tv Georgetown University Discussion on Reporters Sources National Security CSPAN September 25, 2018 12:03am-1:36am EDT
>> ness, a discussion on the relationship between reporters and their sources. georgetown university's free speech project and columbia universities nine first amendment host of former government and military officials. topics included classified permission, whistleblowers, and congressional oversight. this is 90 minutes. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> that evening, everyone. good evening, thank you for being here. i'm vice president and chief of staff here at georgetown university. on behalf of the office of the president i would like to welcome everyone here tonight. we have gathered this evening for what i know will be an
interesting panel discussion hosted by our free speech project here. and the knight first amendment institute. i want to thank the press freedom defense fund. for their sponsorship of tonight's program. we are grateful for the opportunity to host this forum here tonight. before the discussion, i would like to take a moment to recognize the important work of the free speech project here at georgetown. the free speech project's work could not be more timely or relevant. at a moment when topics of civility, inclusiveness and free speech are being debated across the nation, the project is deepening our understanding of the condition of free speech in america. in higher education, civil society, and in our state and local government. the free speech project is also
very focused on the health of an independent media. and the media's ongoing capacity to help us as citizens understand what the government is doing and how it is conducting public business. i would like to express my credit to the director for his efforts to help us better understand these issues. i think tonight's forum will be an excellent example of how the free speech project is doing that. it is hard to think of someone more qualified to lead this work. over his entire career, sandy unger has worked at the intersection of can indicate and and free speech. i would like to thank our panelists this evening. we look forward to your conversation. and the insights that you will share in tonight's dialogue. thank you all again for being here and i will now turn things over to sandy unger to get the program started. >> [applause]
>> good evening. we'll get underway in a moment. in addition to those that joe graciously thanked, i want to mention we have two campus sponsors. one is the lecture fund, and the other is the georgetown student newspaper which were very proud of. a few words before we get underway with kate myers. she is deputy director of the press freedom defense fund. [applause] kate: thank you. and thank you all for coming out this evening for this program, despite the rain. my name is kate myers and i'm the deputy director of the press freedom defense fund in the executive director of our parent
nonprofit. we are proud to join our partners here at the free speech project, the knight first amendment institute institute. the press freedom defense fund stands up for the courageous journalist, documentarians, sources and whistleblowers who are facing legal threats for milling tricks that a public needs to know. in particular, we focus on protecting the free flow of information from source to reporter, critical for the act of journalism. without these sources of information, the world would not know of the nsa surveillance activities, which have snared the united states citizens. the first uses of tro in warfare in afghanistan in the fall of 2001, or the truth about our military's actions in wars from vietnam to iraq. in the business world, the value of strong sources was illustrated by developments of a
censored search engine for the chinese market. if the public does not have this information, our democracy and society is at risk. the public can't hold people's feet to the fire to fight for accountability unless this information is freely available. the press freedom defense fund is proud to stand with our partners in support of those pushing these truths out to the public. thank you and i am glad to welcome sandy back up to the stage. [applause]
>> i'm not going to provide an elaborate introduction. andre proud to have them it's always a great place to have an important conversation. we will get right into the substance of what we are talking about. marty, i wanted to raise with you a question i think a lot of people have. a lot of consumers of the news, which is, this is an audit odd system we operate under, where reporters have protections but the people who give them information do not. the reporters and editors, all of us depend on those who are willing to be whistleblowers. to use the term we are talking about tonight. i wonder whether the system is functioning better than ever, is it more necessary than ever, how
do you define and explain that? marty: i don't know about than ever, i've been around a long time but not that long. i don't think we are entirely insulated in the way you have described. we will be talking about the espionage act and whether that can be applied. we have yet to see. the justice department was trying to force a reporter to disclose his sources and it went to the supreme court. he could have suffered severe consequences if the justice department had not brought that case at the very end. he went through years of agony because of that. the president himself has talked about his latest meeting with james comey, at least according
to comey's account, the president said he wanted to see reporters go to jail. he might actually like that result. we have quite a bit of freedom in this country. obviously, going back to the first amendment and its protections for the press, there are protections of expression of all type. the system is working, sometimes better, sometimes worse and i am not sure how it will end up in this administration or thereafter. it does seem like the subsidy administration, there is an erosion of protection. sanford: are we worried that some reporters may be going to jail? the president has said the press is the enemy of the people. he certainly seems to have benefited politically from the use of that rhetoric. do we have to worry about whether some of our reporters will go to jail? martin: you always wonder about
those things, especially when the attorney general announced that he has tripled the number of investigations. there were more prosecutions during the obama administration. some of those are carryovers that were started in the previous administration when there was a lot of prosecution, and far more than this administration. we're in the early stages of this administration. we don't know where these investigations might go and who might be ensnared. when you have a president who defines national security as broadly as he seems to be defining it, he is equating tariffs with national security, he talks of people being traitors and acts being treasonous, to what extent will he try to apply those s to theons to leak
press? question you think this language on national security is being used in a dangerously loose manner these days? you work in intelligence, you have had to defend real national security. his national security the same way president can find out who wrote an anonymous column? >> there's a lot in terms of the things marty said. first, in terms of the president's rhetoric, as someone who used to work in the national security establishment, his rhetoric is something i'm very concerned about because he uses national security as a pretext for a whole range of policy directions that he wants to take. what i worry about from a national security perspective is that by using that as a justification for so many different things like immigration, revoking security clearances of employees, trying
to investigate individuals who wrote an op-ed in the white house. does that muddle legitimate national security justifications? so i'm deeply concerned about how he uses that justification and what it means when there is a real national security issue that we have to deal with. with respect to reporters and leaks of information in particular, sort of the worries about whether reporters can be ensnared in that, there is a distinction between the president's rhetoric and what we're seeing in terms of prosecution of leak cases. there has been an uptick in leaks in terms of the number and the scope. that has a lot to do with the way that information is retained. a leak today of classified
information is more an unauthorized disclosure of classified information, it is far more damaging because someone can download a million documents, as opposed to walking out of a building with a few files. the scope is different. interestingly, the policies of the justice department, the actual written policies for when the justice department can seek information from reporters has remained relatively consistent from changes that the obama administration made midway through that term under attorney general holder and to the present. to my knowledge, attorney general sessions in the justice department, despite the intense rhetoric at the top, but from the president and the attorney general, the actual policies of obtaining information in an
investigation from journalist has remained consistent and i hope it stays that way. sanford: you were very much involved in what many people regard as a major disclosure of what was widely referred to as national security information. the documents that are mostly associated with the name edward snowden. what we are lessons from that? with that happened -- would that happen today? >> there are many. they are lessons for both protecting sources and for journalists. in my circumstance, i was approached by edward snowden and i am a documentary filmmaker. it is a complicated for the work that i do than if you are working for the post or the new york times. i think the government has tried
to peel away people were doing reporting, document three film -- documentary filmmakers or people who are doing independent reporting from the kinds of protections that you have if you are working for established organizations. there are many journalism students in the room. the biggest advice i would give is that, when i was approached, if you are in this field you should assume as a baseline that you will be targeted. the information you are receiving will be targeted and you need to learn how to use digital security tools to protect resources. it will not be enough for you to say i will protect my sources because there are other ways that we were talking about. sanford: a lot has changed since walking into the newsroom with a cardboard box and saying don't tell anyone i gave it to you.
a pretty simple transaction compared to what goes on now. you made a point that makes me want to stress, i was reading the other day for the first time since watergate, enrollment in journalism school is increasing. having gone down over all those years. your job is to protect newspapers, mainstream media, new media, how was i going? -- how is that going? >> [laughter] >> i think the answer to that -- is complicated. it is true that in the beginning of this administration, there was a lot of fear about how the administration would use the authority and those fears have not been fully realized. we have seen a huge uptick in
leak prosecution. there is troubling rhetoric that in many cases that is where it is so far. i don't think that we should take from that that the system is working. the statements that the white house is putting out there have in inevitable and deliberate chilling effect. on would-be leakers, and probably journalists. you are more careful about conversations with sources than they might have been years ago and i think carrie makes a good point when she says, one difference between the landscape we are looking at now and the landscape there were looking at 10 or 20 years ago is that now with the click of a button, you can disclose tens of thousands or more documents.
there are other differences. one is that a lot more information is classified now. there is widespread agreement across the political spectrum that too much information is classified. a lot of stuff is classified for the wrong reasons. one of the things we need to take into account is there might be more need for whistleblowing than 40 years ago. the other thing, which is related to the point carrie made is it is easier for the government to crack down, because the same technology that allows makers to disclose tens of thousands of documents at once also allows the government to identify who leakers were. it is hard to weigh all of this and figure out where does that leave us now. does that mean we have more information out there now or less? i do think we should worry about whether we are getting all the
information we need. whether people who have knowledge of illegal activity or abuse will feel comfortable coming forward or whether they are going to hesitate because of the near certainty that the government will be able to identify them and they'll be prosecuted aggressively. sanford: we have on the panel someone who does not like to be called a whistleblower. he does not call himself a whistleblower, but most people think of him as one for what he did during the george w. bush administration about torture and enhanced interrogation at guantanamo. alberto, do you think that what you did would be as easily done -- perhaps you should tell us briefly what it is you think you did that was important.
[laughter] alberto: at the time in 2002, i was serving as a counsel to the navy. the department had no role in detention policy within the operational chain of command but i oversaw the investigative services. in 2002, the came to me and said that people in guantanamo had heard rumors that detainees were being abused. i went looking for the abuse and within a few days found a memorandum from the defense general counsel to secretary rumsfeld. >> can we slow this down? alberto: there was only one person in the entire military, the army general counsel. he was my counterpart at the army.
the army had been given some authority by secretary rumsfeld to conduct these operations. i called this individual and said i am hearing rumors of abuse at guantanamo. yes these all you ask these kind of questions all the time and the answer is always no, at this time he said i know a lot about it, come on down and i almost dropped the phone. i went to his office and he stood across the table with this document, a request from a military base commander to use what they called counter resistance interrogation techniques. these are will be came to know as enhanced interrogation techniques. with some minor modifications. that had gone up to miami, they would approve the techniques, the joint staff, then it was taken out by the general counsel so the recommendation that he approve, then below the approval, he wrote in longhand, i stand at my desk from 6-8
hours a day, where they limited to stand for only two hours? or something of the sort. by the way, i thought it was a mistake. meeting these are attorneys who just didn't catch the issue, just failed to recognize the policy significance of what they were proposing an authorizing. the documents clearly authorized torture, either in the individual technique -- i got launched into this because i thought i was saving my friends, the attorneys, from making a legal mistake that would damage everyone associated with this. sanford: how did you get this information out? alberto: i didn't. i and lots of other people in the pentagon including all the judge advocate generals of the services, after a while we began to see the issues. all of us were working in the same direction. i threatened to write a
memorandum criticizing the initial legal analysis, secretary rumsfeld rescinded the authorization to apply abusive techniques in guantanamo and confirmed to me that the abuse had stopped. then it was another process. we thought this had been solved. i did not receive notice that any abuse was going on anywhere including guantanamo and until abu ghraib which gave evidence that what i thought was the reality, meaning a few rogue guards with bad leadership, brain fever within the pentagon, that was not the reality. the reality was a decision to apply torture globally and it was not only localized. >> probably worth pointing out that the abu ghraib photographs were leaked. it was an army sergeant who gave the documents.
i'm not sure he given directly. -- he gave them directly. the whistleblower is why we learned of this. alberto: that is how we began to find that out. sanford: just to return you, your thought process, eventually have been recognized as having -- i have a feeling it is not because you told people -- you were very significant in alerting people to up is going on. you have been widely honored for that. what is the thought process that you went through that we can learn from today as we think about making sure the public knows about what is going on in national security? alberto: it may sound smug, but i was just doing my job. it was as simple as that. it is a clear black-and-white case of a failure to apply
policy analysis to use torture as a weapon of war. i had the advantage that i did not have a career riding on my decisions, meaning that unlike the vast majority of people, my ability to pay mortgage did not rely on my superiors. i was not risking being fired. one thing i knew for certain going to the navy was at that end would come to an end. circumstances beyond my control, i was going to do the best job i can and work in that corner of issues that deal with the controversial, difficult issues. for me, i was saving my colleagues and friends, the department, the administration from making a colossal mistake by adopting and executing these policies. it's as simple as that. sanford: do we have enough people in government as far as you can tell who would be
willing to take this kind of stand? martin: hard to say, but my guess is no. there are so many people in government who are fearful of losing their jobs. being blackballed in some fashion. it is only natural that they care about their livelihood and providing for their families. people are afraid that they will be prosecuted. nowadays, they make these arguments internally and in some fashion they will be blackballed, shifted into a lower level position or an obscure corner office in some department. things like that. if you're the squeaky wheel, they are going to get rid of you. or push you aside.
during the obama administration, people were concerned about potential prosecutions. there were people who -- this has been pretty well documented -- many people in government were unwilling to have that interaction with a journalist, particularly on a national security matter, because they were afraid that if there were an investigation, their communications with make them an object of suspicion. they've had to hire a lawyer, defend themselves, it would be costly and they would pay a price. they were even reluctant to have these kinds of normal conversations, policy, provide context and background and help the journalists do their job. sanford: do we need some kind of protection in law for whistleblowers, people who are willing to take this stand but are afraid of all the things you
described? do you see any way to formulate protections? jameel: i should make the point that i think carrie would make, there are some -- not every leaker is a whistleblower. i am comfortable with some weak prosecution, for example, when somebody takes highly sensitive information and turns it over to a foreign intelligence service sanford: as people have done. jameel: as people have done. that seems to be the appropriate use of the espionage act. the problem from my perspective is that the law recognizes -- the only value that the law recognizes in that context is national security. national security understood very narrowly. if you are a whistleblower, you are not permitted to argue to
the court that you disclosed information because it is government misconduct. you can't argue that it is in the public interest to disclose this information. those arguments are off-limits. the courts have held that the espionage act makes those arguments off-limits. once you are convicted of having violated the espionage act, you can't argue that your disclosures were in the public interest. that seems to be a problem. it is a problem because it is unfair to the whistleblower. more broadly, it is a problem because it ends up depriving the public of the information they need to understand government policy and the most consequential government policies and actions. i think the law should reflect some form of protection for was
a blowers and it does not right -- for whistleblowers, and it does not right now. sanford: where would you job that line? carrie: the espionage act is not a 20th-century provision. the information that ends up falling under the statue, even if it is public disclosure and not espionage. it falls under this definition. on one hand, it works. there have been a number of prosecutions for unauthorized disclosures that have been appropriately prosecuted using the statutory framework. on the other hand, i am open to the argument that it is outdated and maybe there is a way it can be modernized. the distinction between damage
being more damaging because it is provided secretly to a foreign intelligence service, versus just as damaging because it is provided publicly. i feel like that distinction is falling away a little bit. i'm not sure i would agree that it is necessarily worse if it is provided to a foreign intelligence service than provided publicly. the damaging leaks that we're seeing all our -- that we are seeing are public now. everything is in public. things that intelligence activities that in decades ago we would have thought to of been occurring secretly are occurring openly. that is the time we are in right now. sanford: for better or worse. carrie: from a perspective of whether or not it is harmful to national security, it is -- it could be irrelevant. it would factor into the analysis of how damaging it is, but the definition of classified
information is that it causes damage to national security or grand damage to national security depending on how high the information is classified. the damage assessment can be done whether or not the information is provided secretly or publicly. if a sensitive intelligence program is revealed publicly, that could be very damaging to national security. i'm not quite sure that that is where the difference is. as a practical matter, i don't see -- politically, anything on the horizon that will have a meaningful policy debate over. laura: i'm going to disagree. i want to bring it back to, some types of issues that we are talking about. we are talking about the legalization of torture. it is an outrage and the public
should know about it. the administration would have argued that it was part of national security and we have to look at what are the underlying -- what is being done in our name and what should the public know about. mass surveillance at eight local level is something the public should know about and the fact that people had to put their own freedom on the line to educate us is a problem with the system that we should not have. carrie: to make one distinction. the press can publish this information. so i don't think there is a serious policy debate over whether or not this information can be published and we see that for the most part -- maybe our specific instances where the government can make an argument, but as a matter of most people understand that the press has
the first amendment right to publish information. the punishment and the investigation and the responsibility under the justice system falls on the individual who is in a position of trust. there is a big distinction between the individual who works for the government who has access to the classified information and reveals it. that person is treated under the justice system very differently than how we would evaluate the media path role in that. jameel: i think the question is why. why should we deny was a blowers the protections we give to the press in those instances in which the disclosures are in the public interest? obviously there is going to be a question of some cases of whether they were in the public interest and some he has to make that decision. it has to be somebody independent of the whistleblower. it does not seem obvious to me that the system we all take for
granted right now, which gives the press a certain amount of protection, although i think marty is right that we should not take that for granted -- it gives them section of east as a matter of principle, but denies it to whistleblowers does not seem defensible to me. sanford: a lot of our modern talk about this issue of national security disclosures does come from the pentagon papers case, where there was reason to believe that a person was going to go to prison for the rest of his life for revealing documents that no one could show did any damage to national security whatsoever. even the general who argued that they did later wrote a piece that he never believed it. certainly members of the media
and the public are skeptical about these claims of national security. martin: i think they should be. so many things are classified. there are millions of people who can make these decisions and they make hundreds of millions of decisions about what becomes classified. they're even cases were actual newspaper stories seven later classified and they were already published in the newspaper. it gets to the point of absurdity. that is not to say that nothing should be classified, but when someone says they leak classified information to the public, it must be horrible and a threat to national security, in many instances, it is not in their many instances where this president in the previous president cited national security and there is no evidence of risk to national security. what is at risk is the reputation of the politicians involved.
the president and his administration. they fear risk of embarrassment. that is not to say that there are not instances -- that is not to say they are not instances where there are real substantive issues but it is often a matter of embarrassment. sanford: there is also a risk to national security from the administration. a lot of the bush administration policies -- the problem was those decisions were kept too small a circle. those decisions and the issues didn't get the searching scrutiny that might have been received even a little more broadly. for example, the state department and legal advisors did not know the basis for the necessary prerequisite to the adoption of a torture policy. the military experts on the laws of war and how they apply to
combat operations were not included at all in any military commissions or the interrogation policy. ofcontributed to the failure those ultimate decisions. >> can you ever imagine a time when people would be receiving awards for nonclassified information, for declassifying information, for making the public's business known to the public? is that too ridiculous to mention? alberto: it is too ridiculous to mention. [laughter] carrie: we are in an era of robust use of the freedom of information act. when i was in government, it was not used that way.
journalists and advocates are using that quite effectively, more than i would have thought in the past. lately, certainly i don't think anyone in this policy space disagrees that the classification system generally is begging for modernization. i don't have trouble with that. one of the issues that the national security community is struggling with in the environment of the mass weeks of authorized information, is the breakdown in the oversight system that has been in place for several decades. in the late 1970's, after a lot of surveillance, there was more of an oversight structure put in place, in particular in intelligence committees in congress established to conduct oversight.
i think one of the surprising things for the national security community after some of the mast disclosures was that the public did not gain confidence in the fact that members of congress were functioning in this system the way it was basically designed. it did not provide public confidence that those on the inside thought it would. that is an area where from a policy perspective, it needs to do more work, to think about what are more effective oversight mechanisms that will provide public confidence. i think the model we have been using for decades seems to be somewhat outdated. martin: even the freedom of information act is more than 50 years old now. it is half as old as the espionage act. it could use a bit of broadening. it is not that easy to use it. jameel: it can take it can be
quite expensive. the government often resists and basically challenges us to take them to court. a lot of times we have to do that. it's not as if you file it and a week later, here comes information. it doesn't work that way. it is a laborious process. you often have to fight with the government. you often don't get what you want. you can get something that is heavily redacted to the point where 50% of the document is black marks. you can't read it. it is not an easy process. >> hence the need for whistleblowers and leakers to ride to the rescue and make this information public. jameel: if anything, marty overstates the effectiveness of the act. i think it is not just laborious, it very rarely
leads to disclosure of information. you can count on one hand the number of times the court has overturned the executive branch's classification. if the executive brands says this is classified for national security reasons, in almost every case, that is the end. martin: i was just talking about across the board. even when they don't involve national security. sanford: if we are talking about free speech and public information about national security, what should we be trying to do? should we be finding a method to encourage more whistleblowers? is edward snowden's life in russia a model of a people may have to face? >> i want to ask you a question. when you first saw these memos, did you think you were supposed to go to the press? alberto: no. didn't cross my mind.
laura: why not? alberto: i thought it was a mistake and i was going to point out the flaws. laura: when did you realize it wasn't? alberto: when it became clear that it is not just the pentagon, the cia, department of justice, those disclosures leaked out over time. it was not all at once. when rumsfeld said that of a was just thehraib bottom of the barrel, i thought that was plausible at first. i wondered whether it was a failure of leadership. it was plausible at first. martin: you have more confidence in government and i think i would give them. alberto: in the vein of your question, when we take a look at the congressional failure in terms of oversight, most people would agree that congress has failed spectacularly in
exercising its oversight function. a lot of these cases, legal behavior in government agency is the first line of defense, but after that, it comes close. the congress and the oversight mechanism, is not as much as a will to investigate your own party as are used to be. laura: i don't think we should sit here and ask other people to risk their freedom. it is the job of the press to ask tough questions. to make us try to demand more information. it is as much a burden of the press and the public to demand that the government tell us what is doing. sanford: to bring it to a recent example, edward snowden has become controversial. not everyone admires him. arguments in many places.
his example does not seem to stand out as something that would encourage other people to do what he did. the life he is leading now. is that correct? laura: i am not sure that that is. i don't know that i would agree with that. i think that he did something that he felt morally obligated to do and explained to the world why he did it. it has changed how people understand the digital age in which we live. those are things that he would defend and i think for others who are witnessing grunt doing the government sanford:. can you imagine a day when he'll be able to come home? laura: actually, i do. sanford: others?
jameel: it could happen. exit disclosures have led to significant reform. the european court has ruled that certain surveillance programs that he disclosed were unlawful. the second circuit here rolled -- ruled the nsa's records program was unlawful. congress passed a law to end that particular version of the program. there is room for disagreement about whether he went about things the right way. i personally don't think he had other options. i think it is clear that his disclosures related change the political and legal landscape. i think that's what he set out to do and i imagine if you ask him whether he would do it again, he would probably say yes. sanford: i'm going to welcome questions from the audience.
we have a microphone in the center aisle and i would like to suggest that georgetown students and other students have the first priority to ask questions. we are here at their university. and for their education. carrie, i imagine from this conversation, there must be a lot of reluctant whistleblowers. we have all heard described are afraid to come forward. how would you having worked in the intelligence community try to fix that? get the information that has to come out through government sources to come out without damaging? carrie: as i mentioned, i think
one of the areas we need to rethink the oversight system so there is a more effective channel for people to be able to raise concerns based on the public reporting regarding students. for example, i have never been convinced that he went through those channels. they may have been more that place that has not been revealed publicly. according to the public record, i have never seen much effort. i do think congressional intelligence oversight is an area where we need to pay some attention so that there is more of a sense and an understanding on the public's part that there is a proxy within the representative government that is paying attention and can do something about it. one of the challenges for members who sit on those committees is that they might receive information but they are bound for being able to discuss it with their colleagues for not -- who are not on the committee.
one thing out like to see is more effort and we would have to develop the framework for this, for members who are not on these committees of expertise to have a better idea of what goes on, especially so when meaningful legislation comes up, they are not in a position to have to rely on whatever talking points are thrown their way. i think we need a deeper understanding. the other piece is with respect to transparency, the intelligence committee has done a lot since the snowden disclosure to institutionally try to reveal more information publicly about how the laws are implemented. i think we need to see more work done on the intelligence committee being transparent about what it is learning. and doing a better job of informing the public about the threat. we have got a pretty big line. >> tell us who you are and ask a
request in. we appreciate it. >> editor baron, do you ever hold a story in order to get more leaks, lest the leaker be tracked down and shut down? martin: if we have a store that is ready to publish, we publish it. we don't withhold a story with the hope that someone else will emerge or that we will get somebody. we try to get the sourcing we need in order to tell the story we have in front of us than there is a story the next day, we would hope. the reality is that publishing a story causes other people frequently to come forward and provide us more. sanford: next question. >> i am a student in the college. my question is for everybody. i was wondering how we of been going back-and-forth about whether or not there should be
whistleblowers, i was wondering how whistleblowers coming out of the u.s., how that works for national security within the international arena and how that makes us look if there has been an uptick in national security breaches and whistleblowers and if that trend continues, about the u.s. in the international arena? alberto: as a former foreign service officer, my first reaction after chelsea manning disclosures were made, it seemed to be undifferentiated, on discriminating release of documents, i'm sure there was some valuable information that is useful to know, but for example, when you disclose as manning did, the names of human rights activists in difficult countries who came to the industry to share their views about the human rights issues,
that is putting those individuals lives at risk. laura: i think it's important to distinguish what does the publisher decide to do? it is the publishers were receiving the information. i think if you look at the sort of -- in terms of reporting out, there are certain things that i would argue are worth withholding and that is not any public interest, that is in the document but being able to look at it picture of the documents of iraq or at the important. when i reveal the name of sources? i wouldn't, but being able to look at how the u.s. military is engaging in foreign policy is valuable. sanford: anyone else on that?
>> i am a retired fbi agent at guantanamo in 2002, i was among many fbi agents who did report on what was going on as a matter of record. we went through the chain of command. to answer your question, i would not have gone to the press. i believe in our system to go through channels. the question is, my understanding from what is published so far is those who did not avail themselves of the whistleblower statutes, i was wondering what your comments were about that? laura: i guess i would put the question back, did the channels work? guantanamo is still open and if no one has been held accountable, so did the channels work? >> it remains to be seen.
i was intrigued by various panels and as far as i'm concerned, it may not have worked in a timely fashion -- laura: but what's accountability would have been? >> at what point does someone get to make a decision unilaterally to leak something and then we call them a whistleblower when they didn't avail themselves of a statute called the was a blower statute? martin: i would not get hung up on terminology. a whistleblower is a source, is a leaker, what have you. laura referred to feeling that he had a moral obligation. he evidently has come to the conclusion that had he gone through channels, it would have gone nowhere. you can agree or disagree, but ultimately, people make their decisions based on their sense of their own moral code as well. there are many instances where people went through the channels
who would be confident that it would not result in any action and so, at some point, many people have come forward and provided information and they feel that their sense of what is right in their moral code dictates that they should do that. they run the risk of potential prosecution. jameel: national security was a -- whistleblowers have almost no protection from the united states. there are whistleblower protections for non-national security leaks, but not for national security whistleblowers. it's interesting that -- i know a little about the fbi gmail -- email that you read, because i was involved in a freedom of
information act lawsuit in 2003 that resulted in the disclosure of those emails in december 2004. it was not until those emails were disclosed publicly that congress started paying any attention to the issue of detainee mistreatment at guantanamo. it was great that there was a record, that fbi agents had made a record of the abuse, but it was not until that was made public that congress started to pay attention. i said earlier that the freedom of information act very rarely works. its is one instance in when did work, and it worked because the fbi disagree with policies of the cia and the defense department. when we filed freedom of information act, with all the multiple agencies. fbi in the cia did not want to release anything. the fbi wanted to make clear that he didn't have any to do
with the torture that was going on at guantanamo. it was because of institutional competition that those emails came to light, it was because they came to light that we had a congressional, the first meaningful congressional debate about abuse at what time will. --i just want to add one a abuse at guantanamo. >> you have to look at the historical context and what happened with other people who had spoken to the press. when edward snowden was making his decision, it was the decision of the investigation drakehomas rate -- thomas , saying they went to homes of people who had used the proper channels. he sort of looked at that landscape in making his decision. of ianpoint out the case fishback, who after 17 months trying to get the -- guidance on
what the military rule on prisoners was decided to write to senator john mccain. john mccain published his letter to weeks later and that introduced the mccain opposition of cruelty by governments all over the world. he went through the channels but he was frustrated by a lack of response and then he went public with his information. that is an example of a highly successful whistleblower trying but being frustrated by the lack of response in the chain of command. >> thank you. [applause] >> hello, i am a graduate student here. i was interested in the point brought up at the beginning how for the first time in years, that are more students attorney -- attending journalism schools
than before. what are some of the factors and what you think the effect on the industry will be if more and more students gain journalism degrees? >> quickly, i think people are inspired by some of the journalism they are seeing. they believe the government should be held accountable. they see the mainstream press is doing a good job, in their view, upholding the government accountable. -- of holding the government accountable. and they feel a sense of mission themselves. they identify with the sense of mission of journalists and are inspired to go to journalism school as a result. what will the consequence be? i hope it is not just more unemployment. [laughter] i don't think it will be. i think our field is being
reinvented rapidly and people are preparing for the new environment. i think there will be opportunities for them, they're the kind of people we would like to have in our profession. >> and some of us still read the print edition of "the washington post." >> and we love you for it. [laughter] >> the panelists talked a lot about public interest and national interest, but it seems to me, a lot of people agree, the press has become so corporatized in its orientation that real stories about the concerns of real people are not getting out or are being diminished. what can you do to enhance that? we have jimmy carter calling is -- us not a democracy but an
oligarchy. that is serious stuff. it seems to me that the press to a large extent is responsible for that. we are not telling the whole truth about a lot of things. we are being deferential to corporate interests, not reporting the full extent of the wars we are involved in all over the world now. there are a lot of missing things not related to the public. >> at the risk of defending the entire press. [laughter] >> as the other journalist on the panel, i would say i don't think you are right. i think we have learned so much more and we are in an era of great veneration of problems. -- ventilation of problems. not taking politicians words, but the reality in the country, not depending on congress to find out what is wrong. moving ahead depending on young
people taking the matters into their own hands and the media to tell those stories. there will never be enough, the press will never do a perfect job, but i think this is a glory moment for american media. >> we could have a debate about that. >> hello. thank you for being here. i'm a sophomore. school of nursing and health studies. my question is, there has been some debate tonight about the appropriate legal protections for whistleblowers. what party decides when it is appropriate to disclose or publish? and to piggyback on that, with the number of methods particularly today to circumvent the press, the whistleblower, the leaker is so determined, what prevents leaks from legal consequences?
that? wants to take >> i think in terms of, one of the issues we've been talking about in terms of who decides what is in the public interest, if you were to ask someone in the national security community who should make that decision, information is classified because it is deemed it would -- if released, it would cause damage to national security. under the executive branch, there is a director of national intelligence that can make declassification decisions based on public interest, and i worked for the director of national intelligence who made decisions like that. in recent years, in part because of unauthorized disclosures, directors of national intelligence in the last several years have been more forward leaning in terms of declassifying information they deem in the public interest,
whether it is court opinions from the foreign intelligence surveillance work are other policy documents. again, recognizing that is part of what has pushed that new transparency environment is reaction to the unauthorized disclosures themselves. and of course the president is the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to classified information. it's difficult for people in the national security community to accept that one individual who may not understand the full landscape, the scope of the activities or the legal basis, would take it upon themselves to make those decisions. that's where we see attention and why we need to do a better job of having avenues for those individuals to go through. the other development in the last couple of years, the generals within the intelligence community, there is not an intelligence community inspector general. we will see if those channels work. a lot of people are skeptical these channels will be
effective, but there have been institutional changes trying to do that. i think there is more that can be done. >> the work of the inspector general for afghanistan has done a remarkable job of exposing abuse. also, the effect of the embedded reporters from all of the major newspapers on the frontline of world war i, which contributed to how americans understood how the war was being fought. >> i have a comment. i agree it doesn't make sense to let individual government employees decide for themselves without any review what information can be released. we have a system that is designed with the federal checks and balances in the executive branch, it makes sense to me.
you don't want into your actual -- but it doesn't make sense to me that we invest all of our trust in the executive branch alone. it seems to me there is a role for the courts here, and the obvious role in my view is, in the context of individual prosecution, a judge could find that a particular disclosure served the public interest, and served it to such an extent that whatever national security cost the government might eventually come to is overcome by the public interest. you could do that at the liability stage or sentencing stage, but at some point, someone outside the executive branch should make the decision of whether or not is justified or not. you would have been inclined to disagree with me on that two years ago. if you follow the president's twitter accounts, you will now
surely agree with me, because he routinely invokes national security for reasons that are transparent that have nothing to do with national security. if you put on your trust in the all your trust in the executive branch, you're going to say to the other branches that the executive branch alone can decide, you are saying that president trump gets to decide what national security means and no one can second guess him. i don't see how you can defend that now. >> and you? [laughter] >> as i said at the outset, i take great issue with the president, this particular president's invocation of national security, and in particular the disclosure of information that he and his allies on the house intelligence committee are making. there is information that is clearly being politicized.
that is not the way the system is supposed to work. for those in the national security community, to see the information politicized is deeply disturbing. it certainly does raise a lot of questions about that authority of the president. one potential consequence, if in fact the courts do step into some sort of role or congress steps into some sort of role, the presidency will be left much weaker. >> i can't decide if that is good or bad. next question. >> my question is, although certain anti-retaliation
decisions to protect whistleblowers do exist, when a whistleblower by definition has taken action to report something illegal in the workplace and the immediate chain of command ends up turning against them, what measures can meet to alleviate -- can be taken to alleviate the fact they must now potentially deadly interest hostile work environment? the option of contacting ocean to help them often does not restore or move quickly enough to remove them from a harmful setting. >> i think that's true. that's the profile of the average whistleblower. what happens to that person when the fact that he blew the whistle becomes known by the workplace? i think more than 60% are ostracized and a large number are forced to leave the agency ultimately.
>> it's understandable that some people would be very reluctant to do this. >> there are these positions set -- that exist, can anything be done on the ground level to help them or alleviate their problems in the workplace? >> it's a matter of leadership in the agency. if the agency leadership clearly stands behind the principal, that whistleblowing is to be encouraged because it makes the agency healthier, that message will get down below. that frequently happens in corporate america, where they -- there are strong signal sent by top leadership to protect individuals reporting improper activity. i don't think it happens often enough in government. >> there is a larger version of this problem, as well, which is probably the most troubling part of the era reporter was talking -- era alberto was talking about
earlier, torturing prisoners in guantanamo and elsewhere. when we came out of that era, when the obama administration disavowed torture, there was an opportunity to honor all of the people like alberto who said no and resisted torture within the administration. there were people in the military, the cia who complained to the inspector general. all of those people, in my view, we ought to have honored in an official way. given them the medal of honor or some equivalent. instead what happened was the people who were the architects of the torture policies were appointed to higher government posts, and the people who complained about torture from the inside, the people who put their careers and in some cases their safety on the line were allowed to disappear into obscurity, that does not
describe alberto, but it describes some of the people who complained. i think that is a collective failure on our part. it's not possible we could rectify that under this administration, but maybe at some point in the future we can do that. >> next question. >> thank you. >> hello, thank you for being here. i am a freshman in the college. i have a question for all of you. in light of the conversation about different moral codes, can the release of classified information by snowden and others put american lives at risk or lead to the deaths of others? >> the government has been asked -- there were some senior government officials that suggested at different points
that some of the disclosures have led to incidents of that kind where individuals were endangered or killed. but when pressed to disclose more information about those instances, they did not. i suppose in theory it is possible there is some classified information out there that make clear that some of those disclosures have those kind of cost. >> also to emphasize again, he shared the information with journalists and those organizations made the decision about what to release. >> decisions made by "the washington post" and "the guardian" and "the new york times." >> but what responsibility did snowden hold? >> he trusted journalists to make the decision.
>> i think it's important that he did not entrust it to wikileaks. he contacted laura, who contacted us and "the guardian," and trusted us to use our judgment. we had experienced journalists working on the stories. we were in constant communication with the intelligence agencies about what we intended to publish. we sat there sometimes for hours going point by point about what would be in the story and give them a chance to object. that she gave -- gave them a chance to object. there were instances where there were details they asked us to withhold because they felt it could put at risk an individual or some method that was
critical, and we took that under advisement and in some instances withheld that. particularly if they said that an individual's life would be at risk. we definitely withheld fat. -- withheld that. so there were times they asked us to withhold things that had already been published. we felt we probably did not need to do that. they continued to argue we she -- that we should withhold the information, because they said, the supposition was that others, foreign countries that were enemies of the united states, had not read the material. in any event, that's not an incident where we would withhold information because it was already widely disseminated. when it came to individuals lives, we certainly respected that. i'm not aware of any individual who has lost a life because of
the material that was published, and as was pointed out, nobody has been able to identify anybody. >> thank you. >> yes? >> this is a question -- my name is jake, i am a freshman. this question is for all of you. returning to the theme you have visited several times, congress abandoning its oversight role, especially owing to increasing partisanship, which is not showing any signs of abating anytime soon. it's also been alluded to, the limitations of executive oversight and the weakness of the inspector generals.
inherently, the flawed nature of the executive branch monitoring itself. what kind of oversight structures, given that the consensus seems to be that this is not effective, what kind of oversight structures would those on the panel see as potentially necessary to enter an era where there is some peril in this area? >> a great question. are there some oversight procedures we think people could agree upon to put into place? >> i think we really need to take a look, and this is some of the work i do, take a look at the system. -- at rethinking the oversight and the system. we see real differences in today's environment is this the -- versus the work of the senate
intelligence committee, which is doing a serious investigation and a bipartisan way as much as -- in a bipartisan way as much as they can, and investigation into russian influence, and then we see the hyper partisanship on the house side. there is also an issue raised of the court and whether or not there is more role there. i think we also, in terms of transparency efforts that have taken place, i don't think there is any going back. the intelligence community has moved the needle forward on transparency, and what i mean by that is information they are providing to the public in an institutionalized way where they are actually moving toward trying to make more information public not through leaks come up -- not through leaks, but an actual announcement. i don't think there's any going backwards from that. there's only going forward.
the question is, how do we move forward? >> thank you. >> i'm a sophomore in my -- and my question is, we have entered an era where cyber attacks have almost been outpacing defense. how has the atmosphere changed surrounding leaks that can possibly come from places without having to enter a government building? and what is a difference between leakers in government agencies being perceived, or say, white -- versus white hat hackers? >> you want to take that? >> one quick point. the one quick point goes to how
information is accessed, and obviously we are in a new era where information can be accessed through potentially hacking. i think there is a substantial question the national security community needs to wrestle with, which is can they continue to conduct certain activities and collect certain information and develop certain cyber tools if they can't protect them? and that is a major challenge that i am not sure is being wrestled with in the way it needs to be. >> yeah, i agree with that. there is also the fact that so many private corporations now have access to, whenever we are online, we are sharing information with these private
corporations, and they reported that information. i don't think we have fully grappled with those stores of information. i think inevitably we will see over the next few years, different kinds of bad actors hacking into those kinds of stores of information and exposing that kind of information about private citizens. i think the way most of us think about cyber threats doesn't yet account for that particular factor. >> i am going to agree on the defense point, the vast resources used to exploit governments and corporate entities, and the need for the nsa and other intelligence organizations to really think
about the security information they have, critical and for infrastructure, etc. >> were going to take the last three questions of the people standing and then we will give everyone -- i am sorry. >> thank you. >> thank you. if you could state your questions, we will give everyone one last chance to answer them and make concluding remarks. >> i am a law student. i know the conversations are focused on national security, but whistleblowers, what does the landscape look like for law enforcement? in terms of the relationship with the press and the risks that they face. >> i think i understand your question. i work with documentary filmmakers, and they are on the front line of doing this kind of reporting. i just worked on a film about
new york's police department and the use of quotas and arresting people. the filmmaker was following several police officers who resisted and became whistleblowers. there was great retaliation and a lot of questions around how to tell the story. the filmmaker ultimately ended up using hidden cameras to have evidence of how the police department was engaging in these of quotas. and there are threats of retaliation. retaliation against the people who come forward, the whistleblowers in this case, and the film makers. if you look at something like black lives matter, and the organizers and activists on the front lines, they are absolutely being targeted by police department in terms of their
-- in terms of collecting their personal information. there are a lot of risks in exposing this sort of thing, to whatever power. not just at the national security level. >> i'm a freshman. my question is regarding public perception in the media. it was mentioned earlier there was a distinction between -- and the retaining and exposure of information. the president takes the spotlight in a lot of cases. how does the panel think the president's rhetoric has impacted the cycle of information and attention brought to leakers and russell -- and whistleblowers, and how is that changed public perception? >> he has helped. [laughter]
he talks about it, he drives people to the stories in the first place. it is sort of an odd thing. he boosts traffic. he boosts ratings. he has had that kind of impact. i think the concern is the rhetoric he is using and how he, as we have talked about already, is portraying many of these things, first of all describing things as fake news, and saying that quite often when you see anonymous sources, that they have no sources. one of my favorite incidents of that is when we reported that his initial national security adviser michael flynn had conversations with the russian ambassador about the lifting of sanctions prior to the
administration taking office, that -- and flynn had denied that, we reported that he had had the conversations and spoken to the russian ambassador. subsequent to that, the president gave a speech and said that we had nine sources, we said we had nine sources. he said, they say they have nine sources but they have no sources. immediately after saying that, he called for a leak investigation. [laughter] >> i don't know how you reconcile the two. if we had no sources, what is he investigating? not only that, he followed that up subsequent to that by firing general flynn as he had lied to the president. and lied to the american public about that. and this is the same stories
-- story that was untrue and was based on no sources whatsoever. so this is what were dealing with, it's a weird environment. in that sense, he helped circulate the story that we had in the first place. and we are grateful for that. [laughter] >> thank you. >> thank you. >> i am a freshman in the college. i'm curious in regards to overclassification and the regulation of information on a federal level. to what extent should i as a private citizen have faith that when my government acts, it is actually acting in my best interest, or should it be at the best of times cautious and at the worst of times, adversarial? [applause] [laughter] >> what a great last question. [laughter]
who wants to answer it? >> it is a good close. >> if he actually looked at the -- you actually looked at the founding of the country, the founding of the country and what james madison sad that set in -- said in crafting the first amendment, the press is there to examine public character and is wees and that is what are supposed to do. the public is supposed to be a check on government. it's not just a guarantee of a free press, but free expression for all of us. there was a deep suspicion of a government power at the time of the founding of the country and that is something that has stayed with us over a period of time, and there are plenty of reasons to be suspicious, not with everything the government does, but certainly we should
always be tactical, we should always be on guard, and we should all be active citizens. >> on that note, i want to mention that there is a reception downstairs in the second floor hallway, i hope you will join us. my thanks to all the people who helped bring this program together and help pay for it. -- helped pay for it. [applause] i also want to close by noting, this is a very challenging subject, and i realized that as we were going on, and i want to thank you all for rising to the occasion. thanks very much. [applause]
>> c-span's washington journal live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up tuesday morning, feminist majority foundation president eleanor discusses brett kavanaugh's supreme court nomination. then judicial watch president tom talks about the future of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein. columnist onker fact checking president trump. make sure to check out washington journal. when the discussion -- join the
discussion. >> coming up on tuesday on c-span at 10:00 a.m. we are live from the united nations in new york for remarks president trump. at the :00 known the house will have speeches. it will work on bills regarding cyber and border security. at 10:00 p.m. we are live in phoenix where the arizona governor's big -- debate. a.m., the fda8:00 commissioner on the rise and risks of taping among teenagers. in the senate, members consider the nomination of peter to be on the consumer product safety commission. at 9:30 a.m.: the senate on services committee considers military command nominations at 1:30 p.m. american university president sylvia burwell is in congress --
conversation with bob corker of tennessee. at 3:30 p.m., the senate health committee examines health care enrollment america -- in rural america. confirmnk what would that experience, they go in there and there is something about the office itself and the office, forr that you do not feel like bawling of the president or taking him on the way you tell your colleagues you were going to do. he was he was in china, eventually called back to run the cia, something he do because he thought running the cia was a political career killer. had aspirations for higher office. he remembered his father saying if the president of the united states asks you to do something for your country the answer is yes. that sentiment i think really
embodies his entire obligation, not to necessarily be a president in his own right, but to hold the president -- presidency up to the next person. >> director of southern methodist university presidential history discusses his book " when the world seemed new: the end of the cold war." sunday night on c-span's q&a. >> former first lady michelle obama speaks at a voter registration rally in las vegas. she is cochair of the organization when we although. this is 30 minutes. >> how are we feeling? are we a las vegas? it does not sound like it. how are we