Pardee School Hosts Conference on Security in Democracies

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The Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University hosted an October 17, 2018 conference on “Secrecy and Security in a Democratic Society,” that featured former members of the intelligence community, former members of Congress as well as current and former media members. The conference was organized by Joseph Wippl, Professor of the Practice of International Relations at the Pardee School.

The conference featured two panels, both moderated by Pardee School Professor of the Practice of International Relations Amb. Robert Loftis. The first panel featured Rep. Porter Goss, former member of United States Congress and former Director of Central Intelligence under the Bush Administration, and Thomas Fiedler, Dean of the BU College of Communication.

Goss highlighted the difficulty and importance for the intelligence community of sifting through ever-increasing sources to find the relevant and correct information to present to the country’s leaders.

“No matter how truth is shaped, twisted, hidden, buried or spun, truth is a core value, facts are facts, core truth is core truth, and it’s very important that we remember that as we go forward,” Goss said. “It’s not firehoses of information anymore, it’s tsunamis of information. There are so many sources you can’t tell which ones matter, so finding that needle in the haystack for the intelligence community — finding a secret that matters — to give to our leaders is very important.”

Fiedler outlined the conflict that naturally exists between the intelligence community’s desire to preserve secrets in order to protect national security and the media’s advocacy for the public’s right to know.

“There is always going to be tension between those who believe that the important thing that they need to do is to guard secrecy — to protect our secrets because that’s how we stay safe — and those who come on the other side of that — the media — who tend to believe the public always has a right to know,” Fiedler said. “The media is always going to fall on the side of the public has a right to know.”

The second panel discussion featured Wippl, who spent a 30-year career as an operations officer in the National Clandestine Service with the CIA, and Adam Goldman, Pultizer Prize-winner and New York Times correspondent covering intelligence and counterterrorism.

Goldman discussed the growing distrust between the government, intelligence community and how that has affected his work covering the intelligence community and counterterrorism.

“We’ve got to be able to go the intelligence, whether it’s the FBI or CIA, and have a good relationship and know they’re not lying to us,” Goldman said. “It’s not good for government — it’s not good for the FBI or CIA — when we fundamentally distrust people. As a reporter, how am I going to navigate this if I think the person on the other end of the line is lying to me?”

Wippl highlighted how he relied on the international media during his time serving overseas as an operations officer and operations manager with the CIA in places such as Bonn, West Germany; Guatemala City; Luxembourg; Madrid, Spain; Mexico City; Vienna, Austria; and Berlin, Germany.

“Working overseas, I read the press very thoroughly. In terms of cultivating people and running agents, you just have to be really well-informed in order to get the maximum amount of information,” Wippl said.