LIVE BLOG: Journalism After Snowden


The Tow Center live blogged Journalism After Snowden, a conversation about digital privacy, state surveillance, and the First Amendment rights of journalists.

Live blogging by Columbia Journalism School student Daniel Alberto Wroclawski (@danwroc)

Emily Bell, Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia Journalism School

Jill Abramson, Executive Editor, The New York Times
Janine Gibson, Editor-in-Chief, Guardian U.S.
David Schulz, Outside Counsel to The Guardian, Lecturer, Columbia Law School, Partner, Levine, Sullivan Koch & Schulz LLP
Cass Sunstein, Member, President Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University

Read more:

The Huffington Post | NY Times’ Jill Abramson: Obama Crackdown Has Created ‘Freeze’ on Reporting | Jan. 31, 2014
TheWrap |
NY Times Editor Jill Abramson: Obama Crackdown on Leakers Threatens National Security Journalism | Jan. 31, 2014
Capital New York | Abramson: ‘Freeze’ setting in on national security beat | Jan. 31, 2014
Columbia Journalism Review | Reporting in the post-Snowden Era | Jan. 31, 2014
Capital New York | Media Pro: Wall-to-wall football; the rush to Oz | Jan. 31, 2014
Tow Center Live Blog | Journalism After Snowden | Jan. 30, 2014


8:31 PM ET: And that concludes our panel. Thanks for following along! Goodnight!

8:30 PM ET: Gibson: I want an international agreement for the protection of journalists.

8:29 PM ET: Janine Gibson: Public opinion polls show that people are now concerned about the ramifications of the leaks.

8:26 PM ET: Cass Sunstein: There’s no one on the Review Group who would describe Edward Snowden as a whistleblower. And whatever you think of that particular person, the topic is After Snowden. To leak classified information, that is a very tough situation for the government to deal with.

8:23 PM ET: Abramson: I don’t think American media has been asleep in regards to leaks.

8:21 PM ET: Jill Abramson: In this case, none of us know whether the Snowden leaks have harmed national security.

8:17 PM ET: Gibson: The UK has been refusing to rule out prosecuting Guardian journalists. Guardian staff as far as we know, are still being investigated.

8:16 PM ET: Gibson: It’s impossible to describe the wall of silence that was the rest of the UK media that was unwilling to chime in on the Snowden leaks.

8:13 PM ET: Janine Gibson: We were holding some of the documents in the UK office. One of the problems with the UK government approach, we spent sometime saying, do you not remember what happened with WikiLeaks?

8:11 PM ET: Schulz: The technology we have today, you don’t need to subpoena a reporter anymore. We should all be concerned about that. We need whistleblowers. There are important stories that only come from classified information. We can’t adequately rely on Congress and the Courts to perform certain tasks.

8:02 PM ET: Emily Bell: “There’s an inevitable arms race here of technology.”

8:02 PM ET: Gibson: We are now being in this position that is even more chilling, we are now considered to be co-conspirators.

8:01 PM ET: Janine Gibson: The thing that was completely different about this story, this source never thought his identity would not come out.

7:59 PM ET: Jill Abramson: During the Obama administration, there have been seven criminal leak investigations, double the number among all prior administrations combined.

7:58 PM ET: Emily Bell: “I think we can all agree that Edward Snowden has done us all a favor. Can we agree on that?” None of the panelists want to answer.

7:56 PM ET: Sunstein: There’s been a distinction in law between metadata and content. So some poeple have a thought, if the government have access to your phone calls, that is really troubling. If they have access to metadata that is a completely different problem.

7:54 PM ET: Schulz: We need a Privacy Bill of Rights to know what the government can and cannot obtain.

7:51 PM ET: Schulz: One of the points you’re raising is that there has to be a system of confidential communication for reporters. I think the concern, which is evidenced by all the interest in this. The Snowden revelations were kind of a wake-up call.

7:49 PM ET: Sunstein: The phone companies hold that metadata to protect customers. The FCC requires phone companies to hold that data for 18 months.

7:48 pM ET: Sunstein: We believe that the metadata, the government shouldn’t be holding that data. There are undue risks to privacy and civil liberties with the government holding that data.

7:44 PM ET: Sunstein speaking on the four major recommendations created by the Review Group.


7:43 PM ET: Sunstein: “Theres a lot of talk about balancing national security against privacy. We think that’s harmful.”

7:40 PM ET: Cass Sunstein: The first thing we tried to do was learn as much as we could from people in the country and around the world, he said of Obama’s Review Group.

7:39 PM ET: Schulz: “There has never been a prosecution of a journalist.”

7:34 PM ET: David Schulz: “In this country, we don’t have an official secrets act.”

7:34 PM ET: Jill Abramson: “In our case I thought, some of what we brought to the table were our reporters in Silicon Valley.” Times reporters had sources inside the companies that were part of the NSA’s PRISM program.

7:32 PM ET: Janine Gibson: “We almost had a contract about how we were going to search [the documents].”

7:30 PM ET: Emily Bell: “There must have been times when both of you thought, are we actually capable of reporting all of these stories?”

7:26 PM ET: Abramson: “Sometime before the authorities actually came to The Guardian…” the Times obtained some, not all, of the materials leaked by Edward Snowden.

7:25 PM ET: Jill Abramson said the Times was very disappointed that it did not break the story.

7:24 PM ET: Gibson: “We’re incredibly lucky at The Guardian, you only have to ask yourself two questions. Is this story true and is it in the public interest?”

7:22 PM ET: Gibson: You can’t Google secret FISA court orders to see if they look real.

7:20 PM ET: Gibson: “I don’t think anyone knows,” she said of the size of the leak.

7:18 PM ET: Gibson: “You very quickly realize, it’s either an incredibly huge sensitive story, or it’s the Hitler diaries, it’s a hoax.”

7:17 PM ET: Gibson: “We did not know his name,” she said of Greenwald’s source, Edward Snowden.

7:15 PM ET: Janine Gibson: Glenn Greenwald called and said, “I think I have the biggest leak in a generation.”

7:14 PM ET: Emily Bell to Janine Gibson, what is it like to publish such a story as the Snowden leaks?

7:12 PM ET: Emily Bell discloses that she is on the board of trustees for The Guardian. If anyone is worried about the panel being too cozy, she says you would be correct!

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7:09 PM ET: Dean Coll: Tonight marks the launch of the Tow Center’s After Snowden project, which will analyze the effects of the Snowden leaks on the media industry.

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7:08 PM ET: President Bollinger now introduces Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll.

7:07 PM ET: President Bollinger tells the audience how the press is immune to government action when publishing leaked materials, but the leaker is not.

7:04 PM ET: President Lee Bollinger welcomes our guests to the panel.

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7:02 PM ET: We will be starting the panel shortly!

7:00 PM ET: It’s a full house!

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6:52 PM ET: Almost underway!


6:43 PM ET: Our panel will be under way in just 15 minutes! Don’t miss it!