tv International Programming CSPAN April 10, 2011 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
good to see so many of you here. i am the editor of "the new statesman." when we announced we were having this debate, we put it up on our website and tickets were sold out in a matter of hours. we talked about switching venues. we had a long commute for people who wanted to come here this evening. in the and we stayed here and i think it is a finding you. the motion before the house this evening is, this house i am pleased to say she is here with us. congratulations.
[applause] i know you do not want to hear me speak. i have a few brief words about the format. the speaker will have more -- no more than seven words -- minutes to make their case. without further ado i introduced the one proposing the motion. [applause] julien us on -- assange. [applause] i gather some of you must recognize that.
motion needs no introduction. julien was born in queensland, australia. he is editor in chief of wikileaks. he has facilitated more acts of whistleblowing than any other individual. there have been calls to -- for his assassination. he is continuing ongoing espionage investigations. he described in a phrase, he called wicked leaks -- wikilea ks the intelligence agency of the people. he writes about politics, economics, world affairs. when he is not writing, and he is speaking. there are other political
programs. before joining the statesman, he worked for channel four. opposing the motion, we have sir david richards. 30 years of service in baghdad. in 2003, david returned to baghdad. he is the un special representative to iraq. he is the head of defense and intelligence. he has had a long and distinguished career and side of the u.s. government. that says here that he was
responsible for the security of the protesting systems across the world. a journalist has recently been moved to become assistant director of the society. i think you were due to be in new york this evening. i am grateful that you could arrange your flight to be with us this evening. >> thanks very much. i think it might be quite exciting to do this before you speak. two of you have a view about the motion. whistle blowers make the world a safer place. by a show of hands, those of you who would support that motion.
this house believes that whistle-blowers makes the world is safer place. who would oppose that? only a few of you oppose that. you have a lot of work to do to find that. how many abstained? that is interesting. as many as those opposing. >> it is a pleasure to be here in london. i have been asked to participate because i believe in the value of whistle-blowers. i am speaking on behalf of al his era -- al jazeera's transparency unit. anything i say wrong is myself. we live in a time of unprecedented wrongdoing. we have a phenomenon of the
collusion between the mainstream media organizations and government that has surrendered a lot of journalistic principles of keeping government in check and holding them to account because of political leanings or because they wanted to get invited to the next christmas party, i do not know why. many of you see this on television and in recordings and in newspapers. at the issue of whether or not to support whistle-blowers is devalue and principal of anonymous speech. i am representing al jazeera, and i am also american. in my country, we have a strong tradition of anonymous speech that we take from our forefathers. that was the discussion of the federalist papers over what form of government the constitution
should be. people posted anonymously. they did not want retaliation because they did not want people to hurt them because of the public discourse. the united states supreme court has upheld the volume of anonymous speech. it helps break taboos. what is amusing about the whole criticism of using anonymous speech, governments have nearly perfected anonymous speech. let me give you a clear example. oftentimes, the united states government uses the media to help make policies go over well with the public. messages through anonymous sourcing. they go to journalists. how often did you see in the run up to the iraq war, the senior
intelligence officer speaking on the intelligence. they have no problem picking up the phone and calling us journalists. that happens all the time. they are passing along their information. why? the powerful can. they make the rules. the same thing, when it is turned on its head, they attack the leaks and disclosures and anonymous sourcing. it is wrong. we have the unprecedented wrongdoing and the collusion of so many journalistic organizations with the governments. people are finding ways to take massive amounts of information and put it out on the internet. we recognize that trend. we set up the transparency. we want to have a way to receive these tips and that for people to be able to come to us and pass information along we are
not able to obtain that through traditional journalism. we take in information. we authenticate it. we give it context and nuance. our challenge is to turn documents into television. that helps the government make better choices for our viewers. we did that with the palestine papers back in january. this was our first disclosure. it was secret negotiations between palestinians and americans. the chair the and workings of a process gone awry between 2000 and 2010. we took a lot of heat for doing it. our first challenge was what to withhold? what do you not put out there? we were under tremendous pressure from the british government. we received a call from mi not
to publish the name of a mi officer. and to in turn them with bank eu funding. this is illegal under international law. this was listed as a consulate in jerusalem at the time. at the end of the day, we said that this was a libyan intelligence officer, would withhold his name? if he was a venezuelan, would we withhold his name? if we get rid of the my country tis of thee objection that journalists have, that it is liberating. nobody was hurt. we gave context and in permission.
if you just put documents out there and they do not have any background, people did not believe them. there is no reason to put out the day that if you do not tell people why it matters to them. they probably would not look at it. the critics of wikileaks, many of them are journalists. i have thought about what they said about him in particular and the impact on our profession. i come away with two thoughts i would share with you. one is a more basic, human critiqued. they are hating on him the key -- because he got a scoop that he did not. if he was from a different organization, they would be talking about what the awards they would give him. the second point was that a lot of the organizations, they do
not have the editorial cahones to publish. let me take you back to 2004. "the new york times" found new information that the bush administration that was eavesdropping on u.s. citizens. the bush administration got them to delay publication until 2005 when bush was safely reelected. they withheld the apache helicopter footage that wiki leaks put out there. the people know what not to put out there. we see this in egypt when they go up to the ministry of the interior. the people did not put it out there and -- because it violated privacy. the masses know what is appropriate to put out there. >> thank you very much. [applause]
>> speaking against the motion. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i realize that both of us have been asked to do this and have our work cut out. we will do our best. at the risk of making things worse at the outset, i concede that in certain circumstance -- circumstances there is a valiant case for whistleblowing. when there is deceit or abuse of power, blowing the whistle can be justified. not everybody that leaks a
confidential document or 250,000 documents is a whistle blower. whether it is for political advantage or because they disagree with the policy or they take the view that government should not be in the business of keeping information secret. it is a problem for which he leaks. -- wikileaks. i also agreed that holding the government to account, the government needs to be properly informed. most democracies have accepted the need for greater transparency. they give the public access to more affirmation. in the u.k., we have the freedom of information act. there is the growth of judicial review that has also played a huge part in opening up the workings of british government, including the most secret. there are good reasons why
government believes that it is duty bound to keep up confidentiality. this does not necessarily mean the right to know everything all of the time. these include national security , international relations, and the foreign relations of government -- the relation of government policy. there is no doubt that it is too much information, if classified. our defense will never depend on secrecy. when we get on an airplane, we are generally assured, if knocke mildly irritated, by all of the searching and backtracking.
since 9/11, there has been only one terrorist attack in britain leading to major loss of life. we have prevented a number of other attacks that in one case it would have led to many others. the work of these agencies has to be secret. they cannot operate if their sources and methods are exposed to public view. one of the goals of diplomacy is to make the world a seat -- safer place. to be effective, diplomacy's sometimes requires confidentiality. >> you said that diplomacy requires secrecy. do you think that the people in this room had the right to know that ambassadors were being bugged by diplomats? [applause]
>> there is a lot i could say about that. there is one very short point. i thought that was a bit absurd. if i want information from a un employee, i ask for it. he normally gives it to me. you have picked up the only exception. the leak of the state department cables has not shown us up to our neck in a state department cover-ups. the show's the normal traffic of diplomacy. they are keeping this confidential for the sake of working relationships. finding the compromises, which are the lifeblood of international relations. it is the bargaining process that becomes public.
resolutions are voted in public. explanations of votes are public. the negotiation takes place behind closed doors. that was not the case. getting diplomatic context to free -- speak frankly, it depends on trust. this is based on the strategic arms reduction treaty and they wanted to find a way to the difficulties that they faced. they want for their famous walk in the woods. they may have needed fresh air, but they needed the chance to talk frankly and build trust. that is impossible if confidentiality cannot be respected. without frank speaking, the quality of information on which governments must base their
decisions deteriorates. that is not, in my view, the recipe for a safer world. the public needs to be properly informed. the government's need to keep some aspects confidential to protect its citizens and function effectively. if the right balance is not being struck, the democratic way to address this is not by whistleblowing. in some exceptional circumstances, it must be justified. we should improve the democratic and constitutional processes. parliament, the media, the courts, and rights of individual citizens operating within the framework established by law. thank you very much. [applause]
>> thank you for that. this talk is about not whether sometimes information should be kept secret by those tasked to do so. of course it should. the question is whether whistle- blowers and their actions make the world a safer place or not, or to rephrase the question, with the absence of whistle- blowers make the world a more harmful place? we just heard this last speaker saying that when considering a balance between the desire of certain groups and individuals for secrecy and those that
coerce individuals at the point of a gun, then the rights of us to know what our government is doing, this is a matter for the courts. this is a matter for the democratic process. this is something to be ironed out between us and cast into law. how would we know whether the secrecy process is working for us or not? the only way we can no weather information is legitimately kept secret is when it is revealed. all systems of censorship have that problem and coded within them.
because of that original sin of censorship, they all must be held to outside account. the way that has been traditionally done is by courageous individuals who are privy to information that they believe the public is interested in. they are putting it out at substantial personal risk. the public bend, if b. media -- the media is an honest conduit, the public decides whether to report those actions or not. perhaps we should talk about some of those actions. if we are not talking about what actually happens in the world,
what are we talking about? we are talking about myths that exist in our own heads and hypothetical. i want to look at some situations in history that have led to war and perhaps have stopped war. a war between people certainly does not make the world a safer place. the absence of a war or prevention of a war must be the old met in making people safer. a war was triggered by the gulf of tonkin incident. a lie about a u.s. boat off the coast of vietnam, which the united states government claim
had been attacked by the vietnamese. that claim was a lie. there were people privy to that claim that knew it was a lie that came forth in the past 10 years to talk about how it was a lie. if it had come forth and broken the interpretation of what national security secrets are, as bradley manning is alleged to have done, that war may never have happened. similarly, the disaster that has been the iraq war, we all found out about dr. evidence, -- doctored evidence. when did we find out? the war had already started.
why did we find out after? was there no one concerned in the planning who felt that it was wrong? of course there were. the fears that these individuals had, the fears of being imprisoned and jailed for revealing that information to you, kept them secret until later on in the process. much later on. this year in great britain, we are seeing an inquiry into that process. the chilcutt inquiry. wikileaks released a cable on this inquiry. this was telling the u.s. ambassador at the time of the inquiry, do not worry, we are going to protect all of your interests here.
similarly, there was a time in 2007 when there were serious moves afoot to get up to war with iran. most of you remember that feeling. -cons were pushing through their mouthpieces in america and the united states, pushing for that war. people can afford and said, do not do what i did. he was the leaker of the pentagon papers. do not do what i did and wait four or five years until after the vietnam war had started. do not wait to come forward until this war starts. sources did come forth.
sources who saw the planning for that war. as a result, there were moves against it. the sources have not been exposed. they did their best. they may have changed history and they went back to their jobs and continued on. that is that model that we want to promote as much as possible. whistle-blower's based difficulties. it is rare that they end up in prison. they often lose their jobs and their employment prospects. when they can speak anonymously, they can change history. they can be proud of themselves and their acts and continue on. in 2008, the u.s. military
classified rules of engagement for iraq. the rules for the u.s. army and its air support have to use when conducting battles in iraq. we went to the "the new york times" to get that out. one section of it spoke about how the u.s. military could crossover the border of iraq without senior authorization at the commander lovell when chasing someone in a vessel or suspected terrorist or a number of other situations. most wars have started as a result of border disputes. a soldier crossing
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