Recorded live at the KSFR studios in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Reality is a matter of facts. Lies or mistakes or convictions can obscure facts, but they can’t change them. Which is why facts always matter; because they always win in the end.
When it comes to facts, today is, as Charles Dickens put it, “the best of times and the worst of times.”
The internet has made available more facts, more information to more people than ever before. But it also offers more mis-dis-or flat false information than the world’s ever had to deal with.
Not only can it be difficult to tell real facts from falsifications, the people selling the lies can target you with the ones you’re most likely to fall for.
Facts are the building blocks of knowledge, so how they are gathered is as important as how they are then arranged, and how the finished product, the judgment, is presented.
Our guest today, author, investigative reporter and researcher Scott Armstrong is the executive director of The Information Trust, and suggested that we talk about the three great public systems in a democracy for gathering, arranging and presenting facts. They are, as he puts it: the prosecutorial, journalistic and legislative approaches.
Coincidentally enough, those are the very three systems being presently applied to the facts about Donald Trump’s relations with Russian manipulators of the 2016 presidential election and whether he obstructed prosecutor’s seeking the facts about the Trump campaign’s relations with Russia.
Scott Armstrong is an investigative journalist and the executive director of the Information Trust, which facilitates freedom of expression in the US and abroad, improves the quality of public empiricism, increases accountability in government through access to information and reforming abuses of government secrecy. He is presently working on an examination of government data mining technology used by intelligence contractors investigating private citizens. He also directs a project using epidemiological forensics to control medical costs.
Armstrong has been active in the news media response to America’s first Official Secrets Act, passed in October 2000, which was vetoed by President Clinton in November 2000 and a second Congressional effort to to enact an Official Secrets Act in 2001. Armstrong and former CIA General Counsel Jeffrey Smith co-chaired the Dialogue between the Media and the Intelligence Community on Unauthorized Disclosures, in which senior media and national security officials meet to mitigate damage from leaked information without resorting to legislation or to executive branch policies impinging on the 1st Amendment
Armstrong was a staff writer for The Washington Post, the author or editor of several books on national security policy issues and the co-author with Bob Woodward of The Brethren, a narrative account of the Supreme Court from 1969 through 1976. He assisted Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as a researcher/writer on The Final Days. As a senior investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee, his 1973 interview of Alexander Butterfield revealed the Nixon taping system. Armstrong is working on a book on American national security policy in the Persian Gulf.
Armstrong’s reporting with Bill Moyers and Sherry Jones on a PBS Frontline special “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” on the Iran/contra affair won on an Emmy and a DuPont Silver Baton. Armstrong’s reporting and commentator has appeared on ABC News, CBS News, CNN and National Public Radio as well as in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
Armstrong founded the National Security Archive, a private, non-profit research institute that provides comprehensive government documentation to journalists, scholars, congressional staffs, present and former public officials, other public interest organizations and the public. He has prosecuted numerous public interest lawsuits, including Armstrong v. Bush, Armstrong v. Reagan, and Armstrong v. Clinton, enjoining the destruction of White House and NSC emails and The Nation v. the Department of Defense which sought broader access for reporters during Gulf war military operations. Armstrong was an expert witness in numerous libel cases and on the impact of news media coverage on venue decisions in five federal cases, including the Oklahoma bombing trial. Armstrong was the first director of Taxpayers Against Fraud, a whistleblower organization protecting employees reporting fraud under the False Claims Act.