Up | February 24, 2013
>>> the white house is where news goes to die. everything is canned. these perfectly prepared statements --
>> it's a prestigious job, zoe.
>> it used to be in when i was in ninth grade. now it's a graveyard. the only halfway interesting they do is throw a big dinner party once a year where they pat themselves on the back and rub shoulders with movie stars . who needs that?
>> zoe barnes character from " house of cards " who's considering applying for a job in the white house correspondents association and deriding it. this question of transparency i think is the deeper, more important one and i think the point that we all kind of agree with at the table is that there's no great democratic stake in whether we know -- whether we can see a picture of the president and tiger woods golfing. i think that's my own personal view. you know, i don't care about that. what i do care about is --
>> no. but what i do care about is, say, the administration's -- the legal rationale for its decision that it can kill american citizens in certain circumstances if they're an al qaeda operative.
>> whether they can do that here.
>> without due process . whether they can do that here. and on this issue, particularly on national security issues, i feel like there really has been a transparency problem. i want to just show a little bit of montage of the white house responding to questions about, say, the drone program over the years.
>> google plus video chat he acknowledged for the first time the classified drone program. why did he do that?
>> i'm sorry, can you be more specific?
>> the former director of national intelligence , retired admiral dennis blair , said, i believe, yesterday that drone attacks, unilateral drone attacks can actually do more harm to u.s. national security interests and that good. does the white house -- any opinion about these drones?
>> we believe our relationship with pakistan is essential to fighting terrorism and terrorists.
>> "the new york times" reports that vice president biden in these sessions talking about the way forward has pressed specifically for a strategy that elevates the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, and de-emphasizes u.s. combat forces on the ground. can you tell us if that's true?
>> i think you can understand why i'm not going to get into internal discussions.
>> you can't say one way or the other whether that's true or not?
>> i'm not going to get into it.
>> now, i understand, robert , why.
>> you had to put that last picture up, didn't you?
>> we got the guy. i guess i should say in defense of white house press secretaries, they do not make the decision. they're the person who has to get sent out to say what we can and can't talk about. my sense is they don't make the decision about whether you're going to or not going to talk about the drone program. but do you think that the white house has been forthcoming, sufficiently forthcoming? we have these seven memos right now, we haven't seen any of those. the white paper got released right before brennan, not by the white house but leaked apparently. do you think that you've been sufficiently forthcoming and the white house has been sufficiently forthcoming on this stuff?
>> i think you've seen recently the president discuss the need and desire to be more forth come. i certainly think there are aspects of that program that are and will remain highly sensitive and very secret, but let me give you an example here, chris. when i went through the process of becoming press secretary, one of the first things they told me was you're not even to acknowledge the drone program. you're not even to discuss that it exists. and so i would get a question like that and literally i couldn't tell you what major asks because once i figured out it was about the drone program i realized i'm not supposed to talk about it. here's what's inherently crazy about that proposition. you're being asked a question based on reporting of a program that exists. so you're the official government spokesperson acting as if the entire program -- pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. i think in many ways and i think what the president has seen, and i have not talked to him about this, i want to be careful. this is my opinion. but i think what the president has seen is our denial of the existence of the program when it's obviously happening undermines people's confidence overall in the decisions that their government makes. and in order to bolster that confidence and bolster the belief that we're making those correct decisions on this policy, you do have to lift the veil some to both acknowledge that it exists, as he's done, but also to do it in a way that provides better understanding. i will say ironically the time in which the president probably talked most about the drone program, interestingly enough, was in an interview on "the daily show " with jon stewart . so going back to that earlier discussion, why do you give this person and that person an interview. jon stewart asked a good question and gave the president the space to give an answer. my sense is even though you might say i watch jon stewart and jon stewart probably votes for barack obama other than mitt romney , jon asked a very smart question and then gives the president the space to give him an answer and probably would have held him accountable if he would have not.
>> he took him to the woodshed two nights ago about these documents.
>> one thing if robert says that's one of the first things that he was -- that they went through when he was becoming press secretary, that means that they were thinking about this like in 2007 , you know. they were thinking about that they were going to hide the existence of this program before obama even really became president.
>> well, to be fair on the calendar, this would have been after the election in 2008 . and i don't think i'm -- the drone program has existed obviously, if you read any reporting, has existed well before barack obama got into office.
>> that's just something that you're going to go into the white house and not talk about is an interesting one, an interesting statement about what the priorities were for the administration. i also understand i think this is an interesting -- almost impose back to our previous discussion. that the reason to talk about the drone program is to avoid having secrecy about the drone program being the story. it is the pressure of what is the story.
>> but the drone program, it's a little bit of a tough case, right. in these cases, you don't actually release information about cia spies going to kill enemies of the united states . so, you know, we would never -- if people had information about particular names of spies, et cetera , we would never -- robert gibbs when he was white house press secretary wouldn't do that. but i hear and i think robert made a very compelling argument for first amendment principles because over time these things do actually make people cynical about the government.
>> and i think the key point here, though, is political pressure . i want to talk