It's ironic: a keynote lecture about surveillance and censorship from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman was destroyed out of fear of not following government guidelines.
Purdue holds a "Facility Security Clearance" from the U.S. government to conduct national security research using classified documents, according to Board of Trustees documents from 2014.
What Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman discovered is that rather than this contract granting Purdue the freedom to discuss and research information that is already classified, it actually gives the government greater ability to censor material across the entire campus. The Facility Security Clearance invites the Department of Defense into the classroom to decide what can and cannot be used as lecture material.
"You start off with a promise that if the government let's you in on its classified secrets, you'll keep them for the purpose of a research contract," Gellman said in a phone interview with the Journal & Courier. "And if that really does spill over into the academic work on the campus as a whole, then you've invited the federal government to censor the work that the university is doing, either at a conference or elsewhere."
Essentially, this is exactly what happened to Gellman when he presented a keynote last month "about the NSA, Edward Snowden, and national security journalism in the age of surveillance" at a Purdue conference.
During a question-and-answer portion of the lecture, an attendee asked if some of the documents Gellman presented in his 90 minute keynote were classified. Gellman said that they were, but that they are now also easily accessible online.
The attendee then decided to report what seemed to be a breach of the Faculty Security Clearance to Purdue's Research Information Assurance Officer — a position required under Purdue's government contract. The Research Information Assurance Officer consulted the Defense Security Service (an agency of the Department of Defense) and it was decided that the video of Gellman's entire lecture would be erased.
"I think it is sad that Purdue reached out and invited me to come and talk about Snowden and the NSA," Gellman said, "and some elements of the university decided it was shocking that I would post documents that have been long since been made public in the coverage of the NSA debate."
Now, the university is attempting to recover the video file of the lecture. Officials admit that deleting the entire video - instead of the 5 minutes Gellman where showed and referred to the once-classified documents - was an "overreaction."
Edward Snowden also weighed in on the issue from Twitter:
Do you agree with Snowden? Sound off below!
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