“If journalists are writing about this they should not be naive about the immensity of the security establishment,” said Columbia Journalism School professor Todd Gitlin.
Gitlin says that he understands why media outlets would call upon former government officials to discuss NSA issues given that they have “earned their expertise by virtue of their institutional experience.” But, he adds, the onus for disclosure ultimately lies with reporters and news programs, who should be asking these experts to reveal potential conflicts of interest and to explain the basis of their assertions about national security.
“The security industrial complex, in which the revolving door is a fixture,” Gitlin remarks, “requires a high degree of caution on the part of journalists and a high degree of scrutiny.”
To critics of mass surveillance, the role of these pundits tied to the NSA contracting industry exposes deeper problems.
“The media is happy to let these people defend the surveillance state on air but less interested in reporting on how it butters their bread,” said Kevin Connor, the director of the Public Accountability Initiative, a think tank that studies political elites.