Middlebury College political scientist attempts to “weave the truth” from leaking epidemic

Middlebury College political scientist Allison Stanger speaks in the Founders Lounge on Sept. 28.  about leaks in the Trump administration as well as the overreach of the NSA. Photo by Kenneth Edison

Middlebury College political scientist Allison Stanger speaks in the Founders Lounge on Sept. 28.  about leaks in the Trump administration as well as the overreach of the NSA. Photo by Kenneth Edison

By Mogueli Jimenez, Staff Writer

Middlebury College political scientist Allison Stanger attempted to decipher the truth behind government leaks in her lecture on Sept. 28 in the Founders Lounge.

“What I’m trying to do is to weave the truth out of these opposing narratives without being unduly influenced by partisan politics,” said Stanger while introducing her lecture.

Stanger has spent the last few years researching whistleblowing for a book she is writing titled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Leaks: The Story of Whistleblowing in America.”

“My book on whistleblowing was near completion when the Snowden story broke four years ago,” Stanger said as she proceeded to discuss the act of whistleblowing and its history. 

“Over the last few years I’ve interviewed the entire senior leadership of [the] National Security Agency at the time of Mr. Snowden’s flight, as well as all of the other NSA whistleblowers,” she said. “And this March I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Snowden himself.”

She also mentioned how whistleblowing has once again become a key issue in Washington with the many controversies surround President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.

“We’ve got the problem of Michael Flynn and his Russian contacts were leaked causing his resignation and since then there have literally been a fountain of leaks regarding the Trump team’s ties to Russia,” she said.  

Stanger continued, “here and now is the intelligence community in the United States leaking like a sink. There’s been nothing like this before and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”

As to why this unprecedented leaking is happening, Stanger proposed that these leaks are indeed a response to Trump’s own attacks on the intelligence community. 

“These transgressions are what Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith has called ‘an immune response to President Trump’s unprecedented attacks on the intelligence community,’” she said. 

“President Trump seems to think that the entire intelligence community has sworn an oath of allegiance to him, when the reality is that the intelligence community has sworn to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States,” she added. 

The specifics of the Fourth Amendment, the Patriot Act and PRISM were mentioned as legislation with loopholes used by the intelligence community to circumvent civilian privacy. 

“Technological change happens so rapidly that it outstriped our laws, and the NSA exploited that,” she said. “For example, data harvesting that would be illegal if done on U.S soil is not illegal if it is done overseas. So email and social communications that travel via fiber optic channels outside the United States are fair game for interception.”

When the lecture was nearing its end, Stanger, in the context of protecting private information, gave out a piece of advice.

“You just don’t want to give out information unless you have to.”

EC student Hamna Amin said in response that the content of the lecture should be the cause of concern for everyone. 

“I think the American people should be concerned, relatively to the fact that they don’t know the whole truth,” she said in relation to the U.S. and Russia.

Stanger, even after explaining the harsh truths of privacy being invaded, had a positive note to end on.

“We’re going to treat each other more kindly and we’re going to build a better America,” she said.