U.S. Air Force General Michael Hayden and Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman debated the role of the National Security Agency and privacy on April 3 in Mary Graydon Center during an event co-hosted by the Kennedy Political Union and the Political Theory Institute.
Professor Alan Levine, the founding director of the Political Theory Institute, moderated the debate, titled “The NSA and Privacy,” which focused on the role that the NSA has had over the past 15 years.
The debate centered on the revelations that The Washington Post and other publications released to the public regarding the files Edward Snowden provided to journalists such as Gellman. A large part of the discussion focused on how transparent the NSA should be while still remaining effective.
“Sometimes the government keeps secrets, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not,” Gellman said.
Gellman led the Post’s coverage of Edward Snowden’s document leaks. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2002 for his contribution to the Washington Post’s 9/11 coverage and another in 2008 for his work on a documentary about Vice President Dick Cheney. The Washington Post received a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Snowden documents in 2014.
Hayden served as a four-star general in the United States Air Force and the former director of both the NSA from 1999-2005 and the CIA from 2006-2009, according to KPU’s press release.
During the event, Hayden talked extensively about the goals of the NSA and the trade-offs that the agency and the American public must make. He worked to frame the NSA in a light so that people would not see the NSA as simply evil like some media reports have reported, which he feels are unfair.
“This is a conflict of values,” Hayden said. “This is not the forces of light versus the forces of darkness.”
After the event, Levine emphasized these trade-offs as decisions that people must think about going forward.
“You want more privacy? There’s a risk. You want less risk? There’s less privacy,” Levine said to The Eagle. “I think that’s the fundamental tradeoff that American citizens have to keep in mind when they are deciding what they want to do.”
Levine asked people to think critically about both sides of the issue and not to discredit one side automatically.
“I think the kinds of things that people don’t realize are exactly the extent to which government surveys, but also the extent to which that could be useful,” Levine said. “None of this is simple, none of this is easy. If it were easy we wouldn’t be standing up here talking about it.”
VIDEO – Full panel debate:
Courtesy of News2Share.com and The Eagle