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tv   Tonight From Washington  CSPAN  February 21, 2011 8:00pm-10:59pm EST

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>> tonight we will take look at wikileaks. we begin with a discussion. then a look at its impact on foreign policy. the justice department recently commemorated the 50th anniversary of robert kennedy as attorney general. we will show that later. and then at 1:00 a.m. eastern, c-span's documentary, "inside the white house." >> i asked to see it so that we could immediately hear a report from the secretary of state regarding negotiations. >> you can look at this as we look at this as in many ways a forerunner of today's managed to lose. >> find something you did not know about the 43 men who served as president of the u.s. with c- span's video library. all free online. watch what you want when you
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want. editors of the "the new york times" and "the guardian," said they would stand by wikileaks founder julian assange if he was prosecuted. columbia journalism school in new york is a host of this event. it is about an hour and a hackhalf. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] >> thank you, all, for coming tonight. this is a big crowd, because even though we have a lot of exciting events, this is especially exciting. we have moved it from the humble precincts of the journalism school to the grand riverroom in lowe library. this event involves plants lining up in a fortuitous way. the "the new york times" is punishing a book and called us and said, can we have an event?
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it just so happened that we were able to procure the panelists' services. all of whom will be introduced more fully in a minute. and that, combined with a subject that is of completely obsessive interest to people interested in journalism and a foreign-policy and national- security, and high interest to everybody else, too, has made is what is sure to be a memorable evening. i have one small logistical note to, which is a that courtesy of "the new york times", there is already behind here called the faculty room. many of you have been here before. there is a free food and drinks after in that room. our moderator tonight is emily bell, who is still in her first
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year on the faculty of columbia journalism school. she has come to us from "the guardian," where she ran digital operations brilliantly and she is the co-director of the relatively brand-new center for, digital journalism. i believe somewhere in the audience are the primary the of the thank you for what you have done to make events like this possible. emily, come on up. >> do i have to stand up? >> fair enough. >> sit down, but take over, , and i will go sit down. thanks again, everybody, for comming. [applause] >> thank you very much,
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indeed, for that introduction. this is inauspicious evening because we have all watched, fascinated in the last six months, one of the really great news stories unfold in front of our eyes. and it is enormously exciting to have two of the principles here with us on the panel tonight. the format of the evening is -- i am going to hold questions for the first hour, but we have a lot of people in the audience with expertise. so there will be plenty of time to ask questions yourself. . we're really luck ty to have three people on the panel who we should introduce. on my far left, only physically,
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not publicly. is the former assistant attorney general during the bush administration. he is an expert in national security law, internet law, international law. he is playing a part of 15 different lawyers tonight. we are pleased years here. pleased he is are here. then we have the editor of the "the guard in," and the editor of "the new york times." i thought we'd start really at the beginning with allen. would you like to tell us how this incredible story started and what your first contact with wikileaks was and how we got where we are today? >> with us, it started with a
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reporter called nick davis on the guardian who read the story of bradley manning and read how julian assange was essentially on the run. i do not think that is too dramatic. here was a man who had an caught amazing treasure trove of documents, and nick thought you would be an interesting man to seek out and he eventually made contact. they met in brussels. and nick persuaded him that it be better, rather than crudely dumping the stock on the internet, if he worked with "the guardian," and the mainstream media. early on in the conversation, he introduced "the new york times" as a way of gaining more impact, of making sense of the documents and sauntero on.
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and julian assange agreed. and we took it from their currere. i think nick's jets and colorado was born out by events-- judgment call was borne out. british media laws are not as robust as america's. we thought that would give a joint enterprise of legal robust ness. it would have technological robustness, if anyone was going to bring this down to digital attack, it would be more robust with more than one organization cured you readily thought that this would be a massive task. in the end, we calculated there were 300 million words in just the cable gates alone. and you compare that with 2.5
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million words of the pentagon papers. this was the biggest amount of data that any journalist had ever had to tackle creee. and it would be necessary to bring as many eyes to the enterprise. that is all it started. it started well, and as far as we were concerned, up until december 22, when we -- it did well. >> we will get to december the 22nd in a little bit, but when you had nick bring julian assange in. the task was huge. what would you, as an editor, what were you thinking when you took hold of this enormous amount of data? what were your first concerns in terms of ethics and process, and did you at any point consider that this was something that would be too difficult to do? >> well, we rapidly realize,
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and bill has said the same, that we realized that the skills we had on the drill and a stick side wereic barely up the task. david, this is harold. harold, this is david. and they could do things that neither fully appreciate it, including how to build search engines across data. so that was the first learning curve. then we were into the ethical issues of highly sensitive, whether or not it is highly secret we can discuss -- it was
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highly sensitive information. and the ethical difficulties with each group, which was all different. the iraq batch was historic. afghan was very much not historic. and the cable gate stuff has all kinds of issue. the first was, are we going to publish these raw or redact them? we came to the conclusion that we had to redact them. >> at that point, what was your dialogue with wikileaks about that? it went against some of what had been said previously. >> i think that was the first culture clash. wikileaks came to this from the point of view of assuming it would publish it all raw, and from a point of view of transparent secured by the end
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of the exercise, by december, wikileaks had adopted the position of the mainstream media organizations, which was a measure of redemption was necessary. they adopted all the reductio actions. two cultures which began in different places converging appeared >> one of the questions that comes up over and over again, is explained a little bit about why you have collaborated. this was a unique operation. it hasn't been seen before. two news organizations collaborating. you're saying that is the right decision. "the guardian," ploughed on by itself. do you think that it would have come under pressure? it does not seem as though you have been in the same position as "the new york times" in terms of the government or the law. >> we have had a couple of instances in the past two years
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where highly important but confidential information has been injected in a way that is virtually impossible in america appear. there is a case with an oil company who had been accused -- i must be careful -- dumping a lot of toxic material in the ivory coast. and what the people became ill at the same time. [laughter] there were internal documents there that, in the end, even just we could not report how this was being discussed in parliament. those documents ended up on wikileaks. another case involving tax avoidance by a bank. judges woken up in their pajamas
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and ordered to take them down. so we had no confidence that these highly sensitive, the governmental documents would not juncted.ruptejun that is why we felt the rock of the first amendment in america would be vital. >> bill, we could listen to him all night, but we would like to ask is well. tell us of that first contact with "regarding," and when they rang -- "the guardian." >> "they" was allen who called me. i would characterize it as massachusetts the paranoid, which is a natural state for
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anybody who has hung around -- i would characterize it as much of the paranoid which is a natural state for anybody who has hung around wikileaks. "the new york times" does not have secure lines. we have no cone of silence. in a cautious way, he laid out for me his proposition that there were at that point, half a million documents relating to iraq and afghanistan that had come from wikileaks. and we were being offered to share the exclusive and was i interested? and clearly i was. i had no misgivings about working with alan. i had some misgivings about the trustworthiness of the source. after consulting with our lawyers, i have the same misgivings allen has come out
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more about british law and american law, because the possession of the material in question was in london. the ability of the british government to enjoyin publication is greater than american law. >> when you said you had reservations about the source, and we are talking about julian assange. is that an approach that was made -- if that approach was made to directly, what would you have done? >> i would like to think i would've been generous enough to call ellen and asked if he wanted to share the documents. let's pretend that is what i would have done. [laughter] i think we would have proceeded in more or less the same way. i mean, your default position when sources offer you secret documents and they are sources you have not dealt before is misgivings. sources come with agendas. you always -- they do not always
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tell you candidly what their agendas are. wikileaks was not completely unknown to us. just the previous april, the release the cockpit footage of the military helicopters over baghdad. >> politically, does it make easier to make a decision to publish in an american paper, the fact that it comes through the "gardian"? >> i don't hinthink so. it made a lot more complicated and ther fact that we try to be impartial under american standards of journalism. european news organizations are more openly partial. and "the guardian" is a paper of the left.
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so, associating ourselves with a paper of the left and went "le monde" and "el pais," none of them, "the weekly standard" -- the question came up, are we going to be pilloried for not doing business with wikileaks, but doing business with the leftist press? >> when we get to the point of publication, can you compare experiences about what happened? what was the reaction, the temperature, if you like, politically and the ambient temperature when you pressed the publish button? >> allen and i went on line to answer reader questions and there was a striking difference, which reflects the difference
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between europe and america and the difference between and their audience and hours. he get questions along the hours of, how dare you redact these documents? why don't you believe in transparency deck published y? mine where, you are jeopardized national security. the arrogance. i would say that was in the first days. the opinion even out as people actually read the articles and learned more about how we have handled the material. >> do you feel -- we will move on to jack and a second -- do you feel, it felt as though the "the new york times" was caught between a rock and a hard place, because there was pressure between those that was saying you know too little of what you that you were being too
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establishment. then there was a fox news that said it was an anti-american act. >> we live between iraq and a hard place -- a rock and a hrd ard place. it did not did easier. because there has been a resurgence, e0mails and blog comments and tweets in the last week since we released this e- book, i am still getting messages from people think i am on patriotic, treasonous son of a bitch and people that think that julian assange is the messiah and why did i not treat him as such? >> i will bring jacking.
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we did not hear from the state department. can you frame the discussion legally and ethically. what was going on in government at this point? >> there were a lot of crosscutting political, and i assume, i have talked to a few people in the government, but it seems obvious there was a lot of crosscutting and political considerations for the government to figure out what to do. this kind of happened over a long period of time. the government knew it was happening and did not take any steps until last summer. at least it seemed so. the problem was that there was not much the government could do. there was no real technological response they could make to stop this from happening. there was no military or political response they could make. the only to the government was left with was a legal response, and that is what there has been enormous political pressure to do something about this. right now the eric holder justice department is obviously
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considering bringing some type of prosecution against assange. the problem is that there are enormous and legal hurdles. one set is how you get him to the united states it? it would be a very difficult extradition proceeding. is called a political offense exception. it is not at all clear that we can get him to the u.s. once he gets here, it is not clear that there could be a successful prosecution. the laws, and governing or criminalizing, the dissemination and publication of classified information for people that are not inside the government are extremely vague and old, 100 years old. they have never in our history been enforced against a journalist, a member of the media, or even a third party who happens to come into possession of classified information outside the government. so the government has a lot of legal hurdles.
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another problem for them is, it is difficult to imagine a theory that would allow them to prosecutor assange that would not also sweep up journalists, because julian assange is similarly situated to journalists. so those are the legal issues. then there are political issues that are crosscutting as well. >> how badly do think the doj -- the politicians want the prosecution on this. what are the tensions? >> my sense is that there is a lot of political pressure from the top, whether it is from eric holder or the top, i do not know. there is a lot of political pressure from the capitol hill. it is very hard to come up because of the extreme of the difficulties of winning a prosecution, and of the difficulties of distinguishing american journalists from their everyday jobs, it is a very momentous step to take.
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the department of justice has a long tradition of restraint against journalists and enforcing criminal law and subpoenas against the media. i imagine there was a great deal of discussion about the serious implications of going after someone like julian assange because of the implications of the first amendment generally. if it tries and fails, in some sense it looks even weaker and worse. on the other hand, maybe that is the solution. i imagine some people are thinking, we are under pressure. if we do something and it does not work, sometimes we cannot do it but it is not our fault. >> if you were guessing, would you say the prosecution would be brought or not? >> the pressure is enormous and there will be something brought, yes. i also do not think it will succeed. >> that is a good printer to talk about the classification and talk specifically about julian assange. there's a point to which,
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letters of publication, we have not talked about ruptured relationships. bill and the "the new york times" fellow with assange pretty quickly. >> we fell out earlier than allen, although we are both in the dog house. >> the way he ran a fall of him was through a piece that ran in "the new york times" -- the way you ran afoul of him, through a piece it that you ran in "the new york times", and not linking to the wikileaks website. >> i am happyp to explain. i should state for the record i have never met julian assange in person. first, we had all of them
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involved with various grievances against "the new york times". the first one came after publication of the afghanistan war logs where he was upset that we did not link to the wikileaks website. readers of "the new york times" are intelligent enough to find the website without our help. so it was entirely a symbolic gesture on our part. the reason we did it was because assange had made it clear that they did not intend to redact the documents in any way. and those documents contained we know many names of ordinary afghans, who when they were approached up by american military officers, had answered questions. their names appeared innocently enough in these war logs, and the publication of those names put their lives at risk. we and "the guardian," and other
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news organizations were careful to redact the name of people who might be killed or thrown in jail if their names became public. at that early stage, assange was not only a reluctant to do he toldt of redaction --, reporters that they were informants. they had it coming. >> let's talk as well about the profile. because you have said, i think it was personal. you go on the record as saying it was a routine way to cover this kind of story. surely it is not routine to treat somebody who is a source in that way, is it? has "the new york times" ever done it before? >> you have to go back to what we wrote about the pentagon papers. i have not done that. at the time,ine
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given that we were hearing from a number of people within wikileaks, cries of distress about the way assange was handling himself. that seemed to be something that should be included in the profile of a man who had acquired a large profile, in some parts, thanks to us. we were reported on the dissension in the ranks in wikileaks and unhappiness of members over the initial refusal to redact, their comments about his management style and so on. i mean, he called it a hatchet job. i do not think it was those things at all. we did not go easy on him. >> the fact that you did have an intermediate relationship, was that a relief or was that of frustration? >> at times, it was both.
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at different times, it was a relief and a problem, and particularly when he started to become visibly agitated at the times, first over our decision not to link. second, he took offense at a profile railroad of bradley manning. profile we wrote on bradley manning. on those occasions, i proposed to meet with him, sit down and have dinner. there is something known in the trade as source maintenance. it is a certain amount of -- >> dinner. [laughter] >> dinner and beverages and conversation. you try to explain why you do what you do and they explain why
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they do things the way they do things. >> alan, just to bring you in, because he maintained a relationship with wikileaks after "the times" had been cut. you enraged them somehat insisting to continue to supply information to "the new york times." how did your collaboration happen? problems.were two one is about the nature of what julian assange was. he's a source. questionable. is he a source? it seems to me, he is probably not a source. he is a new breed of intermediary or activist. >> or journalist. >> he calls himself editor in
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chief, which is probably a smart thing to do. he's many things. and he wears different hat at different times. and he is also building a brand, and good luck to him. "leak stuff to me not to the mainstream media." our interests are not completely blind. but i think this business of him being a source when he choosed s to be and saying, i need protection as a source, is a bit problematic. the second problem, for us, -- the second general problem is the problem of communication. he justrtain point, je disappeared. we now know he was living a life
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of downton manor or gosford park. living the life. we could not meet him. he would not use email. we could only do in cryptic messaging. when he would pop up. >> you knew where his lawyer was. mark? >> as the story i am about to tell, that was not a reliable source of communication. what bill says is right. in normal circumstances, you could have met for a drink, picked up the telephone, and a lot of these misunderstandings would not have happened. sometimes, i even wrote julian assange a letter and posted it to suffolk, on paper. to try and have a conversation.
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and normally, on occasions where we sat down face-to-face, he might begin angry by tut by the end, he'd be fine. it was the nature of the beast -- who is he in how many hats is he wearing? all this collided unhappily with whicheisdish sex charges, had nothing at all to do with our collaboration over the journalism and the document. at some point, while julian was wrongly in prison, it may communication almost impossible except through his solicitor. some people sent the order is a reporter, ned davis, the information -- nick davis, the information about the sec's charges. ethical dilemma. do we say, he is the source, do we write about him that?
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do we have to protect him? at that point, the women in the sex charge case, not that there have been charges, but the sex accusation case, were being rubished on the interet. net. and i have to say by julian's lawyers, who described it as a honey trap. for which there is no evidence yet. there is about time that we have the obligation to set out in the public domain what we knew, because that is what journalists do. and we went to his lawyers and said, we are intending to -- and he said, give us a couple days. 5:00 friday i'll come back. and 5:00 came and they didn't.
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at that moment, julian felt cross with us and there was a breach of trust. it was a unique set of circumstances. >> a question that i would like both of you to answer is that julian assange, he does not have the luxury of your investigative journalists and he does not have an organization of the scale that you have behind him. his life is altered forever now. you both have published books, and e-book and paper book, this week, which really sort of capitalize on your knowledge of him. do not feel that -- you made the case he was very much -- >> he's being paid 1 million pounds to pwrite a book, too.
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he has the perfect ability to say what he wants to say. if you follow the voice on twitter, he's not backward and saying what he said. we were both sleazy news organizations and we were operating to slimy organizations this week. uch as he is a source in this, is this ever came to court, i would completely side with him in terms of defending him in respect of what we did. he has done some stuff on his own website that i am not sure i would have done. and i don't see any need to defend that appeared in respect to the partnership and the joint
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exercise, completely shoulder to shoulder. i have got great admiration for him in respect of a lot of the stuff he has done. the swedish sex stuff has nothing to do with that at all. >> as jack was saying, possibly in the prosecution, would you be standing still the shoulder -- shoulder to shoulder to wikileaks? >> i am not a lawyer. "the times" lawyers would probably not want me to declare what i would do and the court of law. i would agree with what jack said. it is hard to conceive of a prosecution of julian assange that would not stretch the law that in a way that would be applicable to us. whatever one thinks of julian assange, certainly american journalists and other journalist shoulds feel a sense of alarm at any legal action that intends
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to punish assange for doing what journalists do. any use of the law to criminalize the publication of secrets. >> jack, you are clear that there is no difference between journalists and julian assange, which is something, bill, he disagreed with. law.t interm terms of the >> on the record, somebody in my job should be fairly humble if they call themselves a journalist. we do not pass up membership cards to the fraternity. if he wants to call itself that, that is fine. i do not think of him as a journalist in the form that we practice. but in terms of his right to be protected for publishing secrets, i think we do stand
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alongside him. >> jack, you have been on the end of increased from journalists at "the new york times", how different are they? >> as an institution, wikileaks is quite different from "the new york times." that's true. the job that julian assange and wikileaks are performing -- the talk to people and the government. they tried to get them to talk about things and encourage them to give them documents that are secret. the government tries to play the game of keeping things secret and punish those who disclose them. the press has the first amendment protected right to go after this information. it is a game played every day in
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washington. i do not see how our reporter is any different in his relationship. >> just moving away from julian assange and wikileaks, and moving to the overall impact of the cables and the story. we have heard this -- we have had this debate over the past weeks and months, which is just how significant is it in terms of the impact of the story but also in terms of the impact is having on journalism? bill, i know you were saying, i think i heard you at the weekend as saying, it is not turned to journalism on its head. it seems to have given it a nasty shake. >> yeah, a journalism has been transformed in the last two years. there is no question. the migration of both the audience and the revenues to the internet have changed our business model. they have accelerated the speed
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of everything. i think they eroded civic elite privacy and secrecy. all that happened before wikileaks came on the scene -- they eroded significantly privacy and secrecy. they are not the first manifestation. they are a very big manifestation, but they are not the first. >> perhaps "the new york times" did not have to think about this before that it would have to think about now? for instance, if you are going to be using the web to store large amounts of data, the idea that this is not a public space. it is a commercial space, and if amazon decides that for commercial reasons it would not want to let you have its -- and why allen says he has,
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sometimes in negotiating the right technical skills within the organization to redact all sorts of data. in other words, are you treating this normally? do think this would happen more frequently and the future? >> i think it is a difference from what has gone before only and scale. we have redacted before. we have stored documents before. we have worried about the electronically stored the security of documents before. never on this scale. we have never had this kind of an archive delivered at once and had to get our arms around it. so i think it probably accelerated our development of the skills to handle large amounts of data. there certainly are a few people in our newsroom who are a lot smarter about how to create a searchable database, how to
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protect it, how to search it in a constructive way than we were before. so in that respect, it has been no real education appeared >> alan, do you feel journalism has been changed for a while, just the prism through which to view it? how you feel with "the guardian"? >> i think the good thing that the mainstream media has ben is the skills that we have, have been really valuable. this store would of had a fraction of the impact it had it not for -- this story would have had a fraction of the impact it had with the bill posey reporters, all reporters. they had to be found. there is an awful lot of expert
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information from people that have been in the wars in afghanistan and iraq who could find it, from russia, from china. experts on climate change. it took a lot of -- i think julian assange has said that that business of finding, verifying, that has been a tremendous acclamation of old media skills. on the technological front, it has been a real wake-up call. the business of making whistleblowing safe, i think, is something we had not given a thought to and we do not have enough expertise in. the business of stripping data out of documents in an age where everything has a digital fingerprint. i do not think we have thought enough about it. i think the challenge from organizations like wikileaks about the nature of transparency is a challenge for us.
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it has made us think about. and the government. i would like to see an academic institution the way the sky has not fallen in. the biggest exercise and transparency any of us has known and look at the upside and downside. that may affect how government works in future. then the publishing bit. analyzing it. the publishing bit. there are huge legal and technological and future of journalism questions there, involved in these other kinds of organizations like wikileaks. we want to get to know and to the business of receiving documents and publishing them. julian's is erecting a philosophy of scientific
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journalism. we will show you the documents. there is something in that. also, the legal challenges. they do not want money, but they do want server capacity. smash all the information into millions of atomic particles, to use a technical term. >> tiny pieces. >> and they wanted our servers in order to hose them. -- to host them. whether that is a good or bad idea. these other kinds of issues we will have to start to think about. >> that is a huge issue. how does that impact on the future of the internet and the regulation of the internet and the digital fourth estate, the freedom of the press in that context? >> i tend to agree with a bill that this is more of an
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evolution than a sharp break than what has been going on the last 10 years. this is the colonization of the digitalization of information. the cost of disturbing information has plummeted to nearly zero. that, combined with the enormous growth in the secrecy system, has led to a dynamic corsica stuff has been flowing out of the government in the last 10 years a lot. and i do think, i agree with ellen, also, that the key and innovation is the kind of technological empowerment of the whistle blower. i think while these documents, actually there are so many of them and so many famous people involved, the truth is there is a debate about how harmful may have been at all. they are just secret, not top- secret. these are not intelligence documents. and so i t6hhink that this
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event will seem less sing it again over time. it will be seen park is a continuum of the distillation of information -- the digitalization of information. there will be an arms race between the government and the media. "the new york times" will be a wikileaks. all these institutions will build these types of capacities. it will be an arms race with the government, because the government will lock itself down. so that will be the dynamic. i think the government will lose that arms race. >> bill, you were quoted earlier in the week as you thinking about the transparency, which is a mini-wikileaks. what are the implications of that? again, it seems to me that there was a relief and having someone as technically adept as julian assange who takes delivery
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of these things. how can you be sure of editors and editors in chief, that you can honestly say that -- [unintelligible] >> that is one of the principal complications of a question of whether you want to open up the drop box of your own o r an easy pass lane for whistle blowers. we have had people in our interactive news unit looking at this for awhile. technically, it is not that hard. there are some legal questions, but the biggest question is if something comes in over the transom and it is anonymous, how do you vet it? to find out if the information is legitimate? that is why we have not yet decided to go ahead with this project, but we may. but that is a question we have to get past thir. >> will "the guardian" bre a
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wikileaks. >> we have been for centuries. people have been doing as documents since 1821 -- giving us documents since 18213 there will be competition between us and the open weeks, wikileaks- style operation. these are conversations we are now having. "der speigel" wants to build their onwn drop box system. it is a bit harder than the old media guys think. he has offered to build it for .s and create a mailbox of there are all kiondnds complications. you do not know who the source
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is. you do not know how to get in touch with the source. >> so it is not just competition between traditional media and the wikileaks intermediaries. it is competition with the national intelligence services who are also in the business of trying to uncover secrets of other countries. this is what our intelligence services to try to do, they tried to uncover secrets that will further our national security. they prefer to know about it. now they have competition, that will publish and shape it in ways, that will alter the way intelligence services to think about spying. >> company you also think, to return briefly -- given that julian assange is a source, is essentially an intermediary, if you are of the generation that sees wikileaks as carrying out a mission rather better than the
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press. there are a lot of people that think that the mainstream media has not served them well in the past 10 years, in terms of the financial collapse, wars, a legal and otherwise, isn't this a wider problem and who has a secure server? it is to reinvent yourself. do you want to reinvent yourself for that part of the audience? >> it is a useful experiment just to wonder what would happen if it nick davis had not sought out julian assange. i do not know what the internal strife within wikileaks was. but suppose that they had just decided to publish. i think this story would have had very little impact, because the average member of the public logging into the database would have found what we found on day one, a mass of impenetrable data. a number of people that what a
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search through the information would have been tiny. but it would have had no to little impact. actually, we should not be too standingout up for what traditional journalism has done in this case. it has found the store and see and given them a huge currency -- and found the stories. that is because of the people working for bill and for us and "el pais" and "der speigel" who worked to make sure those documents were sick. afe. >> i absolutely agree with you that the public was well served and wikileaks was well served by having mainstream news
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organizations give a professional attention, highlight what was important, treated responsibly, and give it wide circulation. in this day and age, if the material had just been dumped on the website, without being given an advance to news organizations, some very interesting people would have found it and gotten into it. as you know, we are in the era of cloud sourcing and most clouds include people with a lot of expertise. i do rather think is what you would have had is a cacophony, people mining it and using it for competing aims. using it to attack the government, attacked the policy, defend a government or a policy.
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and there would have been probably a great deal of confusion, but i do not think it would have gone on notice or even -- unnoticed or even unmined. >> whether that would have been at all cohesive to the extent it would have had the same impact through simultaneous publishing or around the world. we did an interesting is sourcing exercise at the end. having found all of the sources we thought we could find in just tweeted them. to see if we were missing stuff. what would you search for? give us some days, and we will look cared we had a few thousand replies to that, which we did look at. we looked up madeleine mccann, the child that disappeared in portugal. it turned out there was quite an
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interesting story there. every conspiracy theorist asked us to check out their conspiracy is. and it produced some material, but actually, it didn't produce the gems that i thought it would. >> i wonder if somebody would have teased out the tables cabls on tunisia. >> jack. >> you would not have just left these amazing documents to the bloggers. you would not have put as many researchers on them having access to them. but i am sure you would have put a lot of reporters plowing through those. it would have still gotten salience. the warlocks themselves did not eveal -- the awar logs themselves did not reveal that much. it still would have had a huge
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impact. >> and they would have been in the feeding frenzy. >> just to bring us up to date, you mentioned early on there was a collective decision made on the december 22 to bring down the curtain. what did you mean by that? >> well, or originally we decided that we would carry it the first week of january, but we had anxieties at that point about these documents leaking. >> understandable anxiety. >> there was a moment where we thought they had all turned up in another newspaper. and there was a strange man in belarus who appeared to be selling the document. they turned up at an australian newspaper in norway. there was a sense that these documents were out and about.
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i thought, at the moment, we're happy with what we have done. we can defend it. it has been a good exercise in collaboration. but over the next month, anything could have been carried these documents could turn up anywhere -- redacted or unredacted. we are now ending our exclusive relationship with julian assange, and he is now free to do with hithem whatever. i am glad we did that and put it on the record. i was surprised to read on sunday that julian claimed he was kicked out. "the f.t." is now in. you'll have the lot of other news organizations. i think that is good. good luck to them, as long as they behave with a similar
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ethical framework as we did, because they will undoubtedly find things that we did not find. but i think we all had anxieties about the point where we were apparently the exclusive partners, but in fact this information was no going to start leaking out across the world in forms that we might not have published it. >> as a footnote, it doesn't mean that we have stopped using. e have 3/4 of a miliolion documents. there is a small fraction of them that have been read and an even smaller fractureion that have been published. >> you can go back into the
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document and say, what do we know about them? >> when you say we have them, this is something that people are not entirely clear on, you still have access to the entire cache of data. >> we did the things that occurred to us after we all sort of brainstorm about what would be interesting to search for. suddenly, he pops up and now we have this resource to see if there are any things that we need to know about him. >> you felt that it -- some of
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the stories will have some effects on tunisia. that is not a verifiable fact. >> we believe that they were on social media all over the place in tunisia and feel the anger -- fuelled the anger. i suppose you could say that to the extent that they inspired the events in egypt, wikileaks had some corp. of -- some type of second order of fact in egypt as well. >> we talked about what are the things that the u.s. government is thinking about? they had a lot of warning that this was going to happen.
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is there a speeding up in the thought process? >> there is in a speeding up up trying to figure out what to do about this. it is a problem inside the government. the 9/11 commission report criticized the government for being too stovepipes. that was one reason why the commission said 9/11 happened. we could not connect the dots. that has the result that more people see it and have more access to it and it is easier to leak out. the government is trying to beef up its security and try to find the right kind of trade-off between sharing information and worrying about excess of sharing that may lead to leaking. that and the larger legal issues. >> we have microphones in the audience. if you have a question, hold your hand up.
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we are all about transparency here this evening. just say to you are and where you are from. -- just say who you are and where you are from. >> i am a former bridges diplomat -- a former british diplomat. i want to ask a question about the editorial decision about what not to publish. not so much speed criteria of the harm to individuals, but the possible political consequence of certain cables great many of which are extraordinarily significant. there is one that the guardian reported, but "the new york times did not, that revealed that the u.s. is conducting secret aerial surveillance of london on either cost of parts of the lebanese government. it is a very extraordinary revelation.
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it is shared with israel. this is a pretty toxic revolution -- a revelation. "the new york times chose not to talk about that cable. again, maybe wrong about that. could you explain what their process of considering the political consequence of these tables? >> do you want to talk about one first? you actually went to the state department, didn't you? you showed them some material. >> we showed in the cables, not the articles. we did not decide not to run it. it is never came to our attention. the collaboration between the times and the government -- the guardian, not such that we showed each other what we plan to write about in detail. we never had a discussion one way or another about whether the
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flights can lebanon should be written about. the mechanics of it, on the military dispatches, we have very little interaction with the government because they did not want much. the pentagon's reaction was, in gauging us on this would imply some sort of endorsement of what we had done. the state department took a different tact. they were furious with us for having -- that these documents were out there. the procedure that we settled on with them was about a few days before we're plan to publish an article on the subject, we would take -- we would send the cables for that article and offer them the opportunity to say, you should not publish this cable. you should not publish this
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portion of the cable. in some cases, we decided their rights. in some cases, we disagree with them. the easy ones were names, names of academics, human rights advocates. names of high ranking people, they want us to redact. because of the potential for the diplomatic embarrassment. >> was a jury different in terms of -- bill was in a much harder position that we were. there were his country's secrets, not ours. >> there were difficult areas. lebanon was one. yemen was another. the state to permit was extremely anxious about yemen.
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we had a lot of discussions about that. we were having regular conference calls. i know that there were some people divided about yemen. the case there was that to you are playing with fire if you publish this. you have a president who has been caught saying, my country is your country. if you publish this, the whole deck of cards could fold. in the end, that is political embarrassment. simultaneously, we did a story where $9 billion offshore allegedly. today, he has decided that he will not participate in the next
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election. it is a useful experiments. wikileaks did play a part in that. believe that to historians to decide whether it was a good thing or a bad thing. >> even though you did not show the cable material to the state department, you did speak to them. >> we played that role on behalf of the european papers as well. the yemeni was the most robust discussion. the state department was quite firm and its belief that publishing that cable would present serious difficulties. >> been been -- was there any point where you're trying to influence each other?
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>> sometimes we agreed to differ. there will be geeks' to pore over this and find -- to that degree, we were making independent judgments. >> i have a question along similar lines. in late december, the guardian published a cable that originated in the u.s. embassy in london. it has since been polls. i am wondering why that cables poult. more generally, what goes into the decision making process when deciding to actually reclassifying cables that had been published on the website? >> you believe that there was a
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cable -- >> it was from november 8, two dozen 7, that from the u.s. embassy in london. >> -- 2007, up from the u.s. embassy in 1london. there have been journalist who have tried to get a cable -- a copies of the cable, but they declined to give it to them. >> the allegation is that if you click on the visit cable, if you a 404. >> i genuinely do not know anything about it. >> i hesitate to suggest that it may be a broken link.
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because the guardian website is one of the best run in the world. [laughter] >> i am from time magazine. bill, would you care to say anything more about your magazine piece about the packing of your e-mail account. -- hacking of your e-mail account. d.o. have any doubt that -- do you have any doubt that the mainstream media partners of wikileaks were probably the juiciest target for foreign intelligence services? >> how about the were you hyped? >> -- how badly were you hacked? >> i do not want to say too much about this because we are in the process of investigating the.
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is very involved. the -- it is very involved. we have a computer forensic specialists predict we have three individuals who all had identical eruptions of their e- mail accounts. they were all on the same e-mail server. the forensics expert said it was clearly hawked. they did not leave any fingerprints. we're taking it the next level. >> [inaudible] >> when i got through to
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customer service -- [laughter] >> it was the american edition. it had been completed -- it had been uploaded from the u.k. somebody had gone to the trouble of hacking the book and posting its in its entirety on amazon. >> you also went to some blanks -- lengths to protect communications, using techniques that you had learned from the wire. is that right? >> you are humiliating.
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we had no knowledge -- it seemed to be reasonable to be paranoid. we bought a lot of -- we were total amateurs. >> do you think it was right to be paranoid? >> there is a much bigger thing going on with the government. much bigger than wikileaks. the government has been hacked all over the place. they see this as a national security problem. surveillance is becoming
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decentralized and governments are being hacked by governments, by large criminal organizations. this is a much bigger problem. it is very hard to detect. it is not terribly easy -- difficult to accomplish. that part of this story is part of a much larger change in the world. >> but not done by the u.s. government? >> the national security agency does something, i am not sure what it does. [laughter] >> i tried to explain that to you a few years ago. >> i wanted to get the panelists to respond to the currently the state of the government acting through various officials and agencies to intimidate people who act in the commercial state -- space to provide services
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that organized the death benefit organizations like wikileaks. do you see ne the facto infringement on first amendment rights because of that? >> i did not actually hear that. >> the political pressure is brought to bear on commercial players. paypal and visa. >> i am not sure if it was political pressure or commercial pressure. >> they are more worried about their business than the government cracking down them. >> it seems to me that that was actually a worrying trend that came out. it is largely privatized. >> if you are going to tackle
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him, taken to court. -- take him to court. i did not destroy him by cutting off his finances. -- do not destroy him by cutting off his finances. -- i would much rather be at a court case. and it was done openly and above board through legal means. >> this is the way that the government controls internet. the government puts pressure on the googles of the world. this happens all the time. the government wants to -- they
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cannot actually get to the source of the harm, so they go after the intermediary. are we sure that it was the government that was pressuring these institutions to cut wikileaks off? has that been established? >> calls have been made. that was reported. >> i do not consider that legal pressure. that counts as political pressure. >> this question is regarding the employment -- the implications of the future of journalism. it started as a unique collaboration between two large
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publications. bill mentioned that even had these documents not gone to these organizations, there are a lot of people out there who was penalized them and raise questions about them -- who would have analyzed them and raise questions about them. what do you think of there being -- what is going to have to happen in the way that we handle news? news staff is shrinking the around the world. board will be an additional tier of analysis? -- will there be an additional tier of analysis? should we expect more of this type of collaboration? >> that is talking about this
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layer of collaboration. it was not enormously mutual. do you see doing things differently in the future? or a blend of the two? >> we have moved out of the way, otherwise, we would do that. not a partner with news organizations around the world. we had an indian journalist who went through the 3000 indian cables and she said, which could have enormous impact in india.
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it seems to be an intelligent way to proceed to get to the next rank up stories. there are genuine problems. >> on the question of collaboration, this was neither the first of the largest news media collaboration that i've been involved in. back in 2000, quite a number of american news organizations got together to recount the votes from florida after a contested
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primary. >> how did that go? [laughter] if you counted them the way the courts counted them, bush won. >> we are running out of time. >> humans and how -- you mentioned how the cables look to other newspapers in the end. what do you guys know about how
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-- indeed believe they actually bought these cables? -- do you believe they actually bought these cables? >> no. early on, going back to october, september, it is and this book and we have read about it. there was a journalist who was an american citizen who lives in london. she got hold of the documents. we had a big discussion about whether that was wikileaks and -- the control of these documents is not being completely tied. none of us can explain how the
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newspaper got them. i have no idea. he had no idea how the norwegian newspaper got them. we wrote about this man in the book -- he is an unsavory holocaust denier, the the information -- somehow, the materials are leaking. that is the mes started feeling increasingly anxious -- that is when we started feeling increasingly anxious. >> in the case of the pentagon papers, it was what helped break the whole thing open.
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we have a totally different situation here. millions of pages of documents. you have the hacker culture that has been evolving. why didn't they just put all these documents on a website? the house agriculture talks about openness. why didn't he simply do that? -- the hacker culture talks about openness. why did he simply do that? and >> obviously, you have never meant the charming and nick davies. i think that was his intention. >> the whole issue of analyzing
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these documents, that has led to a small circle of people. it is not lead to the public at large. they are anarchists. it seems a contradiction that bill holt documents are not open to the people in the world -- the whole document are not open to the people in the world to look at. >> you would obviously have to ask him. during the course of this collaboration, he moved to reposition that was close to ours. the fallout from publishing these documents is going to beat -- it is a political question for him. he has moved from being an underground figure to someone you want to openly fundraiser in order to be able to make wikileaks a very powerful media brand in the future. by the time we came to september, he was very conscious about the political positioning of wikileaks.
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i think he bought into the idea that it would be enormously dain -- damaging to wikileaks. he would be a pariah. >> it was groups like amnesty international. i think that was within his demographic. >> we have just got time for one more question. you have had your hand up for a long time. >> in response to the whole wikileaks episode, newsweek used the whole opportunity to pick and choose information that would support the obama administration. they said that wikileaks made
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america look pretty good. my question to both of the journalist here it is -- was there any editorial pressure placed upon either of you to make sure that what you publish was consistent with your editorial positions? if not, can you give an example of where you published information that was inconsistent with the editorial positions of both of your publications? >> a very interesting question. were you ever pressured? >> where do you think the pressure might come from? >> internally, did you have internal pressure? >> it is not a democracy. >> i put pressure on myself.
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>> the question under its -- misunderstands the mentality of an american newspaper. it would never occurred to me to ask something we were publishing contradicted something that the people on the editorial page had written. the answer to a different boss. i speak to them in the elevators. we do not coordinate or collaborates. usually, i am unaware if something we run it contradicts the editorial pages. >> i understand the wall between the editorial side and the news side of the times. my question is, did you end up publishing stories that seem to
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undermine or contradict in retrospect some of the editorial positions at the times had taken? >> honestly, i do not know. we published dozens and dozens of stories. the editorial page is not my domain. i do not keep a card catalog in my head of what their opinions are. >> in terms of the guardian, i think there were some readers to rub their hands as this started.
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this is different for the pentagon papers because you are not dealing -- revealing great inequity on behalf of the american government. that should not be the justification for doing it. that should not be the only standard. we did write an editorial saying, american foreign policy comes out pretty well. these are intelligent people and they write beautifully. the report intelligently. that might have been fought to be contrary to what a certain 1960's mindsets of leftists were expecting. and that is one way to answer that question. >> i am really sorry. we have completely run out of time.
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[applause] >> it is a really important point. we all ought to suspend judgment. it is really important that we hear what he thought he was doing. >> [inaudible] >> and the conditions in which he is being held. >> ok, i just want to thank our catalyst for being so frank and open. [applause]
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"the new york times is been generous enough to host a reception backstage. please join us. you may even get a glimpse of the books. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] >> are look at wikileaks continues in a moment. the 50th anniversary of the swearing-in of robert kennedy as attorney general. the justice department marked the occasion last month. at 1:00, the white house documentary. following that, what we will show the wikileaks discussion again with the editors of the
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new york times and the guardian. tomorrow, washington post economic report on how personal savings have changed in america. bill gertz talks about the patriot act. "washington journal begins live at 7:00. >> c-span the book abraham lincoln is a unique contemporary perspective. for presidents day, the publishers are offering c-span viewers of the hardcover edition for the special price of $5.
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go to ucla also hosted a discussion on wikileaks. the panel looked at the impact on diplomacy and foreign policy. they talked with students in los angeles for just over an hour. >> good afternoon, everyone. we are going to talk about wikileaks. it is clear to me that wikileaks has really sent shock waves through the foreign policy community and the diplomatic community here and abroad. it has engendered a lot of media
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attention. there is a big debate about whether he is a hero or a villain. we continue to -- we know there is more coming from wikileaks. what is the significance for american foreign policy and for the conduct of world policy in general? that is what we're here to talk about today. to discuss the implications of wikileaks and to put it in some perspective and some context. for example, secretary of state -- secretary of defense robert gibbs called the consequences modest. the microphone is not amplified. but i will try to speak up. [laughter] congressman peter king of new
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york called wikileaks a terrorist organization and a clear and present danger to the united states. even within the u.s. government, there is a wide variety of views. today is the first of two sessions we will do on this topic. on january 20, we will do another session. he is the professor at occidental college and former u.s. ambassador to finland. we will talk more about the public diplomacy aspect of this debate in the second session. let me now introduce today's
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speakers. each will say a few opening words about five minutes or so. i will pose some questions. we will have a little bit of a conversation. when we open it up for questions, we have a microphone. you have to talk into the microphone. for recording purposes, please wait for the microphone. please keep your questions clear, concise, and on point. this will be broadcast on c- span. we do not want to have long rambling questions. we want to have a real dialogue. please wait for the microphone. to my right is a senior political scientist and was associate director of the center for middle east public policy. she has written extensively about the arab-israeli peace process. she will speak second.
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first speaker will be a need to my left. she is a professor at the ucla school of public affairs. amy is a former national security council staffer and a leading expert on national security. the and there is a broad a of a political science department. he is a and an assistant -- he is an assistant professor there. we have three speakers on three broadly different aspects of this wikileaks debate. we will run for about 20 or 30 minutes and then turned over to you for questions. >> i want to thank all of you for coming out today. this is a topic that is a moving target. it is a great opportunity for us to think together about how to make sense of the wikileaks era in which we live. i want to start by trying to
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debunk a couple of minutes. talk about one big difference that i see between wikileaks and mainstream media and offer if he thought about what the potential implications of wikileaks could be. myth number one is the idea that the documents are facts. documents are not facts. a cable or a memo is one person's perspective and is designed to do three things -- advocate a particular position, report information, make the offer looked smart. not in that order. a cable, for example, that says, a u.s. government official has met with a foreign official and that foreign official believes that the u.s. should attack a third country.
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it does not mean that the foreign officials government actually holds the position that the united states should attack that country. it could be that that is the case. but it could be that that is the minority view. the official is trying to convince the united states that it is the majority of you. -- view. maybe the four unofficial is posturing to get something from the united states. maybe the u.s. official misunderstood the conversation. maybe the u.s. official has hit -- have his or her own agenda and is reporting this particular meeting and omitting certain meetings that did not serve the foreign-policy agenda. maybe the entire cable has overtaken the event and that conversation is so outdated that it is not the position of that foreign official anymore. we need to be very cautious and
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very careful, and not treat these things as ironclad facts. they're not. i think the upshot here is that in some ways, wikileaks data dump obscure is some reality of u.s. foreign policy making. some caution and how we deal with these kinds of documents. myth number two is that secrecy is always bad and transparency is always good. i am a researcher at the rights and publishes open source information about the intelligence community. i'm a big fan of transparency. i have a really great first amendment lawyer and i worked very hard because it is important to try to make public
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some of the critical decisions. that said, there is a limit to transparency. there is a careful balancing that has to be done between the interest of protecting information, to guard national security, and the interest of making that information known to promote the public interest. secrecy has been used since the earliest days of the republic. george washington immigrate spymaster. he favored invisible ink. he got the first secret funds authorized by congress when he was president. secrecy has been a part of the american government since the earliest days. there is a sense in american culture that we are skeptical of secrecy in a democratic system. harry truman himself was very worried when he thought about creating a central intelligence agency about the possibility of
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creating an american gestapo. we are naturally wary of secrecy in a democratic society. it leads me to the big difference between wikileaks and mainstream media. this is a policy matter, not a legal matter. i cannot speak to the particular legal issues. when you think about "the new york times or the washington post, the traditional mainstream media, they are owned by americans who explicitly consider the balancing between keeping something secret and publishing it in the newspaper for everyone to see. they take that responsibility quite seriously. transparency is important, but transparency has limits because they are considering national security interest at the same time balancing -- trying to
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publish information. wikileaks is run by an australian who considers himself more of an anarchist. his interest is in exposing the united states and his view is that transparency should have no limits. that is what he thinks is as the noble enterprise of wikileaks. there is no balancing, or very little balancing, and what wikileaks is doing. think about what is in the interest of american interest to reveal or to withhold. as many of you yolk -- in the cuban missile crisis in 1962, they got wind that something was afoot and cuba. kennedy's white house passed both papers to hold a publication of any information about what was happening on the island of cuba for this critical 13 days. so that the president and his closest advisers to deliberate in secret. i think it's fair to say that
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the historical consensus is that those 13 days led to a much better decision making process and doubt, then have that information been made public and kennedy was forced to act in the first few days of the crisis. the transcript showed that if kennedy had been forced to make a decision, the consensus was leaning toward the side of an airstrike. that could have triggered a thermonuclear war. there is a pretty long history of balancing national security interest and transparency. i do not see that in the wikileaks case. but return to a few implications. -- let me turn to a few implications. we do not know how much potential harm there is from the release of these documents. the obama administration is divided about how serious this wikileaks business is.
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secretary clinton arguing that it is quite serious and secretary gates argument that is not such a big deal after all. countries will negotiate with us because it is in their interest to get a sheet with us. -- to negotiate with us. there is a real -- a list -- it is too soon to tell in many respects. the cia has created a task force to assess what the potential implications could be. it has the unfortunate acronym of the wtf taskforce. [laughter] in the immediate term, it appears that the obama administration's reaction may be the most damaging aspect of the wikileaks episode so far. in the near term. the possible prosecution under
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the espionage act does open the door to prosecuting other journalists. that raises all sorts of other concerns. the second, the implications for intelligence. we have spent 10 years since 9/11 moving the intelligence community from a culture that prizes need to know, that hordes information, that does not like to share, and moves that community to a culture that prizes the need to share. responsibility to share. already, we can seek a camping down of sharing of information and a concern that maybe the pendulum has swung too far and be the old days of according and protection are where we need to go back to. to some extent, that is true. there needs to be much greater security provisions. the risk of having information
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to about is a non trivial matter. this is a -- there is a real danger that we will undo many of the good steps that a been taken to try to improve information sharing across our 17 agency wide intelligence community. finally, to recommend that those to seek government careers not linked to document on-line, classification system itself is in great need of repair. that the idea that you can have an air -- and airforce that is not allowed access to information that is in the public domain, so that a first year undergraduate has better information and better intelligence about what is
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available then somebody in our u.s. air force policy that our classification system is a 20th- century classification system in a 21st century world. >> thank you, amy. >> thank you for including me as the only non ucla participant. as give it -- it has been a while before -- since i have given a presentation with students sitting on the floor. this is actually one of the major areas where the reporting has focused on. one of the points i would like to get across is the need for broader context. if you just look at the individual state manslaughter coming out of these reports, they're quite inflammatory, about iran, you really miss the
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bigger picture. there is a tendency to take these reports and these cables as facts. that would be a real mistake. i think it could lead potentially to basing our policies on incomplete and faulty premise seas and we need to be careful about that. i want to talk about the most misleading narrative that is come out of these reports and the damage that this has done to the u.s. diplomacy in the region. in terms of the misleading parts, the most misleading narrative coming round of these leaks is the notion that our united states arab allies in the region are aligned in a unified
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front and will support a u.s. or israeli military attack on iran. this has been something that most of the reports and has suggested provide the narrative goes something like, israel is not the only state in the region worried about iran. some of the gulf states may be more concerned about iran than israel. the peace process is no longer the major problem in the region. the major challenge of the region has to do with iran and its nuclear efforts. it might not be surprising that the israeli prime minister suggested some signs of indication that we were telling you guys all along. israel is not the main problem in the region. the real problem in the region is iran. look, everybody thinks so.
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this has led to an incomplete picture that needs to be corrected. neither the u.s. nor israelis should be complacent about this narrative that has started to solidify. first, what arab diplomats may say, especially to u.s. officials in closed rooms, is not always what these countries are going to do. it is true -- i am not trying to deny that arabs states are incredibly alarmed and worried about iran and its infiltration in the region. they are worried less about the nuclear threat, they look at iran as an ideological threat. as a power that is challenging
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their legitimacy, their influence, their support to hamas and hezbollah, who tried to undermine the credibility of a ruling regimes in the region. this is really viewed as a major threat of iran. since the 2003 iraq war, the way arabs look at it is that iran has been the big winner. they are not just a dominant player, but their reach and influence expand all the way to the eastern mediterranean. this is a real concern for regional countries. i am not trying to deny that these countries are worried about the challenge. what i am suggesting, though, is that this picture is much more new ones. this is -- these countries do not view iran in similar ways. these very -- views vary -- much
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more concerned about iran and other smaller states. you have variations among government and between governments and people. it relates a little bit to what amy discussed, about only getting the official view. you do not get the perspective of how the majority of people in this region and how the media in this region is reporting this issue. it is a very different picture than the kind of reports that we might be reading and "the new york times." there is great variety in terms of the response to iran. there has never been a unified front against iran. i would venture to predict that there never will be a unified
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arab front against iran. i think is absolutely true that many arab regimes have great dislike of iran, not just because of traditional divides, but because of these very troublesome actions. just because they do not like iran does not mean they like us. it does not mean they will line up behind u.s. policy. that is another point of caution that we need to draw from. it is also important to remember that there is tremendous resentment of the united states and its policies in the region. president obama -- public opinion ratings slightly went
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up. essentially, if you look at regional poling, if you look at surveys, the anti-american sentiment is as strong, if not stronger, than ever. hopes have been completely dashed and there is great disappointment with u.s. policy in the region. there is a real sense of frustration that nothing will ever change. that is the broader sentiment in this region. i think we cannot underestimate that that factor -- finally, just because iran and israel or on the same side in terms of their concerns about -- it does not mean the arab-israeli conflict is no longer an issue. we should not be taking this lesson out of these episodes. it is true that in conversations
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that some arab leaders may have with american diplomats and officials, the focus is always going to be about iran. this makes perfect sense. our top officials are there every other week. that does not mean that conversations did not end by talking about the importance of the arab-israeli conflict. in my personal experience, we talk about iran quite a bit, but we also end the conversation by hearing a lot of concern about the need for the united states to focus on resolving the israeli-palestinian conflict. not because there is so much genuine concern, but if nothing else, for extra metal reasons because ultimately, folks in the region think that if you do not
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address this conflict, it feeds into a ronyon propaganda and outreach to the streets. -- iranian propaganda. i just want to conclude with emphasizing the damaging aspects in terms of solidifying anti-american sentiment. the reporting in this region has really focused on how corrupt and authoritarian governments are completely subservient to u.s. interest. this only reinforces the vulnerability of regimes that are important to us. the narrative and the region --
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all of the reporting has actually accused or speculated that wikileaks were actually a conspiracy by the u.s. and israel to try to cement this thread and tension. they point out that there does not seem to be a lot of leaks about israel. he has actually defended wikileaks. i am assuming that we could have a whole panel we could talk about about that. we will get into that now. this wave of the regional media, emphasizing conspiracies, it really reinforces an anti- american sentiment which is already so strong.
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i think this is going to make arab leaders the very, very careful about overt cooperation and alignment with the united states and the it will put a significant restraint on u.s. diplomatic efforts in the region. >> thank you all for coming. i will offer some thoughts on implications of the wikileaks disclosures, both for the u.s. and also for some other countries and for the international system. that sounds like a lot, but i will offer some brief thoughts. i must say my thinking is evolving as i listen to my call panelists here. i still find myself on the gate
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region gates end of the clinton gates spectrum. that is to say that i think it is very interesting to look at the coverage of wikileaks and the evolution of that coverage, because initially, the coverage was, well, this is an earthquake, and the u.s. diplomats were saying the sky is absolutely falling, and this is going to have dramatic effects on our ability to get things done. i think the coverage there has really shifted. the first thing i want to focus on is the actual content of the information conveyed by the documents. i have been following -- i get up every morning and look to see what the new revelations are and what else has been published on
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the wikileaks web site. so i am very interested, but it is not that there are not very interesting things that have been revealed, but most of what has come now has been, even the more seemingly sensational revelations, have been things that were either suspected or really were known by experts or even just people with deep knowledge of the regions concerned. for instance, we learned that the u.s. was responsible for some of the bombing in yemen, that the yemeni government had been taking credit for. there was definitely a suspicion already and i think many people believe that already to be the case. the fact that even if we don't know for sure that is true, we now think that is very likely to be true.
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i did not know that because i just had not focus directly on that question, but i think people who were regional specialist did know that. it is not that there are not some very interesting things that have come out, and sometimes we have learned a little bit about help some world leaders have weighed different policy options before them. so we might not exactly realized -- and we still don't exactly know, but maybe we know little bit more about how out saudi arabia weighed some of the policy options before than we used to know. but it is not a sea change. it is not what we are discovering that they had views that we had no idea previously that they did have. so on the one hand i don't think the content of the information
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to the communities who are already deeply engaged in the issues is really that substantial. and the other hand, i think there have been some positive aspects in terms of perception of the u.s. and the world. to be honest, i expected, especially following the initial reporting and the coverage on the wikileaks web site is self -- i would as read you a little bit, but i expected there would be more revelations that were damaging to the u.s. that showed the u.s. doing one thing in public and another thing in private. for instance, on the wikileaks website it says the following. the tables show the extent of u.s. spying on its allies and the un turns a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse. backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries, and the measures u.s. diplomats take to advance those with access to them.
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so there was a real targeting of the united states in concept here, and i am not sure that wikileaks has really hit that target, because yes, it is true that the u.s. can be seen exerting influence, but is anybody surprised that the u.s. is exerting influence? yes, it's true that let's take central asia, the u.s. is cooperating a great deal with some states in that region, and yes it is in competition with russia for influence their, and the u.s. has made some morally ambiguous choices there, but why did it make those choices? the u.s. has a base that is supplying thousands of u.s. troops in afghanistan, so the u.s. is cooperating with a leader who is anti-democratic. but here again, we knew that.
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even i knew that one already. that again is not a major revelation that the u.s. is doing that. it puts it on the front page of the paper, but it does not tell them that much information who are already engaged in this area. just a couple of other points. so far, at least this morning, the last chance i had to look, there was 1999 cables released of over 251,000 cables. keep in mind, five newspapers around the world have had a full set of those cables, and they have been going over them now for more than a month. so my guess is, and here is something where i could clearly be wrong, but my guess is that the biggest revelation,
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particularly about u.s. diplomacy, are already made public and there is probably a lot more to come about other countries around the world. since we were on central asia, i know that armenian communities around the world are very interested to see what u.s. diplomats were really saying about the recent elections in armenia because there has been reporting about anti-democratic practices by the regime there, but so far the u.s. has not been willing to be critical at all of the country, therefore again, reasons that are relatively transparent in terms of u.s. geopolitical interest in the region, but that will be huge news for armenian communities
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who are trying to galvanize world opinion, in some cases for one cause or another. that is just one example. i am expecting many, many more revelations that will be very important to many other countries around the world. in a sense it is not that surprising because these are cables that are being sent back in large part by u.s. ambassadors and other staff in other places. some cable from the u.s. secretary of state in washington, but a lot of it is their observations about what they see elsewhere. it is not that surprising that many of the most dramatic revelations are really about the u.s. views on other places and not so much about what the u.s. itself is doing. there is some interesting tables a come from the u.s. that our action requests as well. so that is a little bit about
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the impact of the specific information that was disclosed. if lakes -- it looks like this were to become the norm, i think there would be some very significant implications. i think there would be less transparency within the government, because as the other panelists have mentioned, there would be less ability to share information within the government's, and all information would be a bit more on lot down. of course we will see some move in that direction, as andy said. perhaps it would not be in the u.s. interest. another important point is that u.s. personnel around the world will be understandably reticent
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to put more detail in their reports. my suspicion is that that could have significant effects, that each diplomat in some foreign locale will be more law unto themselves, as did comments -- as diplomats were in the late 19th century prior to the invention of the telegraph. while there was a direct link with a foreign diplomat and a home office or the secretary of state or the state department, the ability for some diplomats that is off somewhere else to make u.s. policy on the fly was much restricted. just to give you one example, and this is one that comes from some time ago, the middle of the 19th century was the crimean war. it was a very complex event, and
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there are many sources out there, but most historians would say that one source was a british diplomat named strafford tanning. he thought russia should be dealt a setback, and basically he was there in easton will encouraging turkey to be resistant to russian demands begin with their in istanbul. there was no ability -- the british warrant office had no idea what strafford tanning was doing. it is not that the entire cause for the war can be laid his feet, but he was very important to bringing on the war. so again, another sort of transparency that probably will actually be reduced, if the sort of leaks become more the norm. i think this guy is not falling.
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i think that diplomats have been shocked at the idea that what they considered to be some of the most private sorts of moments in their lives can be exposed to public view. has been very upsetting to the diplomatic community, but nevertheless, the sky is not falling. while a continuation of leaks on this scale would have some very serious consequences, the fact that the sky is not falling, in my view, and maybe this is something we will come back to, probably indicates that a little bit less secrecy in diplomatic practice is possible and even desirable. >> again, i want to thank all three of the panelists. they gave us a lot of food for
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thought. i want to start with a few questions for each of them and for the group as a whole, and then we will turn it over to the audience. let me start with amy. you made a lot of interesting points, the one thing that struck me was, you said that we think of wikileaks as a transparency driven organization. you thought it obscured some of the realities of american foreign policy. i want to pose this to all three of you. but realities do you think are being obscured, and what are the most significant ones that we ought to be paying attention to. >> what we get from these documents is an incomplete official view, and what is missing from these documents is the view of the street, the view of public opinion, some of those
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intangibles. i would argue even the official view is probably incomplete. i would caution strenuously against making any kind of consideration about what our necks steps in foreign policy should be based on what these documents reveal. the documents don't tell you what is not in them. the only tell you one person's perspective of what was there. generally speaking, you have a twofold problem. the bogus on official communication as opposed to what the masses are feeling, and the fact that that official communication is itself inherently incomplete and the void of context. >> i think any really set it, and i want to emphasize the point that even at the official level, i don't the wicked -- i don't think we are always getting a complete picture. these cables themselves are not
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the truth. it may not be that there is so much new information coming out of these reports, but it is the narratives that are developing around them. that is what we have to be very careful of. i think they are starting conversations that start to lead people into believing that there are some realities that really are not there. i focused on the fact that there is this notion that if the u.s. or israel or to strike iran that we would get widespread regional support. that is dangerous. that is a dangerous assumption. that is not something the report really told us as fact, but that is something being discussed and interpretations of those reports being now taken as an assumption that is viewed as valid in many quarters. so we need to be quite careful about that.
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>> that area where this becomes the most dangerous is trying to discern intentions of foreign governments, whether allies are adversaries. an exercise i do with my students, i ask them if you were to take a piece of paper and predict what you are going to do for your next christmas holiday vacation a year from now, write it on a piece of paper, and a year from now we will get back together and say, did you do what you thought you were going to do? a significant percentage of you would say no, because lots of things change. this is you trying to judge your own intentions one year from now. now imagine the u.s. government trying to judge the intentions of another country that has pressures from the street, tractor politics internally, and that has some incentive to deceive the united states about what their true intentions would be. that is the area in which
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taking these documents as fact becomes most dangerous for national security. >> i agree with all that. it is almost like everybody has been empowered around the world to become their own private historian, and that is great. history is a hard thing, it is fought over even hundreds of years after the fact. historians are still trying to figure out exactly what led to the crimean war and what the leaders intentions were in taking certain actions. in these documents, i just want to add to what was said, that the discussions talked about in the documents are spending in
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some particular way to suit their particular interests. they are saying things to the u.s. because they may have wanted the u.s. to believe something. that does not mean that is exactly what their policy is. it tells us something about what was said in a particular meeting, but even in that meeting, whether not the u.s. diplomats who is sending back a cable gave an exact account of what happened or an account that really suited their interest is very much open to question. for example, the april case prior to the first goal for, where many people after iraq released its version, many people said she seemed to say that it would be all right if iraq invaded kuwait. and the u.s. government defended the ambassador and said
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no, she had not said that. now with wikileaks, just a couple of days ago we saw the u.s. side of that conversation. we can see that the two sides did not exactly match. is it because the u.s. is right and iraq is wrong, or do they not match because once i was sitting in one way and the other side was spending it the other way? we don't know. >> when thing that struck me was that a lot of the coverage on wikileaks focuses on the -- we talked about diplomat to diplomat, but it actually sounds like maybe the most important action is more at the level of domestic politics and what the implications are for domestic public and how they think about foreign policy. i want to ask you to reflect on
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that a little bit more. everything that robb said is true. you could ask my wife and i to recount today and you would get very different views. people are going to disagree about what happened. in some ways, wikileaks is like a microcosm of the internet in general. there is just of lot -- flood of information, and a lot of it is true and a lot is not true. the public in general is not so sophisticated about discerning, they are just reading things and reacting. i am intrigued about how those reactions are going to shake the conduct of diplomacy by the united states in years to come. >> there have been a couple of immediate effects, some more symbolic than anything else. the president of yemen refused to meet the secretary of mideast
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affairs recently because of the leaks. the officials are being cautious and they do not want to publicly portrayed themselves as being subservient to washington. these will fade. the deeper effect will be at the broader level among populations, and in the case of the middle east, it is not that it has changed impressions, it is just reinforcing already- once, which is what i was suggesting. this is not good for u.s. diplomacy. the u.s. making an effort to do a lot of things that try to present an image of the u.s. acting in the region in a way that is not just propping up governments. these large arms sales don't help that perception, but there is a lot of financial aid, development assistance, a lot of recognition among diplomats that the people in this region really look at these kind of episodes
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as america just dealing with these very corrupt, illegitimate leaderships, and forgetting about the people's interests. there has been an effort to counter that. we need a lot of work in the area of public diplomacy. i think these wikileaks have undermined those efforts to the extent that they were getting traction. i think it undermines efforts of the united states and its diplomats to present the u.s. is being a force for good, that we care about the welfare of people and developing society and employment and social issues. it reinforces the narrative that we are propping up these horrible rich teams that are abusive, corrupt, illegitimate, and really neglect their people. not that there is anything new, but it is reinforcing very
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negative trends that were already there. >> i agree that specialists knew or suspected a lot of what is in these leaks, but again, that is not the case for a broader public. it seems to undercut a bit of the argument that you channelling secretary gates at this is not really -- not as significant for some and more significant for others. >> i agree with that. i meant to limit its implications in terms of what we learn about what the u.s. is doing around the world. i do also want to emphasize that i'd sit -- the implications for domestic politics are quite extreme.
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what some publics have understood about what their own leaders of doing is news them unlikely to change politics in many countries around the world. in terms of what that means for u.s. diplomacy, i just see it going in many directions at once. i think that some areas of cooperation where other countries were cooperating with the u.s., and they were willing to do that but not willing to do it in a public way. bismarck said france likes me but she is not willing to go up in public with me. it is a bit that way for the u.s., and now that these closed door dealings have been revealed, i think some of the
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cooperation may in. i think it is unlikely that in some cases it will be harder for leaders to cynically take anti- u.s. positions in public, when in private they clearly are dealing very directly with the united states. that is again not entirely a bad thing for u.s. diplomacy and u.s. public diplomacy, for that matter. that is just to see some silver lining. it is not to say that there not some very negative impressions that have also been reinforced. >> we have time for a few questions from the audience. please raise your hand and let me bring the microphone over. let's start off in the very back. >> thank you so much for this
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really interesting event. >> let me just remind you that that microphone is not amplified. >> i wonder if any of the palace can respond to the idea that you'd julian assange represents not so much american desire for transparency but global desire for transparency. >> could you repeat the question? >> my question is about the idea that julian assange does not represent u.s., american desire for more transparency but a global desire for transparency in american foreign policy. i want the palace to say they have any ideas about how, if there could be an alternative to wikileaks to provide that kind of transparency to the rest of the world. >> there already are alternatives to wikileaks.
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some started by former associates of julian assange. whatever happens to him or to wikileaks, this is probably the new normal that we will have to live with. >> we live in a paradoxical world. because the united states is a democracy and we have so much transparency, we can see lots of things happening on the house and senate floor that we may not want to see happening. the domestic political ramifications of wikileaks do not appear to be huge, but the paradox is that in states that are not democratic, the potential for the wikileaks effect is much greater to their domestic politics. if you are not an elected leader in the middle east, you are worried about your vulnerability because of this pressure from the street. in some ways you are more worried about the street because you are not legitimately elected, then if you were
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legitimately elected. that is the paradox your point about global transparency. >> on the domestic front, it is not just the street that is a concern, but opposition groups who are already utilizing this political football as a way to counter and it delegitimize some of the ruling leadership. in cases of gaza and the hamas divide, this is being utilized in levitan. -- in levitan. -- in 11 olebanon. i do think and he is right that it will probably have a bigger effect in some of these countries than in our own country. >> i think unfortunately, there
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is a need for some secrecy and diplomacy. unless we sort of altar the system of states entirely radical fashion, states have an interest in self secrecy, and in many cases, secrecy serves the side of peace between nations. i can list many examples of that for you. i think we will have secrecy, and since we do have secrecy, we will have conspiracy theories. you are never going to get away from that. i really don't think there is anything to be done about that. on the other hand, however, again, these leaks have shown us in my view that we can have some more transparency. in many cases, basically we have had quite a lot of transparency and some conspiracy theories. one can find " a lot of evidence
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against in these cables. there is a lot of evidence, for instance the u.s.-china relationship. everything i've seen in the cables is the u.s. trying to set establish closer relations with china, even though they continue to have these differences in interest. the theory that says the u.s. is just trying to keep china down, there is no evidence for that in the cables. while the u.s. is not being entirely clear, it is not advertising some of its relations with autocratic governments. anybody who wants to know can already notre large degree what is really going on there. i don't think we would get away from it, but probably the u.s. could do little more than it is
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doing now. if it did more, the rich still be conspiracy theories. >> the man in the green jacket there. >> i would like to move the debate to a broader aspects. there is a lot of discussion overall about the decline of journalism and newspapers. it seems like there is some kind of shift where the generalist newspapers are providing not reporting but analysis. there is so much data that nobody actually reads the data, everybody reads the analysis. how do you perceive the impact of wikileaks, and maybe there'll be more leaks, in regard to newspapers in journalism as a
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whole. >> let me suggest that you say that question for our next panel, because when we have jeff kellen, he will be well suited to answer that. it is not our area of expertise. with your agreement we will save that for next time. other questions? here in the middle. wait for the microphone. >> i was wondering if this new world that we are living in is going to be -- beliefs are going to be a part of the normal culture in the world, how likely is it for diplomats to adapt to this new world and start crafting leaks that they want? is that possible, is it
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unethical, is a responsible? what is the panel's thought on that. >> i think it is clear that it is possible and is already happening. the other parts of your question are interesting, is a responsible and ethical? >> we live in a world already wear leeks are a common phenomenon, where government officials are strategically leaking information. that is what we read about in the newspapers and the mainstream media. one of the most interesting pieces i have seen on wikileaks was a blog that talked-about concerned that there could be a double standard applied, that we have high-ranking government officials who strategically bleak frequently in order to advance certain policies or try to get advantage for their policy preferences in washington. are they going to be prosecuted if julian assange is prosecuted?
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is there a double standard for someone like him or for a journalist? if you are a higher level official, does that make it ok, where as a lower-level military enlisted person, it is different. these are profound and important questions and i don't think we have a sense of what the answers are. i thought jack blog was thought- provoking if you think about it in terms of what you read in the newspapers today. a typical article will say something like we are going to increase the rate of creditor drawn attacks in afghanistan in the next six months as part of our strategy. that is really important. that is information that in the ideal world, the american government would not like our adversaries to know. in terms of the immediate damage, a story like that is far
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more potentially damaging immediately to national security than all documents on the internet. what do we do about that? it does raise all sorts of questions, legal, political, moral, and ethical, that we are just beginning to grapple with. >> i agree with what amy had said. >> i think we have time for one last question. >> i was wondering if you believe that julian assange has dramatically underestimated the cynicism of the american public? as you mentioned, because we live in a 24-hour news cycle,
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and because there's so much information available to everyone, the internet is very difficult to discern fact from fiction. with this large dome of information, i was wondering if we had lost the ability to be outraged about anything anymore. [laughter] >> who wants to go first on that? >> i think it is a good point. i don't know if there is much else to say. it is a really interesting point. one of the surprising nine hits in the journalism world of the past year was the top secret america series that ran in the washington post, an extraordinary series about the rise of contracting in the intelligence world. it took years of analysis. it was an incredible series, and yet what really struck people
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that i talked to in washington about the series is how quickly it died. the fact that people were not up in arms about it. experts in the field had known about this for a long time. it was not news in the intelligence world that contractors had ballooned both in number and in budgets. it was not news. aside from actually being a major topic of conversation at the confirmation hearings of the director of national intelligence, it really did not have a lot of legs. perhaps we are harder to our rage today than we have been in the past. >> the point may have been, and we don't know the motives behind this man, but really to embarrass us globally. that is what the ramifications are so much greater abroad than they are here at home. >> i think it was just exactly the right question to ask.
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it is hard to be outraged at something that you know happens every day. i am a vegetarian. for moral reasons, i know it does not make sense to me that people eat meat, but i don't get outraged that my friends because they eat meat, because i know is happening every day. on the other hand, could we have a more -- a u.s. foreign policy or other foreign policies, could they be advocating for their interest and take a moral component or into account? yes, they could, and maybe there will be some specific areas where people can galvanize and
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apply pressure and say here is u.s. policy with respect to this country, and the u.s. did not need to be quite so a moral in that case. that would be great if that were to happen, just in terms of my personal reaction. often the moralistic reaction can be overly simplistic, or at least do not take into account the real reasons why this policy was chosen in in a particular case and the u.s. interest involved. but these documents may get people an opportunity to object in a more informed way. >> i want to thank all three of our panelists. we are at the end of our our. please join me in thanking them for a terrific session. [applause]
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let me urge you to come to our next session on january 20 at. thank you all for coming. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2011] >> coming up, the 50th anniversary of the swearing in of robert kennedy as attorney general. the justice department mark the occasion last month. at 1 eastern, c-span is documentary inside the white house, and following that we continue the wikileaks discussion with the editors of the new york times and the guardian, following -- followed
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by another look at wikileaks impact on foreign policy. ireland house a general election on friday. the current prime minister is resigning because of the country's economic problems. the leaders of the three major irish parties meet in their final tv debate tomorrow afternoon in dublin. 4:30 have live coverage at p.m. eastern, here on c-span. >> this year marks the 50th anniversary of the swearing in of robert f. kennedy as attorney general. you'll hear from some former aides to robert kennedy during his tenure as justice. the event begins with audio from the swearing in ceremony in 1961. [applause]
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>> from the east room of the white house, january 21, 1961. >> mr. president, at your request i have the great honor to administer the oath of office to the following members of your cabinet. secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, robert s. mcnamara to be secretary of defense, robert f. kennedy from massachusetts to be attorney general. gentlemen, if you will raise your right hands, state your name, and repeat after me. i will support and defend the
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constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that i will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that i take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, that i will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which i am about to enter, so help me god. >> i think we are fortunate to have them all. it is a great pleasure for me to welcome them as part of the official family.
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[applause] >> it afternoon. -- good afternoon. this is a happy, happy occasion. to mrs. kennedy and the kennedy family, to our distinguished guests, to my colleagues, and to those who have served and supported our nation's department of justice, it is my pleasure and my great honor to welcome you to the robert f. kennedy department of justice building. [applause]
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would come to celebrate a man whose legacy continues to guide us, whose memory continues to touch us, and his example continues to inspire us. as we reflect on his remarkable life, we also warned the recent loss of another great champion for justice, are kennedy's dear friend and brother-in-law, sargent shriver. sargent shriver served our country in many ways, as an advocate for equal rights and opportunity, as an ambassador for this nation, and as an innovator in promoting understanding and healing. he were to live up to his brother-in-law's charge to all of us to rely on the power of be, not all, to make a difference. our thoughts and prayers are with the shriver and kennedy'
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this afternoon their presence is felt. as one member of the kennedy family could best, sargent shriver is smiling down on us today. i believe he is. this is indeed a very special occasion. for me is a tremendous privilege to be joined by so many former department leaders who have made this a truly historic reunion. with us we have former attorneys general and i caught dray of first assistance -- a cadre of support staff who worked alongside attorney general kennedy. from many divisions and the attorney general's office among others. if you were part of the justice department from 1961 to 1964, please stand so that we may recognize you. [applause]
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i want to thank you all for being here and for helping us pay tribute to one of america's most committed public servants and one of this department's most effective leaders. there is much too admirer about robert kennedy, and there is much to learn from his tenure as attorney general. even now, exactly 50 years after robert kennedy stood with his older brother in the east room of the white house and is were the zero of his new office. like many of you, i can still remember those days. i can remember sitting in the basement of my childhood home in queens, watching on are black- and-white television, the inauguration of young, charismatic new president. that was january 20, 1961.
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i was in the fifth grade, and i can still recall my mother's enthusiasm, my father's pride, and my own sense that something exciting, something important was happening. the following day was marked by another historic moment, when attorney general robert kennedy was sworn in and it was told after he was turned away for lack of an id card, he was finally shown to his office on the fifth floor of this building. that was january 21, 1961. i understanding of the obligations of an attorney general as a visionary, as a force for progress, and as a model for leadership, had not yet taken form, but it would soon enough. just two years later there was much talk about attorney-general kennedy and the successful effort that he led to integrate the university of alabama.
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this was an act of courage. this was an act that had- political consequences. this was a defining act. it was not the easy are necessary thing to do. it was the right thing to do. on june 11, 1963, family watched and celebrated news reports that to brave young students had with the help of this department stepped past governor george wallace to become the first african-americans to enroll in the university of alabama. years later, one of those students, a wonderful woman named vivian malone jones, would become my sister-in-law. i would like to ask vivian's family and my family to stand. [applause]
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long before i married her lovely sister, vivian became the university of alabama's first african-american graduate. shortly after earning her degree, she moved to washington and began her career right here in the justice department's civil-rights division. vivian passed away several years ago, much too soon, but throughout her life she was inspired by a grateful for the courage that was shown by this department under attorney general kennedy's leadership. the results of that famous stand in the schoolhouse door, the progress that it marked, the commitment that it signals, and the justice that it insured, served as my first lesson from attorney general kennedy, even it would take many years before i could fully understand it. i learned that the law is not an abstraction. it is a powerful tool that can either put up walls or build
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bridges. it is a strong instrument that affects the lives and circumstances of real people and real communities for good or for ill. it is an effective means to transform our society into one that serves the interests of the many or the few. no one can doubt how robert francis kennedy chose to use the law when he was attorney general. he taught us that law can be a powerful force for good, if we are willing, as he was, to roll up our sleeves and some of our courage and our best efforts and to lead from the front lines of change. in doing just that, the attorney general championed the cause of the lead -- least among us. he was not afraid to dream of better world and to act to create it. the lessons of his life inspired
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my own decision after finishing law school to come to work in the justice department's criminal division, just as robert kennedy did shortly after he graduated from law school. i arrived here in 1976. a dozen years after attorney general kennedy had left the department. yet his presence was still felt, and memories of him were still often shared. i was told stories of how he would walk hallways of the building, ducking into the offices. i heard that those who visited the fifth four were likely to see his dog or young kennedy children running by. from that very chair which sat at his desk throughout his time here, attorney general kennedy called on his team to reinvigorate the department's commissions and to approach the great challenges of the day not as problems to be contained or kicked down the road, but as
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crises to be solved. i never imagined that i would have the opportunity and the honor of assuming the position that robert kennedy once held, and i know that i would not have had this extraordinary opportunity to serve were it not for the commitment and courage of robert kennedy. he and leaders like him made it possible for someone like me, an african-american kid from queens, to stand before you today as our nation's 82nd attorney general. i know from the core of my being that with this honor comes an obligation, a duty to extend and strengthen the work that robert kennedy began here, and to conduct myself in a manner that is consistent with his vision of who an attorney general is and how one should use the powers of that office. in his first speech as attorney general, robert kennedy argued that the time for apathy had long since passed.
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it was time to "prove to the world that we really mean it when we say that all men are created free and equal before the law." all of us might wish we lived -- in our times are difficult and perplexing, so or they challenging and filled with opportunity. despite all that has been accomplished in recent decades, we still do not live in tranquil times. we continue to face difficulties in justice, division, and an array of challenges that can serve to sharpen our skills, steal our resolve, polkas are energy, and impel us to action. in times like -- focus our energy, and impel us to action. i am proud to report that in today's department of justice, this work goes on in our offices, before courts, and out
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and our communities. it goes on in our aspirations for those in need. it goes on in our efforts to protect our national security, to safeguard our civil liberties, to expand opportunities, to prevent and reduce violence, to combat the causes and consequences of hate, to uphold the constitution, to strengthen the rule law and the values that define this great nation, to protect the most vulnerable among us, and to honor the principles that were at the root of attorney general kennedy's actions and the heart of his decisions. integrity, inclusion, tolerance, and above all, justice. as we celebrate robert kennedy's life and his impact on this department, let us also commit ourselves to carrying on and carried out his mission to make gentle the life of this world and to make good on the promise of our nation. let us answer his call to face
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up to our nation's problems and live up to its founding principles. that as he the wisdom of his extraordinary example. this afternoon from our video tribute from our palin's discussion and from the words and memories that his beloved daughter kathleen is sure to share, we have a chance to see a fuller picture of robert kennedy and to expand our understanding of this man and his vision as well as our ability to emulate his actions. half a century ago, robert kennedy proved that a single person has the power to improve the world around us. 50 years later, his example remains emblazoned on the hearts and souls of the american people, and his voice echoes through the generations, calling on us to shoulder our responsibility to serve, to serve, and to serve. this lesson and this message
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still point us down the path that robert kennedy never finished traveling, so let us keep going. let us continue to fight for a world free from injustice. let us move forward despite the obstacles before us and the cynics around us, toward progress. let us act with optimism, without delay, and with adherence to the high standards of professionalism, the very standards that attorney general kennedy established. let us signal to all the world that in america today, the spirit of art kennedy lives on. his family, his former colleagues, and ended this the part of justice, and above all, and the citizens of this great nation. thank you. [applause]
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now it is my pleasure to join you in watching a department made a film tribute to attorney- general kennedy, which we have created in his honor and in an attempt to share with the man in that portrait, the man who once sat in that chair, was to the staff, to this department, and to our nation. but first, we have a special treat. a video message from someone who very much wanted to be here with us today, the 44th president of the united states, barack obama. >> hello, everybody. i want to thank attorney-general holder, at the kennedy, and the entire kennedy family for inviting me to join you on this special anniversary. i am sorry i cannot be there, but i want to offer a few words
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on the celebration of the life enduring legacy of robert francis kennedy. 50 years ago today in a ceremony in white house, bobby kennedy swore an oath to become our 64 the attorney general. his passion, his daring, his idealism remains alive in today's justice department, and his memory still burns brightly, and spartan men and women young and old here in america and around the world to take up his call to stand up for an ideal or strike out against injustice. for me, and for so many americans, bobby kennedy embodies the idea he spoke of so often, that each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try. in the face of war, he called for peace. in places of poverty, he carried hope. in a violent time there revealed man's capacity to do harm, he never lost faith in our capacity to love. he never


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