Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Priest spoke about the CIA and how the attacks of Sept. 11 have changed her job as a national security correspondent and the world’s political landscape.
The lecture, titled “The CIA’s Secret War on Terror” was hosted as part of the Elliott School’s Distinguished Women in International Affairs series and about 100 people attended.
Priest described the CIA’s new focus after Sept. 11 and explained how the CIA gained new techniques for fighting this new type of war.
“Almost overnight, the CIA deepened relations with (international intelligence agencies),” she said. “It was given greater priority and was seen as the most beneficial relationship for achieving the desired end.”
While working at the Washington Post, Priest has reported on many of the newly instituted methods used by the CIA, some of which have gained considerable criticism.
She cited the establishment of secret prisons, which were “beyond the grasp of any legal system.”
Despite the leaking of some information, Priest described the government’s counterterrorism campaign as the covert program since the Cold War. The effort, she said, has included the capturing and killing of members and leaders of the al-Qaeda network, the disappearances and abuse of often innocent people and at some times the skirting of international and U.S. law.
She stressed the need for the validity of these programs to be determined by the public and spoke about the media’s role in informing the public.
“Because the opposition party has been quiet, the media has brought up these issues,” she said. “The media is often blamed for allowing stories to fade, but it is not its role to keep issues alive, that is for politics and opposition parties, or the Democrats in this case.”
She added: “When I wrote my articles, I would receive feedback from editorial writers and the public, but not from Congress. There wasn’t any debate about these important issues.”
The Distinguished Women in International Affairs lecture series began this year with a sponsorship to promote a higher level of academic discussion. The series began in October with a lecture by Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, on “Finishing the Global Fight against Polio.”