Skip to:

The Security Conundrum Series - Inside the Newsroom: The Media and Edward Snowden: An Evening with Barton Gellman



Bart Gellman, The Century Foundation

Date and Time

November 17, 2014 7:30 PM


CEMEX Auditorium

Knight Management Center

641 Knight Way, Stanford University

In an age of terrorism, where should a democratic society draw the line on government surveillance? Edward Snowden’s explosive disclosures about the National Security Agency’s intelligence-collection operations have ignited an intense debate about the appropriate balance between security and liberty in America. In a special series this year, nationally prominent experts will explore the critical issues raised by the NSA’s activities, including their impact on our security, privacy, and civil liberties. This timely series will address one of the most challenging questions the nation faces today as it tries to strike the right balance between safety and liberty. The Security Conundrum will look behind and beyond the headlines, examining the history and implementation of the NSA operations, the legal questions generated by them, the media’s role in revealing them, and the responsibility of Congress to oversee them. It will also address the NSA’s uneasy and evolving relationship with Silicon Valley. Each session in the series is designed to explore these issues from a different vantage point. The guest speakers, in conversation with Stanford scholars, will probe the problems, explain the political, legal, and technological contours of the NSA actions, and outline ways to preserve the nation’s security without sacrificing our freedoms. 

Inside the Newsroom: The Media and Edward Snowden: An Evening with Barton Gellman 

When Edward Snowden decided in 2013 that the time had come to reveal the deepest secrets of the National Security Agency, one of the first journalists he approached was Barton Gellman of The Washington Post. Snowden gave Gellman a code name: BRASSBANNER. The name he chose for himself was VERAX, “truth teller” in Latin. So began one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of modern American journalism. In the ensuing months, Gellman received dozens of top-secret documents from Snowden, traveled to Moscow to meet him, and wrestled with tough questions about what, and what not, to publish. The Washington Post shared the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the nation’s highest journalism honor, for Gellman’s reporting about the Snowden materials and the NSA. 

In a conversation with Philip Taubman, Gellman will recount his dealings with Snowden and describe how he and his editors weighed how to handle the Snowden materials. Few questions are more difficult for American journalists than determining how far a free press can venture in disclosing national security secrets without imperiling the nation’s security. 

Barton Gellman
Barton Gellman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist. In 2002, he was a member of the Washington Post team that received the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for its coverage of the 9/11 attacks. Gellman is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation and a visiting professional specialist and author-in-residence at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is the author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.

Philip Taubman
Consulting Professor, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford; Former Moscow and Washington Bureau Chief, The New York Times
Philip Taubman served as a reporter and editor at The New York Times for nearly thirty years, specializing in national security coverage. He is author of Secret Empire: Eisenhower, the CIA, and the Hidden Story of America’s Space Espionage, and The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb

The Security Conundrum is co-sponsored by Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, the Hoover Institution, Stanford Continuing Studies, Stanford in Government, and the Stanford Law School.