tv Journalists Discuss the Panama Papers CSPAN May 16, 2016 10:28pm-12:04am EDT
>> good morning, everyone. i am that washington correspondent the salt lake tribune, and the 109th president of the national press club. last june in the room next door, a group of journalists held a secret meeting. honestly, we had no idea what they were talking about, until now. that was one of the first meetings of the consortium of
journalists, investigating what we now call the panama papers. last year, 11.5 million financial records for the to a german newspaper. possibly the biggest leak in journalism history. fonseca, oneffett of the worlds top shell companies, with 2.6 terabytes of data. the newspaper needed help and called in the journalism troops. with such a large number of people trolling through the database, the partners needed to agree on a common strategy for collaboration, and for parsing out the research, as well as a joint promise on holding off on publishing until everyone was ready. this is something a bit foreign to the american media. we are not used to collaborating on investigations with competitors. today, i am honored to welcome some of the participants in the panama papers, to talk about their work and findings. our forum is sponsored by the npc journalism institute, the nonprofit arm of the national press club.
please welcome, these reporters. >> thank you for this invitation. yes, we are going to talk about collaboration. but, when we think about to invest gate of journalism sometimes what comes to mind are that at some point we have these in our corner,l doing our story in isolation in and coming out and grouping everyone. but the problem with the lone wolf is it is trying to
investigate and is presented with challenges like what is seen right now. the kind of stories we're looking into. fonseca1% of the network. thesef that is where panama papers come from. the consortium is a collection of journalist's in more than 65 countries. we collaborate on stories. over time we have no trust and on that trust is that everything else works. there is the trust. come and the stories
we quote from other members of the consortium. sometimes others get the stories and they come to the consortium to help build a global story. before the panama papers, we had been working on this subject for about war years. thechina leaks looking at relatives of the communist and how they were using tax havens. and a story about how we were looking at multinational companies in luxembourg. on millions a year of dollars in profits for and looking at how hsbc was polluted with criminals. already -- at the time we were set up and there was not enough on the offshore world. came the panama
papers. cable left you have the leaks investigation. offshore leaks. luxembourg leaks. swiss leaks. and to the right is the panama papers at 96 terabytes. you have a spreadsheet. else,so have everything e-mails, faxes, contract, word documents. 40 years worth of information. first of all, let me introduce the others. the ones who first received the
league. icij and so basically they were contacted why an anonymous source who asked them if they were interested in data. thecondition was that source wanted to remain anonymous and there were going to be no meetings. everything done over and could did communication. -- everything done over encrypted communication. they asked the source about motivation and the source said he wanted to make it public. " it could be a sheep, but for simplicity because he has chosen the name john doe we call him he. they asked how much, how big will stop the answer was, more then anything you have ever seen in that was absolutely right. at that point we had already and the first
batch of documents was about 3 million files. we already felt like this , youse we figured out know, with our computer if we were to process this information, because of course information does not come all nicely organized and in readable format, we had to process it, make it readable, uploaded to a cloud where the journalist's good access it. it would take us one year if we took 10 seconds per file. we deployed an army of 35 servers and we were able to speed up the time in 11 days to process those files and we did the same with the sequence of information we received. that was the beginning of this collaboration, which of course, you know, not only have these technical challenges but also
the human challenges. journalist note only in 10 or 20 countries that in as many countries as possible to do justice to the data. while corruption is local so you need to look at it from a local point of view and if those local journalists who know the powerful people, who the media are, the lawyer, and so on. icij is to be in the middle of the exploration, helping to build bridges and helping people, you know, communicate with one another and facilitating communication. e-mail.t do that on we build our own virtual newsroom. we needed to create a space journalists could log in every day and share findings.
if everyone hide it in a corner and was a loan we said ok we are going to build a social media room. we call it a facebook of investigative journalism. it is open source but we can tweak it to our needs. everyone had an avatar. you can post your findings, and he who dwells is looking at any particular point in time and chat with other members of team. there are groups, as you can see, people interested in politicians, latin america, sometimes people would create groups and their own languages so when people ask how we managed to keep it secret for so long, we said, one of the reasons is because reporters had this form where they were able to at least talk to one another saybreak that isolation and everything they needed to say they could not tell their spouses or colleagues. we also met in person. the first meeting was right here
and that room next-door, there were about 40 reporters and that hearst meeting in june, 2015. that was followed by a meeting of war than 100 reporters in munich and then a meeting in johann is berg. -- johann is berg. another meeting in london where we touch with their reporters that were working on the russia's story for obvious was safer to do it that way and that was a very important and complicated story. so yes, meeting in person, there can, youhnology that know, build the trust that a face-to-race meeting can. now what do we do with the documents? we also created a platform to upload documents and you might be thinking, how crazy to put these documents on the internet. what if you think about it, we would not have enabled to do a
collaboration this way without taking that controlled risk of putting the documents online, of course in a very secure manner. make it easily accessible to journalist. a platform that works like google. you could put any word in you could, you know, type of document, many other ways. you can save your searches. you can also, that was when it was interesting is, you can create a list of your interest didn't and in ideal work and then do a batch search and match it against 11 million records and that was, you know, a very efficient way instead of typing name by name or word by word said that was the other platform journalists annexes to. some of the documents we had, you know, in this league. power of attorney documents that were very interesting and important because in many cases
they revealed the people controlling the company. the beneficial loner. ais document is part of the [indiscernible] for a luxury yacht. so, that is interesting. passports and other identification documents that were of course very important to identify. make sure we had accurately identified people. [indiscernible] in syria. a client of -- a lot of interesting communications and communications about his connections to the offshore world. you see the passport. our lots of e-mails and following those communications over time, sometimes over one year. it helped build the stories. this is one of the top
contractors of the mexican government and he got in a lot of trouble last year when it came out he had built a home for the wife of the president of mexico and in this e-mail they are discussing how, in the midst of that scandal, this person is trying to move $100 million a broad. with more traditional shareholding certificates, and this case of an italian fugitive formeraged -- close to a [indiscernible] -- nt used the companies to buy and sell apartments in new york anytime one there was a cease order on his property. allowed and created a c-span system that allow journalists to look at the networks because of course you need to look at the documents but you also need to understand in each company, who were all
the players involved and that is when doing a network analysis really helps so this is what we use. of course, we did all, you know, traditional reporting and what we'll do, not only looking into the league but going outside the leak using databases, lexis-nexis, iraq, jones, everything we can get in our hands to verify and can harm information. do interviews, travel. there is a misconception that leaks are easy. or that we got documents, read them, wrote a story. this took really big-time detective work and looking at a besidesublic records the confidential information. it was published all over the world. this is one of our main stories we were able to trace nearly $2 million that close associates of
president clinton had shuffled around the world -- president putin had shuffled around the world. that one ofclaims the players -- one of his friends -- who is a cellist was using the money to buy instruments. physical instruments. -- musical instruments. nearly 33und companies and people had been blacklisted in the united states for various serious crimes. business able to do offshore for canseco and they had them as clients right along time. we looked at the role of big eggs and how more than 500 ranks had helped create more than 15,000 offshore companies for canseco a in many cases to sell clients around -- help clients
taxes.the world evade of course, politicians and public officials, that was one of the most surprising findings. you imagine billionaires and celebrities, they have these companies for privacy issues overtax issues, but to find and of200 politicians them, 16 were leaders in this secrecy.ng the including some were leaders have been at the forefront of the right against tax havens. really interesting. so we created a whole application to look into this important issue. reaction and impact has been pretty immediate. public process in iceland where the prime minister stepped aside a few days after publication as well as in london. some resin nations in the beef
up. a lot of interesting information in the world of sports and how they also used secrecy. there were arrests as people connected to it and after publication they were arrested. your, the states, in u.s. prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation to look into the panama papers. a few days ago, as you probably know, joe dell, the source of the leak broke silence and published a very powerful manifesto. i do not have time to go through a lot of it. we can talk about it in the question and answers should -- session and he said he does not work for a government agency and is willing to collaborate with authorities in he mentioned the
cases of edward snowden and other whistleblowers when faced retaliation who are now in hiding, being prosecuted in some cases, anti-said that until governments can guarantee real safety for whistleblowers, they are going to do use their own resources to investigate. so he basically calls for immunity and utter rejection. -- better protection. he also calls for the registration publicly about who really controls a company becomes public and becomes accessible rather than this secret, you know, for tax havens. monday, was it? a database with information precisely about, you know, the corporate information in this leak. so the names of all the companies involved and the people that are associated to .hose companies
you can search air, again, like in google, you can search by country, jurisdiction, you can use any name, person, company, and research and find the networks around the companies. ,e have not published public private information such as bank accounts or financial transactions or things like that. we have also not published a lot of documents that are select the documents that have been link to some of our stores but the bulk of the leak remains private. remains for the journalists who are working and continue to work on this investigation. compare the two models and see what each model brings so we have the lone wolf model and the network model. proposeswill model snooping. we propose collaborating. the lone wolf model has
individual achievement and we have shared ownership. there is start treatment often in the loan will model. nothing wrong with that but we offer no special treatment to any journalist. , welone wolf is proprietary are very open-source and collaborative in our approach. the lone wolf usually achieves national impact. model protects is a global impact. we are published at an agreed time and do it together to be able to get that kind of impact. is very wolf approach vertical and ours is-two-year. peer.r to doe.nish with john
all frustration being a collaborative journalism administrator. i came this morning from a conversation that spanned 13 hours speaking to departments at my primary role, really, including the panama papers was working with our african partners. icj, over two years ago now, i think without being critical, it was a core of journalists who were excellent at what they do but who largely came from, especially those who participated in regular projects, came from the global correctlyas john doe says, there's no reason why that needs to be the case. needs the larger global are really a few people who are willing to wake up at 2:00 a.m. so they can speak to their kenyan colleague and make sure they are just as on board as our partners at the bbc in london or in washington, d.c. is.
so that is what i have done in the panama papers. largestt icij our collaboration from cape town to cairo across africa this time. 10t was, journalists from newsrooms that included major thecan news outlets such as daily nation in kenya, but also something i found particularly inspiring and inspirational, small one-man bands working in molly bang in their living room. member earlier, i is a of staff at icij do not give a demand oro request or e-mail from the guardian u.k. or more attention than i would from my friend david in west africa and i find that are inspiring as a journalist and i find that very motivating. i think what is impressive about
this kind of model of journalism often probably escapes is. we are here in washington, d.c., reflect on the impact that lettersapers has had on sent by members of congress and senators to officials in nevada and wyoming or perhaps the press conference that president obama gave. what we have to and miss but what is equally important, especially in light of the anticorruption conference happening in london at the moment is, what are the impacts of these kind of stories and in what ways is investigative across thethat works border empowering and changing countries, governments, and lives in countries that are far from america. we do not every day unless you wee obsessive subscriptions, do not receive the news that sierra leone's president announced a review of mining contracts based on reporting that some of our west african colleagues didn't to diamond
deals. we do not receive regular changes are what being moved to full political interest for political officials based on reports of our colleagues did in botswana. i find the benefit is the kind of benefit that is often unseen. it is work that requires rather a lot of effort and hard work. confidentto first be that who we are working with, especially in a world that might have limited press freedom have issues regarding internet freedom. tacticalave monday issues such as, you know, electricity blackouts in senegal. how do we work with as partners in a way that allows icij to control risks, as marina said earlier.
that is not something we do within 24 hours. that is face-to-face meetings. increasingly easy now thanks to icij and other's recent successes, the growing understanding among journalists that yes, they can have a national scoop unto themselves but especially if you're working in tunisia, you can be part of something much more global if you bide your time and go with your peers. from my own experience and a continent as fast as africa, working is part of a collaboration and brings personal and professional protection in many cases to the journalists we work with. journalists who would otherwise have a story killed immediately because -- and we saw this happen in a number of countries where a businessman, a politician, calls atv owner and says, there's no way you are
running that story. within twoed minutes. thanks to the icij network, that businessman is less likely to make the phone call and even if and network intent can be alerted and handed is fair to say there is a health of -- a healthy dose of solidarity among journalists. serve one members feeling under attack, it is more likely to have the opposite attack and will increase and embolden other partners to run that story so it gets the increase and impact it deserves. when i am not struggling with internet connections, i am writing stories as a journalist as a member of icij. two of the stories i did in panama papers came out of the issue from vastly different approaches. one was those individuals on the sanctions list within the united
states who appeared within the penama papers. was, we thought, in important story to tell because it's situated america in something that was very important and that has been in congress. as many told us in the interviews for a long time. that was in some ways and the easy story to do. you could enter in the term "sanctions" and get a result that has one partner writing, oh my god we have to get this off as soon as possible. but also required a more thoughtful data approach to counterbalance so that we were not cherry picking, incriminating e-mails. it goes back to what marina said where we use batch searches to
upload these specially designated national list to the department of treasury to match that against this and say who was where. 33 individuals or companies who had some say. we were also with shareholders within the panama papers documents. a second story that began with i suppose less levity but in the end it ended up being a story about public interest was about well these spouses use the hide it theld to worth.half's that was an interesting global story from south korea to julie to the united kingdom to the united arab emirates we saw
examples which often quite frankly, a husband or the husband's lawyer would write and say, i need a company that can help the protect assets in view of an impending divorce, winky face. and was a developing interesting story and i usually wake up to e-mails from ex-wives or lawyers representing ex-wives who are interested in exploring the panama papers. i will leave it at that. >> and there was one woman trying to hide it will stop >> an interesting case in chile in which the wife of a former official with -- in the former peruvian of regime had open discussions and e-mail changes about my vent offshore companies she was using that were not to her husband's public knowledge.
miami here on, sacramento bee, a range of papers. most of the papers in the carolinas. in the initial round of reporting after april 3, they said, gosh, why did they not have someone of greater weight as the u.s. partner which i took personally as you can imagine. latinkground is in america and economics of this for me was the perfect story that to i have worked my and her life to be involved in because it run all of my skill set together. obviously, most of the latin -- i am clients spending 14 hours a day reading andments in spanish portuguese and that has not slowed down. it appears to be an ongoing project. we did a range of stories after the initial stories and i would caution people against thinking that now that we got the stories
out on april 3 that is the big news and everything else is all up. 11.5 million files, 2.6 terabytes of data. this is massive. at the risk of speaking out of tune i would suggest the is completelya searchable and every single day we find people who are not in the database they play gets to see that does not show up when we search passports, we find place buried. we are working on a story about a person who did not appear in passport searches or a variety of ways and yet they are there. so i would caution against using numbers. this is a gift that will keep on giving for a long time. as an example, you may have been aware in ecuador the president started threatening reporters of our project. they were hauling them in, forcing them to be going before congress and embarrassing them on national tv.
my gut. i thought, i am going to do a story based on that will stop out of pure, dumb luck researching people in there i stumbled upon a document after our first round of stories saying the panamanian government had actually rated looking for information about a company they believed were tied to the president of ecuador and his brother. the panamanian government now says they do not know that was a about. they reminded under the free trade agreement this was the kind of thing they were supposed to have continuity among governments and reporting. nott turns out, they were able to cut and pasted properly but if you have seen the actual story and basically is demanding they release the documents and to suddenly he is and their aunt as you can imagine his people did not want us to publish that and asked us not to. that was what i was showing.
as marina touched on, this was originally one terabyte. now it is 3.6. every step along the way we thought, ok, we are done now let's start thinking about what we are going to write and every , the onead a release in october had a huge amount of stuff. we are going to switch all of this again. when people started looking in august, we had 500 gigabytes of data. some of our colleagues in the chain got frustrated because there was really not anything there. by october, you had bigger file. over 80,000 of them were just in this october release.
so that gives you an idea of the search and research. anybody have a passport on them? if you look at the bottom of your password on the left side, you will see the letter he had been a less land symbol and day three letter code for your was onewill stop that of the swiss members who found that as a tool to pull up a lot of the passports of the file. where the important? you do not have to wonder if it is the right guy or not, this is the passport. there were a number of things we ended up lifting each other up. some of the challenges as marina touched on is the most interesting people go to extreme steps to hide their accounts. you are not going to have somebody who says on the front door, i am donald trump enterprises come find my offshore. that is not a good example, he did not have one -- that we
could find, at least. almost everything we found, most -- we can get into this in the queue and a. but asiased, of course, we touched on there are legitimate uses for this. we found if you are buying one of the properties it is much easier in panama to create a shell corporation because a shell sells it to a shell. there are practical reasons, not all are nefarious. to close on a cautionary thing, a very challenging day when you talk about passports is matching up a person to a name will stop right? so about four months in, we were sure we had a top official. he matched.
he is a person who briefs the president. we had his passport right he had no internet footprint. we know that michael the vacuo works for the head of the program, a big defense contractor. they do not have a picture of him. how interesting. this also a top executive in a trade group or intelligence providers. note too there, either. so if i prospered, we are 99% sure he is the same guy. adage about old making assumptions? it turns and it was not that michael divac euro, there were two of them. within the mediterranean. a lieutenant colonel in the air force, decorated, came up through ballistics went to work for boeing and for reasons not entirely clear, he change gears and became a formation agent in
malta, spain. but passports, the addresses, when we called him, when my colleague called him, he said you have the wrong michael. there are thousands of michael to vicki is. we read them as e-mail, phone up, he said was not him and town up on us. visitedater after we his doorstep and malta and mexico city, he did an interview and his lawyer got involved and knowing who you are dealing with has been a challenge. so we will skip through that. i will leave that with the organizers for anybody interested. our partner who is not here today, fusion, a joint venture did tremendous work and were more focused on the millennials, the younger audience. i had wonderful graphics and did a full hour-long documentary. they used a big short approach.
>> would you like to talk about how was your experience in collaborating? yes. from a collaborative standpoint i think marina will agree i would challenge anybody to say who posted more things than other people. exact thing, if you are in latin america and you know the names and have covered the region, they are all over here. inking with reporters colombia, peru, everybody pushed the ball forward together. for those of us who covered mexico and the mexican team, they did this with their own lives at threat and we sometimes forget that. know one they took, we of our partners was under a debt threat for a year.
this was serious business and they were going out or people who were powerful and connected. from that standpoint it was wonderful to watch others work. the biggest miracle to me was that people actually kept this secret the entire way through and that is no small task. the home country of argentina, i was sure would blow it did not. big electionally and were sitting on information that could have swayed the election. the brits, the germans, we had our own primaries. in all cases people also sent on information that under the old model you would be first out of the gate to do that. they deserve a lot of credit.
>> thank you. i think we have a lot of questions coming up. thank you again for being here. this is great. your source aut little bit. do you think he got the impact he was looking for with the stories done so far? >> yes. i think he is quite happy. with the impact. it has been incredible impact and of course now the question is, will it be long-lasting? those company registrars become public as some governments have been promising would be? will these measures that the obama at the discretion of reformed become real where the states of delaware and --ada and wyoming. allowing
will not allow companies to make companies in the name of mickey mouse and launder money in the united states. sometimes when governments close loopholes they create new loopholes. there have already been warnings that these are creating new loopholes that will allow criminals to open bank accounts in the united states in the name of somebody also we as journalists need to continue to pay attention to how the story unfolds and continue to report about it. >> it is fair to say there will be a lot of stories forthcoming. you mentioned, i love this, all corruption is local. this is for the national press club, what is the best way for other reporters to access this data and work with you to root out what may be a local story for them?
thing: i think the best reporters can do is go through the public data base. it is not perfect. it does not have every single bit of information. a lot is buried in the documents. but there is a great deal of information in the database. on the point of view, the most important law firms in your country. check for the associates and relatives. the have received tips. sometimes a journalist says, i have been working on this for two years and finally here is the information i was looking for and they present is a compelling case about how we can
help them finalize and be able to publish the story. those cases when reporters come to us in those situations we are more the end that willing to work with them and help them take that story to the finish line. going to add we are already getting e-mails from people -- this company has the same last name as my ex-husband. is this is company? so there is a limit to what they do or do not say. and men of the latin american countries they and askable to find people questions. going back, whether anything changes we have a pretty small window. in the united states, we have the election coming. the presidents rapoza liz last than it seems. it takes things backwards in
some ways and i am not optimistic they're going to do a anything. level, on the state wyoming and delaware, they will address some of the shortcomings but not all in terms of registry. marina mentioned beneficial and registry, i do not we will see a public one. the best we can hope for is a law enforcement could go to and do something with without having to get a subpoena. now, if you are law enforcement and you suspect someone has money, you have to get a subpoena when they finally threshold. we're not going to find things, americans are not going to spend months trying to see if panama cops something up. spelling during subpoenas. i am not as optimistic as others.
>> talk to me a little bit about the data and 10 elegy challenges. you are having trouble just getting your spreadsheet out. you obviously had some help and had to build your own programs. talk to me about the challenges. marina: it helped that we have been working with big data for four years now. outside of our team for technical support. we had to -- 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 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. will: 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.
only yesterday or 48 hours ago, 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 able to work from 8:00 to 6:00 or midnight to midnight for as long as i really wanted. what impresses me more in many cases is the fact that we work with journalists who are obliged stories for the nigerian paper each day but still have the motivation to go home every night because they know how important this is for their country and then spend another four hours looking through the panama papers documents. i think in terms of an organizational practice, what i would do again is -- i don't 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 bureaus, become more focused, 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 projects play out well. my sense that this is had more public reaction that we could have expected. marina: about the technical challenges, 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. were we do is return those -- we 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 regulatory risk. thank you for this panel. i want to talk about the john doe agreement to release this 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 very targeted enforcement 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. he is the source of deutsche zeitung. i imagine, if any government or 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. but it should be through 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. not only on this topic, but basically any other topic where journalists decide to join forces. >> kevin, can you add to that? 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 -- jim asher has business.org. i think those models are coming up more frequently now. it's collaboration through think tanks, 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. my question to you all is -- 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 laws and pay their fair share? >> a few remarks. i think what is interesting in the panama papers is there we have almost four decades of notments falls top good and so good changes in nation regulatory measures in that time. you see for example a change in panama that outlawed something that allowed people to hold shares that do not have an
identifier or name the did leave many people to go, ok i am under anonymity.ty -- put my name on the public share. andeveryone is desperate to dedicated to go to the very limits of anonymity to hide what they are doing and when reforms were introduced we saw in the panama papers sometimes they complied. we saw examples where it they were not as well. my expectation is that some people will be less forthcoming or explicit in what they put in e-mails are now on and maybe pidgin or other forms of messaging. i think it will be a mixed bag and there are reasons for hope and reasons for despair. it is a form of share
ownership were someone else holds the share for you. your name is never revealed unless a subpoena comes but how would law-enforcement know to come there? thema has something in range of 16,000 of them still on the book so in terms of those old coming on, what this company has done and i presume the other companies in this space are doing is converting these two foundations, private enterprise foundations where you have two nominee directors appointed by the law firm and then use the shareholders to serve by your name does not appear on the documents so it is responded to in a way that continues to camouflage so i am more cynical that theyk my bet is are going to find better ways to make it even more secure and harder to penetrate. marina:. remember that, yes, taxcks are associated with evasion and avoidance but what the panama papers have shown is an array of criminality that goes well beyond tax avoidance
and tax evasion and involves drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, what else? of like everyd type you can possibly imagine president obama said that is precisely the problem that it is legal and we have designed laws 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. >> are 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 requests from dozens of governments around the world before the release of the database. they wanted documents -- lots of document -- every document -- they wanted axis to an entire leak 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. we have wanted the files to be 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 government rated of second and 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 government and it is up to them to say what they are doing in whose requested is -- >> the panamanian government which would like -- as to stop saying panama papers. >> i am glad he mentioned that. one of the things this -- these 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 forestry 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.
>> want do you need to help? you have a lot more data. what more would help? obviously money is always nice to have. as in more 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. as we have said, we are 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 a journalist types in a word to 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 and we are a nonprofit organization. we are funded only bound -- only by foundations and individuals. our organization just had to lay off journalists at our organization. so, we -- we need continued
support in from donors and from individuals and we are very grateful -- 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. we do not have anybody to fall back on. so, that is something that internally we need to assess how we face the next strategy and 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 are -- 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. the tech team who is beyond 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. it predates 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 it all 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
-- wanted it published in its entirety. 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. >> alex lewis, i am a tax analyst. have you 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 interviewing -- that -- so the 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 don't -- you 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. in this case, it was through suddeutsche zeitung.
the laws are lacking everywhere to protect whistleblowers. the investigation that i talked 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. edward tourraine is facing charges. it is happening in a country that is a founding member of the european union and they can go to jail. >> the scary thing about
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 or worse? > 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. it was a universal phenomenon. there was a kenyan reporter who
reported on a judge's involvement 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. there 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 amazing for is that it is more 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 and women, that doesn't really 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 are as brilliant as him or had 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 journalists, 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 regarding, but was the main role? 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 dealing with leaked material, leaked documents, and part of your answer is saying that we pick and choose, what was the criteria besides the personal information, that you take and choose things and do it gradually? and the third is my question is -- we are talking about documentary, digitized corruption. if it is not documented or digitized, how do you handle it? somebody has to leak it to you? >> suddeutsche zeitung had 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 ever went -- 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. it is not easy in a newsroom because you have differing views. i am sure that there were vias 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 officials and politicians, and 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. it is just going, what is newsworthy? what is going to have the biggest impact? in this case and we are finding one politician after another, that is clearly a pattern. the sanctions, the banks, 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. >> i think 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 loan -- it is almost -- it is 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 europe and -- because the banking system is becoming so stringent, 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 club -- 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 personal data is, is the person 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. how did you end 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. >> it is important to remember what i said before in his that we do not get involved in our partner's territorial decisions. we subject 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 lot of german names because 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. >> i think you also have to be 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 mean to our icij partners there 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. how do we make 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 else 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 story and find connections to documents of everyone in the newsroom? so that is the kind of thing that -- collaboration starts in 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 for coordinating this forum. thank you. i do not think this is the last we are going to hear from you. [applause] [captions copyright national
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