the operational side of the U.

S. government. I just assumed that there’s a version of me somewhere that’s dealing with this issue. I mean, we can kill people with flying robots from 6, 000 miles away. Surely we’re doing something about this. And what I, Ultimately found was that there wasn’t anything and I just still assumed I was missing it, started calling around, started asking everybody I know.

Cause at that point, all I knew were special operators and intelligence operatives. And Hey, have you ever done a human trafficking case? Cause I’m hoping that somebody will say, Oh yeah, absolutely. And great. Then what did you do with it? And who do you call and where do you put this stuff? And, and. To a man and woman, I gotta know.

And I finally found one woman at the agency who had been detailed to the, one of the undersecretaries of defense under, under,  under Bush, Bush 2.  And she said that they were doing a lot of research around the human trafficking issue, but that was it.  And, and that Obama got elected and the, the office ended up getting closed down.

That’s right. Yep. And, and so it was, you know, it wasn’t a political priority.  And that was the epiphany that I had where I realized that, again, keep in mind economics nerd. I realized that mathematically and academically,  while we don’t like to refer to children and people as this, they’re products.  They were being sold  on a black market.

So they’re an illicit commodity. And I understood illicit commodity networks very well. Not as well as I do now, but, but better than your average bear back then. And so I thought, wait a minute, if we can fight narcotics, trafficking, weapons, proliferation, and terrorism, which are all illicit commodities. If we can fight that.

And we, we use pretty much the same methodologies in fighting those. Why can’t we apply those same methodologies to this human trafficking fight?  And  I had a reasonable thesis that we could,  so I needed to name it. And originally I thought, okay, well, what, what’s the goal? The goal is to rescue victims of human trafficking,  but the best way to do that is to find the human trafficker.

You’re going to have to, you’re going to have to deal with that piece of the market  and everything we need to do that is  there. It’s all there. All we have to do is fund it. And so originally it was going to be the, the rescue fund. And then I kind of call it divine inspiration, call it whatever you want.

I realized that the, The original biblical Greek word for rescue translates to deliver. You know this, right? Deliver me from evil, deliver me from my enemies.  and so that’s how DeliverFund got its name.  And that was about this time of year, 2012.  And so I came back to the States in, let’s say it was  Probably February ish or no, I’m sorry, early January, 2013 and started filing paperwork and trying to figure out could this even work and just going through the steps, just, just, just taking steps and threw up a  crappy website that was password protected and had some business cards printed up and  started talking to people and seeing if this was something that could actually be done.

And then around 20.  I would say early 2014, I realized that this actually could work and  found enough, barely enough resources and people to kind of start cobbling things together. One of the best decisions I ever made was my co founder at DeliverFun, Sean Fennema.  he was, an IT.  Electronic health records specialist.

So he dealt with all those extremely complicated systems within within hospital systems.  Yeah. And so I had, he’s also one of the most competent people I’ve ever met. Like one of those people who you can just say, Hey, we’re going to start rescuing. You know, nurse sharks that are wounded and he’ll, he’ll be like, all right, well, I guess I’ll, I guess I’ll start building an aquarium.

I mean, it’s just, it’s just one of those people who just can do anything, anything. And so, so anyway, brought, brought him in and he said, yeah, I’ll, I’ll. I’ll help you any way I can. And then the next thing, you know, I kind of started getting some legs and in  2015, April of, or I’m sorry, March of 2015, I left the CIA and used what was left of my retirement account and about, you know, cobbling together about five different jobs to, to try to, Get the thing running.

And we went operational in April of 2015, and then was able to start making it a, a full time gig in 2016.  And here we are today.  And when I say full time, I mean, you know. 40 of my 100 hour weeks.

Right.  That’s awesome. All right. That’s incredible. So you’re 100 percent donor funded?

100%. Primarily donor funded.

so we have, so we have contracts with, with companies, publicly traded companies, banks,  Companies like Airbnb, things like that, where we are, we are allowing them to use our data in order to screen human traffickers from their platform.  I’ve got a big announcement,  that’ll be coming out early 2024 about.

one of the other big companies that we’re doing that with, because our thesis is you don’t disrupt human trafficking at scale by just training and equipping law enforcement. That’s a part of it. And you want to be very, very good at that. And that’s where we started. But the way that you fight the problem at, at the scale of the problem is you equip everybody to fight human trafficking.

So we have tech platforms in the form of an app that people can download from the app store that. informs the everyday individual, all the way to some of the largest data sets on the planet on this issue that inform industry partners and law enforcement. So there, if you look at, at Any illicit commodity market, there are 10 points of transaction within those markets.

Well, each one of those points of transaction is actually an opportunity to disrupt the market. So instead of only trying to arrest human traffickers, Which is, which is important. And we want to do that. There’s not enough law enforcement officers to actually be able to, to arrest all of the human traffickers.

I mean, if we could make them all glow green, we wouldn’t have enough law enforcement officers to deal with them all. And so you want to use, you know, the, the, the magic of cumulative mathematics to be able to increase the risk at each point of transaction or each opportunity for disruption within the market.

so That’s, that’s what we focus on and, and why we’re very optimistic about our ability to fight human trafficking in our day and age at the scale of the problem.  Oh,

it’s so cool. Did you, so when you left, when you left or retired or whatever, whatever the right phrase is,  the, this CIA,  any chance that your, your parents or anybody in your family got a little tour or a little bit, a little look?

Oh yeah.

Yeah. So, I brought in my, my little sister, my brother in law or her husband, and then  my parents and nobody, you know, I’m broken cover to anybody. Right. And even though I could have, I hadn’t, and they, they tell you when you first started, like, look, you can tell your parents,  but we don’t recommend that you do,  because we don’t recommend you tell your children either, because your children will say something because they don’t know any better.

And if you’re. Your parents will tell their friends because they’re proud of you. And so  they actually some of the last people that I told, you know, of the people that I wanted to tell and So I brought them both, I brought them to DC and didn’t, you know, they, they knew they had a decent example or a decent idea, but the morning when we were getting ready to go and I said, all right, I’m going to take you into work.

And at this point, right, they like cover stories are actually pretty flimsy, so it’s not like the movies. people have a pretty good idea that there’s something going on and, and. One of the things that might be going on is you work at the Central Intelligence Agency, right? One of the other things that might be going on is you’re a drug dealer, but, but, but they, they at least understand that there’s something else going on.

And, and so I remember that, that morning, you know, I, I had my parents, I pulled out a Faraday, a Faraday bag, right?  for some of their cell phones. It’s like, I need you to put your cell phones in here. And then it’s like, right. We are, where we’re going today is we’re going to central intelligence agency.

Here’s the brief. Here’s everything that you need to know. here’s what’s going to happen when you show up. you have already been vetted cause you have to submit,  for permission, right? To bring people in months in advance.  And so I’d already submitted all that. It was like, HCI has already, already cleared you and said that you can come and You’re going to get to go see, you know, the headquarter.

Now that’s not where I worked. I worked in a,  my office was in a covert facility somewhere else, but I was like, you’re going to go see the headquarters, the central intelligence agency. And so they got to go to the museum and yeah, there’s, there’s a, there’s a Starbucks. And so they’re like, whoa, there’s a Starbucks here.

And you know, we ate lunch there. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. There’s a Starbucks. Starbucks employees with security

clearances.  What?  Yeah.

And,  yeah. And so we went in and there’s a gift shop, believe it or not. And so it’s kind of a funny story as we go into the gift shop. And I, I, I made a mistake by telling my mom that.

If she wanted something, she needed to buy it because this was, this is a once a lifetime opportunity, right? You’re never going to get to come back here again. And so I think my mom probably spent like 3, 000 in the gift shop. So we’re walking out and I’ve got all these like gift bags of, I mean, she bought salt and pepper shakers and wine glasses.

And I mean, there was, Probably one of the most lucrative days the CIA gift shop has had. And, and so I’m walking out and I’m, I’m having to help her carry bags. Cause I’ve got all these gift bags full of stuff. She has bags full of stuff. My dad has bags full of stuff and we’re walking down the hallways.

And as I swear, it was like, I reverted to high school. I was like, Oh boy, I hope I don’t see anybody. I know.  I just bought out the CIA gift shop. That’s awesome. So yeah, then I, I. I took him out to the parking lot, he put the stuff in my trunk and I, I  had my parents sit in my car and started my car. I was like, all right, do not leave this car.

and cause what I hadn’t thought of was this was also my last day at the CIA. From this point, I was driving out of DC the next day. All the U Hauls were packed, everything was ready to go.  And so I hadn’t really thought through what am I going to do with my parents when I need to hand in my badge.

Because I had to go to another place, and it was a place that they, they couldn’t go through. So, I,  I walk them, you know, across the seal that you see in the movies and whatnot, right? We walk out, put them in my car. I was like, do not leave. And so, cause I have no idea what’s going to happen here. If you step out of my car, in fact, I don’t even know what’s going to happen if you’re.

Some people just, you know, that the security guards see some, you know, elderly couple just sitting in a car with no driver. I was no idea what’s going to happen here. So I run back in and, and went to this office and they’re like, all right, yeah, so here you go. Sign here and then hand your badge to the, the SPO, right?

The security guard, hand your badge to him on your way out. And so I did and handed it to him and he looked, he looked at me. He’s like, he’s like, really? I was like, yeah. Cause believe it or not, the CIA is actually a pretty great place to work and people stay there for a really long time. And sure. And so I handed my badge like, yeah, I’m, I’m, I’m out.

He was like, okay.  and I walked out, walked across the seal for the last time, walked out the doors, got in my car and  the rest is, the rest is history.

Wow. What a story. I mean, I literally have goosebumps. That’s awesome. What a great, great story. So encouraging.  I like to keep it raw on this, on my show.

So I’m gonna  go sort of a different, I think a lot of people are going to be asking this question. And I know when, once you committed to come on, I had this question right in the front of my mind. I’m dying to ask it.  why do we see people? out in the world now with podcasts, books, et cetera, that at least to us seems like they’re given such sensitive  information about details, places they were, missions they did.

And there’s no, we don’t have to talk about any names. We probably,  we probably, have a mutual understanding of who some of them could be. But I listen to some podcasts and watch or, or, or, or, or, yeah, see some things that are being written.  And you don’t have to comment on it if you can’t, but how is that all, how is that all allowed?

I’m so confused. And, and also one thing, one other thing.  So how is it allowed? But secondly,  why would somebody want to do it in, in risk of their own life, even if they’re gone from the agency? Wouldn’t they still, wouldn’t they have fear right now of like  You know, walking down the street and somebody jumping out and getting them.

Does that all make sense? Yeah,

so I’ll address those actually in reverse order. I’ve, I literally was on a fatwa list from,  a cleric in a foreign country, right? It was, it was, you know, Go kill these people. And it was, I don’t think I’m anybody special, right. There’s hundreds of people on the list, but I was fortunate enough to be one of them.

And from that perspective, for, for me, at least, and keep in mind, I come from a very different, skill set, right. A very particular set of skills.  if, if those folks want to go after me, like bring it, it’s going to be a good time.  allow me to knock some rust off, and And that’s not something I’m really concerned about.

And also, just as a Christian, absent the body, present with Christ, I win. so I’m not, not real, not real concerned about that. And I think most of those folks aren’t either.  When it comes to the sensitive information stuff, I think it’s important for people to understand that what you think is sensitive isn’t always sensitive.

So I was as a, you know, covert CIA operative in a country overseas. I’ll even say it. I’ll even tell you I was in North Africa and I was picking up an asset.  Okay. So what do you now know that could harm the country? Nothing. Hmm. Yeah. Great point. Even if you knew what country I was in, you wouldn’t know what street corner I was on.

If you knew what street corner I was on, you wouldn’t know which asset. So you would need to know all of that in order to actually have any harm.  now. There are people who I know for a fact are breaking their national security non disclosure agreements, and that’s between them and their, to me that’s a character issue.

The, so for me, when I left the CIA, right, you, your cover gets rolled back and you get this,  this.  document, from the publication review board that essentially says, right, it’s your, it’s your resume and what you can and can’t say. And then I’ve participated enough media that the publication review board has approved some stories that I can tell.

And  Okay. There are other folks that I know, the publication review board, they, they, they were, they were under a cover  and under a cover mechanism, right? Not everybody who works for the central intelligence agency is an employee of the central intelligence agency. And there’s reasons for that. And those folks are then under different covered mechanisms, right?

So they’re working for the CIA. They’re extremely, right. Primarily as contractors. They’re extremely important to the mission of the CIA. Don’t belittle. And nobody should ever belittle somebody because they were a contractor for the CIA because quite frankly, without those contractors, the CIA wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

And so they’re very, very important to national security. And  And just as important as the people who have the blue badges and are on the, you know, the GS pay scale.  However,  some of those people are, they sign national security non disclosure agreements, they’re contractors for the Central Intelligence Agency, they agree to not say anything, and then they get out and they decide that they’re going to say something.

Well, you broke your word. And if you won’t keep your word to the central intelligence agency, then what, like, why would you keep your word to me? Why would you keep your word to anybody else? And as men, we are our word. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t make mistakes, but that is, you’re knowingly doing something there.

So when I talk about the central intelligence agency, when I write about the central intelligence agency, I submit to the publication review board what it is I’m going to write, what it is I’m going to say. And the, they come back and they redact things or in fact, one of my old. Bosses,  was, we were going to do some media together and we submitted to the, some, to the publication review board and the publication review board came back and said, no, you two cannot say you,  you know, Mr.

Dan. can say that you worked at the CIA. You, Nick, can say you worked at the CIA, but you two are not allowed to say that you worked together because of some like cover issues and the the cover that he had in that country and the cover that I had in that country would conflict. And so we, we weren’t able to do the media together.

And so for me, that is, to me, it’s a character issue and whether or not those people are doing the right thing, they’re doing the wrong thing is not, is not for me to say or to judge. but if I am purposely choosing not to keep my word, when I said I would,  that’s. That’s a character issue  and I think that’s the more important piece.

I’ve never heard anybody tell a story about something that they did at the CIA. Now granted, I’m not exactly looking for them and listening to these things either. So let’s caveat with that. But I’ve never, I’ve never heard of anything where I saw it and I was like, Oh boy, this is really bad that this person said that.

Got it. That’s, that’s never happened. And I think that a lot of the, what. appears to the public to be sensitive is not actually that sensitive.  That’s

encouraging. Okay, that’s really encouraging. That, that point, that, that helps right there. So it’s usually like we can’t even fathom what’s actually going on.

We think what’s going on is what’s You know what we see, what I’ll tell you

is what you think is going on is nothing like what’s actually going on. Right. For most people, you know, they think CIA and they think, you know, a James Bond movie or Jason Bourne thing or something like that. And, and, they don’t realize that we, it’s not that we as the U S government and the intelligence community are that good.

It’s just that everybody else is that bad. I mean, the, the, the.  The stories that I’ve told my wife, she says I should start a, a podcast or a blog called Sleep Tight America , where I just tell, I just tell about the, the absolute insanity that ends up happening. I mean, everything from national security advisors,  sharp shooting your, the boots that you’re choosing to wear on a mission, like why are you choosing to wear that kind of footwear, right?

That kind of micromanagement to. you know, things not, operations not getting approved because there was a misspelling on a PowerPoint slide to operations getting approved that you never actually thought would get approved. I mean, it’s just, just, just the sheer insanity of what happens.

All right. Do you have a  Just an all time favorite story from your, from your time there, whether it was travel or something funny that happened or, or a close call.


I, I do, but I’m not allowed to tell them.  but there, there’s,  there’s. That you could tell. That you could tell. Yeah, there’s one that I can tell. I think I, I told this in the, the Real Jack Ryan series that Vice Media and Amazon did on me.  the. The way that things can, can be so close to going bad.

And then, and then nothing happens because you’re able to think under pressure. And, it was, I was in,  in a North African country. We were  Doing a thing with a guy, right. And, I had a JSOC counterpart with me in the car,  wearing this, this armored SUV, and we were by an airport. And again, I can’t get into the details of what we were doing, but we were trying to get out and we.

ended up, we’re trying to go out a different way than we came in, and we ended up in a checkpoint, like this, this impromptu checkpoint, right, some ragtag foreign fighters had put together, and they had a technical gun truck, so they had a, an anti aircraft cannon mounted in the back of a pickup truck. Now, What that means to people not understanding is that even though I’m in a bulletproof car, let’s keep in mind when we say bulletproof, like there’s different, different calibers of bullets and bullets that come out of anti aircraft cannons will cut through bulletproof cars like butter.

And so we  couldn’t exactly take the safety of our, of our, our ballistic protection. And so  we ended up talking to these or trying to communicate with these foreign fighters, but none of us had the language skills because even though we had the language skills of that North African country in the vehicle, these people were in transit to Syria.

and this was the beginning of ICES and they were not  speakers of that language. So we started trying to, trying to talk to them and they, they were starting to get pretty antsy. about two days before we had grabbed.  One of America’s most wanted in relation to September 11th.  So they were pretty pissed off about that.

And we, as, as we’re trying to communicate with them, things are escalating pretty quickly until all of a sudden this like little,  little Egyptian dude, this little nutty professor guy walks out of the crowd. There’s a crowd of probably about 40 plus people and, and all, all like military age males All of them armed with, with small arms.

And then this technical gun truck, which is what we were concerned about  walks up and he says, excuse me, sir, I speak English. Would you like me to translate for you? I was like, heck yeah, that would be very helpful. So he starts, he starts translating what I’m saying. And then he just starts talking to them, which is either a good sign or a bad sign.

but then it very quickly, I can understand that he is. essentially kind of defending us,  or our ability to be there or something like that. And he looks at me and he says, you don’t need to worry about me. I have a brother who lives in San Diego. I love America. And I was, well, that’s great. But the fact that you’re saying that I don’t have to worry about you implies that I, I do still have to be worried about everybody else here.

And so he.  He starts, he starts talking to them and kind of starts yelling at them, which is very, very,  very normal in these types of cultures. And they then start kind of grabbing my arm and trying to pull me out of the vehicle. And so I put my foot on the door and put my seatbelt on and I’m, I’m trying to deescalate them.

The guy who’s driving the car, another operator is just telling me, he’s like, Hey man, say the word. And I’ll, I’ll punch through. And he’s, he’s, telling me that he thinks he can hit that gun truck fast enough to be able to knock the guy off the gun  to, to be able to get out of there and us not to get shot up.

But it’s a huge, huge risk. I mean, everything has to go perfect for that to happen. Sure. And, and I’m the, I’m the team leader for this particular operation. So I’m not, I’m calling the shots. I’m not real interested in rolling those dice. I’m like, okay, well, let’s see what we can do here. And And then the kind of little Egyptian dude comes back through this crowd and he says, okay, I’ve talked to their commander and they say that you have to go talk to like their, their big commander who’s in this other little compound, at the end of this road.

And so we’re kind of, talk about it internally in the truck and I shut the door and I was like, what do you guys think? And when I shut the door, that guy in the gun truck reaches up and. Racks around in the chamber now, which is kind of common for that part of the world. They’re very nervous about having rounds in the chamber.

And so, and it’s not that that puts around in the chamber and if you understand how those weapons work, but, but he, he cocks the weapon and, and so we’re like, all right,  that’s, that’s a bad sign. So we just opened the door and I was like, all right, well, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll drive over there. So you drive over there and they They have us follow them and the gun truck takes lead, which is awesome because now that barrel’s not pointed at us anymore.

And so we’re trying to decide, like, do we jump the curb and just head out of here? Can, can we outrun them? But then if something happens, it’s going to be, you know, the gun truck and 40 against. You know, there’s a, let me see, there was five of us at a JSOC shooter from another unit,  two agency guys, and then a,  and an, an interpreter for what is the local language.

It was not helpful here. And so, anyway, we go up to their, their little compound and they have this little chintzy drop bar that they open up for us and we’re like, okay, well that’s, that thing’s not gonna be a problem. We can ram right through that if we need to get out of here.  And so I opened the door and still in a car, still belted in and the Egyptian guy comes up and he, he says, they say that you have to go see their commander.

Who’s over there. There’s a little crappy, you know,  shed of a building that’s, that, that’s over, over by where they’re very clearly sleeping. And I just thought to myself, like, yeah,  yeah, I’m not doing that. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve seen the way that movie ends and it’s a, it’s an orange jumpsuit and YouTube and you know, the ending.

And so I. I thought for a second and I said, I can’t because at this point they know we’re Americans. They know something is up. And we always just made everybody think that we had drones everywhere all the time.  And so I pointed up and I was like, my boss is watching and if I leave this vehicle, he’ll beat me.

that’s very common in that part of the world. right. Cause you know, gun guys are, are kind of the lowest common denominator and they’re, they’re cannon fodder. And so when he then translated that to these other, these other fighters, they then looked at me with kind of a lot of empathy and they were like, Oh yeah, we, we get your brother.

And so they chatted for a little bit and then, and then this Egyptian guy turned around and he just said, he said,  they say, They say you can go, but they want to, they want to, they’re going to escort you to make sure that you actually leave the airfield. And so I said, thank you. And I shut the door and, and off we went.

And that was something that would have ended up with  probably at least had that gone, had that actually gone to guns, the probability that we would have lost people would have been significant. The probability that that would have  made the news front page of the Washington post.  Pretty high.  And would we have all died?

Maybe, probably not. but we definitely would have lost some people and it definitely would have made the news. And that’s kind of what you’re not supposed to do in intelligence operations, right? You’re supposed to not have your intelligence operation, make the news. And, and obviously as a team leader, and I was the assistant team leader for this entire country.

And I, you know, would have taken it pretty,  pretty seriously had I, had I lost everybody on my watch. So. So that’s just a great example of kind of the things that can go wrong that you just aren’t anticipating. But that goes back to the reason that the CIA was very specifically recruiting people for this job from the special operations community and the reason that the central or that the special operations community specifically selects people for their ability.

To think under pressure and to accomplish a mission under pressure. So now you have that water based selection process that I went through now paying off decades later in, in North Africa, in what would have. potentially been the firefight of my life, but turned into absolutely nothing.

All right, Nick, we’re gonna, we’re gonna now get into, DeliverFund, what its core purpose is, what your future, what you see for that, how that operates.

And before we do, let’s, let’s alert everybody.  so What, what, what is human trafficking? Let’s start there. And then what are just some things that the average person can be on the lookout for day to day?

So what is human trafficking is  an incredibly simple and complicated question all at the same time.

We have many things that happen in society that lead.  Or that will make people vulnerable to being human trafficked.  But that is, but what they’re experiencing is not human trafficking. And let me give you a good example. The southern border issue. Human trafficking is not a southern border issue. human smuggling is a southern border issue.

And those are different things. They happen in different ways. One is chosen, one is not chosen.  another thing that people conflate with human trafficking is prostitution. Prostitution, regardless of whether you agree with Legalization. Should women be allowed to do that? Should they not? Or does that, those, that’s not the issue.

The issue is that prostitution,  right. Commercial sex work is not human trafficking. So, so let’s, let’s start that there.  the other. Big misconception about what human trafficking is, is that it’s an over there issue or that it’s people coming into America, right? You think of, you know, I think it all started with the lethal weapon movie and the, you know, Chinese and the shipping containers that were being brought over and all that.

just think through that people, you cannot have a bunch of  people put in a shipping container. And not fed or watered or given a place to go to the bathroom or any of that stuff and have them actually survive months in that container. So like, that’s, that’s not real either.  What is real is when we talk about human trafficking, we’re talking about a person who’s being either forced, defrauded, or coerced into performing.

Some type of service or labor for the economic benefit of somebody else. So when you think human trafficking, think slavery. Who is doing the work, and who is getting the money? Who is getting the value? And so in the case of human smuggling coming across the southern border, you have somebody who wants to come to America illegally for whatever reason, and pays a coyote or somebody else to bring them across the border.

They’re choosing to do that. Now when they get here, they exist outside the system, and anybody who exists outside the system is vulnerable and therefore more subject to be potentially becoming a victim of human trafficking, but one is not the other.  Now, how is this? How does this relate to your listeners, which I’m assuming are primarily American?

When you look at the Department of Justice data on their human trafficking cases and who the human trafficking victims are, over 85 percent of them are U. S. citizens.  U. S. citizens being trafficked. When you look at who the human traffickers  are, over 70 percent of them are U. S. citizens.  And when you look at who the customers are,  essentially 99 percent of the customers are US citizens in the commercial sex market and obviously in the forced labor market.

So when we talk about human trafficking, we’re talking about a, an American issue. It’s not an over there problem. It’s an over here problem, which is why I chose to take all those skills and resources that the military and the CIA dumped into me and focus that skill set here in America. Protecting our children.

And so that’s, that’s what I want people to understand around human trafficking. Now there’s all these very, very large, grandiose statistics around human trafficking. And I’ll get into a couple of these issues.  right. The economics of human trafficking, they say it’s a, you know, multi billion dollar a year.

endeavor globally over 270 million slaves in the world today. And a lot of those numbers may or may not be true. I have problems with the way that some of that research was done and incentivized, but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s this statistic. I want people to focus on here in America.  When you look at human trafficking, most people think of the white van with free candy painted on the side that’s driving through their, their neighborhood and is going to abduct their child.

Well, the best data that we have in America on child crimes comes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Absolutely phenomenal organization. We, we coordinate different things with them closely. And when you look at their data around missing children, you find that 0. 0001% Of their missing children cases are abductions.

So to put that in a better, in a better light that people can relate to, it means that your child has roughly the same chance of getting struck by lightning as they do. being abducted by a stranger.  However, that’s great as a

father. That’s great.

Yeah, that’s great.  So you think  here’s what’s really going to scare you  when you look at that same data, you find that 92 percent of the cases are classified as endangered runaways, which is a fancy way of saying a child most likely met somebody online who manipulated them into running away from their home into their arms, which is essentially a way to say that the child participated in their own abduction.

Thank you. They ran to a trafficker.  That’s the scary thing.  Also looking at National Center for Missing and Exploited Data, you find,  sorry, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children data, you find that over a five year period, they had an 846  percent increase in suspected child trafficking cases.

And why is that? It’s because we gave children broadband connected microcomputers  that are connected to all of the predators. So these cell phones  that we then allow children to access gaming platforms on, they can access social media. What that did was it gave the predators from all across the globe access to that child where if the child didn’t have the cell phone Those predators wouldn’t have access to the child anymore.

So we think that the abduction story is good news, but we find that no, it, the world actually became much more sinister  because of the internet. And that’s what we learned in the fight against human trafficking over, over the years that we’ve been involved. And we knew in the beginning that data was extremely important.

And I started looking for data and couldn’t find it. It just, it just really didn’t exist. And it didn’t exist at scale for sure.  I had, I had purchased every platform I could find that was advertising that they had some type of human trafficking data. I found most of them, you know, I, I was looking for something that was akin to what we had in the fight against terrorism.

And I found that most of those platforms were not even, not even close. And when I say close, I mean, they weren’t even 5 percent is capable as the counter terrorism platforms that we had. So after a number of years of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to, trying to. and cobbled together different different tech stacks that were solving this problem.

I finally realized that I just like, nobody was doing it. So we had to do it at DeliverFun and we started hiring computer engineers and started building our own datasets because there were no other datasets out there. And, and so while we had started out with a technology focus and started out, really equipping, training and advising law enforcement.

That was also, and we still do that. We have analysts who are right now building target packages on human traffickers somewhere in the United States and passing that intelligence to law enforcement. That is something that we do all day, every day. That’s what our donors essentially, that’s why they’re donating to Deliver Fund is to keep their communities safe.

But that doesn’t scale. What scales is making it so that everybody can participate in the fight against human trafficking, right? 9 1 1 makes it so that everybody can report a crime and can report a car wreck and, right? So why don’t we do that for the fight against human trafficking? And that’s what Deliver Fund has become.

Increasingly is the 9 1 1 system for The fight against human trafficking, and it’s important for people to, people tend to think about human trafficking as, well, if it’s not happening in my county in my community, then I’m good. Well, no, human traffickers are highly transitory, highly transitory. And they love to prey on children from rural America because they don’t really know how cities work.

So they’ll get, they’ll send that child a bus ticket and get them to run away to Chicago. They will, they will drive from Dallas into rural Oklahoma to pick a girl up and then take her to Houston.  where they’re going to be selling her and making money from her. They, they, they know how to prey on our children and they’re absolute experts at it.

So at DeliverFun by working with law enforcement and working with industry and providing information to the general public, we have made it so that everybody can engage in the fight against human trafficking at whatever level they want. And we’re launching a program in early 2024 that will then take the capability of the average citizens who want to get involved even further, and we’ll be taking that to a whole new level.

Oh, I’m excited

for that. Okay. So for now, if you’re a listener,  and you want to get in touch with whether it’s Nick or Nick’s company, social media videos, Nick, what are the easiest ways that somebody can get to you guys?

So the easiest way is to just go directly to deliverfund. org. That’s deliver, D E L I V E R, fund, F U N D, dot org.

You can hit us up on mobile or web, it doesn’t really matter. And please Consider financially contributing to the work that we do. this work does not happen without money. Amazon web services doesn’t cut us a bit of, of a deal,  on running our algorithms and their web services, just like anybody else, right?

The work that we do for law enforcement, we do completely for free.  law enforcement doesn’t have a budget to be paying for this. And so. We can’t do this without the help of donors. So, so please consider financially contributing. If you are a company and you’re a payments platform, you’re a bank, you’re an insurance company, you’re involved in transportation, you’re involved in hospitality, school systems.

education of any type really that involves children. Healthcare, please reach out. We can, we can give you the training that you need in order to make sure that your staff is fully aware, but we can also supply you with data so that you can deny human traffickers access to your platform. And that’s, that’s, That’s how we’re truly going to get to the bottom of this issue.

we have an app on the app store,  and I’m sure we’ll have these links in the show notes, but our app on the app store allows parents, it’s called HT safeguard,  or you can just search deliver fund and you can download the app. It, we pass the costs of the app onto you. It’s like a dollar 99 a month or something like that, right?

It’s super cheap. And what it does is it gives you access to our red light data, which is the commercial sex advertising data.  and what, and it allows you to search phone numbers and email addresses to see if that information, of somebody in your child’s network is associated with a commercial sex advertisement.

And that is step one to figuring out whether or not you have a problem, right? And that app is available to the public. And the reason we’re able to make it so cheap is for everybody is because we had very generous donors underwrite the development of that technology. And so that’s, that’s what we do with Deliver Fund.

We, we equip everybody to participate in the fight against human trafficking. If you need to talk to me directly, LinkedIn is the best place to, to get me. It’s Nick N I C McKinley. And the only social media I really pay attention to are LinkedIn my Instagram is at the dot Nick dot. McKinley.


Well, in the beginning of the show, you said you’re so dialed in now you’re on top of your life’s purpose. You know what you’re here for, you know what the mission is. And now after listening to you for the last, little over an hour,  it’s crystal clear to me and I think it’s going to be crystal clear to a lot of other folks.

you know, you’re, You’re dialed in and I know you have support from us, from me, my family, my company, and we’ll continue sending people your way. We are  incredibly great. I mean, so grateful, Nick. Thanks for taking all this time. you went above and beyond. So just grateful to have you here. Thanks for the new partnership, the new friendship, and just look forward to a fruitful, long,  long relationship with you and,  especially Deliver Fund as well.

So thanks again.

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