ProPublica

Journalism in the Public Interest

Reporting on the NSA Before It Was Cool

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David Sleight/ProPublica

As a reporter who covered the National Security Agency before before the Edward Snowden documents brought it to the mainstream, Patrick Radden Keefe of The New Yorker says it would be easy to feel jealous of the journalists breaking those stories now. “But I’ve sort of moved on,” Keefe says, “and I watch those stories with great interest.”

This week he joins ProPublica’s Assistant Managing Editor Eric Umansky and Senior Reporter Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica for a podcast on what he’s been up to since his book “Chatter: Dispatches from the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping.”

Highlights include discussion of:

  • How technology has in some ways degraded American spying efforts. “I think there’s been a kind of notion of the technical silver bullet that has greatly endangered privacy, but also undermined national security,” Keefe says. (1:54)
  • The way he chooses his subjects -- sometimes on the news, but often not. (16:51)
  • The tension between daily, incremental reporting and magazine-style coverage. “When I have a piece come out, there will always be some snarky daily reporter who will say, sort of, ‘Nothing new here, folks!’ ” (18:36)
  • His recent New Yorker story on the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles, told through the story of Jean McConville, a former member of a secret Irish Republican Army unit who was abducted in front of her children in 1972. She was never seen again. (10:43)

Hear their conversation on SoundCloud and Stitcher, and read Keefe’s story “Where the Bodies Are Buried,” from the March 16 issue of The New Yorker.

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