Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Bulletin Winter 2014

Four Questions For: Seymour Hersh, Investigative Journalist

The Bulletin spoke with acclaimed journalist Seymour Hersh in October, when he visited campus to deliver the annual Tresolini Lecture. 
You’ve been openly critical of the Obama administration. Why?

Look, he’s smart. He’s really bright. His foreign policy is … I’m just sort of shocked how close it is to the Bush/Cheney (administration). This isn’t a great insight. He continued the war in Afghanistan. What are we doing in Afghanistan? I’m troubled by that. It looks like now, (U.S. Secretary of State) Kerry is going to take a stab at doing something about the Middle East, with the peace talks. But I think it was June of 2009, (Obama) went to Cairo and gave a really great speech about the Middle East and the need to do something, but he didn’t do much. So yeah, saying I’m disappointed would be putting it in a mild way.

You’ve been reporting for years on the excesses of the government’s surveillance efforts. Do you think we need this level of surveillance?

I’m a skeptic. I ended up thinking, after years of reporting on the CIA and the KGB, that if we didn’t have either of these agencies, we’d probably be just as well off. They didn’t do any good and they certainly did a lot of bad stuff.

Do you see any value to our surveillance capabilities?

I always think with the NSA—all this meta-data stuff—look, meta-data is great for police work because after a crime, you can go and really do things. You could find out, for example, if a cell phone was used once, two hours before the event and never again. You can go back five years and determine that this phone was only used once. And then you have some leads. But you had to have the event. So for police work, it’s probably essential. It will probably be a good thing in the long run. But for stopping someone who wants to throw a bomb … they couldn’t find the brothers in Boston.

Are there any big shoes left to drop with regard to NSA revelations?

All I can tell you is that there are people in the government who are really concerned about what (NSA leaker Edward Snowden) has. And there also could be some stuff that should be published. But some of it … I don’t know why, if I’m the president of Brazil, that I’m surprised we copy him. We copy everybody. We copy the European Union. Of course we do. And they would do it too, I suppose, if they could. That doesn’t mean it should be (the case). It’s crazy to do it. It’s a waste of an asset.

Story by Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Monday, January 27, 2014

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