tv Media Coverage of National Security CSPAN October 7, 2014 9:13pm-10:03pm EDT
panel discussion on the ebola c virus. it has been revealed over the news this morning that president left liberia and came from west africa over here. he got out, went to his folks in northeast dallas. his family members contracted the ebola virus from him. it could be construed that there was a reckless disregard to the americans when this guy was allowed to leave or place this plague with the ebola virus without somebody having checked him out before he boarded the plane or then after boarding the plane he come over here and nobody checks him out and he goes right on into the dallas community and now as a result of that, there are people in
quarantine or he's in the hospital and they wonder whether he's going to die. and i haven't checked the news -- the local news yet, because i still have it on c-span right now to see whether he's going to live or die. and continue to let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400. e-mail at comments at c-span.org. or send us a tweet @cspan, #comments. now, "the washington post"s bob woodward moderates national security. it was part of the annual sources and secrets conference from earlier this year. this is about 50 minutes.
>> do we get a cold start here or -- i'm bob woodward "the washington post." let me introduce the panel. we've got a great group. first jane mayer who i've known for -- >> forever. >> it seems. worked at "the wall street journal," the new yorker now for almost 20 years. it's astonishing. many journalism honors, especially for your 2008 book "the dark side." "how the war on terrorism turned into the war on american ideals." so that's one of those titles where you know where you're coming from. [ laughter ]. >> we have bob deitz in the middle here. the distinguished professor at george maison of public policy. he's been the con cig lee yarry
to the intelligence community. did you work for allen dulles or not. the first cia director. >> no. >> bob was general counsel to the nsa for eight years. is that correct? amazing. he then was the counselor to the cia director general haden for three years. has worked in defense department, state department and was unbelievably a law clerk to justice william o douglas, one of the great civil libertarians. so we'll get to the question of what douglas would think of your career path. [ laughter ]. >> mark mazzetti of the new york times worked u.s. news, l.a. times, shared in a pull itser prize for great reporting on
afghanistan, pakistan and i think i'm going to say this from the point of view of the washington post, covers the particularly the senate intelligence committee better than anyone. and next to him at the end is peter maass, senior writer for "new look" media. >> first look. >> "first look." i'm sorry. done a number of books including the book "love the neighbor on bosnia" the war in bosnia. want to make this a conversation, not presentations. and do not hesitate to interrupt. i'll do the same, if that's okay. and our topic is the pearls of covering national security. and i think we'll start with jane and go around. what is the -- what are the
perils of covering national security now? >> well, i think it's become harder in that i think that our sources are under more pressure than they used to be. and so i've had a source in particular during the bush years who was under investigation by the justice department for violating national security and for having spoken to me. my phone number appeared on his cell phone apparently. and it ruined his life for quite a while. it was very expensive for him to get legal counsel. >> do we know who this is? >> i don't think i should identify him but he was falsely accused and eventually cleared. but the point was, that during that period, you know, the cliche about what happens to the press in such situations is that it has a chilling effect. it wasn't just chilling, it was frozen. he couldn't speak. i couldn't speak to him. i was toxic to others who wouldn't want to get drawn into
this snare -- >> this was the bush administration. >> this was during the bush years. and i don't think it's probably loosened up a lot since, but it has -- when there are more legal risks for sources, there's not a clear dividing line between the sources and the journalism that comes from them. it becomes an issue for the reporters as well. we get people in trouble by interviewing them when we don't mean to. and -- >> when we don't need to? >> when we don't mean to. right. we get them in trouble. we put them at legal risk. we can't guarantee that we are not going to put them at legal ric risk. it is hard to tell the truth. holding them accountable is basically what we're trying to do. >> so is it tougher now. >> yeah. i think it is tougher now, for sure. >> bob deitz.
>> inevitably in conferences like this there's a lot of talk about the risks that reporters undertake, editors undertake in reporting the news and, of course, the first amendment makes it clear that news is important to the american people. the trouble i have is that while that goal, that role, is very important, the government also has an important goal and that is to keep the american people safe. you know, what we're talking about here, national security leaks, we're not talking about leaks from the fda or the department of agriculture, we're talking about leaks that may, in some circumstances, imperil the safety of the united states. between those two issues, i think that the safety of the american people wins. now, i understand the importance of the press -- the important role the press plays, but by hypothesis, stuff that's highly
classified, provided to people who swear that they will not violate the confidentiality that's been provided them, and then go ahead and leak it and the press publishes it, to me they imperil the safety -- >> bob, do you think there's been examples of things that have been published that really have endangered the american people? >> yes, i do. >> example. >> if i could just tell the principle first and then give the example. >> okay. >> the prings spl that in the intelligence area the leak ends up being the harm. you know, in other words, if something is leaked about some new military capability, yeah, that's serious, but the bad guys still have to figure out how to counter that new weapons system or new defense, whatever. in the intelligence area if you leak information about how information was acquired, the bad guys immediately know stop using that means of communication or that -- yeah, that means of communication.
and that's i think very risky. >> so do you have an example? >> yeah. i think that the -- i think that the leak involving that special nsa program during the bush years was very damaging. >> in what way? you were there at the nsa at the time. >> yes. yes. i was told -- and i think i was told responsibly -- that you would get a stream of data and then all of a sudden it would stop and you would see a corelation. it wasn't like anybody said, oh, wow, nsa is on to us and we must stop using this. you would get intercepts and then they would stop and you would see the correlation between the leak and the stopping of the communication. >> okay. >> mark, what do you think is the main peril of covering national security. >> i agree with a lot of what
james said about the difficulty these days. i don't think it's ever been harder to do this kind of reporting. it's not only the -- there's a crackdown that has taken place on leakers and the number of investigations that create this climate that jane talked about. you also in the wake of the revelations over the last year about surveillance has created this, you know, perception among people that the surveillance is everywhere, right? and that everything is being watched. and so a similar experience to jane, you have people who you have developed relationships with over the years who won't talk anymore because they're concerned. people who otherwise may have been, you know, on the fence who have never dealt with reporters who might be inclined to do it, you know, i think maybe second guess it and they start to think, what's in it for me to do this? you have phone calls with people -- you know, used to be sort of ironically talking on the phone and they say, so if anyone is listening to this call, i'm not revealing anything. now actually people without any
irony will say on the phone, whoever is listening to this call, i am not revealing classified -- just like it's accepted that somebody is listening to this phone call, which is -- >> do you think they are? >> i mean, possibly. i think over the last -- again, over the last year, whether it's people listening to my calls or my sources, you know, they're trying to get the source. i think increasingly we certainly have to be under suspicion more and more than -- >> you're still able to function and work? >> you have to function differently. you have to be more careful certainly about electronic communication, about phone calls. it's less efficient, i suppose, and especially the daily paper that can be hard. >> so how do you communicate? do you move the flower pot? >> you meet in parking garages. it's -- you know, you try to have more first-person meetings.
there's also -- you know there's -- >> but to set those up. >> it's hard. you have to somehow set them up in some means by some means. and, you know, people are going to encrypt eed communications n. i think that -- if you do that, both sides have to be doing it, right? so i think that -- you know, the concern is about when you're a reporter and you want to get someone to be comfortable and to talk to you and you've never met this person, the first thing you say is, hi, i'm -- i want to talk to you and you've got to use this phone because otherwise you're going to go to jail. you know, who is going to want to talk? again -- >> so do you use encrypted communication? >> i don't know how much i should say. yes, i do. >> well, you decide. >> but it's more recent. i didn't use to. >> and that's got to be -- you are talking to somebody for the first time or for the 20th time and say, let's go encrypted. aren't they smart enough to realize that automatically that
is an admission that there's some sort of transaction going on -- >> people surveilling the situation -- >> no. if they find out x, y and z have established encrypted communications with the intelligence reporter for the new york times, that's semiincriminating, right, mr. deitz? >> yes. >> so how do you -- >> i think we can all agree on that. >> right. >> maybe we were just talking about sports. >> okay. but look, peter, that's the main peril here. >> well, first off, to kind of respectfully disagree with what bob said here about leaks being the harm. i think in many cases the lack of leaks is the harm. if there had been more leaks for example in 2002/2003 upon the decision to invade iraq was made, our national security would have been better rather than harmed. that's just kind of basic point we can talk more about that perhaps.
but, you know, it is more difficult for everybody up here, for people in the audience, for people who are watching. you know, one example i'll give is couple of -- a number of months ago somebody, if you're asking how this works and how it doesn't work, a number of months ago somebody contacted me through a friend and had something that this person wanted to kind of talk about and provide to me that related to iraq and it wasn't monumental but it was interesting. and i stied this person, okay. and we were talking not through phones that could be traced to me, at least. don't send it to me via e-mail. print it out and here is the address, send it to me over the mail because at this moment in time, i think mail is more secure than e-mail for certain things. and this was a work-around, which did not work because i never received this material, either it was intercepted or wasn't sent. i believe it wasn't sent. and so having to set up that kind of security operation obviously affected the fact that
this person did not provide the material. and that is a cost, a tax in a way on this new era that we're in. yes, sources will not come forward. but i would say that on the other hand -- and this is why i don't like necessarily the framing of this in such a dur ridge-like way. we as journalists are presented now with this incredible dhajing, exciting story. kind of the story of our lives. i feel like i've had several of these stories of our lives and it's hard -- >> and what is that story? just define it. >> in my view, challenges to the fourth and first amendment of the united states constitution, which involves a crackdown on journalists ourselves and our sources and i think that we have this incredible role to play to expose what is going on to try to prevent it from continuing to go on. and this is -- you know, i covered -- in most of my life overseas conflicts, you know, made my name, i guess n a way in bosnia first.
and, boy, there was a people a-a, that people didn't care very much and it was difficult to cover because it was hard to make people here understand why it would affect this country, america, and their lives and i couldn't make a very persuasive argument about that. but, boy, when you're talking about challenges to the first and fourth amendments of the constitution, you are talking about how life is lived, how our democracy exists what the future of your children is as members of a free society. that's a much easier argument to make and much more important than some slaughter of people. and i find myself as passionate about this story as i did about genocide. >> okay. >> jane -- go ahead. >> i was going to say, to bob was that i think what's hard from one of the things that's difficult from a standpoint of the press is the way that the national security community sometimes -- and you in this
case, define what's protecting the american public. it's not as if the press is trying to harm the american public. >> i accept that. >> we just define it as a stronger country when there's a free flow of ideas, when there's consent of the governed because they understand what the programs are that you are implementing in their name and we feel that even bad news sometimes strengthens the country because the rest of the world gets to see that our transparency and our accountable system. and so, it's a larger framing of what national security is, but because of the panel before defined it, because of the way the executive branch has kind of a monopoly on defining what national security is, you get to put your own parameters on it and define us as outside of it sometimes. but we're not trying to harm the country by writing these stories. in fact, i think most reporters feel that they are really
helping by getting this information out to the voters. >> i accept most of what you said. i mean, i, too, agree that reporters are not out to undermine the country. but i also am very clear in my mind that reporters often do not understand why something can be harmful or why certain kinds of things would be guarded. now, one of the arguments that's always dragged out in these kinds of meetings is the overclassification of materials. and i accept that. i'm sure they are. this is not, i think, caused generally by evil intentions. i think it's that when people are writing reports, you know, there are three different classification levels. most people just put the default, top secret. now, there ought to be a way of addressing that, for sure. >> okay. but reporters are not helpless in this? bob deitz, you're saying, oh, look, reporters don't understand the implications of publishing
some of this stuff, but, i mean, as i'm sure mark and peter and jane can testify to, when you find out something, you go to the government. >> uh-huh. >> and you engage in -- let's be honest -- a negotiation of sorts -- >> yep. >> -- and a listening like one of hilalary clinton's listening tours, you go listen and you say what is the argument that this is going to cause harm. and if you look at the snowden case in my own newspaper, "the washington post," we have been extremely careful about what we have published. >> agreed. >> always going with the government. and the government making their case. and i think ering on the side, okay, the government says this. let's listen. does it make sense. and so there is a lot left out. so i'm not sure -- i mean, you
kind of are suggesting that the reporters are a bunch of people rushing in to it and just kind of publishing willy nilly. that's not the way it works. is that right, mark? >> sure. on any beat you cover, right, you'll be calling for comment, you'll be going to the agency you're writing about. it's happening far more used to than it used to where the government pushes back to try to get you to not publish. we i think keep pretty high standards for what we would not publish and there are different standards that if the government is making a case that this does specific harm to specific individuals, this story i'm talking about, that's one thing. and we listen to it really seriously. if the argument, as was the case in many -- many of the wikileaks arguments, this is going to be really embarrassing for us, the government. it will hurt -- that is a lower standard and usually that's not
a reason not to publish. >> and when you go to the government, you learn all kinds of things. first of all, you get a second or third source, if you can get them to validate what you have, which makes sleep much easier at night. and often in those -- it's not just a matter of calling and saying, i want your one-sentence comment. it's meeting with people. it's having serious discussions. sometimes weeks or months go by before some of these stories are published. >> i think we're finally beginning to learn what bob woodward does. >> well -- >> the inside story. >> well, but -- it makes sense. and i've been in the oval office and the seventh floor of the cia and other places where people have said if you publish this, you know, recently somebody said -- if you publish this, we could lose a war. well, that gets your attention
and you listen very, very carefully. >> no, i agree. pretty much everything that i wrote in the book, "the dark side" i ran by the authorities at the cia just to check it, make sure it was correct, which is incredibly important, and see basically if it was going to cause some kind of undue harm. and, you know, we didn't always agree, but at least i was able to weigh their arguments and see what -- whether i thought they make sense. >> mark, go ahead. >> classification. i don't think it's just a question of whether something is overclassified because we all agree that generally things are. it's really that i don't think there's a period in the country's history where the basic -- the entire war is conducted in a classified manner, right? it is a secret war. there's been the wars of iraq and afghanistan but so much of it is intelligence wars and wars
carried out clan december tently and they're still secretly even when they shouldn't be by the drone strikes. >> they're not secret but they're technically still classified. >> the government will -- there are people in the government who will officially validate and discuss those. >> but they still won't cut -- after a strike come up and stand up and say this is what happened. some people really would like that in the government would like that to happen because they think they would be able to explain it better, but it's -- and so i just think that it's therefore -- it's never more important because this is the conduct of the war, it's all a secret that national security reporters tell people what's going on. >> peter, what do you think of that? or going to the government and saying here is what i understand happened or is going on? what do you say? >> well, i would say that's a useful and generally necessary step. you know, we have a story out this morning that i co-authored,
the intercepter. about some nsa documents that were leaked to us by snowden. top-secret. >> summarize the story. >> the nsa is hacking into computers who control pewter systems that the nsa wants to infiltrate. so these are innocent people who are targeted by the nsa as they have the keys to the kingdom as one of the documents said. in this case, we went to the nsa and said, look, is there any harm in us involved in us publishing this. the answer was no. there was no harm involved. we have gone to them and asked. i would say, however, in terms of the usefulness talking to officials, yes, yes, of course. right now, i trust documents more than i trust officials. these documents say a lot more and tell me a lot more -- >> and they are a potent tool when you go to the government and say, i have this document and it is the following --
>> i don't, my personal feeling is i'm not using these as tools. i'm publishing them or we're publishing them. the greatest tools are instruments. and i think that these documents are operate best not as instruments in terms of leverage with government officials but instruments in terms of informing the public. >> i'm not saying only as a tool but, you know, yes, publish them but it is -- when you go in to see somebody in the government and say, i have this document or i have these notes of this meeting and i understand the following is occurring, that gets their attention. >> it gets their attention but it doesn't necessarily get much truth out of them. >> sometimes it does. sometimes -- don't you find that to be the case, jane? >> sometimes. i mean -- >> don't you learn things? >> what i was going to say is i think the government -- the national security part of the government, any way, has a credibility problem at this point. when you look at cases like the case of tom drake and -- who was
an nsa official former who was prosecuted under the espionage act was facing potentially 35 years in prison, he is 57 or 8 years old, whatever he was at the time, the rest of his life in prison, and the case -- >> but what -- >> fell apart. the reason it was complete overkill. the judge himself eventually threw most of it out. >> and even general hayden said publicly that it was a case of prosecutorial overreach. >> i mean, as the previous panel quoted the judge saying, it was unconsciousable what happened to his life during that period. there were five documents he was charged with taking that were unauthorized that were classified. three of them had to do with some kind of complaint he had made to an inspector general and he said he had been told to take the documents home. the other two, one was classified as just plain, you
know, office items basically. and the other was declassified three months after he was prosecuted for having it. and eventually the case ended up with him pleading to a misdemeanor. but the idea that that could have been portrayed as a huge national security case under the espionage act and that man could have faced potentially life in prison suggests that there's a judgment issue sometimes on these calls about what national security entails. >> bob deitz, how come that wasn't stopped earlier? >> i don't know. >> okay. >> i don't know the case. i know drake. i know some of the people he's dealt with, but i don't know the facts of that case. facts matter. >> of course. let me ask this general question, which i think is important and the earlier panel said quite directly that the
obama administration is anti--press and that actually it was said earlier that the prosecution or the effort to get jim risen from the new york times to testify is a persecution. do you think the obama administration is anti-press, peter? >> i wish you could have started with somebody else here. >> okay. >> anti-press is a very broad phrase, so i would like to get away from that maybe and just the specifics are, you know, how many people have been prosecuted leakers under the obama administration versus previous administrations. as the previous panel, i believe went over and as we all know, it's more than any other previous administration by several factors. that's rather concerning to me. and one of the -- when i was listening to the previous panel, one of the people said, well, but there's the jim risen case but really that's kind of it in terms of actual journalists who
are now facing incarceration if the supreme court rules against them. yes, and you don't need more than one case to make your message. that's the point of that case. the impact is the same in terms of -- >> mark, you think the obama administration is anti-press? >> like peter, i'm going to punt that direct term. but, no. i'll answer your question. we've had trouble sort of digging into what are the origins of this incredibly large number of investigations. some of it is -- >> they're not just investigations, they're prosecutions. >> the tools available to the investigators are far better than they used to be, so prosecutors want to prosecute and they want to make cases so they can make cases better than they used to be able to make cases. so there's part of that. at the very least, you certainly see, you know, supervise herbs can tell investigators not to go
in certain directions and that is not happening. and so at the very least, the aggressive prosecutors trying to make their cases against leakers aren't being stopped. yes, some of these cases are holdovers from the bush administration, but at the very least, you know, there is -- they are conscious decisions being made not to stop them and that is, i think, where you see the continuity between bush and obama. >> but just bureaucratically, being realistic about the way the justice department works, people at the lower level start a case and they get very aggressive and it's just like one of your editors at "the new york times" would hesitate to tell you, don't pursue that story because it might appear as if they're stopping you from a legitimate inquiry. so i think up the chain if you talk to some of these people there's a lot of reluctance to stop it. the difficulty is they're not setting the policy at the very
top and saying, you know, just from my point of view, i think they are harming themselves by either declaring or appearing to declare a war on the press. >> but, you know, what frustrates me a little bit about the way this discussion is categorized, by hypothesis, all these cases involved somebody who committed a felony. >> maybe. >> i said by hypothesis. prime fascia case and just like the police investigate robberies and white colar crime and so forth, it's very hard for me to understand the argument that says, well, this felony shouldn't be investigated. and if you are trying to put together a case -- well, archie cox, you know the watergate prosecutor until he was bounced -- in one of his briefs starts out saying something like
the grand jury's entitled to every man's evidence. he was quoting some british jurorist. how is it that you put a line around this felony and say, don't worry about it but we're going to pursue other felonies. to me that's crazy. sorry. >> no, that's good. every time a white house official gives some comment about a classified drone strike, isn't that a felony, too? should you go down -- you could really broaden it to every one talking about classified information. >> i agree with your point and every time i've been involved in these discussions i point out how official leaks make the administration lose the high ground. absolutely sure. it's so hard to explain rationally why a senior official can leak and yet when it happens to the gs-15 level, then the world is about to end. i agree with you. >> that's a really big problem. >> it's a huge problem.
>> the earlier panel, i mean, you can't talk with people about national security issues and not discuss classified information. i mean, that is just the reality. >> yep. >> you know that yourself. >> i agree with you. >> and so the idea that these few cases where they seem to have evidence and they pursue them with this zeal and these tools that they have, somebody at the top needs to -- i think this is a common sense solution to kind of
tendency to make people want to hold on to power. and leaks particularly of unflattering information are not welcomed by people in power. so, i mean, i think the problem with the prosecutions is there's a sense that they're arbitrary because there are authorized leaks that come -- that are favorable and push one particular line and then there are some that unfavorable and they're prosecuted. >> i agree. >> and so the question is, who should -- who gets to define and decide what the american public should hear about what the intelligence community is doing? should the intelligence community get to decide only? or should the press get to decide also? and should there be -- what do you do with disdense within your
ranks who are critics who feel that maybe what they're seeing has krosed some line and is wrong and they want to speak out about it. such an american, you know, sort of act to speak up in decent. >> and don't you think -- most people, not everyone, but -- i mean, to use the legal term, bob deitz admission against interest. you can find people if you can talk to them for a long time, they may say something that's against their interest that's true. just in the last ten or so minutes, i mean, what's the remedy for the press in terms of how we operate? is it to go encrypt it? i mean, snowden told you, peter, he said, you know, it's -- an amazing quote. unencrypted journalists, source communication is unforgive bli
reckless. >> when enkripgs is required. not every communication i have with a source requires enkripgs. not every relationship requires it. when it's required and you don't do it, it is unforgive bli reckless. you get your sources into trouble. >> what do you use as a reporter mark in this environment then? what kind of frame of mind do you go into? are you kind of, hey, look, now i have an excuse i can tell my editors i talked to six people and they all hung up on me? >> that sounds good actually. you know, you have to -- as i said, a lot of it is more -- less efficient. you have to -- i think you have to be conscious of the security of your sources. i mean, you're entering into a trust. you know, i think when you're dealing with people who have been involved in government
their sources, you're inclined to think they know -- they know how to keep themselves secure. i mean, they knew -- know better than i do the state of surveillance, right? but, i don't think that gets you off the hook. and i think have to be very careful, increasingly careful that, you know, it's not because of something you've done, you get your source in trouble. >> go ahead. >> i want to say, this isn't a big mystery to me. there's this thing that we all carry around, well, sometimes you don't carry it around. that's the new important measure of protection. it actually is very easy to take. and you don't use this thing. at certain times. for a very long time, reporters managed to do very well without these devices. >> i remember the first time when i talked to somebody in a very important position in the intelligence world and he got out his blackberry and took out the battery. and i thought, what the hell are you doing? and he said, you know, then they can't listen.
>> but this is something that's been going on -- i remember in 1999 when i was still covered the balkans, during the mi milosevic era. you would not only take out the battery of your phone, but you would put it on the phone, the phone and the battery. the other person knew you weren't recording the call with your cell phone. that was back in 1999. it's not so new in some ways. >> go ahead. >> the question you asked a minute or so ago about what -- kind of what's the solution. well, the solution is the american people. the american people through their representatives have decided that there are some things that are deficiently
important, that they ought not to be discussed in the open press. now, there are plenty of ways addressing that. you know, you've got the american people to agree to a shield law. that's not happened. i think -- i would be surprised if it ever happens. >> i mean, sometimes the representatives of the people get it wrong. >> of course they do. >> and, you know, we're on the outside. and so i don't buy that. i mean, i think part of the remedy is to be more aggressive, frankly. >> as a reporter. >> as a reporter, and that you have to work harder. i remember working on the fourth bush book that i did, and there was a general who would not talk. e-mails, you know, phone messages, intermediaries, nothing. so i found out where he lived. it was in the washington area. and what's the best time to visit a four-star general. >> dinner? >> without an appointment. 8:15 on a tuesday.
because they will have eaten, not gone to bed. it's not monday. and it's not getting close to friday. and so i knocked on the door. and he opened the door and he looked at me and he said, are you still doing this -- and he meant it. and he looked at me, and then just got a disappointed look on his face. disappointed in himself. he said, come on in. and sat for two hours, answered most of the questions. why? because i showed up. we don't show up enough. and it is incredible the drop-in visit, if you're worried about surveillance and security and so forth. and i think if we ever get -- you know, the obama administration, i've done two books on them, you know, tried to understand. and i think there's a lot of ambivalence about the press, as
there always is. and you can deal with them. and if you just show up and persist, you can say, we can do our job. the tragedy of this would be like if we just packed up and said, oh, it's too hard. the snowden era, and the prosecution era has created a new world for us. and i think it's really kind of the old world. i started in this in the nixon era, and it was -- you know, they -- it wasn't that you were on their christmas card list. and it always is tough. and we should remember that. and so if you work eight hours a day, you're maybe going to have to work 10 or 12. >> i've sat on cul-de-sacs and curbs waiting for people to come home, not so long ago really. it wasn't the grand life that i thought the "new yorker" was going to be. i thought it would be cocktails
at the roundtable, you know. >> if you're honest with yourself, you probably don't sit on the curb enough. >> oh, i'm sure not enough. but at the same time, i'll say one thing from your standpoint, at least what i would imagine would be your standpoint, i think the press needs also to make sure that when we do push really hard, and make our calls, if something's important enough to publish when the national security community is saying, don't, it really should be something important enough to publish. i think we should try to keep thinking about something that serves public interest. not every secret is equal. you know? just because you find it out doesn't mean you need to put it in the newspaper or the magazine. it has to -- i feel, anyway, there should be an important public purpose when you take that on. >> i would just say one thing following up on your point
further about sitting on curbs. it depends whose curb you're sitting. generals have told you some very useful things, and that has been helpful for everybody. i personally have found in covering iraq, afghanistan, being with generals, being with colonels, being with lance corporals, that actually the people's whose doorsteps, quote unquote, that i sit on are lower level. i remember one time i had an off-the-record talk with petraeus. and are it was great. i look at my notes afterwards and there's really nothing in there whatsoever. one of the geniuses. >> he's very good, absolutely. >> so is mike hayden, by the way. same way. >> and that happened again and again with the senior officers that i would talk with, whereas when i was talking with and hanging out with, you know, the specialists, the lance corporals, the captains, i was
finding out a heck of a lot more about what was really going on. >> but then you move up the food chain. i agree with you that sometimes the best sources are names we never hear about. and no one else knows. but then you have to -- if you're ultimately trying to write about decision-making, you need to get to the generals and the people in the white house, or the pentagon, who are making some of these decisions, or the cia. >> i don't have the bob woodward special sauce to get that access. >> but what gets people to respond is information. if you have the document, or the notes, or the details, if you go in and say, i understand you're launching operation pink starling tomorrow, you know, and pink starling is a protected code word, people will say, okay, we better deal with this. >> the higher level people probably don't know what pink
starling is. if we're just talking about the nsa, there are so many of them. and they are so technical, that i would be really surprised if the high-level people know the details of more than a small number of the most major programs. >> i think you would be wrong about that. >> yeah? >> i think so. many could not perhaps describe the engineering details, but i would be surprised if there are more than a handful of programs that are not -- >> you're right, but there are -- i mean, impossible to count how many programs there are in the nsa. we can talk thousands, and probably more than thousands. and i just imagine it's beyond the capacity of any individual to have significant knowledge about more than a handful of these thousands of programs. >> but i agree with bob dietz, and i agree with you.
but the answer is, work the low level, the mid level, and the top, if you can. and you're going to get a total universe portrait. anybody else -- we have a couple of minutes here before there's a coffee and martini break. maybe not martinis. but to summarize -- i mean, you're the historian of this. what's going on here? when the historians look back at this era, what are they going to say, the snowden era, the prosecution era, the persecution of jim risen era? >> i don't have an apocalyptic vision. i don't think, unlike some members of the first panel, i don't think the west is about to end. civilization as we know it is disappearing. i think there are new challenges. the tension that jane was describing between
administrations and the press, i worked in the carter administration. my god, the wailing that went on there about stuff in newspapers. i don't think that's ever going to end. i do -- i would like to mention one more thing if i may, bob. in these discussions, there's often a lot of talk, as peter did, with reference to the fourth amendment. the supreme court has, in the two cases that really addressed fourth amendment issues, in the criminal context that may touch on national security, they've always drawn a line between, on the one hand, domestic security, you know, stuff that involves criminality in this country. on the other hand, dividing that from national security involving threats abroad. and in the two major cases on this, the supreme court went out of its way to say, all right, we're not talking about foreign
intelligence here, we're talking about domestic intelligence. my experience at nsa is that that line was rigorously drawn, and rigorously observed. i think most reporters should rest easy whether there's going to be a tap. and i don't believe there is necessarily a fourth amendment right when you're talking about conducting foreign intelligence. >> but most reporters who cover issues like terrorism, for instance, have many overseas phone calls. >> from terrorists? >> certainly as close as you can get to them, sure. you're going to try to get in there and understand what's going on. many reporters, you know, john miller, who worked in and out of the government, was famous for going in and interviewing bin laden. is that a crime? should it have been eavesdropped on? >> forgetting whether it's a crime. if somebody is speaking with bin
laden on the phone, and we're not picking it up, the head of nsa ought to be tossed. >> yeah, right, but under nsa rules, if that were the case, and it was jane mayer, an american citizen, her name would have to be minimized. it would not be circulated. >> or maximized. >> exactly. you're dead right. it would have to be minimized. the minimization rules are religiously followed. >> i think we're done. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> you did wonderfully. >> thank you. . our campaign 2014 coverage continues with a week full of debates. on