Thanks very much for having me today. It is an honor for me to do this. I have some prepared remarks I would like to deliver, but they will be shorter, I think, than you are used to.I have read some transcripts of events here at the Press Club, so am very much looking forward to the famous "frank and fearless" Q&A session.
Unfortunately, I am compelled to acknowledge the tragic loss of two Australian citizens in the mindless, heinous terrorist attack in London, and the anguish of the loved ones yet missing. On behalf of the United States, I want to offer heartfelt condolences and prayers. Similar thoughts go out to the family of the man killed in Melbourne on Monday.
I am here under the auspices of the National Security College of the Australia National University, as a Distinguished Professor. I will try hard to live up to such an impressive title.
It is very fortuitous that I am able to speak here so soon after Dennis Richardson, the now retired Defense Secretary, did on May 12th. I want to pay tribute to Dennis, and then key off some things he said, which I strongly resonate with. In doing so, I will speak to the importance of the alliance between Australia and the United States. My conviction on the alliance is reinforced by recent events in both of our countries, and is a belief I have long held - ever since I first came here in 1984 - and subsequently reinforced during my 33 plus year association with Australia, and the Australian national security establishment.
My heartfelt support for the relationship between our two countries is, in fact, the major reason I am here, after leaving government service as Director of National Intelligence on January 20th.
I received many, many mementoes when I left, but none more meaningful to me than a statuette given me by Prime Minister Turnbull, replicating the iconic picture from WWII depicting an Australian soldier carrying a wounded American soldier over his shoulder. I treasure this symbol of our binational bond, and Prime Minister's personal recognition of my long commitment to, and staunch belief in, our alliance.
TRIBUTE TO DENNIS
Dennis is a friend and colleague of many years. I pay public tribute to him - not just for his 48 years of distinguished public service to Australia - but for his manifest contributions to the bilateral alliance, as well as to the broader "Five Eyes" alliance.
Let me give you just one specific example. Some years ago, when we in the United States sought to restore New Zealand to full-fledged membership in what I call the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, the concern of our policy-makers was whether Australia would be supportive; if Australia was not, we wouldn't get anywhere with restoring New Zealand's as a fully equal member of the intelligence network. Were it not for Dennis' advocacy, it would not have happened. There were those here who, for understandable reasons, were not in favor of doing this, but Dennis' persuasiveness with Prime Minister Howard and others in the Australian government helped carry the day. This restoration of New Zealand as full-fledged intelligence partners demonstrably strengthened intelligence sharing among the Five Eyes nations, and has accrued to our great mutual benefit. It serves in my mind as just one legacy of Dennis' incredible career.
That is not in any way to imply that Dennis was not a stalwart proponent of Australia's sovereignty and best interests. To the contrary. I think his message when he spoke here was to articulate how Australia has always taken account of its own interests in the context of the alliance.
As Dennis said, "Australian governments have generally been pragmatic and hardheaded in weighing alliance considerations on matters of war and peace." And, he went on to say that "intelligence sharing, which has expanded enormously, is perhaps better understood and appreciated by the Australian community now than at any time." These remarks are emblematic of Dennis' huge impact and his pervasive influence.
I would reciprocate by saying his observation is very congruent with the appreciation of the US Intelligence Community for Australia's contributions, now perhaps more than at any previous time. I say all this with profound respect, and deep admiration for Dennis Richardson for what he has contributed-to not only the safety and security of Australia, but to the strength of our alliance.
THE SCOPE OF THE ALLIANCE
But, lest you think I'm completely consumed with intelligence, I do recognize that it is but one pillar, of many, which underpin the deep and pervasive foundation of our binational bond. Jim Carouso, our superb charge d'affaires now leading the US Mission here, recently made this point in an excellent article in the Inquirer section of the Weekend Australian. Despite what you may hear, the United States is Australia's leading economic partner, with our bilateral economic engagement at $1.9 trillion and growing. A similar point was made recently by my colleagues at the National Security College. They point out that the United States remains Australia's largest source of foreign investment and the number one destination for Australian investment overseas. I could go on about the other pillars, such as our defense relationship, but you get the idea.
I will speak more about the depth and breadth of the relationship between the United States and Australia at an event with another great friend and colleague, Kim Beazley, next week. But I know you all want to hear about the current state of US politics, so let me delve into that.
CONCERNS ABOUT THE US
There is well-founded concern here about our current administration and its emerging foreign policy generally, toward this region, and specifically toward Australia. And that is one reason I wanted to come here, and one reason why I want to speak publically. It is, in fact, quite liberating to be free of the government "harness".
Some truth in advertising at this point is appropriate: I have toiled in the trenches of US intelligence for every President since and including John F. Kennedy; 34 years of that were in the US military, and, in a variety of civilian capacities since I left the military some 21 plus years ago. My professional instincts have always included loyalty to the President, particularly in his capacity as Commander-In-Chie, whoever it has been, above all else. I have served as a political appointee in both Republican and Democratic administrations. So, it is not easy for me to be critical of a president, but as I said in a CNN interview a couple of weeks ago, now as a private citizen I am very concerned about the assaults on our institutions, coming from both an external source (read Russia), and an internal source (read the President himself).
So let me speak briefly first about the source of the external assault:
Russia embarked on a campaign to interfere with our presidential election, which was unprecedented in its directness and aggressiveness. The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections - theirs and others. They have tried to interfere in ours going back to the sixties, but let me stress, never like this. Apart from the infamous hacking of the Democratic National Committee, their campaign had many other dimensions: social media trolls planting false information; orchestrated "fake news" which many other news outlets picked up (either wittingly or unwittingly); and a very sophisticated campaign by the regime funded propaganda arm RT, against Hillary Clinton, and for Donald Trump.
Their first objective, though, was to sow doubt, discontent, and discord about our political system. They achieved, I am sure, beyond their wildest expectations. Given their success, they have only been emboldened to be even more aggressive in the future. This is not, let me emphasize, "fake news." The Russians are not our friends; they (Putin specifically) are avowedly opposed to our democracy and values, and see us as the cause of all their frustrations.
I would also point out some things about Russia that many in the United States have not kept in perspective. The Russians are embarked on a very aggressive and disturbing program to modernize their strategic forces - notably their submarine and land-based nuclear forces. They have also made big investments in their counter-space capabilities. They do all this - despite their economic challenges - with only one adversary in mind: the United States. And, just for good measure, they are also in active violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.
Interestingly, every one of the non-acting Prime Ministers of Russia since 1992 has come from one of two domains:
To put this in perspective, and as I have pointed out to US audiences, suppose the last ten presidents of the US were either CIA officers, or the Chairman of Exxon-Mobile. I think this gives you some insight into the dominant mind-set of the Russian government.
As a consequence of all this, I have had a very hard time reconciling the threat the Russians pose to the United States-and, for that matter, western democracies in general-with the inexplicably solicitous stance the Trump administration (or at least, he himself as opposed to others in his administration) has taken with respect to Russia.
Let me move to the internal assault on our institutions I will share two examples, among many.
Then President-elect Trump disparaged the Intelligence Community's high-confidence assessment of the magnitude and diversity of the Russian interference by characterizing us as "Nazis". This was prompted by his and his team's extreme paranoia about, and resentment of, any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election. When he made this absurd allegation, I felt an obligation to defend the men and women of the United States intelligence community, so I called him on 11 January. Surprisingly, he took my call. I tried, naively it turned out, to appeal to his "higher instincts" - by pointing out that the intelligence community he was about to inherit is a national treasure, and that the people in it were committed to supporting him and making him successful. Ever transactional, he simply asked me to publicly refute the infamous "dossier", which I could not and would not do.
When I later learned that the first place he was going to visit after the Inauguration was CIA, I thought - again, naively - that perhaps I had gotten through to him. For the intelligence community (not just the CIA) the wall in the front lobby at CIA Headquarters is hallowed, with over 120 stars commemorating CIA officers who have paid the ultimate price. He chose to use that as a prop for railing about the size of the inauguration crowd on the Mall, and his battle with the "fake news" media. His subsequent actions - sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians, and, compromising its source reflect ignorance or disrespect - are likewise very problematic.
Similarly, the whole episode with the firing of Jim Comey a distinguished public servant. Apart from the egregious, inexcusable manner in which it was conducted, this episode reflected complete disregard for the independence and autonomy of the FBI, our premier law enforcement organization. (Again truth in advertising, Jim is a personal friend and personal hero of mine.)
So, as I said, I worry about these assaults on our institutions.
Finally, as long as I am into controversial things, I do want to say a word about China, since I realize it is much more of a pre-occupation here than Russia is, but I see some striking parallels between what our two countries are experiencing at the hand of these two countries.
I have seen just this week compelling evidence of potentially nefarious foreign interference in your democratic institutions, and from where that interference apparently originates.
For America, though, I consider China more benignly than I do Russia. Their economy is inextricably bound with ours, as well as with yours. With all the challenges that poses, I do think that fact serves to moderate China's behavior. But we, and you, I think, need to be very wary. A few factoids on the growth of China's economic power, some of them lesser known, are illustrative:
I cite this litany not to sermonize, but to share, since China poses somewhat similar challenges for both our nations. The issue for both of us is how China employs this economic muscle, and how we conduct ourselves accordingly.
As Dennis Richardson forthrightly acknowledged - and as your news media has exposed this week - it is no secret that China is very active in intelligence activities directed against Australia, just as they are against us, and that China is increasingly aggressive in attempting to gain influence in your political processes, as Russia is in ours.
In light of all this, Australia, in my humble view, should engage with China with both cautious and confidence, eyes wide open, weighing its strategic and economic interests, never forgetting the importance of its democratic institutions and values that you share with us.
Dennis summed it all up very succinctly and accurately: Australia's relationship with China and the United States will continue to be "friends with both, allies with one." I think in many ways, that applies equally well to how the United States approaches its relationships with China, on the one hand, and its historic security partners in the Asia-Pacific on the other.
Attorney General Brandis recently sounded a profoundly important warning, which, I think also applies equally to both our countries: "The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order, and it is getting worse.... It can cause immense harm to our national sovereignty, to the safety of our people our economic prosperity, and to the very integrity of our democracy."
I think it says it all.
IMPORTANCE OF THE PRESS
I know I have talked about Dennis a lot, but I know how much you all love him. I want to conclude with another very important statement he made that I resonate with, when he acknowledged the role of journalists. There is an inherent tension in my country between the media and the intelligence community. I have certainly had my own personal ups and downs with our media: but, never has the media's role been more important in the United States than it is now. And, a free, independent, and responsible press is yet another of the crucial pillars that bind our two countries, and the values we share and hold dear, which far transcend a transitory occupant of the White House.
On that crucial point, I will stop, and paraphrase from the slogan on that famous t-shirt that Dennis talked about: "It's time" ... (pause) ... for questions.
REPORTER: CHRIS UHLMANN, ABC NEWS: Thank you so much for that. Can I just begin by asking, you were talking - the thing among many inexplicable things we find watching Donald Trump from this distance is why is it that his administration seems so keen to be courting Russia? I don't think at least that part is denied. Can you explain that?
JAMES CLAPPER: No, I can't, and in my remarks I characterised that as inexplicable - I do not understand it. There is, of course, now an investigation under the auspices of Bob Muller, an inspired and brilliant choice as a special council. Bob was James Comey's predecessor, and as I have often said, it is absolutely crucial for the United States and, for that matter for the world, as well as for this presidency, for the Republicans, for the Democrats and for our nation at large, that we get to the bottom of this.
Is there a smoking gun with all the smoke? And I don't know the answer to that. I think it's vital, though, that we find that out.
During my one and only, first and last ever, I'm sure, sojourn to Trump Tower, the President-elect said, "Wouldn't it be good if we could along with the Russians?"
I said, "Sure. When our interests converge, and they do occasionally, fine." But as far as our being intimate allies, trusting buds with the Russians that is just not going to happen. It is in their genes to be opposed, diametrically opposed to the United States and to Western democracies.
REPORTER ANDREW GREENE, ABC NEWS: I'll take you to China where you ended your speech, and the sale of the Darwin Port or a 99-year lease of Darwin port. Can I get an insight into your reaction and the American intelligence community's reaction to that development and also your feelings about a former Australian Trade Minister going to work for Chinese company that has that 99-year lease, within weeks of leaving our Federal Parliament.
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, you're drawing me into a place where I'm somewhat loath to go, which is critiquing internal decisions that are made here. With respect to the 99-year lease of Darwin, yes, we were concerned about that and I brought that up, raised that, with Dennis Richardson and Duncan Lewis, and I said, "This is an Australian decision, and all I would hope is that you have considered, you know, all the equities involved."
And I was assured that that was the case.
We have similarities in the United States. First, just with the visibility of the aggressive Chinese attempts to acquire companies and concerns, particularly those which could have potential national security implications. And you know, we have a mechanism for regulating that, which probably needs modernisation. An update to be more nimble and also more aware of the magnitude of the economic incursions in our country. So, sure, we're concerned about that. Australia's a close ally, and a close intelligence ally, and so if there's any impact on that, by definition we're concerned. But in the spirit of our frank and candid relationship, we aired that out and I went away satisfied that those concerns have been attended to.
REPORTER - CHRIS ULHMANN ABC NEWS: Can I put to you a parallel - would you sell a strategic asset, like a port in the United States, to the Chinese?
CLAPPER: Well, the Chinese have made similar attempts, particularly when it comes to an acquisition of what we would consider part of our critical infrastructure, and certainly a port would. So through our CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] mechanism, we have tried to raise, if not red flag, then certainly yellow flags about the efficacy of making such deals. So, it's a problem I think we share, and so in our country it gets down to specific companies that, when we learn of it, that the Chinese want to buy. And in some cases we found out about these deals after they've been consummated which I have learned is very difficult to undo legally once a deal has been consummated. So, this is one case where first order business is vigilance.
REPORTER - PRIMROSE RIORDAN, THE AUSTRALIAN: My question is also in regards to China. You spoke a little bit about Chinese SEOs and economic leverage. What material steps do you think should be taken or could be taken to stop interference? And propaganda, or fake news, as well as the control of the diaspora press. And on the use of encryption by terrorists, what do you think should be done in terms of getting cooperation from some of these companies.
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, one thing is it appears is being done is to maybe not accept donations from foreign countries. We've gone through this in our country. It's hard for me to understand why that serves the interests of democratic institutions when you have - by the way, this is a general comment, not targeting China - any foreign country, what is the benefit in a democratic system of having a foreign nation buying influence in the political processes of your country, our country or any?
So that's one thing.
[On fake news] I think one very specific thing can be done. I've been an advocate in our country for education of the public. This is a real challenge, to alert people to help them recognise fake news. Or to at least do some fact checking, and to recognise the potential for paid trolls spreading misinformation on social media. Awareness of the very slick and sophisticated RT propaganda approach, and all that has to do with, comes around awareness, public awareness and educating the public.
As far as censoring diaspora media, that is, I think, a very sensitive area since in our system there is the principle of freedom of speech, even if we don't like the speech. But I think that's another area we have to be very mindful of. We don't want to compromise privacy.
With respect to the second issue, on encryption, this, too, is a major issue in our country. The so-called "going dark" phenomenon, a situation that was dramatically accelerated by the Snowden revelations and in our country I don't think we're in a good place on this. I think there needs to be a very serious dialogue about giving criminals, terrorists, rapists, murderers, etc, a pass. I would hope that at some point our technology industry would use all the creativity and innovation and energy that they apply to create such miraculous things as iPhones, you know, the centre of my life now, that they would apply that same creativity, innovation to figuring out a way that both the interests of privacy as well as security can be guaranteed.
I don't know what the answer is. I'm not an IT geek, but I just don't think we're in a very good place right now.
REPORTER - DAVID WROE FROM FAIRFAX: Thank you for address and welcome to Australia again. You have painted a picture of extraordinary dysfunction in Washington. You have talked about the assault on institutions. It's very tempting to believe that however the Trump administration plays out, things won't quite be the same again afterwards. If you look at one of the more troubling remarks by Angela Merkel - there have been troubling remarks but Angela Merkel is not given to rash or reckless remarks - that Europe will need to rely on itself.
Australia does not really have that option - we're a middle power, we're not part of any natural or geographic strategic grouping. We do have an extraordinary amount of eggs in one large strategic basket, as it were. I wonder if you could reflect on the situation Australia faces right now in terms of its future decision making and do we need to hedge against US unreliability in the future? Do we need a plan B?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, obviously you've asked a key question, yet one that is somewhat of an imponderable. I'm ever the optimist so I do have great faith and confidence in our - even though they're under assault - basic institutions. That is not unlimited, though, so the question is how long can these assaults go on and the institutions not be irrevocably damaged which I think is the essence of your point. And I honestly can't say.
You know, there are people in the administration that I think can be trusted. Jim Mattis, John Kelly and HR McMaster are all military people, which is another issue I have concerns with, but nevertheless they are great Americans. And they do have understanding and respect for our institutions.
Again, I'm loath to, you know, give advice to Australia. It's rather presumptuous of me, but I just think that Australia has to keep on keeping on and make decisions on Australia's best national interests. I have to say that I think Prime Minister Turnbull has found the balance between being very tactful with our President but at the same time not compromising Australia's interests, and its sovereignty. So what I look to Australia and other staunch allies like Australia, is perhaps to help fill whatever void is created by the absence of US leadership.
REPORTER - BERNARD KEAN FROM CRICKEY: Thank you for your remarks today. I want to go back to Primrose's question, touching on encrypted communications. This issue comes up a lot, you've spoken about it before in your role as Director of National Intelligences. It seems to come up every time there's a terrorist attack, it's come up in the wake of London with Theresa May and our Prime Minister talking about the need to access encrypted communications.
This time, however, it's come up in the wake of not one but two incidences where major intelligence agencies have cost lost control of their hacking tools: the CIA lost a trove which turned up at Wikileaks, and another agency lost a trove which turned up at Shadow Brokers that ended up in a hacking attack that affected a lot of Europe recently. Is it not a fair assumption to say that the debate should be held in the context of an understanding that it is not possible, if not outright impossible, to keep back doors, whether developed by intelligence agencies or Apple or Microsoft, secure, meaning if they are developed there's a very good chance they'll end up in the hands we want to use those back doors?
JAMES CLAPPER: That's a great question, and if I had the answer to that I wouldn't be here I don't think. And that has been one of the many banes of my existence as DNI is these very, very damaging leaks. So, on the other hand, we have done what we can to detect them earlier. In this recent case, of Reality Winter, strange name but this is a case in point where she was identified pretty quickly.
So we have made a lot of investments in the United States on inside threat detection which will not prevent people from attempting to leak. All it can do is staunch the haemorrhage earlier and that's about the best that we can hope for. One of the approaches that might have promise, I don't know, would be circle back on a system of key escrow, where not one party necessarily would have the keys to the kingdom from an encryption standpoint. Where there might be, say, three independent, separate autonomous elements that would have to prove the provision of encryption in order to solve a crime or detect a terrorist attack, for example. We had some discussions about that in the waning days of the Obama Administration, and again I'm not a techie but that appears to me top some promise.
But on this issue of exploiting vulnerabilities - do you share them with the provider immediately or not, or use that vulnerability to collect critical intelligence? It is a crucial issue. There is no single right answer for that. But I don't have a silver bullet solution to the question you raise, which is a very good one. I just know that, as I said earlier, we're not in a good place right now.
We did set up what we call an equities process whereby when these vulnerabilities are discovered, and we make a conscious decision. So it's not just a careless thing, it's a conscious decision. Do we play that vulnerability back to the provider in order to patch it or correct it or, if we are deriving really crucial, critical life-saving intelligence by exploiting that vulnerability? At least we have established a decision mechanism to try to make those kind of judgements, but I don't know the ultimate answer here.
REPORTER - ANDREW TILLET, AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW: Thank you very much for your speech. Talking about leaks, as you alluded we have the furore over what Donald Trump may or may not have told the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister with passing on classified information obtained by Israeli intelligence services. Given the sort of concern about that, do you think that intelligence services like Australia's and other Five Eyes partners would be justified in holding back information that they share with the Americans or do you think the personal relationships between officials would perhaps overcome those sorts of fears?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, first of all, that's a question within the US because there's been concern expressed about will this sort of thing inhibit US intelligence officials, officers, from passing information up to the White House. And institutionally, no, and I don't believe that will happen. Even though I'm sure at a certain level there are many in the US intelligence community that do harbour those concerns.
As far as foreign partners are concerned, you'll have to make your own judgements. Australia and any other countries we share with will have to make their own judgements about that. I would hope that wouldn't happen. Certainly at the institutional, community to intelligence community level we don't want that to happen. But to some extent, you know, it reaches a certain level where it's out of our control. So, I hope it doesn't happen but I could certainly understand if it did, and that's a judgement that each and every national government will have to make. I will say that in my 50-plus years in the intel business I don't know of a time where we have shared more, more pervasively and more thoroughly than we do today, and it would be a shame if that were jeopardised or set back.
REPORTER - THE WEST AUSTRALIAN: Thank you for your talk, Mr Clapper. I just wanted to pick up something you said in response to an earlier question about not being sure American jurisdictions can survive sustained aggression from the executive. Do you think they couldn't survive a sustained assault? If that's the case what advice are you giving to your US colleagues and peers in the US in the case of an executive keen on breaking them down?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, I can speak to intelligence as just one instance. Where I think a critical tenant is bound up in the notion of truth to power, and I think it's absolutely essential that intelligence community leadership adhere to that and that all - that you don't slant, politicise, water down, tone down, tone up - whatever phrase you want to use - intelligence information. And if that were to happen, that would be an erosion of, at least, the institution of intelligence in our country. And it's my impression from the discussions I had with former Senator Dan Coats, who succeeded me as Director of National Intelligence, that he believes in that. That is huge because if that's not adhered to, that is a bad sign for at least that one institution.
REPORTER - MYLES MORGAN FROM SBS NEWS: You touched on Melbourne before and I want to take you back to the incident in Melbourne. There's a debate in Australia whether criminals with known terrorists links should be released under any circumstances. What's your view on these sorts of people should be released if there's a risk they pose to the public.
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, once again I'm being asked to speak about a sensitive domestic issue here in Australia. This is a challenge, and I'll answer it, I guess, based on United States. This is an issue for us as well. One of the things that I encountered in my 6.5 years, whenever we'd have some terrorist incident, Boston Marathon comes readily to mind, and inevitably we do a post-mission, post-event critique, and in this case we had three inspectors general from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and my Inspector-General got together and ran an assessment of the Boston Marathon bombing and the run up to it. And so, I'm paraphrasing here, but one of the major conclusions from that critique was that the intelligence community and specifically the FBI was not invasive enough, which is in stark contrast to post-Snowden revelations where, of course, we were skewered for being way too invasive in privacy.
In fact, one of my take aways from my experience as DNI was the mixed messages that the US intelligence community gets from the American public about, "Well, we don't want any terrorist attacks but we don't in any way want our civil liberties and privacy infringed upon." About three years ago I spoke at a trade association thing and I said, "It appears to me that the expectation of the US intelligence community placed upon it by the US public is that we are to provide timely, accurate, relevant intelligence but do it in such a way that there is absolutely no risk and do it in such a way that if revealed there is no embarrassment, if there are revelations no foreign leader gets mad at us and do it in such a way that there isn't jeopardy to privacy. We call it the 'immaculate collection'." And I say that humorously to make a point about the mixed messages that the intelligence and law enforcement communities get from our publics and I suspect it's somewhat the same here.
REPORTER - SABRA LANE FROM THE ABC: Two questions for you. First off when do you think the world will run out of patience with President Trump? He's trashed allies, share intelligence, what do you think it will take for them to say enough? And did the election of Mr Trump surprise you? You know, the voters being over the elites in Washington, do you think the parties, the Democrats, the grand old party, have got that message yet?
JAMES CLAPPER: When you say when will the international community say enough, I think frankly the more direct question is, the first order question is "When will the United States and particularly the Republicans say enough?" And I don't know the answer to that. I think from what I have seen and heard I think there is already fairly high level angst and exasperation internationally.
And to answer your other question, no, I wasn't surprised. I haven't been surprised really at all once he was elected. His election was a big shock. I happened to be in Oman on a trip so I stayed up and watched the election results and it was actually a personal shock to me about how disconnected apparently I was from what I'll call the flyover part of the United States. And there's a very, very strong body of resentment and frustration in our country with Washington, writ large. And so far the coalition of people that elected President Trump are still there. They're still hanging in there. So I don't know what it will take. We'll just have to see.
I am very interested to see what happens with James Comey's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. I think it will be very significant to see both what he says and what he's asked about and doesn't respond to. He's in a tough place from that standpoint. I think he will be somewhat constrained by - I'm just guessing her here, I don't have any inside baseball (I guess I'd say inside cricket here) - on what kind of a guidelines have been worked out between Jim and Bob Muller.
REPORTER - MARK KENNY FROM FAIRFAX MEDIA: Thank you for your address. In journalism, there's a general refrain often said to people that something is "not Watergate". The test is that, obviously, Watergate is the mother of all stories, it brought down a US President. I'm wondering what do you think of the critical difference between Watergate, which was the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters and the revelations we see today of people in the Trump team were apparently approached by Russian connections, offered information in relation to Democratic Party information in relation to voter turnout, modelling and the like. And Vice President Mike Pence and John McCain and now yourself have come here talking about the depth of the relationship. Talking about the viability or the essential strength of that relationship and the institutional basis of it, how important is it when Americans seemed to have walked away, in a sense, from their own institutional basis?
JAMES CLAPPER: I may take issue a little bit with your last assertion. I'm not sure Americans -America is a big place, got a lot of people - have walked away from those obligations.
I lived through Watergate. I was on active duty then in Air Force, I was a young officer. It was a scary time. It was against the backdrop of the post-Vietnam trauma as well which seemed to, at least in my memory, amplify the crisis in our system with Watergate. I have to say, though, I think when you compare the two that Watergate pales really, in my view, compared to what we're confronting now.
I will add at least this American isn't walking away, put it that way. I will just speak for myself.
REPORTER - TIM SHAW FROM RADIO 2CC: Former US Speaker Newt Gingrich referred to Australian journalist Julian Assange as an enemy combatant. You said in your presentation today that the media is even more important now than it ever has been before. In relation to the release of classified video and documentation referred to as collateral damage, the jailing of Chelsea Manning, can you rule in or out that there is still, or never been, a sealed indictment against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks? Secondly, you've served Presidents Kennedy through to Obama, what would President Kennedy think of Twitter?
JAMES CLAPPER: To answer your last question, I actually think he'd gravitate to it. I really do. For those of us who were adults when President Kennedy was President, it was truly a magical thing. He was seen as young, progressive, different, not from the establishment so I think he would have gravitated to it.
I can't say about what if anything has been done by way of indictment of Julian Assange, but I do agree with CEO Mike Pompeo's characterisation [of Wikileaks] as a hostile non-national intelligence service and I think that's a more apt characterisation of what his cause represents.
There is always the argument about one man's leak is another man's whistle blowing, and we have that issue in our country about if and when leaking is justified. We struggle with that in the intelligence community, to provide legitimate outlets for people who have causes, who feel strongly about things, to avail themselves, but do it in such a way that doesn't do damage.
You know, I could almost understand Edward Snowden, if he had restricted what he exposed to so-called domestic surveillance. The problem is he exposed so much else that had absolutely nothing to do with domestic surveillance that he has done profound damage not only to US intelligence, but inferentially Australian intelligence as well, and we are all going to be collectively compensating and paying for that for years to come. And so when I praise the media, which I do - and again, I've had my ups and downs, particularly in the last administration -I do believe I highlight the adjective "responsible" media.
REPORTER - DAVID CROWE FROM THE AUSTRALIAN: Thank you very much for your speech and for all the topics you've raised today. I want to pick up on the issue of social media platforms, very topical in the wake of what Theresa May has said and what Malcolm Turnbull has said in Australia. What is it that the social media companies should be doing, if anything, in order to cooperate more with authorities? Do authorities need access to encryption at a basic level with these companies? What is it that they should do?
JAMES CLAPPER: Well, I do think that the companies - and I can speak somewhat authoritatively, I guess, based on a meeting at the White House. It was with many of the executives in Silicon Valley - this is a year and a half ago, maybe, and I was mostly there as a potted plan - but I was struck by the interest that the companies have in helping. I do think there is a role to play here in some screening and filtering of what appears in social media, and I know this is a very sensitive, controversial issue, but in the same way that these companies very directly capitalise on the information that we make available to them and exploit it, it seems that that same ingenuity could be applied in a sensitive way to filtering out or at least identifying some of the more egregious material that appears on social media. Most people don't argue with the importance of filtering, screening pornographic material, particularly child pornography, and to me, the sort of thing that you see in social media, particularly when it comes to proselytizing, recruiting in particular, which ISIS is very skilled at, slick at, I do think that as part of their social or municipal responsibility that they need to cooperate and if that means under some safeguarded way that they would have confidence and they, the companies, that law enforcement particularly would be allowed access to encryption. I hear the argument about if you share once with one person and it's forever compromised - I'm not sure I really buy into that.