Upending the Natural (and National Security) Order of Things: A Harvard Forum on the NSA, Privacy, and the Press
A few weeks ago, Harvard’s Institute of Politics (an enduring legacy of the Kennedy family that is unique in higher education) held a panel discussion in Washington (instead of Cambridge) on “The NSA Conundrum: National Security vs. Privacy and the Press“ (in their language a “Forum,” and it was hosted in DC for Harvard alumni only…so not exactly in the spirit of the vast majority of such events at Harvard’s Kennedy School that are open to the public and allow for anyone to ask a question of the invited guests). It was an interesting conversation moderated by Harvard professor Graham Allison that included former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Representative (and rumored future DHS Secretary) Jane Harman, and New York Times journalist David Sanger.
The official description:
In the flurry of leaks, leakers, and prosecutions, it is difficult to get one’s bearings. To explore some of the key questions beneath the surface, the Institute of Politics and Harvard Kennedy School has assembled a panel of thoughtful participant observers for this Forum on the Road including Harvard Professor Graham T. Allison, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former US Representative Jane Harman, and The New York Times Journalist David E. Sanger.
Among the questions moderator Graham Allison will put to the panel are:
- Was Scott McNealy (founder of Sun Microsystems) correct two decades ago when he said: “privacy is history: if you liked privacy, forget about it,” or would that mean resignation to life in Orwell’s world of 1984?
- Is the concept of a journalist as a “aider, abettor, or co-conspirator” conceivable?
- Should Americans think of Edward Snowden (the NSA leaker) as a “traitor” or as a “whistleblower?”
- Has the net effect of WikiLeaks and the NSA releases on American national security been negative or positive?
- Has the emergence of a pervasive, invasive 24/7 Washington news cycle and a culture of leaks provided more sunshine and better national security deliberations and choices—or alternatively, degraded the process of analysis and deliberation essential to sound national security decision making?
Here is the video of the entire event:
As someone in the audience, what struck me afterwards was that the entire panel could not bring themselves to utter the name “Glenn Greenwald.” He is the lawyer, blogger, and journalist working for the British paper The Guardian who has been heavily involved in releasing the Snowden leaks. Instead of using his name, he was referred to as “a blogger,” especially by Harman. I’m guessing the national security types on the panel feel angered or insulted by his actions while Sanger does not appreciate that someone outside of the elite journalistic establishment is in large part driving a national, and even international, discussion.