December 15, 2013

“60 Minutes”

In an interview with “60 Minutes Overtime” producer Ann Silvio, John Miller talks about his intentions with “60 Minutes”‘ two-part NSA story, which ran Sunday. Miller said the disclosure that he used to work in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence was important, but “You also don’t want this to be a puff piece.”

I think we asked the hardest questions we could ask. And part of this is not to go there and show you can beat up a public official in an interview. I have been beat up as a public official in interviews, and I have beaten up public officials in interviews. Our job this time was to take the hardest questions we could find and ask them, ‘What’s the answer to it,’ and then spend a couple of minutes listening. Because this is really the side of the story that has been mined only in the most superficial ways. We’ve heard plenty from the critics. We’ve heard a lot from Edward Snowden. Where there’s been a distinctive shortage is, putting the NSA to the test and saying not just ‘We called for comment today’ but to get into the conversation and say that sounds a lot like spying on Americans, and then say, ‘Well, explain that.'”

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander “made the call to invite us in,” “60 Minutes” producer Ira Rosen says in the same video. NSA monitored interviews for the piece, and Alexander called “time out” at certain points in his interview with Miller. At one point, when “60 Minutes”‘ cameras accidentally captured an image of a certain person, security staff reviewed the show’s recordings.

“What they got was a chance to make their case,” Miller says.

But although Miller says the show approached critics in Congress and privacy advocates to craft its questions, he didn’t ask Alexander why he said in 2012 the United States doesn’t hold data on its citizens.

The pieces are not terribly complimentary toward Edward Snowden, described by Miller as a “20-something-year-old high school dropout contractor.” Snowden cheated on an exam for NSA employment and worked at home with a hood covering his head and computer screen, an NSA official tells Miller. “That’s pretty strange,” Miller says.

Circa’s Anthony De Rosa collected reactions to the broadcasts, writing Sunday night he was still looking for positive reports. Some representative tweets (the first is, of course, by a guy who has some skin in this game):

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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