Recently, Vice News head honcho Shane Smith had the opportunity to sit down with the newly-appointed US Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, to discuss everything from the fight against ISIL, to what can be done to reign in the clandestine operations of the National Security Agency.
At the start of the video segment, a clip of Edward Snowden from Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour paints the ominous picture that would soon come to pass.
“The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome of these [NSA] disclosures, is that nothing will change,” he says, sitting in his now infamous Hong Kong hotel room.
Ready to jump on his rare opportunity, Smith wastes no time cutting to the heart of the matter, quizzing Carter on whether or not he thinks the programs and surveillance operations of the NSA went too far, too fast.
“I think most Americans would agree that for defense or security, some lawful surveillance is fine, but in some cases, it sort of went beyond that. Do you worry about that?” Smith queried.
“Well sure, that’s why we have to do this very carefully, “Ashton responded. “We need to behave in such a way, and also be understood why we’re behaving in such a way, that we’re not trying to get in anybody’s business. We’re trying to protect people against terrorists and intellectual property thieves but you can’t just say that, you have to prove that.”
He went on to further justify the rogue actions of the NSA, while being sure not to get too specific on any one point that might trip him up later in the interview.
“We can’t tell people everything we’re doing, and still protect them. That’s why we have a Congress, that’s why we have laws and courts and so forth so they can check on us. They were consistently informed of what we were up to.”
Of course, one only needs to play back the tape of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper being grilled by Senators and Congressman alike back in 2013 to know that isn’t remotely accurate. When asked then if the NSA had been spying on the American public after the leaks first went live, Clapper categorically denied all accusations levied against his agency, all while feverishly rubbing his temple in what would later become the trademark gesture that he wasn’t telling the truth, the whole truth, or anything that even resembled the truth.
Smith goes on to ask Carter about the splintered relationship between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley, and why he picked now for the first visit to Silicon Valley by a Secretary of Defense in over 20 years.
“Because the institution I’m responsible for needs to be on the cutting edge. The only way to do that is to be open to change, and we have to be open to the rest of the world,” Carter said. “Through successes and strains, our ties have broadly endured, but I believe we must renew the bonds of trust, and rebuild the bridge between the Pentagon and the innovators in California.”
The interview comes just a few days after Congress voted to pass the USA Freedom Act, a bill that – if cleared in the Senate – would implement a number of new regulations and restrictions on Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.