Tuesday, July 2, 2013

NSA and PRISM: Analyzing the Efforts and Motivations of Glenn Greenwald and His Associates

Glenn Greenwald has been leading The Guardian in its series of articles on the NSA based on the U.S. national secrets that Edward Snowden disclosed to him, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and others.

Some have praised Greenwald for being principled and making consistent arguments regardless of what political party is in power.

But analyzing past work and the motivations of Greenwald makes it possible to argue that Greenwald’s positions on surveillance and leaking have not been consistent.
National Security Agency Headquarters in Maryland.
Photograph Courtesy of the Department of Defense.

For instance, Glenn Greenwald also has a history of defending Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, attacking those who leaked her name.

Greenwald defended Plame and Wilson, and stridently criticized the Bush administration, after Richard Armitage leaked Plame’s name to Robert Novak.

Now, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson have written a column in The Guardian praising Edward Snowden and criticizing the NSA.

And Greenwald defended Franklin Roosevelt’s warrantless surveillance of people when people attempted to compare Bush’ surveillance programs to FDR’s programs. He went as far as to ridicule anyone making such a comparison.

Read Greenwald’s writings (at the above links) for the full reasons on why he has defended certain surveillance and why he has condemned others; why he has condemned some whistleblowers and defended others.

Analyzing Glenn Greenwald’s Marxist affiliations also is important when considering his work on the NSA.

In fact, it is important to analyze all of Greenwald’s background and his worldview. Below are a selection of his writings that provide insight into his thinking.
  • “WikiLeaks releases video of slaughter in Iraq – Every American should watch the reality of what we do when we invade and occupy other countries” (Salon, April 05, 2010) – “Those two stories came together perfectly when WikiLeaks today released a video of the U.S. military, from an Apache helicopter, slaughtering civilians in Iraq in 2007 — including a Reuters photojournalist and his driver — and then killing and wounding several Iraqis who, minutes later, showed up at the scene to carry away the dead and wounded (including two of their children). The video (posted below) is truly gruesome and difficult even for the most hardened person to watch, but it should be viewed by everyone with responsibility for what the U.S. has done in Iraq and Afghanistan (i.e., every American citizen).” 
  • “Bradley Manning’s treatment was cruel and inhuman, UN torture chief rules” (The Guardian, March 12, 2012) 
  • “Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced” (The Guardian, April 27, 2013) 
  • “Was the London killing of a British soldier ‘terrorism’?” (The Guardian, May 23, 2013) – “In the Guardian today, former British soldier Joe Glenton, who served in the war in Afghanistan, writes under the headline “Woolwich attack: of course British foreign policy had a role”. He explains:

    “While nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened. . . . It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between.”

    This is one of those points so glaringly obvious that it is difficult to believe that it has to be repeated.”
Furthermore, it is important to understand who is working with Greenwald on the series of stories on the NSA.

Spencer Ackerman is one of the cowriters. Ackerman is an admitted leftist propagandist.

Per The Daily Caller in 2010:
Ackerman went on:
I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.
And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”
Politico followed up on The Daily Caller report with a story of its own (“Unlike David Weigel, Spencer Ackerman keeps job”) that appears to confirm The Daily Caller story.

Laura Poitras is another person heavily involved in the series of stories on the NSA being published by The Guardian. Poitras also is a documented leftist operative.

Poitras, et al may intentionally be using information operations techniques to make it appear that a larger number of media outlets are voicing their perspective than really are.

For instance, the media widely reported on the Der Spiegel story, “Cover Story: How the NSA Targets Germany and Europe,” which in turn led to stories of Europe being outraged.

But the media did not particularly note that Poitras wrote the Der Spiegel story and that she is part of the same team at The Guardian writing at a different outlet. (No one has attempted to hide Poitras’s association with The Guardian; it just is not heavily emphasized.)

Why wouldn’t Poitras have published her story through The Guardian where she already has a voice? There are several possibilities. However, one such possibility is that by publishing through Der Spiegel, it gives the appearance that more media outlets around the world share the perspective of Greenwald and his associates than it would have had Poitras had published, “Cover Story: How the NSA Targets Germany and Europe,” through The Guardian.

Finally, it is important to consider how Greenwald has said that he is only publishing information that is in the public’s interest and that (according to him) won’t hurt anyone.

The reason this is important is that there is increasing evidence that Snowden (and perhaps his collaborators) have intentionally (or inadvertently) disclosed intelligence that actually would hurt (according to their definition) both the U.S. and individual U.S. intelligence professionals.

Per The Daily Beast:
Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who Snowden first contacted in February, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.” Greenwald added that the people in possession of these files “cannot access them yet because they are highly encrypted and they do not have the passwords.” But, Greenwald said, “if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives.” . . .
It’s unclear what else is in the Snowden archive. . . .
Greenwald said he would not have published some of the stories that ran in the South China Morning Post. . . .
Greenwald said Snowden for example did not wish to publicize information that gave the technical specifications or blueprints for how the NSA constructed its eavesdropping network. “He is worried that would enable other states to enhance their security systems and monitor their own citizens.” Greenwald also said Snowden did not wish to repeat the kinds of disclosures made famous a generation ago by former CIA spy, Philip Agee—who published information after defecting to Cuba that outed undercover CIA officers. . . .
Greenwald also said his newspaper had no plans to publish the technical specifications of NSA systems. “I do not want to help other states get better at surveillance,” Greenwald said. He added, “We won’t publish things that might ruin ongoing operations from the U.S. government that very few people would object to the United States doing.”
This information shows that Snowden likely did take technical information and perhaps information that would endanger intelligence professionals.

It is almost certain that one or more nations have already copied all the intelligence that Snowden took. Furthermore, Greenwald says in the above interview that Snowden disclosed information that he would not have disclosed. On top of this, it is explicitly stated that Snowden has sent copies of the full intelligence that he took to others, and Greenwald hints that this might be revealed. Should the public challenge Snowden and Greenwald on their assertion that they are only interested in publishing information that (according to them) the public has a right to know?

Finally, if Snowden, Greenwald, and anyone else can unilaterally decide to break the law because of a so-called moral duty to do so, why can’t anyone else break the law when they believe they have a moral duty to do so?

Contrary to Greenwald’s claims, it is valid to scrutinize what he and his cohorts are doing—including their motivation for doing so.

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