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Jake Tapper On Edward Snowden And The Pope

Saturday, January 25, 2014

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HH: Joined now by Jake Tapper of CNN’s The Lead, who interviewed Edward Snowden yesterday. Jake, I’ve got to say I’m so glad you keep coming back, because Taylor Marsh, who’s really a very smart lady, though, thinks you’re being co-opted by appearing on this show or other conservative talk shows.

JT: And it’s strange, because I’ll go, you know, we just, I’m fairly accessible. I mean, that’s why I’m on Twitter, that’s why I’m on Facebook. You call, you want, I’ll go. If Taylor Marsh gets a radio show, I’ll go on her radio show.

HH: That’s what I mean, I don’t get it. It’s not like, you’re not being seduced to the dark side, though I guess that’s what they think is happening, because I’m certainly not making much progress in getting you to say conservative things. Anyway, Jake, Edward Snowden, is that like interviewing Kim Philby?

JT: Well, I wouldn’t call it a full interview. You know, he was taking questions online, and one of my senior producers, a brilliant woman named Katie Hinman, said you should ask him one, because you know, obviously me, like every other reporter in the world, has been trying to get an interview with him. And so I sent him a couple of questions, and he plucked one of them out of Twitter and answered. It was about under what conditions would he be willing to come to the U.S., and basically what he said, unless the United States changes its whistleblower laws entirely to protect him, he is not coming to the United States.

HH: No, he’s coming back in handcuffs, or he’s not coming back at all. That’s my view. And my question to you is, though, there’s two sides to the two elements of the story – what he actually said and the fact that you thought to use his forum to contact him. And what’s that tell journalists everywhere about when people become available online, do you think?

JT: Well, I mean first of all, I would love to take credit for it, but it was my senior producer, Katie. But I am smart enough to listen to smart women, whether it’s my wife or my producers or my publicity director, who’s sitting right here. And so surround yourself with smart people, smart women especially, is advice number one. Advice number two is the world is now on social media. I mean, this is where it is. We, I do bookings on Twitter. Isaiah Thomas, we did a piece, a great reporter, Sara Ganim, did a piece about college athletes who can’t read on our show, and Isaiah Thomas reached out to me on Twitter, so we booked him on the show that way. I mean, a guy named Dan Riehl, a conservative who writes a blog, he tweeted out a story about the Surgeon General issuing a report telling Hollywood to stop glamorizing smoking. I hadn’t seen it. I clicked on the link. It was to an L.A. Times story. We reached out to the Surgeon General, and we booked him on the show. This is where everything is happening right now.

HH: Yeah, I told Biola University today they had to start teaching freshmen how to use social media effectively and responsibly, because that’s, it’s like expository writing when we were freshmen in college. Second part of the Snowden story, of course, is Snowden. I mentioned Kim Philby. All the Steelers fans out there have no idea who that is, and they think he’s probably a model. And no, Kim Philby was a traitor, and a very terribly effective traitor. Do you think Snowden at one level understands no one will, or a large majority of Americans will never buy his story as just being other than sabotage and greatly damaging to America?

JT: I think that he views himself as a whistleblower who did what he needed to do to expose something to the country that the country needed to know about. And it is difficult to argue with the idea that he has not affected the debate, that he has affected the debate more than anyone in the last year in terms of what he did. Now you can call it being a traitor, or you can call it being a whistleblower, but whatever you call it, whatever your point of view, he has changed the debate. We are having these discussions because of him. This is why I thought it was a cop out for Time Magazine to make the Pope the man of the year, even though I think he’s a fantastic pope and should be heralded and covered and all that, because Edward Snowden did the most to change the news.

HH: You mean, I can’t send out the slug Jake Tapper attacks Pope?

JT: (laughing) I know that that’s where this is going.

HH: (laughing)

JT: I told you, I come on your show, and whatever I say, the headline on, or by the blogs never really captures exactly what I’m trying to say.

HH: (laughing) I think I just gave Marlon the slug.

JT: It’s all their fault. None of it’s mine, of course.

HH: Jake Tapper attacks Time Magazine’s choice of Pope Francis. All right, but I go back to Kim Philby, who along with Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, and maybe Cairncross were Soviet spies. They made the news weather as well. I mean, they had everyone talking about them. They clearly laid out the argument that you shouldn’t be the for the West, that you should be for the East. And they were spies.

JT: But I don’t think Edward Snowden is arguing in favor of Russia. I mean, he is in Russia, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he is, I mean, I’ve seen a lot of speculation by government officials, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he is under Soviet control or working for the Soviets or anything. He obviously is against these surveillance programs and has brought them to light. You know, it’s clearly a violation of law.

HH: It’s interesting, Jake, if in the law if you do something that is going to have the inevitable consequence, you are held responsible for that, even if you are unaware of that inevitable consequence. And so it seems to me wasn’t Russia greatly aided by what he did? Wasn’t China greatly aided? Weren’t all of our adversaries greatly aided by what Edward Snowden did?

JT: Well, that’s the argument that the government makes, and it’s hard to disagree with arguments that they make, especially when they don’t have to prove evidence of what they’re saying. But obviously, knowing about ways that the U.S. is able to monitor anyone helps them avoid such monitoring, absolutely.

HH: So men and women in the field in the uniform of the United States are worse off for Snowden in their personal safety, are they not, than before he gave away the store?

JT: I haven’t seen evidence to or for that, what you’re saying, or against it. I can certainly understand why somebody would say it’s a possibility, but I don’t know, and he hasn’t revealed names of spies. He hasn’t revealed names of double agents. You’re just saying that there are these security apparatuses, and the U.S. Government says these apparatuses keep us safe. And even if there are government bodies or panels and oversight boards that say we don’t really need bulk collection, it doesn’t really do anything. And now we’ve had two panels say that, two official U.S. Government panels say that. Does the discovery of that make us less safe? I haven’t seen evidence that it does. I’m not saying that it doesn’t, but I haven’t seen any evidence.

HH: Doyle McManus, long time Washington Bureau Chief of the L.A. Times once said on this show that a story that they ran made it much more likely that terrorists would alter their practices, thereby making them harder to catch, thereby increasing their danger to the United States.

JT: What story was that?

HH: It was the banking story on how we followed money. And Doyle took a lot of heat for that. And I saw him later at a reception. He said I’ll be dining out forever on that. And the question is, we don’t have to know this for sure. You and I can’t. We don’t have the clearances. But isn’t it a rational conclusion that what he gave away greatly injured the national security interests of the United States?

JT: I know that that’s what the U.S. Government says. I choose to make it my job to not automatically believe what the U.S. Government says just because the government says it.

HH: That is also said by, that’s also said by a lot of people outside of the government who are familiar with, perhaps have practiced in the past, the intelligence community. It’s not just the United States Government. It’s pretty much everyone who’s ever had a security clearance that I know of, isn’t it?

JT: Hugh, my job is to be skeptical, skeptical of people like Edward Snowden, and skeptical of the U.S. Government. I am, my job is to not take for granted when somebody says oh, this is all just a made up phony scandal or what this person did put the U.S. Government at risk, and the American people at risk.

HH: So you won’t call him a traitor?

JT: No, I don’t call him a traitor. I don’t call him a whistleblower. We call him a leaker on the show. And it’s not my job. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of my job to take what the government says at face value and say this is the truth because the government says it, and the government never lies.

HH: Jake Tapper, always a pleasure to speak with you, but you’ve got to get off this anti-Pope stuff.

End of interview.

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