tv Journalists Discuss the Panama Papers CSPAN May 12, 2016 8:31pm-10:04pm EDT
today.ant to be heard >> i am not the bernie sanders wing. [laughter] >> good morning everyone. i am thomas, the washington correspondent for the salt lake tribune and the 109th president of the national press club. last june in this room right next door to the press club, journalists held a secret meeting. honestly, we at the club had no idea what they were talking about. until now. that was one of the first meetings of the consortium of journalists who are investigating what we now call the panama papers. documents some 11.5 were late to a german -- leaked to a german newspaper. i am sorry. i got close. possibly the biggest leak in history. mossack fonseca, with 2.6
terabytes of data, the newspaper needed help and called in the journalism troops. with such a large number of people going to the database, they needed to agree on a common strategy for collaboration and for parsing out the research, as well as the joint process of holding off until everyone was ready. this is something foreign to american media. we are not used to co honoring editors. we will talk about some of the work and the findings. it is sponsored by the journalism institute, the nonprofit arm of the national press club. left --elcome, from i i'm sorry. from my right, will fitzgibbon, a reporter from the national consortium. to my last, ms. walker, the deputy director of the national consortium of journalists. and kevin hall, the chief
economics correspondent for mcclatchy. >> thank you so much tom and the press club for this invitation. what an honor to be here. so, yes, we're going to talk about collaboration across borders. when we think about investigative journalism, sometimes this is the image that comes to mind. that is some point we have all of these lone wolves. in our corner, doing our story, in isolation. and and coming out and scooping everyone. that is vertically fine, right? but the problem with the lone wolf is that he is trying to investigate -- the challenges like you are seeing right now. the kind of stories we are looking into. perhaps the 1% of mossack fonseca's network looks like. the company that where these panama papers come from. so, in response to that
challenge, in 1997, the international consortium was created. basically, it is a collection of investigative journalists and more than 65 countries. and what we do is we work together. we collaborate on stories of international importance. we over time, have built trust, and that is however thing else works. we, the trust. [laughter] we, you know, sometimes it comes from us, and we call on other members of the consortium to help. sometimes in the case of the panama papers, they get the story and come to the consortium around the world, to help them build the global story. papers, wepanama have been working on this topic for about four years. there was a secrecy of the investigation. theleaks looking at
communist elite, how they were using tax havens. we there were leaks where looked at how multinational companies were using, the grand that pays luxembourg taxes on billions of profits. and we were looking at hsbc, how they had colluded with criminals and helped them do business. we were already at a point where we said ok, maybe we have done enough. and then came the panama papers. and here is the comparison of size. this is to the left, you have the wikileaks investigation. which we were not a part of that. and the offshore leaks, luxembourg leaks, and to the right is the panama papers -- 2.6 terabytes of information.
structured and unstructured data, you have a spreadsheet, and you also have everything pdfs,e-mails, contracts, word documents, 40 years worth of information. basically, the life of this law firm and the relationship with clients, and more than 200 countries around the world. we'reen that happened, going to look at little bit at the origin. first of all, let me introduce the german newspaper reporters, they're the ones who first received this leak. and they came to us, so basically, they were contacted by an anonymous source. who asked them if they were interested in data. there was the condition that the source want it to remain anonymous. and there was going to be no
meetings, and everything was going to be done over communications. askedrse, the reporters about the motivation of the source. and the source said that he wanted to make these papers public. i say he, we do not know. it could be as she. but because he has chosen the name john doe, we will call him he. they asked how much, how big? the answer was more than anything you have ever seen. and that was absolutely right. and at that point, we had already been called on by the deutsche zeitung. it was about 3 million files. because we figured out, with if weur one computer, were to process this information, because the information does not come all nicely organized in a readable format, we had to process it.
we had to make it readable. cloud,to upload it to a or the journalists would be able to access it. that would take is one year, if we took six seconds per file. we deployed an army of 35 servers. and we were able to speed up the king 11 days with the files. we did that with every bit of information we received. and that was the beginning of this collaboration. which of course, you know, not only had this technical challenge. but the human challenges we needed to include, journalists 10 or 20e teno countries, but to do local data. you need to get the data from a local point of view. and with local reporters, in all different countries that know
the power people, the lawyers, and so on. so our job is to be in the middle of the collaboration, helping build bridges. you know, helping people communicate with one another. and facilitating this overall collaboration. we did not do that over e-mail or the phone, as you can imagine. we built our own virtual newsroom. we needed to create a space or the journalists would be a login every day and basically share their findings. what is the point if everyone were to access the documents and then go hide in the corner, be the lone wolf again? something that looks like a social media, that we are all used to, we call it the facebook of investigative journalism. it is open. we made it fit our needs. everybody had an avatar. youcan post your findings, can see who else is logged in at
any particular point in time. you can chat with other members of the team. there are groups, as you can see here, people who are interested in politicians, latin americans, some people creating their own language. when people ask how you managed to keep this whole thing secret for so long, we say one of the reasons is because the reporters had this forum where they could talk to one another, and break that isolation beard that everything they needed to say, that they cannot tell the colleagues. here int meeting was the room next door, there were about 60 -- no 40 reporters meeting in june. in 2015, that was followed by a meeting of more than 100 reporters in munich. and then a meeting in johannesburg, which we are going to talk about the training and working with great colleagues in africa. there was another meeting in london where we met with the
russia story, for obvious reasons, it was simple to do it that way. that was a very important and compensated story. inyes, meeting person, there is no technology that can do what face-to-face meetings can achieve. so, now, what do we do with the documents? we also created a platform to upload all of these documents. you might be thinking, how crazy to do that. on the internet? but if you think about it, we would not have been able to do a collaboration this wide without taking that controlled risk of putting the documents online, of course, the most secure manner we could manage to. and make it easily accessible to journalists. and this platform works like google. word,lly, you can put any filter by year, type of
document, by many other ways. you can save your searches. you can also -- that was one the most interesting things -- you can create a list of names you are interested in. and then match it to a search against 11 million records. that was a very efficient way, is that of typing name by name or word by word. that was the other platform that journalists have access to. just very quickly, the documents that we had in these leaks, we have power of attorney documents that were really interesting and important. because in many cases they revealed the real person controlling the company, the so-called beneficial loner. in this document, part of the power of attorney, the king of morocco. for the purchase of luxury yachts. that was interesting. we also had a lot of passports and other id documents, and of
course they were very important to make sure they were accurately identifying people. associate of the president but star al-assad of syria -- bashar al-assad of syria. and communications about his connections to the offshore world. this is his passport. there were lots of e-mails. in the e-mails followed the communications over time, sometimes over a year, they helped build the story. one of the top contractors for the mexican government, and he got in a lot of trouble last year when it came out that he had built a home for the wife of a president of mexico. in this e-mail, they are discussing how this person is trying to move $100 million abroad. so, these are like more
traditional shareholding, you know, certificates. in this case, an italian get toe who managed to former president -- i am blanking -- president berlusconi. the apartments in new york, at a time when there was an order on his property. creating a system that allows journalist and look at the network. because of course you need to look at the documents. but you need to understand, in each company, what are all the players involved? so we did network analysis. and that really helped. this was another pool that we use in the report. and of course we did all of the traditional reporting, that we all do, not only looking into the leak but going outside of it using databases, lexus nexus,
dow jones, everything we do get our hands on to confirm information. we did interviews, travel. sometimes there is a misconception that all of the story, andad the this was really a big-time detective work, working with a lot of public records outside the confidential information. and if you remember, a story published all over the world, this is one of our main stories. we were able to trace nearly $2 billion that some of the associates of president vladimir putin had shuttled around the world. thepresident and said that penama paper is correct. nama papers is correct. one of his friends, a cellist,
was using money to buy instruments, musical instruments. we also found that nearly 33 companies and people have been blacklisted in the u.s. for various serious crimes. also we were able to do business offshore with mossack fonseca, they were clients for a long time. we look at the role of big banks, and how more than 500 banks, specifically in this leak, how they had helped create more than 150,000 offshore companies through mossack fonseca, in many cases helping clients around the world avoid paying taxes. one of most surprising findings, the politicians. you imagine that billionaires and maybe celebrities, they had these offshore companies for privacy issues or tax issues, but to find nearly 200
politicians, and 16 world theers, in this data, using tax havens, including some world leaders who have been at the forefront against tax havens. that was really interesting. we created a whole application to look at this important issue. impact, youand remember the viral media. in iceland, where the prime minister testified a few days after publication, that as well as in london, some resignations in fifa. lots of interesting stories related to the world of sports, and how they also use the secrecy of offshore tax havens. there were arrests, in this case, of people connected to drug cartels. and after publication, they were arrested. the arrests in new york, the
u.s. prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation there, to look into the panama papers. and a few days ago, as you probably know, the source of this leak broke his silence. and he published a very powerful manifesto. i do not have time to go through a lot of it. we can talk about it during the question and answer session. but it is important that he said he does not work for any government. and he also said that he is willing to collaborate with authorities, however he mentioned the cases of edward snowden and other whistleblowers with faced retaliation, who are hiding and being prosecuted in some cases. until the government can guarantee real protection for whistleblowers, they will have to deal with her own resources to investigate. so he basically called for immunity and for better protection of whistleblowers. he also calls for the creation
wherelic writ of company, this information about who really controls the company becomes public, and accessible to all, rather than secrets for tax havens. monday, aed, on database with information about the -- corporate information in this leak. the names of all the companies involved, and the people that are associated to those companies. you can search here again, like in google, you can search by country, jurisdiction, you can use any name of the person or company. you can do a search and find the networks around those people and countries. we have not published public private information, such as bank accounts or financial transactions. things like that.
we have also not published a lot of documents that are selected documents that have been linked to stories, but the leak remains private. it remains for the journalists who are working, and continue to work, on this investigation. so let us compare, just to finish, the two models and what each one brings. we have the network model, that we propose, the smaller proposal is that we will be collaborating, along with individual achievement. aside from that, we have shared ownership. there is the star treatment, often in the long-term model. nothing is wrong with that. but we aloffer no special protection. the lone wolf is being proprietary, we are very open source and collaborating on that.
the national impact, of course sometimes beyond a particular country, but the network model proposes a global impact. we will publish at an agreed toe, and we do it together, be a big in the kind of impact. and the lone wolf approach is very vertical. and hours is peer-to-peer. so, we finish with john doe. he says we live in a time of inexpensive, limitless storage and connections that transcend national boundaries. it does not take much to connect the dots. from start to finish, the inception the global media distribution for the next revolution will be digitized. or perhaps it has already begun. thank you so much. and we're going to go now. [applause]
>> good morning. by presentation will be somewhat shorter, in keeping with my position, working on marina's very capable direction. i will talk briefly today about the two data sets. workseally everyone here with. on the one hand, being a journalist. that is why icj hired me. but also to my frustration and occasional surprise, being a collaborative journalism administrator. i came this morning, a time of 13 hours, speaking to reporters. workingry role was with african partners. j, a bitame to ici over two years ago now, i think
it is fair to say, without being critical, there was a core of journalists who are excellent at what they do. who largely came -- especially those who participated in regular projects that came from the global north. correctly says, there is no reason now why that needs to be the case. newsroom larger global only needs a few people who are willing to wake up at 2 a m. so they can speak to mcclatchy in d.c.. the panama papers, it is the largest ever collaboration with journalists from cape town to rica., across afirc this time for that was journalists from 10 newsrooms, that included major national news outlets such as the daily nation in kenya.
also something i find particularly inspiring and inspirational, which is small one-man bands working in bamako, mali, working on delivering room. use that peer-to-peer model. towe do not give preference the demand or requests for e-mail from the guardian u.k., more attention than i would from my friend david and west africa. i find that very inspiring as a journalist. and i find that very motivating. i think what is impressive about this kind of model of journalism, it all too often escapes us here in d.c., reflecting as we should on the impact that the panama papers has had on letters sent by members of congress or senators to officials in nevada and wyoming. or perhaps a press conference that president obama gave. that i often miss here,
think is equally important especially in light of the into corruption conference happening in london at the moment, what are the impacts of these kinds of stories? and what kind of investigator lives journalism, changing governments and lives in countries are far from america? we do not every day, unless you have obsessive subversion to new services like me, we do not have access to sierra leone's president reporting on some of colleaguesrican dimon deals there. we do not receive regular updates into what changes are being made to botswana's interest to public officials, based on reporting that our colleagues did. i find that one of the true benefits of this kind of global collaboration. it is a kind of benefit that i think is often missing.
of course, work that requires rather a lot of effort and hard work. it first needs to be confident that who we are working with, especially in parts of the world that have limited press freedoms, have issues regarding internet freedom. i know even have monday and practical issues, such as, you know, regular electricity blackouts in senegal. how do we work with those partners in a way that allows us to control risks, as marina said earlier? that is not something that we do in 24 hours. a lot is based on face-to-face meetings, telephone conversations, skype conversations. it is increasingly easy now theks to recent successes, growing understanding among journalists that yes, they can have a national scoop unto themselves. but if you're working especially in tunisia, you can be part of
something much more global if you just wide your time -- bide your time and go with your peers. in my own experience with a confident as vast as africa, working in collaboration really does bring personal and professional protection in many cases to the journalists we work with. journalists who would otherwise have a story killed immediately, because we saw this happen in a number of countries, where a businessman or politician calls and editor, also tv owner, and says there is no way you are running that story. it gets cut in minutes. second, even if they do, the entire network, thanks to what you saw earlier, can be alerted to that. i think it is fair to say that there is a healthy dose of solidarity among partner journalists, that means if one
member is feeling under attack, it is probably more likely to have the opposite attack to embolden that partner to run a story, just to make sure it is the public impact it deserves. when i am not struggling with internet connections in burkina faso, i am also writing stories as a journalist, and is a member two of the stories i did on the panama papers came from two vastly different ways. the individual sanctions within the united states, that appeared within the panama papers. ant was, we thought, important story to tell because is situated mossack fonseca within the panama papers, in america within a subject that and fbicongress investigators, as many of us
told them in investigations for a long time. that was in some ways, an easy story to do. marina showed you the database. , andould mention the term you have one partner at mossack fonseca saying we have to get off of this as soon as possible. but it also requires a much more thoughtful, data-driven approach to counterbalance that. so that we were not sharing incriminating e-mails. and that also goes back to what uploadsaid, searches to the specially designated nationals list from the u.s. department of treasury, to match that against the list, to see who was where, to come up with 33 individuals or companies who had some stage then on the list.and who are also shareholders within the panama papers document. the second story that began
suppose, more levity. but in the end, and ended up being a story of public interest, relating to how often wealthy spouses use the offshore world world someone toldd, has me, their former better half of wealth. that was an interesting global story, too. we saw examples in which, often quite frankly, a husband's husband, would say i need a company that can in viewprotect assets of an impending divorce, winky face.
i usually wake up these days to e-mails from ex-wives or lawyers are presenting ex-wives who are interested in exploring the panama papers further. i think i will leave it at that. and there was one woman, just a balance the equation. there was an interesting case in chile where the wife of a former official within the former peruvian regime had open discussions about private offshore companies as she was using that were not to her husband's public knowledge. i will pass it on to kevin.
>> here we go. kevin: ok. i am kevin hall with mcclatchy newspapers. newspapers across the country. people in the initial round of recording after april 3 said, gosh, why didn't they have someone of greater weight as a u.s. partner, which i kind of took a little personally, as you can imagine. my background is in latin america.
most of my carrier and in economics. for me, this was a perfect story that i have worked my entire life to be involved in because it brought in all of my skill set together in one story. ?hy does this matter client sorry in latin america, spending 14 hours a day reading documents in spanish and portuguese. aat has not stopped since police are that is an ongoing project. we did a range of stories after the initial stories. i would caution people against thinking that, once we got the stories out on april 3 and that the big news. 11.5 million files, 2.2 terabytes of data, this is massive. at the risk of speaking out of tune, i would tell you that the searchable data isn't all searchable.
we are working on a story of a high-level person in the united did not appear under passport searches, who did not appear in a variety of ways, and yet they are there. so i would caution using numbers. this is the gift that is going to be -- keep giving for a long time. i will give you an example. you may have been aware in ecuador the president started threatening the reporters from our project. there were going to haul them in and put them before congress and embarrass them in front of national tv. that really got my goat. i thought, ok, i am going to tell my story on that. because of dumb luck, i ran into a ton of stories that showed that the panamanian government ed fence on second.
now they say they don't know what that was about. that it was the prior government. this is the thing is this is the sort of thing they were supposed to have, continuity in reporting. if you had seen the actual story, basically, core is demanding that they release the documents and suddenly his in there. as you can imagine, his people did not want us to publish that and asked us not to. as marina had hinted or touched onethis was originally terabyte through 3.6. every step along the way, we thought, ok, we are done with our people and let's think about what we are going to write. the data release in october is that brought a
huge amount of stuff. when people started looking in august, for instance, we had 500 gigabytes of data. some of our colleagues in our chain who were involved working with the project got frustrated pretty quick. by october, you had a much bigger file. if you look up the word miami, almost-- it appears 119,000 times. it gives you a sense of how difficult it was to search and then research. again, you are looking at -- for instance, does anybody have a passport on them? if you look at the bottom of your passport, you will see the p and then a symbol and a code for your country.
one of the swiss members found that is a search tool and it hold up a lot of the passports in the file. you don't have to wonder whether this is the right guy or not. there is your passport. there are a lot of creative things, as we all collaborated on way, we ended up lifting each other up. some of the challenges is the most interesting people go through pretty extreme steps to hide their accounts. you are not going to have somebody that says on the front door this is -- i'm donald trump enterprises. you know, come find my offshore. not a good example. he didn't have one. not that we could find at least. everything that we found -- most of it has been serendipitous. you're looking at it country. you're looking at parent searches. we can get into this and the q&a. whye touched on and said you would use this -- there are
legitimate uses. on the trump towers, if you were buying one of the trump properties, it is a lot easier in panama to create a shell corporation because than a shell sells it to a shell and you taxes.ay transfer and your income becomes easier. there are practical reasons and you have to single those out. the thing about passport is matching of a person to a name. in this four months project, we were sure we had a top nsa official called michael a deltek yell. he is the person who briefed the president. we were pretty sure he was who he was. we had his passport, but he had no internet footprint. we know viewers for northrop grumman, head of the intelligence programs for northrop grumman, the big defense contractor. and they don't have a picture of him on the website. how interesting.
he is also a top executive on a trade suit -- trade group for providers. i'm so we have the passport of a guy. we are 99% sure it is a same guy. the oldest adage in journal of us in -- journalism is about making assumptions. turns out it was not that michael a dove ikea. it was a different michael a delicate who was also -- michael eccio who was also in the military. when we called him, he said you've got the wrong michael delvecchio. he hung up on us. a week later, after we visited his doorstep in malta and mexico city, he decided to play ball and got involved and did an
interview. then his lawyer got involved and he did not do anything else. again, knowing who you are dealing with has been a particular challenge. i want to say i will leave this --h the organizers who are for anybody who is interested. did tremendous work. they are more focused on the millennial's, the younger audience. they did an hour-long documentary. approach the big short to describe how offshore's work and how they work against the government. very creative, thought outside the box. can't say enough good things about them. like to shareyou your experience collaborating with so many journalists and what is hard about it or -- kevin: we can do this in the q and a setting, too. from a collaborative standpoint, i think marina would agree.
i would challenge anybody to say who posted more things in people's groups. exact thing. if you are in latin america and you know the names and you cover the region for a long time, they are all over here. working with reporters in columbia, in peru, everybody kind of pushed the ball forward together. that, for those of us who covered mexico and our ,exico team and the russia team they did this with their lives at threat. we sometimes forget that, particularly here in the united states, the risks they took. one of our partners was under a death threat for over a year. i won't name names or countries. at this was serious business and they were going after people who were powerful, who were connected, and who were robbing their states. from that standpoint, it was wonderful to watch others. i think the biggest miracle to me was that people actually kept secret -- kept this secret the
entire way through. that is no small task given how many countries had elections. marina's home country of argentina, i have to admit i was sure that was a 10 is going to blow it. but they didn't. [laughter] electiona really big and they sat on information that could have really swayed the results. we had our own primaries. in all cases, people also sat on information that, under the old model, you would be first out the gate and do that. and i think they deserve a lot of credit for the discipline it took to stick with it. rather than keep talking, i would rather go to questions. course thank you. we have a lot of questions coming up here. i will start off with a few. thank you again for being here. this is great. you talked about your source john doe in a bit. do you think he's got the impact he was looking for with the stories that have been done so far?
marina: yeah, i think is quite happy. with the impact. it has been an incredible impact. of course, now the question is will it be long-lasting, like a real, deep impact and reform in the offshore world? will those company? registers. will the measures the obama administration announced become we are reformed, stately delaware and nevada and wyoming will stop allowing people to create companies in the name of mickey mouse instead of themselves and open bank accounts in those names and launder money through the u.s.? government seek loopholes, they create new loopholes. and they have suspicion that
some of the reforms that the u.s. is already making is making loopholes for some meals. as journalists, -- for somebody else. as journalists, we have to keep looking and continue to report about it. ; it is fair to say that there will be a lot more stories for coming -- forthcoming. marina: right. >> since we are. that's since we are at the national press club, how can reporters work with you to root out the story as well? kerry and a: i think the best thing reporters can do is go through the public database. it is not perfect. it doesn't have every single owner.ial a lot of that information is buried in the documents. . sometimes and little notes on the side of documents. great deal ofa information.
the most important law firms in your country. do not search the name of the president. do it if you want, but quickly move on to the proxies and the relatives. you are more likely to find a can of people. and then if you find something great and we already have been receiving a lot of tips from journalists, but not only tips that we investigate, but sometimes journalists say i have been working on this story for two years and, finally, here's the information i've been looking for. and they present is a compelling case about the work they have done already and how what we have can help them finalize and be able to publish that story. in some of those cases, when , when come to us reporters come to us with those situations, we are more than willing to work with them and help them take the story, the hard stories to the finish line.
>> we are already getting e-mails from people saying this company has a same name as my ex-husband's last name, is this his company? [laughter] in a lot of the latin american countries, they will be able to find the names and ask people these questions. back to the first question, whether anything changes, i think we have a pretty small window for when things get changed. here in the u.s., we have an election coming. the president's proposal is far less than it seems. it takes some things backwards in many ways. i'm not optimistic frankly that they will do anything. on the state level, wyoming and delaware, which we highlighted in terms of their shortcomings, i think they will address some of the shortcomings. owner registry, i don't see a public one that the public and see. the best that we could hopeful
that would be useful is a privately -- is a private one that law enforcement can go to right now, if you are law enforcement and you suspect someone he has many in an offshore, you have to get a subpoena. to get the subpoena, it is a very high threshold. you are not going to spend a lot of time looking to see if they've got assets. with all these files, they are not going to spend miles -- months to see if panama coughed up a name. as optimistic perhaps as others. >> talk to me a little bit about the day to technology challenges. we were fussing with the laptop, getting your powerpoint. help andcy had some you had to build your own programs. talk to me about the data technology challenges you faced here at marina: it really helps that we have been working with big data and confidential
documents for four years now. four years ago, we were in a different situation. we were scrambling. we had to go outside of our team for technical support. really come in some ways we did not know what we were doing and how to handle that much data and how to make it accessible to journalists. but we learned over time we have perfected the methodology. we are using all open software that we are tweaking. we are happy to share what we have learned with others. we think the crucial thing is focus a lot on security. but also on usability. i need reporters to feel comfortable. and has to be simple and it has to be fast otherwise you lose their attention. i need to get those reporters engaged. now for a month or two months, but sent -- but sometimes for a year. in this case, we needed that
time to upload everything, process everything, do the reporting, do it well, and then publish. again, i do know want to go into too many technical issues are details, but i am happy to discuss. >> one more question and then i will open up to the audience. can you tell me what you would do differently now, looking back. : i think we've all had plenty of embarrassing moments no doubt, in which we concluded there was nothing in the search and moved on. ago,yesterday or 48 hours our australian partners -- and i must really, too, so i did the same search -- we looked at our
prime minister and he did not turn out. he was not in the first publication in april. 48 hours ago, one of our reporters did an additional form of searching within the search box that you saw. all of a sudden, they found him with a next her middle name in the middle somewhere that we had not thought to include previously. if i were to do the search again from a journalistic point of view, i would probably be more intelligent, artful and technical in how i searched. i would probably start more with databases rather than random entry of names that interested me. [laughter] i am in a unique and lucky position in that i have been 8:00 to 6:00from or a and indict for as long as i really want -- or midnight to midnight for as long as i really wanted.
they still have the motivation to go home every night because they know how important business is to the country and then spend another four hours looking through the panama papers documents. i think in terms of an organizational practice, what i -- i don'tain is know -- probably work with more partners. marina: oh, really? [laughter] we should learn from our mistakes and there are people that are looking forward to the same. our -- would you do this over again? kevin: in terms of our own organization, a little digression,-- marina has very pleasant and polite enough. to give people a sense of what happened in our organization, when we first got into the
project, we had five foreign bureaus, a bigger washington bureau, and an international focus. at some point during this, we decided to close our foreign focused,become more the miami herald in the charlotte examiner both moved and our bureau chief left and we got a new bureau chief. all of that in this project. to their credit, to corporate credit, they stuck with us. there are three with us. i have been working on this nonstop since august, no other reporting than this. my two colleagues have been six months nonstop. and they have given us new funding, brought in outside experts. we got a whole budget things planned. in that sense, had we known this was going to be as well received as it had come i think maybe we would have landed differently.
renu that the iceland by mr. would go. we knew by september -- iceland prime minister would go. we knew by september what was in here. but nobody thought the response would be what it has been. we've seen two other big profile mark -- high-profile projects play out well. that this is had more public reaction that we could have expected. marina: about the technical the need to work side-by-side, hand-in-hand with engineers, with data analysts, these people, many of them are from the younger generation. they need to be our best friends. those -- wes return turned those engineers into journalists.
we call them the geniuses. they are the ones who allowed us to work with this data, to be intelligent about how we interrogate information and all of that. we are not going to turn into engineers ourselves or data specialists, but make sure engineers can do that work. we saw the difference in the newsrooms where people had that help versus people who didn't. and it makes a world of difference. and we could not have done this work if we did not have a data units which come at this point, is more than half the staff and budget, devoted to technology in these kinds of expertise and skills. please state your name and news outlets when asking a question. we have a microphone julie is going to pass out. we have a question from the audience? right in the front row. >> hello, my name is robert
thompson. i work for an online business publication covering. real tory risk. --nk you for this panel covering regulatory risk. thank you for this panel. i want to talk about the john release this to information. can you bring us up-to-date? on the status of that offer? ? have the documents been released to a law enforcement authority? if so, which one? since you released a public database this week, have you received any requests from law enforcement authorities with enforcementd requests, the ones that would meet fourth amendment muster of having a very specific written request for information?
marina: no, we haven't received any requests from law enforcement. after the release of the database, at least not that i am aware of. with regards to john doe, he communicates with our partners at deutsche zeitung. we have always kept it that way. ormagine, if any government any law enforcement official is willing to take him on his offer , and also offer the kind of immunity and protection that he is requesting, which, if you read his manifesto, he is not asking just for himself. he is talking about law changes that need to happen. so not only he is protected, but any other person. doing similar kind of work -- person doing similar kind of work.
but it should be through deutsche site and -- deutsche zeitung first. >> is collaboration with what happen with the panama papers the new way forward with probing corruption or possible corruption? marina: i absolutely think so. it is an incredibly efficient model. law-enforcement, economies, and even criminals figured out collaboration decades ago maybe. and journalists, we are lagging behind. we were still in the lone wolf model. i think the panama a have shown the potential and the power of journalistic collaboration, that it can really be a game changer. that'll leon this topic, but basically any other topic where
journalists decide to join forces. that?in, can you add to kevin: there is a variation that we and others have been doing for a while. with the donors and nonprofits. i always joke that they are voluntary nonprofit versus the newspaper industry that is in voluntary nonprofit. i think that already is a new model in terms of -- i affirm or has business.org. i think those models are coming up more frequently now. it's collaboration through think something new is being born. it is not clear how it will look further down the road. we had partnered with donors to fund an effort of correspondence for a number of years, that the only requirement was at they deal it -- they write about children's issues during just
had to write a fixed number of stories. we were free to do everything as we wanted to do. that was a wonderful collaboration. i think we are going to see more that going forward. frankly, the business model for the newspaper industry and even digital is pretty much still struggling. >> questions from the audience? your name and news outlet, please. >> thank you for doing this. my name is hiram mejia. is --stion to you all correct me if i'm wrong, but this leaks show that most of these activities are already legal or illegal in many countries. and they will continue to find new ways to evade paying taxes.
will they think twice before trying to not comply with the local national >> what is interesting in the panama papers is that we have for decades of documents. there have been changes in regulatory systems over that time. you can see in e-mails and documents, for example, a change in panama -- there were shares of people to hold shares that do not have an identifier or that left many people to just go, all -- buti have anonymity it is not worth the trouble -- sure, put the name of my public share. not everyone is desperate and dedicated to go to the very limits of anonymity behind whatever they are doing and when
reforms were introduced, we saw in the panama papers that sometimes they complied. there are examples where they have not as well. expectation is that some people will be left forthcoming or explicit and what they put on e-mails from now on and maybe revert to pigeon. or traditional forms of messaging. bearer shares are a form of share ownership where somebody else holds the share for you. your name is never revealed unless a subpoena comes but how woodlawn enforcement know to come their? panama has 16,000 still on the books so in terms of those people coming on, with his company has done and i presume other companies are doing is converting some abuse to what are called with foundation --
private enterprise foundations were you have to know many directors who are appointed by the form and their shareholders -- your name doesn't appear in the document so it is -- they have responded to this in a way that kind of continues the camouflage so i'm a little more debtal and i think that my is that they are going to find better ways to make it even more secure in order to penetrate. >> just a last short thing is , taxto remember that yes havens are usually associated with tax avoidance but what the panama papers have shown is an array of criminality that goes beyond tax avoidance and it involves drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking. fraud -- whatial else? financial fraud of every type they even possibly imagine. it is important to remember that many people say it is legal --
president obama said that is precisely the problem that it is laws and we have designed and so poorly that we are allowing this parallel universe or parallel economy to exist that allows yes not only to avoid taxes but also allows people to break the law in infinite ways and get away with it. you surprised you haven't gotten requests from law enforcement? the lack of response by law enforcement agencies? >> the question was whether we had gotten requests from law enforcement after the release of the database -- the specific cases we have received and published -- we have received requests from docents of government around the world before the release of the database. they wanted documents -- lots of -- every document -- they wanted axis to an entire and we have responded that
our stated public decision is that we do not collaborate with governments. we do not see ourselves as an arm of the law enforcement. we are independent. we are doing our work should we have been entrusted by whistleblowers to do journalistic work. to bee wanted the files accessible to everyone, they would have gone to a different type of group who would have made them accessible to everyone or if they wanted and accessible to law enforcement they would have gone to law enforcement, so -- that is the reason why we haven't -- we have declined all requests including the requests from the new york prosecutors. >> the panama -- the panamanian second andrated of reportedly has copies well beyond what we have because we do not think this is the entire universe of their data that we have. so, and a law enforcement requests will probably begin our tour the panamanian vernment and it is up to them to say what they are doing in whose requested is --
>> the panamanian government which would like -- >> i am glad he mentioned that. -- thesee things this documents show is the fact how disingenuous -- they have a form -- they have these visas that you can get panamanian citizenship through a certain amount of investment or have a four street investment program where you give a certain amount and you get a forestry these and were even take residents there is a they have a lot of misaligned incentives that they on the face of it look like a good thing that are attracting nefarious people and i think it is not proper to say it is just one firm. you need to help? you have a lot more data. what more would help? obviously money is always nice to have. journalistic colleagues? what do you need to keep digging into this? i can start it i would say a
bit of all of the above. aree have said, we constantly adding new partners, especially in countries where we haven't had partners up until now. as marina said, it is so crucial for us to work with local journalists because we can find it -- anyone can find david cameron's father but not everybody can find the lawyer of -- i don't know -- the childhood friend of a former minister in senegal, for example. on the ground journalists who we can trust, a key resource that we are continuing to seek out and added. of course each time we had a journalist, we are adding workloads onto not only individual reporters like me or marina who have to train journalists to convey the importance of the collaboration and how we work, but every time toournalist types in a word
the database and correct me if i am wrong -- there is a financial cost that based on the -- based on what we are using. both people and dollars are going to be increasingly important to us. we have a staff of 12 and we are dealing with 400 journalists, dealing with massive amounts of data appeared we are a nonprofit organization. we are funded only bound -- only by foundations and individuals. had to layation just off journalists at our organization. we need continued support in from donors and from individuals and we are very they got a lot of small donations online after we published, a lot of $20 donations and that added up, but we have challenges ahead because
now we have grown so much and quickly, and reporters expect a lot from us, and we want to continue going. we already have new projects inside, but we also have a pretty burned out staff who has been doing, you know, a lot of work, without a break for a long time. have anybody to fall back on. so, that is something that internally we need to assess how strategy andext the expectation we have created with limited resources. >> more hours in a day would be nice. that would be a starting point because in other leaks, someone had mentioned you get a name and -- you just write it. this is the most unglamorous sort of research paradigm might be a thousand files. have to read each file might have an e-mail for that is 20 pages long and there is nothing
that a machine can do -- this is something that you have to read with your own set of eyes and do this and one other thing that is widely underreported to date is looking backwards. these files go back to 1985. is beyondeam who fantastic -- do you realize that some of these files are in lotus notes? they had to make them readable most the files before 2006 are in a format that is equivalent to a jpeg that is not searchable. of adobe acrobat. all of this old data about you on contra, we barely even looked at because it wasn't the time trade-off wasn't there. i think -- one of the things i would like to see that would make it easier to research older files which i think what clarify a number of scandals around the world -- >> on that point, why not make available -- viewable --?
here is everything we have, absolutely everything -- >> you need to make all of this files available to the public? there is incredibly private information in these files that you don't want to give the criminals of the world so many passport numbers and bank accounts. there is a responsibility that comes with an and as i said before, the whistleblowers knew who they were dealing with and they didn't give it to us because they wanted a published in its to cavity, but because they were seeking the cannalistic lens that we bring to it. there is another reason -- not only the privacy -- a lot of what kevin said is incredibly boring. there is so much that nobody -- believe me -- wants to read, because they are going to be bored. so, i think what we need is a comprehensive reporting force to
be able to really dig out most of the stories that we can possibly. >> thank you. i am a taxis, analyst. -- have youke of guys responded? >> what do you mean reach out? >> any type of legal action? anything? cease and desist? monsanto sent a cease request before we published the database. we received a public database in the public interest. they have recently announced that they plan to sue icij but we haven't yet received any form
of letter or information that has been filed. >> we also received a number of threatens for suits from lawyers from people that we have been -- so theng -- that property, do not publish this. we have not heard from any of them since publishing. we have heard from one person who is under indictment and threatened to sue us for reporting with the federal government already has in an indictment so we are numbered about that one. >> the importance of whistleblowers. obviously, as journalists, we always know and learn that you cannot ask somebody to distill data for you but it is vitally important it seems to have this kind of data reach journalists so that they can pursue stories like this, right?
protections for whistleblowers in this administration seem lacking. >> absolutely. the criteria we use is that we all share with us is that we don't get involved in any activity with the. we are recipients of leaks and we are happy to get them. as long as our reporters have not participated, encouraged, or been part of any kinds of activities by the whistleblowers. as long as we are passive recipients, we are fine with it. throughcase, it was deutsche -- the laws are lacking everywhere to protect whistleblowers. that i talkedion about before that exposed and multinational tax avoidance scheme, participation in that investigation -- the main
whistleblower -- the alleged whistleblowers in the main reporter working on that story are standing trial right now in luxembourg in the face jail. ourraine is facing charges. it is happening in a country that is a founding member of the european union and they can go to jail . about scary thing american journalists taking for granted -- the freedoms we have -- but you face a lot of that. the press freedom issues created , especially in countries like africa but the journalists you are working with; can you talk to me with the challenges that you face there with the press freedom issues and journalists
who cannot get electricity and are worried about going to jail e? wors >> these are the>> things that we hear of secondhand. marina will often hear me speaking in french or slow english to our african colleagues about what they are experiencing. .t was a universal phenomenon there was a kenyan reporter who reported on a judge's in the panama papers and that was the example i referenced earlier with a newspaper received a phone call from their lawyers but they still published. ,here are lots of challenges obviously -- the best-known example is from azerbaijan who is currently in jail for 7.5 years. what the panama papers was moreng for is that it is or less validated everything
that she had reported on that led to our imprisonment. that is, the family of president --extending from houses in london to gold fields in azerbaijan and despite the president saying that his family members are adults, businessmen reallyen, that doesn't fly when you've got then using anonymous protectors and a whole range of foundations that nobody in public would ever be able to trace to the family unless you as him or hadnt the kind of documents that we were able to seek for the panama papers. finally, i would just go back to that point that i do think that these press freedom issues at our partners face are not completely removed by collaboration but are greatly helped through collaboration, being that maybe you want to vent and share with 400 and , i kind of
professional suffering you are going through or in a more tangible way has a said earlier that summit he us can pick up your story and publish it in a neighboring country so that the truth does get out -- >> oliver sorg has been translated. i think a lot of the papers of a particular interest in partners -- the stories that we did or another partner due to translate into their language which, going back to this collaboration, under what circumstances, you wouldn't do that, you would have to have a business relationship through the partnership that has allowed that -- picking up on something bill said, the russian team did this under great personal risk. our partners are in the same organization where the reporter who was so solid on chechnya was killed in her apartment. that is front and center in their minds. i cannot say enough the bravery it took for them to do that and if we have new partners joining who will be working off the same data that we can lay the groundwork for, if you look at what is hesitant -- the entire ruling oligarchy basically of
russia is in here and it speaks to this question of rule of law and what sort of society has come out of the post-cold war era. if there is a lot of work collectively to do on the russian part. >> a question from the audience? my first question is roleding, but was the main ? you explained your role but it is not clear what was the partnership sharing what kind of partnership was that? my second question relates to -- when you mentioned that you were ,ealing with leaked material leaked documents, and part of your answer is saying that we pick and choose, what was the criteria besides the personal
take andon, that you choose things and do it gradually? and the third is my question is -- we are talking about documentary, digitized corruption. it is not documented or digitized, how do you handle it? somebody has to leak it to you? deutsche cited at a crucial role, as the recipient of the week it we would not be having this conversation had it not been for them. first of all, paying attention to the whistleblowers, he said in his manifesto that he went to other organizations before he -- i am sure you all
get tips and e-mails and it is hard sometimes to distinguish the one that is going to lead you to the great leak. i give them credit for having paid attention and having asked the right questions and having gotten the leaks. also, for having -- instead of trying to -- you know, this was -- we will we're all hoping for in our careers in the first thing they did, immediately, was to turn around and say, let's do it with everyone, let's go in gift bag because they had been dented -- benefiting from a previous investigation and they give back. i also give them credit for that. in a newsroom because you have differing views. viassure that there were in other newsrooms of, what we just put ourselves? that is the goal of suddeutsche zeitung.
how do we pick the cases? we are guided by public interest. how do we did the stories? we are focusing first on public andcials and politicians, all other public figures i had a great deal of influence on society. there is a great deal of information about private citizens, small business, things like that that if they do not have a "on society or if there is no great pattern of wrongdoing that they are involved in, we have no interest in focusing on them. , what ist going newsworthy? what is going to in this biggest impact? case and we are finding one politician after another, that is clearly a pattern. banks, thens, the enablers of the offshore banks and law forms and accounting firms. that is more or less in general
how we picked our stories. their response to icij, we do not want editorial control. in nigeria, or partners who have done wonderful work chose to publish more of a list of names of a nigerian city were able to find. that it is an approach that other newsrooms might have taken the marina outlined the approach that icij court on this particular investigation and the third question related to non-digitized projects. not documented. there is a paper trail these days for everything and when you are involved in corruption at some point you are going to couldn't -- you are going to need to create a bank account, a company or to write a -- it ist is almost not totally impossible and i was introduced to an expert to talk
about that containers full of money -- apparently -- that are traveling from latin america to because the- banking system is becoming so thankfully, criminals are just moving cash in airplanes and ships and other means. there is always a paper trail and is paper trails in the past were impossible in many cases to get, and are now proving to be accessible, so i think that more secrets are going to come out. >> i'm going to jump in here because i have a small amount of knowledge. they do not only receive links and work on them, they do a lot of really spectacular other work, as well as like in a commentary comes from the chairwoman of the board of governors of the national press former of the senate republican -- >> jumping on the egypt part,
because egypt was a dilemma for respite when of the things that we were very careful about because of this involves , is the persons a public person? because we have a lot of interesting people that doesn't make sense, doesn't add up -- if you publish it -- they are not a public person, they have never had a corporation, so, we have not publish a whole bunch of that but in the case of egypt, for instance, one of mubarak's's sons was involved in a scandal tied to financial fraud. the person he was tied in and fraud with is in the documents. he was not named in the documents. we did not run that because it wasn't a direct relationship. it was presumed that this was on his behalf but you had to make those calls along the way and i think there were a lot of examples like that. many newsrooms would wrestle with them. >> can i touch on that real fast, kevin? a lot of difficult
decisions are made in journalism daily. of that in the collaboration work? with your decisional publishing miniver this in the somebody else's decisional publishing something. >> marina did a very good job of refereeing this. she was at risk of using a gender-specific term -- was a mother hen that really watched everything that people were doing and someone who was working on a story, both people are working on a story that she worked to make sure nobody got to far ahead of the other and try to as best -- as best as possible, people from undermining each other's reporting -- not undermining, the getting out of hand about the reporting that it was very helpful. rememberimportant to what i said before in his that we do not get involved in our partner's territorial decisions. of god profusely give them guidelines and suggestions
but ultimately, it is up to each media organization to decide, not when, because that is what we are all going to agree when we are published, but now they are going to present their stories in who they are going to report about. i think that is really important to preserve because nobody wants to surrender that and that would be a wrong model for us to try -- and it would be impossible -- like, 400 people are going to write? but we give the guidelines and they have to also -- also remembering that taking into account that local laws and regulations and use country, for example, our german partners were not allowed to publish a becauseerman names apparently the laws -- the privacy laws in germany are very strong and they have to prove wrongdoing before they were able to name an individual from the panama papers. that is something that here in the first amendment in the u.s.
we do not need to prove wrongdoing, what we need to do is do really in-depth work, when you have a lot of -- we need to give people notice and opportunity to comment. you can see in a different countries how that all played out. have to beyou also careful in the case of the ecuador story, it happened -- one of the things i found most troubling for me as a reporter was having to do this at a time that they had just had an earthquake. so we held the story for almost a week before we ran it because we didn't want it to distract from the earthquake effort and it wasn't until the president politicized -- he announced all bunch of tax measures to pay for the rebuilding, then we felt we had the green light to separate for that and we have to take into account what this might partners therej and work around -- we didn't want to rest on our behalf. so these are very real calculations we have had to make throughout. >> i want to ask a final
question. the technology used, the process, had we make this model going forward for other data leaks? other information that is given to journalists -- how can we >> serve this as a model for the future? i think it is already a model -- >> there are other groups and networks that are already working in this way. that is the best news -- the paradigm has changed from the lone wolf to the global network collaboration. and so, i think that anybody who finds himself or herself with 2.6 terabytes of data, they know where to go and what to do. there is icij and there are others we are open about our methods and our technology and if you want to learn more about that, and about the global -- how to put your newsroom documents that everyone --
because in your newsroom, everybody is sitting on diablo documents that they use may be one line from and everything ,lse is just in somebody's desk why don't you put everything on a common platform so everybody can do a search when they have a find connections to documents of everyone in the newsroom? so that is the kind of thing starts inllaboration your own newsroom and it goes beyond that. >> thank you very much. i would like to thank our guests for being here, and the national press club journalism institute forum.rdinating this thank you. i do not think this is the last we are going to hear from you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]
anduncer: next, james baker tom donelan testifying on u.s. leadership in the world. and donald trump met with paul ryan today. different speaker ryan about that meeting later. of childrenarents who suffered head injuries from a sports obm on the witnesses testifying on concussion research. >> -- tomorrow morning at 9:30 eastern. two house panels of the investigating was social media is not being conduct background checks for federal employees. watch live coverage on :00 eastern on c-span three.