tv Discussion Focuses on the Pentagon Papers and Free Speech CSPAN February 20, 2017 2:54am-4:25am EST
putting that right up there on his calendars suggest that he gets this and its value to the american people. >> watch the communicators monday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span two. on friday, washington's host journalist rob woodward to part in a discussion on the legacy of the 1971 application of the pentagon papers and how it changed the media's relations with the government on issues of national security. this is an hour and a half. >> good morning.
i am delighted to welcome you here or welcome you back. those who were with us last evening for my conversation. unger and delight to welcome you here or welcome you back for those with us for my conversation with daniel el elseburg for the publication of the pg papers 46 years later. i think dan will be with us again today and with us in the audience and making his presence known as we go on. he is the person who made it possible for us to be here. we are live on c-span. i think it's c-span3. it will be rebroadcast at a later date or dates as well. my only role right now is to introduce jean meserve, our moderator, who is a veteran of
national security coverage and reporting on abc and c-span. i'm sorry, on cnn. you've seen one, you've seen them all, you know. i won't do what i'm tempted to do. which is to channel the president, i won't do that. jeanne has moderated panels all over the world. i'm grateful for her taking the time to be with us today. she will introduce hur distinguished panelists. >> thank you, sandy. what could be more timely than a discussion about leaks. we have a president trump calling these leaks lowlife, un-american and criminal, then we have daniel ellsberg, did any
of you hear him last night calling for more leaks to keep the constitution and the country secure. we have a superstar panel to talk about balancing the leaks and next to me is a man i'm sure you are all familiar with, bob woodward, the investigative journalist with the "washington post," deeply involved, as you all know, with watergate coverage and much more. next to him is benjamin powell, now a part mer at will mer hale. he was council and national intelligence officer under republican and democratic administrati administrations. at the end, another familiar name, david sanger. thanks for joining us. the national security correspondent interior "new york times." i'd like to talk about the here and now.
leaks seems the inappropriate word. it seems like a deluge of information coming out of this administration right now and if we put aside for a minute the massive dumps of information, the pentagon papers, snowden, chelsea manning, i'm wondering, bob and david, if you have ever seen this volume of leaks coming out in the administration? is it unprecedented or not, bob? >> i wouldn't use the word leaks. i think it's aggressive reporting and it's the transfer of administrations that has created the environment and a good deal coming from former people, but i agree with ellsburg, more leaks. and i think david would agree on this, there's this sense that reporters just sit around waiting for somebody to bring in a grocery cart of documents like
ellsburg did or to call and i think the best sources are not volunteers. somebody who comes to us, but people we recruit and go to and say, we want to understand what's going on. >> sounds like spycraft. >> no, it's reporting. and it's quite basic. so i also, i mean, there was a lot that seems to be coming out, as is always the case, so much more that we don't know about the whole general flynn issue where he came and now is departed. i think you could probably spend part of your life figuring out what's going on there. so many issues we don't know and we don't know the answers to a
lot of the key questions. >> do you think we'll get those answers eventually? >> you know, as ben bradley, the former editor at "the post" used to say, the truth emerges. sometimes it takes decades. >>, have you seen anything like this, and what do you think is behind it? what is it? it is highlyll, unusual to see this early in the administration, i mean, usually, you have to assume whenever there is a transition, the people who come into an administration have come out of the campaign, they believe that their candidate, the new president, walks on water. iyalty is at its highest, so have not covered as many administrations as bob has. i did not mean that in a -- [laughter] >> [indiscernible] >> one of them said, what was
calvin coolidge like? [laughter] the kind that coolidge met you in a parking garage. [indiscernible] >> not sure they had cars. [laughter] but, it has been my experience since i got back from a happy life as a foreign correspondent and entered into a three-year assignment to washington that has now 23, that to 22 or usually, the administrations begin leaking after the first crew is gone, and a group has come in true sort of undo whatever damage the initial crew youand wants to explain to how much more brilliant they are than the people they replaced, and that process usually takes about three years into an administration. we have gotten this starting in 3, and i think
that reflect the different phenomenon under way. first, the executive orders, which were really the first things to leak, they were put together by a a very small group of people, who did not consult made a lot ofey early mistakes, so we saw in the immigration executive order that about greenhought holders, interpreters in iraq, and so forth, and then, there was an order which we still have not seen on detention that calls for reopening the black site interrogation centers, as if there are countries around the world that are yearning to get our backside detention centers reopened. and i think those leaks were intended to go act as a warning
sign to other members of the trump administration who may not have seen the early drafts to say, you are about to go walk off a cliff and you better read when second, and and third versions of them leaked, they were missing the blacks identical forth, so i think part of this was to create a new circulatory system because the old circulatory system was not working. that is group one. the second set of leaks i think you have seen have been just withinhe inner turmoil the administration. and i think that is in part because you were watching a group of professional people who have been through the transitions before, who know what things are supposed to be operating like at this point in time. and recognize that that process has fallen apart. you know, if you want to look at the prime example of this right now, look at the national security council.
having just gotten rid of general flynn, and i agree completely with bob that there is a lot we do not understand yet about that, the nfc is basically going back to day one at this point. before day one. they are going to have to create themselves as if you were starting the transition. ok of we runld be on autopilot, as long as nothing goes wrong between now and a time they all come together. what are the chances of that, just given the pace of events around the world? i think the second set of leaks is sort of a warning that things have got to get together. >> you keep saying leaks, they will. >> you're right, bob is right. these are not coming to us. the executive orders might be slightly different. i think those go out. everything else we are discussing is coming out of hard reporting. >> are you concerned at all about this as someone from the national security summit? >> it is a bit of a vicious
cycle because what is the reaction when you see draft s public, when you see them leaked, it is not ok, let us make sure we are sharing these to get input off of the reaction. it is let us jobless circle even tighter, which then has the negative affective course of not being able to consult more broadly. consult more broadly. it's not as if it is good because often the reaction is, of course, people go further and further into the bunker and say, you know, everyone's going to leak every draft that i'm going to put out there so we'll only do it among us three people here and we'll dribble it out and i saw that in 2009 with some of
the executive orders that were happening then where there was kind of last, last, last minute coordination and those of us in the intelligence community called up and said, i know you're going to sign this in an hour, but let me tell you what the impacts will be if you sign this and then there's always the scramble to fix things. it is not as if the reaction, having observe fd this many times, to do this more broadly. oftentimes, it causes people to go further into the bunker. if you go through the whole process and there's this feeling then in the white house that everything that we give to the inner agency is going to go straight to the press, it just makes it more difficult and gives you more of that bunker mentality sometimes. >> but this what's going on is not about executive orders.
at bottom, it is, the power of the presidency and is it functioning? there is now, this first month into the trump administration, people are mostly opinion columnists writing it's kind of over if you can't put it back together and i suspect when the history of the trump administration is written, this first month is not going to be that important. the president has extraordinary powers and david and ben know this so well. a president can do all kinds of things and is going to be measured by what they do and in the national security area, the president can do, really start a war, as we -- i mean, legally. i remember talking to a group of academics some time ago in
the george w. bush administration and they said, well, no, the constitution says congress will declare war. the last declared war was when? world war ii. and i think we've had a few since then that are undeclared and just kind of literally reading the constitution, and i said, look, george bush can invade mexico tomorrow if he wants. somebody stood up in the back and said, don't give him any ideas. but the president can employ the force as he sees fit. the only thing congress can do is take away the money. and once the troops are out there and if it is a reasonable military excursion, congress is not going to take away the money. so i'm interested in what trump is going to do as president.
that's going to be the measure and all of this hand wringing, i mean, the first month is not been great, but what are those key decisions in the areas that are real serious national security, not things on paper. >> david, you want to jump in? >> first of all, i think bob is right that the first month will not seen as terribly important unless it portends a continued sort of level of chaos. if he gets it together in the next six months, everybody will sort of forgive a first month of chaos or forget about it. if he doesn't, it will end up looking like they got off on a wrong foot and didn't get back on. what strikes me as interesting is it has not been a straight
line. there has been nothing linear in covering these folks. there are some things they have done spectacularly badly and we have just run through a list and every once in a while, executed something in the traditional way. >> supreme court nomination. >> supreme court nomination, no matter what you think of the nominee, he's eminently qualified. they rolled it out well. >> coordinated. coordinated with the hill. >> coordinated with everybody. it was sort of the model of how you used to go do this. and it was actually george bush, who was usually pretty orderly about these things that when he tried to nominate his own in-house white house council for the supreme court without any of that, that it collapsed on him. so i think it is worth, considering the fact that we have seen moments where they could put it together. what strikes me in the foreign policy arena is that we have
gone from what then candidate trump said to me and maggie during our two foreign policy interviews with him about japan, about south korea, about china to what were much more traditional encounters where right off after saying he would negotiate on the one china policy, he gave that because he recognized that nothing else was going to happen with china if he didn't reaffirm the one china policy. his meeting with the japanese prime minister was as boring and uneventful as every other past meeting with japanese prime ministers and you wouldn't have bet on that based on what you -- >> except for the little meeting out on the patio at mar-a-lago. >> that came out of a north korean launch and the fact they were trying to figure out, was this an intermediate range launch they didn't have to worry about or was this the icbm we've all been waiting for?
and once they came to the conclusion it was the intermediate launch, they went back to having dinner with everybody else at mar-a-lago. so i think what they will be measured by is their first big test. when you think back to the bush administration, the days when i was a white house correspondent, the first nine months of george bush's administration was about sort of everything and nothing and then 9/11 happened and it became the sort of clarifying moment that defined what kind of president he would be. >> and defined this whole century, almost everything that's happened is connected to 9/11. >> absolutely. including the movement of counterterrorism to the center of american foreign policy which it was in the bush administration. we saw barack obama try to move away from that and i think he
did so, somewhat successfully and we are seeing president trump try to move it back to the center again. >> do you think it's going to be tougher and tougher to get information out of this administration, both because of the tightening circle that ben mentioned and also, perhaps, because some of the professional class that you mentioned, david, will be leading this -- leaving this administration, perhaps of their own choice, perhaps not of their choice? >> you know, i think it depends on whether or not the president figures out how to make good use of the professionals and the bureaucracy around him. >> word this morning that a lot of the professionals at the state department, for instance, have just been told to pack their bags. >> right. i read the ones on the seventh floor who do the coordination. but the fact of the matter is any president
discovers over time that the united states government is a huge enterprise and cannot be run like a small family business. and you have a president who has run a business, you can argue about how successful or not it's been, but very small and very tight. i think he's discovering that the techniques that work so well with the trump organization don't work here. there was no vast bureaucracy or intelligence community that could go work out another agenda. >> but in the real world of reporting, what the headline from the press conference that trump had yesterday really is where he said, he called the justice department and said, let's look at these leaks. and the -- again, back to the power of the president and the justice department, if they want to go look at leaks, they can really do this with an aggressiveness that we -- there was much criticism of obama, and david got caught up in this, their effort to try to prosecute
and stop leaking. but the power of the fbi to come in and really examine that, if those are the orders and trump is right technically, some of this is illegal and we would argue it's transparency and it's desirable and i think generally, the press is pretty careful about going through something that may be sensitive, but that may come down on our heads in a real serious way. >> i think that's absolutely true. i think while we've all noted that the obama administration did more leak investigations than all previous presidencies by three times come bined.
>> by three times. >> right. they did by and large say with one exception to investigating suspected sources and they didn't come after the reporters. and in the case that bob referenced which was my reporting on the cyberattacks on the iranian nuclear program operation olympic games, they did a vast set of interviews with more than 100 people who they thought were potential sources. but they never did come after "the new york times" and its notes, so forth. >> which they could do. >> which they could certainly do. >> and you could fight it and maybe you win, maybe you lose. but -- >> we don't know what the trump administration will adhere by the same rules. >> exactly. and ben knows this so well. the power to do that is awesome. no? >> well, yeah. i mean, there will be -- of course, there were rules put in. there's rules governing. the issues with some subpoenas
to reporters and those could be changed by the department of justice. those are largely, you know, internal guidelines and it's not a statute. it's not in the constitution. >> it could be changed overnight. >> it could be changed. and there are people that would probably favor that, particularly in the realm of communications intelligence. that is the one place where there are federal criminal laws that say the leak of communication and intelligence properly classified is a crime. that is different -- >> not just the publication. >> exactly. exactly. >> i know one of the subsequent panels will get into the leg legali legalities. i don't want to delve too deep into there. it leads me to my next question has to do with anonymity. "the washington post" at least is using secure drop.
is the "times" using secure drop as well? >> we've got a portal within the "time" site. you can all find it advertised on our home page. >> in case you have documents you want to pass along. >> into which people can drop things in a secure way. i've never seen anything like that. because i'm in the same school that bob is in, which is that these things happen by getting out and trying to understand policy and getting people to explain what they're doing or understanding their objections to what is happening. and that's usually how we find these things. when the "times" came up with this idea of putting in this secure drop which i think "the wall street journal" has now also done and so forth, i thought, well, you know, 99% of the stuff you get in there is going to be crazy. and maybe 90% of what you get there turns out to be crazy. but some is pretty interesting
and what you discover is that there is a vast bureaucracy out here that feels an ex estengsal threat. >> can i ask ben a question? i'm somebody in the government and i come to you and say, i have documents and information. i want to give "the new york times" or the "washington post." how would you recommend that i do it? >> first, do a conflicts check to see if i can represent you or not but getting past that, so the -- let's make sure we're differentiating between two things. there's a big difference. there's the drop of things about policy and the environmental area or, you know, the vastness of what the federal government does where for whatever reason, you're giving things to the press. >> that would be unclassified. >> that would be unclassified government information, we're not going to get into the
legalities of that or the appropriateness of that. >> i should say, that's the vast majority of these. i don't see everything that comes into the drop. but that's the vast majority of what does. >> so what we're talking about here, though, is let's talk about national security information. and are you dropping classified information? >> yes, yeah. i've got a boatload of stuff and they say you're one of the experts on this and you're going to say you're conflicted out? >> no, no. just want to make sure we get our arrangements in place. so, look -- there's -- as a lawyer, so you're coming to me as a lawyer, so i am certainly going to tell you about the laws that are on the books. right? so there's no, you know, we can talk about what the likelihood of prosecution is. we can talk about what the -- >> you're going to scare me and tell me not to do it. >> i am ethically bound to properly advise you that there's
a statute about dealing with communications intelligence, dealing with national defense information and that you could be subject to criminal prosecution. >> so then in the end -- >> you could also lose your clearance, so you're not going to be working in the national security community anymore. there could be ramifications. >> your bottom line recommendation would be, don't do it. >> oh, i don't know that it would be a bottom line recommendation. but i'm certainly going do make sure you have the full facts as a lawyer but that's what you would expect, right? if you're going to a lawyer and want to hear what the possibilities are, people have gone to jail and are jail for this right now. >> people come to lawyers for protection. and i would want you to tell me how to do this in a way -- suppose it's ril -- i've got something very important to the national interests and you even looking at it say, this should come out,
how can i do that in a protected way or not. >> so you want me to help you to violate 798 and pass communication and used my experience to do it in an anonymous and secure way, is that? >> basically, yes. >> so now i'm before the dc bar for aiding and abetting you? is that the next step? >> so i've gone to the wrong lawyer. [ laughter ] >> you might have picked the wrong -- >> so if ellsburg came to you, you would probably talk him out of it. >> no, no, i think that's -- there's the kind of advice piece of this. but there is the fact. any good lawyer, you certainly wouldn't want your client to be surprised when you visit them in the federal correctional institute. that, hey, you didn't tell me. i thought -- i read about these other guys like ellsburg. they get to go on panels and be treated as a hero, how come i'm
sitting here 20 years in jail? i thought i was going to get all of these awards and bob woodward appearances and sitting here in jail and you didn't tell me. that would be highly, i don't know of any lawyer actually that, who ever made or advised somebody to go ahead who would not make them aware of the risks of going ahead. >> if bob asked you what about secure drop, will that give me anonymity? you're a cyber guy now. is it truly fail safe? >> i don't know anyone who works in the cybersecurity field that would say any particular method is fail-safe. there's a lot of pieces that go into transmitting documents and other things that, you know, are involved, so the fact of the matter is that you would have documents in some fashion and you would be placing those in the hands of a third party and don't know the security of the
third party. so, relying on the security of one particular method is, you know, has its own ri risks. >> ben, you told me over the phone you thought the interplay with national security and the press had changed 180 degrees since the pentagon papers. explain what you meant. >> i would say there was the pentagon papers to the era of the internet and the balkanization of the media. so probably was stable for a long time, in terms of a certain number of networks and newspapers that invested in that area and they were regular discussions when topics would come up. now, of course, you have just the publication of raw material without any type of responsible reporting on it. you just have what's happened with wikileaks and manning, the
dumping out, hundreds of thousands of pieces of material, names of people who are democracy activists. names of people who have been helpful to the united states. there's been negative consequences to that. so that is very different, i think, in the past where you would see an article and there may be discussions between the government and the newspaper and at least some of the more responsible places would say, if you can show us harm, we're not interested in just putting out the names of sources, the names of technical methods. so let's have a discussion about that and you see that in the past. now, of course, you have a couple of things. you have the internet in which you can just, people will just dump these things out there. and now you have the widespread solicitation that both have talked about of the material, come and bring us the material. that's not good reporting. that's, hey, we're like wikileaks.
here's our dropbox, drop it on in, give it to us. so you have newspapers moving towards wikileaks-type solicitation of classified information. and the fact that you can't have those discussions anymore in a responsible manner and have confidence it's going to hold there. >> even with organizations like these? >> but the important question, i'm sorry, is this solicitation with these drop boxes, would that make us participants in a conspiracy to release classified information? in other words, if the post came to you and said, should we have this drop box because i could conceive of a scenario of somebody dropping something in there that's really sensitive and causes some sort of catastrophe in the government,
particularly, the government now says "the washington post" is complicitous. this is a conspiracy because they have this dropbox. >> i've not seen any legal case like that. >> what would your recommendation be? >> you know he's cautious. >> like i say, i don't think i've seen any theory like that today or i've certainly not looked at it. >> david, you want to weigh in? >> yeah. let me just disagree for a moment that the media of the kind bob and i worked for are doing what wikileaks is doing. the collections side may look similar if you've got this dropbox. the fact of the matter is that most of our reporting is in the traditional way one does reporting. what wikileaks does is take this material in and then dump it all out. they dump it all out and have, by and large, unedited, without thinking about the motives of the people who dumped
it in and without interpretation. that's not what we do. we may get this material in and i'm guessing that the vast majority of it never sees the light of day. some of it may fit in to a broad interpretive piece of journalism and media organizations to s subscribe to go do. the example of this comes from the wikileaks operation on the state department cables which i was involved in when we were doing these in 2010 and we published a series called state secrets. so we had about 250,000 cables that came from wikileaks. and we built our own sort of search engine and databases to go sort this through and in the end, we wrote that series from maybe 150 of the cables and only then from putting a huge amount
of reporting around what we were learning from those cables and only then from going to the government in a fascinating encounter, a series of encounters with the state department and the obama white house, so that we were sure that we weren't publishing when some dissident was going into the chinese embassy so they could match it up with cameras and throw them in jail. i had a moment who said, david, we're getting ready to publish one of the pieces of that qaddafi and libya and he was still in power. this was about ten months before he was thrown out of power. this person said to me, you know, david, i didn't know this until ten minutes ago but one person mentioned incidentally in the cable, just in passing that has been an asset of the united states, meaning, working for the cia for years if not decades and if qaddafi sees his name in a cable, he's just going to put him up against the wall and
shoot him. i said, fine, we'll take him -- it out. we got the "guardian" to take it out. we even got wikileaks to take it out. so it was a different era, right? and as far as i can tell, he's still walking around and that's more than i can say for mr. qaddafi. >> does the 24 hour news cycle, this constant churn, constant downlo deadli deadline, does it make it more difficult to give that sort of time to an investigation? because someone else is going to publish it. >> it can because of the competitive pressures are out there and sometimes you just have to go out and say, folks, we need to calm down and slow down and figure out what we have here. and i've been at work on one project for the past seven or eight months. it's hard to get away with that. in this modern churn world. the churn sometimes slows down the ability to spend the time on
the kind of investigative things that bob and i and many other journalists like to go do. >> and you've got a culture of impatience and speed which drives the readers and the viewers and the expectation is trump has his press conference yesterday and i found myself going to the "new york times" or "post" or other websites, well, what's the reaction? i want instant reaction. >> twitter is where you go. >> i don't even know what that is. now, but i'm sorry, i see sandy unger sitting there, who did the great book on the pg papers and the press. the papers and the papers, wasn't it called? >> yep. >> and how really important the pentagon papers decision by the supreme court was to journalism and how liberating it was because in that decision which was technically a 6-3 decision
but there was a procurium issued by the court that chief justi justicebergjustice berger dissented but he said, no, the press can go ahead and publish the pentagon papers. that created an environment. david was mentioning, you're working on something and you go to the government and say, we have this and it may be sensitive and secret and we want to find out if it's true. we want to put it in context. i think at least, i'm sure david and lots of people would agree that you don't want to publish something that's going to get somebody killed or thrown in jail, so you have to be very careful. i can think time and time again going to the seventh floor on the cia, going to the oval office and presenting information that we have and you
can do that knowing you're not going to be arrested and knowing in a more important way that the government is going to not say, gee, you've got this, we're going to court to stop you from publishing. so i think it's been, i know it's been liberating to the press. is it to the government? >> liberating in the sense of being able to engage in those discussions? >> yeah. >> of course, it's been helpful to have. there have been a number of occasions those discussions have been helpful. let's be clear. it's not a joyous and good day when you get the call and they say, we have this information. we'd like to come in and talk to you, like, say, 3 p.m. today because we want to publish it at 5:00 p.m. unless you can sit down and have a discussion. or -- so -- now i have a situation where classified information has been blown and there's a source. there's a program. there's something else that may be very valuable to us.
and often, the case is you're doing repair around the margins. >> you should have found another line of work if you were looking for joyous. >> exactly. you're making it seem as if it's a, we go, we have this discussion and all is worked out and all is fine. what we're doing is often, you're trying to minimize the damage, but there is -- >> but you're given that opportunity because of the pentagon papers decision, don't you think? >> well, why is it the pentagon papers -- >> otherwise, we wouldn't walk in the door for fear we would be walking out in handcuffs. >> and that's not a joyously good day. >> that's right. so i mean, there's a reason for this process and the reason for this process is that if we're walking in there is to say, look, we have the story. we think it's important and
raises the following big policy concerns for the united states, big moral concerns for the united states whether it's the wireless, warrantless wiretapping thing or the use of cyber weapons by the united states against another state for the first time and the precedent that it sets. and what we're trying to get at is the concept that you can have a vigorous discussion about the policy implications of a hugely important program for the united states without necessarily blowing the how of how it's done. the example here really is in nuclear. most annualogies to nuclear weapons don't work, particularly, i find, i write a lot in the cyber field and they don't work in cyber, but one does. we had a very vigorous discussion in this country about how and when we would use nuclear weapons without publi
publishing most of the details of how you you build them, who's got authority to go use them, where we keep them and so forth. some of that has gotten out over the years but it's been 70 years and leaked out over time. that debate turned out to be critically important because the united states policy reversed. mcarthur wanted to use the bomb gr against the north koreans and chinese and we had crazy gene l generals that wanted to blow up them during the soefl missile crieses and ended up escorting them out the door. complete opposite of eisenhower, another bullet in the arsenal we don't even think eisenhower himself believed. we need that in a range of different areas. cyber is one of them. >> can i give an example? >> please. >> just because i think -- >> sure. i want to get to questions shortly, but go ahead. >> real quickly, this was in the
first month of the carter administration, 1977 ed, we lead king hussein is on the payroll. i called jody powell, the new press secretary for carter. i understand king hussein is on the payroll. what's your comment and the code i remember vividly, the code word for the operation is no beef, and i remember powell s saying, no s -- and then did some checking and he said, okay, the president wants to see you and ben bradly in the offensively office tomorrow morning at 9:00. so, we went. and went through. and carter said, i want to talk off the record and bradley said, fine, but i had my notebook out and he said, no, you can't even take notes.
and he said, off the record that, yes, this is true, they hadn't told him about it. he thought it was wrong to have heads of state on the cia payroll and he was going to stop it. and then ben asked the critical question, if we published this, will it harm the national security, which is ultimately the measure and carter said no, it won't. but i really don't want you to publish it, kind of a georgia, you know, please do us a favor and don't publish this and, of course, we published it and he was quite upset that with had, but he opened that door by saying, it's not going to harm a national security. and ultimately, that's the question you're asking when you go to the government and i think -- >> that's right.
sometimes in that conversation, as uncomfortable as it may be for you, you work something out. so when i was working on olympic games on the cyber-story on iran, i went to many people in the government. a lot of this has now come out in court papers so i'm not revealing anything that hasn't been before, and said, look, the story has got to be told and cyber is the first weapon that was developed by the intelligence community so nobody really wants to talk about it because the intelligence community doesn't. but we've got to air how we're going to use this. if there are techniques that you think are particularly damaging because you're using them right now, then i'm describing here tell me that and maybe we can figure out a way to word around that so we're undercutting operati operations. and in the end, that's what happened. snowden, as it turned out, blew a lot of those techniques nine months later but we didn't know that at the time. >> did they get it right or wrong? >> i think this is leading one to think that this is a process
in which all of these occasions, there is a considered and measured approach of the type that's being described by very senior and distinguished reporters here, okay? these same situations though and we can draw a chart and fight about what about this one, what about this one? "the new york times" blew a very important financial program. the article was written in a manner suggestive of widespread illegality. turned out to be entirely inappropriate based on unclassified subpoenas and no discussion with the government or considering programs. >> what programs? >> this involved the terrorist financial tracking program widely discussed, entirely inappropriate and entirely damaging what was done there. >> and unclassified. >> that doesn't mean that it was the right thing to do or that did not have damage or that the article was written in a way that was entirely suggestive of
sinister and illegal activity. it was a number of other that have been discussed and published in the papers. >> you sound a bit defensive about that. >> i think we're presenting a situation where, as if, in each case, here's the process that's followed and these are antidotes but there are -- for every one of those, let's not pretend there are not antidotes on the other side or stories on the other side. i could go down and talk about other things that have been published. >> what's the worst in your knowledge that was published that caused the most damage to national security? >> oh, boy. i'd have to give that one some thought. >> while you do that, let's start taking some audience questions. we have one right here. we have a couple of people with micropho microphones. they'll run a mike to you right
here in the second row. here it comes. and if you could tell us who you are. >> my name is peter gluk. there were several references to the pg case in protection to the shield and media organizations. but that was 45 years ago and the court has changed so much, and not just the people. in terms of the ideological distribution of views. what confidence do you think media organizations should place that the pentagon papers decision would continue to protect them today? >> i mean, real quick and then all the justices, all nine for the pentagon papers decision are dead. so they're not on the court, believe it or not. [ laughter ] >> so, of course, it would be different, but the precedent here can be -- can change, absolutely. but, see, under this, to me, is
not a legal argument. that ultimately to me, if the press that is in the position like i think "new york times" and the "post" and others on the pentagon papers that this was in the broad national interest that this be published and that it actually did not harm national security. it helped national security. and as you point out, ellsburg is kind of a hero. so i think we have to proceed with that assumption. the difficulty here is is if something gets published, which is so likely that really does harm national security or gets someone killed, then the press is in the position of being on the wrong side of the line and the supreme court having done a book on this a long time ago is inclined to look at what is the moral atmosphere and that
doesn't drive the decision and so it's very important that we be careful, particularly in the trump administration, but david points out in the case he was involved in, the government was very careful. you finally got subpoenaed. >> no, i never did. >> oh, you never did. they wanted you to testify voluntarily. >> they never sympathied me. >> but that's the kind of sensitivity to the first amendment that would quite likely not be practiced by the trump administration. we need to be careful, as we always have. it's always good to -- when we told the world that king hussein was on the cia payroll, i think it did not harm national security, and it was in the context of, what he's the cia doing? what are they up to? what is their mission? they up ?
>> what are trying to accomplish and carter's position was it was not right for us to buy heads of states in other countries. >> two quick points. first when we published wikileaks in 2010 there was internal discussions. we were prepared for the moment. we presented it to the government the monday before thanksgiving in 2010 and we knew we were going to publish the following weekend. the thought had occurred this it was going to be closed over thanks giving. obama administration made no effort to go out and do that. secondly, bob makes the point that the pentagon papers did a
huge amount to inform about the penitentia pentagon, the pentagon papers looks more innocent in some ways because it was back ward looking -- >> it was historical. >> it was historica historical raises a different set of issues. this process that we discussed of going to the government, i agree with you this worked with the washington journal and the ap and others coming into the door, where i think it gets worrisome, a lot of stuff that leak out over the internet, gets published over the internet by people who do not have the
journalistic standard, if i was the government i would be worried about that than i would about the time, the post and the others. >> another question. right here in the blue. >> thank you for speaking today. my name is shan dra. there's a clear distinguish i think is not being made a distinction of revealing classified information which is classified not because of the content necessarily of the information but the sources means and methods by which is a collected. am i seeing -- that was felt to be important compared to hlc manning or snowden who was releasing information without going through it and taking out information that they deemed
should be shared and the sources means and methods that we rely on for national security are being released to adversarial government. between the talk of yesterday and today. that's being equal to each other and setting dangerous precedent in my mind, access to because they feel it's justified. i'm curious what your response is. >> i thought it was well said. this is an important distinction. what we're talking about is bigger policy issue. i think we are overlooking the fact that much of what we read about today, since the 9/11 has been far more operational in technical details and
fascination with source and methods how terrorists are tracked, how counter terrorism operation ares done. there's no doubt there's a public interest in the program and other piece of that that has been discussed in the newspaper. we have had public debates on them and laws that have changed. we change collection of the wording. at -- >> would that have happened without the disclosure? >> anyone's cell phone, i done know what would have happened with the black sites with or without those revelations. so i probably do think they would have been closed without
those revelation, but that's another discussion. we have damaging leaks of source ands methods. what you're reading about in the paper is not the pentagon papers and what's been our global policy towards muslim world. we have seen a lot of sources of how we carry out operations, how we do sensitive electronic surveillance. so when you're reaping aboding is it not confined to the wikileaks of the world. >> giving an example of the obama administration going to the cia with ten things i had
going to be in book obama's wars rk went through this and listened to the argument and got to one called counter terrorists pursuit team. the cia had a secret army in afghanistan that was under cia control. i said i'm putting this in the book, the cia said that's secret, you should not put that in. i said i'm not going to name any members of it or where they operate from or any operations. no, you should not public publish it. i said look, there are a lot of people in the obama administration who say we don't need 100,000 troops in afghanistan that this counter terrorists pursuit team does the job.
i think it's relevant. they were not happy but it was published, no harm. i got to another item and mentioned it, and laterally said if you publish that we could lose the war. that got my attention and went through their argument and can it's not in the book. it's a great story that some day can be told but you listen and you -- it's david's point. you go through this is much disclosure, more disclosure than the government would like almost always they would say don't publish any of this stuff but not the sort of things that will get people killed or cause us to lose a war. >> what's fascinating about this discussion is it is the reporter who is doing this weighing. this is a curious feature of the
system we have. >> it's called democracy. >> exactly. >> single citizen, can go and the government will listen to that. >> you're doing the power that journalist might have. >> i would be concerned as to whether or not the reporter as the qualification and the full global picture of you're making decisions on what sources or methods many your judgment are going to harm the national security. you're weighing your paper's interest and that power is in your hands because -- >> it's called the first amendment. >> that's what distinguishes our system and it can work. we held for three years at the bush administration's request.
we were able to publish after the story was done, to help pakistanians secure nuclear weapons. it was an argument made to us to publish it at the time we had the story would be to give the taliban arrows into nuclear sight within pakistan. we held it. and i called in said you are holding that story. you could have run that a year ago, that program was done a year ago. i wish i had check more often. that said, the distinguishing feature is the news organization that make that decision. >> do we have another question. >> if you're uncomfortable with
that at core? >> what you're saying is the first amendment has wiped away the statutes for the protection of classified information. i'm saying we need to recognize that it is to the extent that the position is that we will do the weighing, and it is our power to do that, that is is on awesome power. >> you have awesome power with those laws you can go after someone who releases classified information, right? >> well, we can debate about how awesome those are interpretation away all of those laws. >> it doesn't wipe it away. >> i want to get another question. the man on the fourth row. >> thank you for speaking. christopher blare. so far in the discussions, i'm
getting the feel that in the court of public opinion, we are detective gaiting the media as the prosecutor. where does the media draw the line when receiving document from the potential leaker and leak of the story important that the long-standing or national security policy or post chur. >> excellent question. what we are trying to do is air the issues, the policy questions do we as a nation want to have the black sites do we want to do bulk collections without necessarily blowing the operational detail. and you said prosecute. i don't think that's the case. we can't prosecute anything. we can start a policy discussion. we can make sure it happens. in the end, congress gave the
president and the executive branch many of the powers that president bush took aupon himself en routing around the pfizer court. but that happened after discussion about whether that was right way to go. so i think that what this -- what we learned out of this, since the era of the pentagon papers, it's important to have that conversation to that we understand that something we're about to publish could cost a life, imminent operation, and i don't think we want to do that. that means we have to make a judgment about whether the broader discussion about whether we're heading in the right direction with the set of policy
get airs. there's a way to do that. there's a way to move through the line. the point has been made in the world of the internet where everybody is a publisher, not everyone is going to show that judgment and that's the challenge of our time. >> we should take the position of humiditity on this. and ben would agree with this. that for instance, the wikileaks stuff which the "new york times" had and published which i thought was good, at you know, almost all of that information -- maybe all of the stop classification was secret. >> at the lowest level. >> not the top secret program and the "new york times" editor took the position, we're telling you how government works. that was excellent series but it
didn't tell you how government worked. because the top secret information is really what informs president's decisions. i remember talking should recently to about snowden, a controversial anything and this person who i known very well, said snowden didn't have the good stuff. that's true. we worry about wikileaks and some of the stuff that snowden reveal you but the good stuff, the deep secrets, as president obama called them, don't get published normally it is very rare. we're getting into the government's business and an important part of it but there's
also the deep secrets part that we don't get into it. is that fair? >> i have seen a number of things published in the newspaper putting aside snowden that have been details of technical operations. i don't think that the papers stick to here is how the government works policy. i have seen -- >> no. say there's a something things that's sensitive there's a small portion that gets published is that correct. >> i have not seen -- >> a compartment is classification in special program or sci program that where they are limited allegedly
to people who have a need to know. but i think there's a lot of things we doesn't know about and frankly, from my point of view i would like to know about them. because the government's capacity to do things in secret is immense and secret government is the thing we should worry about the most of all the of the things and the judge who said it got it right, democracy's die in darkness. >> this is a fundamental challenge that the secrecy can be inconsistent with democracy. >> and many joy listenings. >> i'm fine. >> there's a question way at the
back there. >> hi. gabriel men yez. i want to talk about wikileaks. how do you feel in terms of legality and trusting of the source between wikileaks or someone within leaking within a government or within a campaign do you think wikileaks is important to getting the information that sources won't reveal. >> to my mind, the material that was released by wikileakss this summer, was the john podesta e-mails. were more fascinated to me for
what it said about who was trying to act and disrupt the election than the content and the content was the infighting within the dnc bernie sanders v. hillary clinton i didn't find that to be quite as fascinating as political committee did. the podesta e-mails had not classified information. you have a sense of what hillary clinton speeches to goldman sack were like. there was not in there a whole lot that was remarkable. what was remarkable was the fact that there's a channel from russian intelligence to wikileaks and russian
intelligence distributing this through other channels that told us a lot about the russian operation. but we didn't know that that early. >> we learned it pretty fast. by july we were writing story -- the first publication was early july. by the third week of july we wrote a story that u.s. intelligence conclude that it was russians that were behind all of this. the intelligence community came out on october 7th. so within a matter of weeks, we put it together. >> it had an am beaubiguity abo. in ret trospect that this was pt
of an operation to hurt hillary clinton there was not on the summer and the campaign the kind of clarity -- >> as you said earlier, this revealed itself overtime. we had a team that was focus on the russians parts of the operation. even while we were reporting the materials from -- >> i'm curious if anybody ever tried to punk you. so i come from the world of television where we had to be caution about things photo shop or manipulated. given the fact that video can be manipulated, voices can be reprogrammed to say something different ask documents can be edited. have you ever gotten material you thought was realtime and it
wasn't. someone was trying to play you? >> fake twitter accounts, you know, are a significant issue now. you really have to slowdown and say, there was a moment somebody was faking a twitter account they setup for rex tillerson and we were look ago ing at it it a thought he issued a -- we it's inkresingly possible to go through it. we have to be careful of in five years ago was not possible. >> i believe in human sources if you have somebody in position of knowledge and you have established a relationship of trust that's so much better. even going back in the '80s, i
remember the cia director saying it's so much better to have a human source someone who sits outside of the prime minister's office who tells you what's going on than having a bug in the prime minister's office. because your going to get stacks of transcripts and you don't know what's important. and i think this is the problem with the internet and the things david and twitter accounts so forth. they are guides, in the end when you need is somebody who will good reasons tell you what's going on. ultimately you want to get a cabinet office or somebody in charge of the intelligence agencies or national security adviser or the president himself
or herself who will respond. in doing books would send questions to presidents bush or obama, and just because i had the luxury of time i can say these are the 60 things that happened that are important what's your comment on this and they would in all cases, they engage in that because it comes from human sources not twitter accounts. >> question. there's another back towards the back. >> i was wondering do you think this discussion with the government is going to possible when they views media as opposition party and if that especially with the upper echelon of government. >> that's a great question.
because every administration has to go through a period where they have to get accustomed to this kind of give and take. do we need to answer these. what are the consequences if we don't answer these kinds of questions if we don't engage. in past administration i have had people say i would love to talk to you about whether or not this piece of information would be harmful. if i had that conversation with you i would have to discuss classified material and i can't get into that. so every administration has to work out its on sets of procedures. it's possible that this administration within it's unique view of what the media
is -- the danger for us is viewing ourselves as the opposition in stead of viewing ourselves as people sent out to do specific job, the same job we have done with past administration, democrat or republican. >> they won't speak with one spoke and there are many people who you can establish relationship with who will explain what's going on. and i think ultimately, the media we have to make -- strong argument is we can for trar transparent and the benefit of transparency. >> that's a nice benefit. >> but it helps the government. and can if you spend enough time with people i have had so many people in government over the decades say you know, it was good that that got out that they
with a public discussion about it and initially the reaction is one of seizure or joy louse day, but once it procedures, they say yes, it's good we had discussion of black sites that this raised all kinds of governing questions, all kind of moral questions that needed to be discussed and that's one of those stories that served a real purpose. and if you asked president bush george w. bush and had him here, i think he would acknowledge yes, that was painful but we needed to have that discussion. >> one thing that struck me, was that the post and the times, although competitors stood
together with the publication of the papers. i'm wondering whether you have that unity of effort. you have breitbart for instance, right now, joining the trump chorus to crying leaks to the media. is the press position weakened about the press is splintered? >> it's an interesting question. because you have a group of loyalist out there. i think the times -- just to wash the times and can the post in the past couple of weeks there's been no cooperation between the two groups, but there's been. >> common cause. >> a remarkable amount of incredibly good journalism by both organizations. while they remain competitors
with a widen group, that's been a good thing. but you cannot work in convert. >> you cannot work in convert. >> but what you can do, this is effo evidence in the last month, that another news organization is following, there's that line this first appeared in "the new york times" and there's more and more of that. and i think the distance prevails, people are going to do their own work but the acknowledgment of a good story and there's been a lot of good stories and i think the "new york times" is nmore frequently than the post had to say this appeared in "the washington post." [ laughter ] >> we'll take the score card
question off line. i think where the cause is where it's important to have a cause in common is if a government decides to take steps that in the view of many in this room would try to restrict free press on that question, that's where you want to see as much unity as you cannot just the times and the post but across the journalistic community. in the fractured world we're in, you you're not going to see that. i think that you can be fierce competitors on the news and have a common view of what the fundamental liberties are here. >> the real headlines from the
trump press conference, he made clear that he is going over leaks. and he thinks the problem is not the information in the leaks but the leaks themselves. so i would say keep your seat belt on and and david i promise to bring you a sandwich in jail. >> [ laughter ] >> in the show of that -- would you like to preorder. >> yes. i too will bring bob something. as long as he e-mails his choices. >> another question. over here. we have one. >> andrew, georgetown senior. my question is president trump press conference he spoke about
fake news versus real leaks you do any of you have a comment on how he views -- what his conceptconcept of fake news is? >> i was mulling over that line to figure it out. wind the clock back to october whether he was reading out from wikileaks document he read from the podesta e-mails that came from inside hillary clinton campaign amongst the top aides and contrast that with what he said in recent days and his view of the importance of leaks seems to have changed. he said the word i love wikileaks in october. i have not heard it repeated in recent times.
what's happened with the phrase fake news it has been adopted by this administration and by supporters and others to decry any piece of news they do not like or find not credible. in the case of these leaks about general flynn, in the end, he is the one who decided to for cause whatever that cause was, to dismiss general flynn. so he must have concluded that some of the data was actually true. so i wasn't sure what he meant by that phrase. >> it's a term that muddies the waters in a way. if you parse what trump was saying, essentially, saying the leaks are true, but he considers the reporting on them fake news and that is just inconsistent
and it's one of the issues there. but the idea that you in this -- this is the mystery to be pursued and that is what actually happened with flynn because trump said, yes, i would have supported him, i would have had him have these conversation. if you think about that, those conversations at least at reported now don't seem criminal or particularly unusual. somebody's national security adviser about to become the have that job ask and you talk to the russians sanctions are key issue didn't say we'll make a deal, he said we'll revisit it, i think totally reasonable. so why was he fired. and that question has not been answered sufficiently in my
view. >> before we wrap up. be ben, i want to giver you a chance, have you thought over the question for bob about the worst-case. >> that's a tough one. because you get into confirming things that you can't talk about. >> that's the reason i asked it. >> kpag exactly. that's why he a legend. certainly there are things, the terrorism financial tracking program tftp and the value that provided to the country. there are public examples out there. that's not the worst one i ever saw. there's public examples that have happened that i think where the balance has not been struck perfectly. >> final thoughts on the
pentagon papers legacy. >> i think it was foundational to everything that we do and i was still wokking my way out of elementary school or, jr. school and it happened. so i would hardly be an expert on it. from what i read in history -- no, i think bob had it right when he said if it had not been for that decision, i don't think we could have gone on to do what it is that we go do today. and i think that one of the big concerns we have is whether or not rather than building on that decision we are seeing the pen ewe lump swing.
>> in that decision, the book on the supreme court, we looked at some of the documentation and interviewed the people about that decision and alex zan der bibbing el said you cannot have prior restraint but it is possible that the government could stop the press from print -- publishing sailing dates and toops. so it's not absolute. he argued that to the court. it's not absolute and hue go black, the first amendment justice was enraged and he came
back to the clerk and le said even the "new york times" as a law that doesn't believe in the first amendment because as far as baralack was concerned this absolute and if you dig into legal intra-kacys it was not an absolute right. and there's things that sailing date ands troop numbers that supreme court precedent said the press cannot publish; is that right. >> yes. it is foundational if terms of changing the balance. the government would be interested in stopping the publication by changing that in terms of saying the difficult of a prior restraint fundamentally was a shift that's what leads to these conversation and others. it puts the government in a
place that's it out there. that's very than what i think many in someone in government wants to do. let's go into court and stop that. of course, if you were to do that, you're facing a huge, huge,s burden where you have to be something factual like this is the war plans of what the troops are going to do in the city on saturday. this is where facts matter in terms of whether there would be a case what the court would do. facts make a huge difference. it's not just a broad philosophy argument. it is not here is our deployment of our we're protecting troops. the fact matters. >> if there's a next case in the