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Govt secrets panel comes to York

By Sadef Ali Kully

A panel of senior journalists and experts on the digital age of media in a post-Snowden world gave insight to students on their rights as journalists and as citizens in a surveillance state at CUNY’s York College last week.

York College’s journalism program enrichment series put together the Government Secrecy and News Reporting panel for journalism majors and other students at the downtown Jamaica campus.

The panel, moderated by Journalism professor Tom Moore, was made up of Jesse Holcomb, senior researcher at Pew Research Center; Edmond Lee, the managing editor from Recode, an independent tech news site; Robert Scheer the editor-in-chief of Truthdig and the co-host of Left, Right and Center on National Public Radio; and Tom Robbins senior reporter from Marshall project, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on criminal justice issues.

“It is not the public that you are gathering information on that should be viewed with suspicion, it is the government that is gathering information on people that should be viewed suspiciously,” said Robert Scheer, a veteran reporter on government and politics during the via Skype from Los Angeles .

Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency, released massive amounts of data he had access to that proved the U.S. intelligence agency was spying on its own citizens.York College students asked questions about measures to take to protect themselves and their privacy. but Lee explained that there is no way to completely protect yourself.

“The reason the government, NSA, and whoever is interested in whatever you are saying to your family, friends, colleagues, is because that is how we live now,” said Lee. “The issue is, constitutionally speaking, do they have the right to do that? This generation, your generation, needs to ask these questions.”

Snowden has been granted a one-year asylum by Russian authorities and currently lives in Russia.

Holcomb said the Pew Research Center found that although journalists are aware that government agencies could be spying on them, it does not stop them from continuing their important work in the field.

Journalism students also learned that getting to the truth can be hard. but persistence pays off. Robbins, a veteran journalist, recalled personal experiences where he had been lied to by the NYPD about an anti-Muslim video being shown at the police academy as part of police training which featured an interview with then-NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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