by key reporter
in BBC interview
Journalist Glenn Greenwald demolished the media in an interview on the BBC. Click image to enlarge.
ONE POSITIVE OUTCOME – perhaps the only one – of the U.S. government shutdown is that, for a while at least, it will be spying less on American citizens and people throughout the world.
The issue of the vast spying program at the National Security Agency – and the failure of most journalists to expose it – was brought into sharp focus on the BBC over the weekend.
In a confrontational interview on the Newsnight show, the most important journalist of our time Glenn Greenwald delivered one knockout blow after another.
He was both defending his reporting in The Guardian newspaper, and attacking the entire media establishment for its lack of coverage of the vitally important issue.
He demolished the interviewer, and made his points convincingly.
Watch a video of the interview below the fold.
A CONSTITUTIONAL LAW expert, Greenwald has been publishing stories based on thousands of documents leaked to him by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
The Guardian, the best newspaper in Britain, has been trouncing the American press in revealing details of the program conducted jointly by governments in both countries.
In the online notes about the interview headlined Greenwald: ‘Nothing we published endangers security’
The BBC Newsnight web site featuring the interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald.
The BBC writes: “For years we worried that the likes of Google, Microsoft and Facebook knew too much about us. But when the American intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed a list of secret programs the US and British intelligence services had been working on – it seemed the state had amassed a capability beyond all expectations- intercepting and storing vast amounts of everyday internet traffic.
“Glenn Greenwald is the journalist responsible for releasing the information leaked by Mr Snowden. He spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark about the information revealed so far, what remains to be published, what drove his decision to pursue the story and what the impact has been.”
During the confrontational interview, Greenwald punched back hard with intelligent, insightful responses to challenging questions.
“Journalism, which is designed to serve as a check on those in power, is about shining light on what those people in power are doing that they are trying to hide from the public,” he began.
“It is a shock government officials lie to the face of journalists who don’t seem to mind very much.”
Asked about officials’ claims that his disclosures are damaging national security, he answered:
“I would hope that we have learned the lesson after the Iraq war that government claims are not tantamount to the truth.”
Indeed, the lies of the Bush Administration in 2003 should have been a lesson to everyone.
Pressed on the point, he added: “Not one line, not one comma of what we published could even plausibly be said to damage national security. It is all about informing people in democracies about what their governments are doing.”
Indeed, that is the very essence of journalism.
The tension between national security and the public’s right to know has been at the heart of the debate over Snowden’s leaks. Greenwald was stunning in his remarks on the subject.
“The idea that terrorists did not know the United States and UK governments were trying to monitor their communications is laughable,” he said. “Of course, every terrorist who is capable of tying their own shoes has long known [this].
“The only thing we have informed people of is that the spying system is aimed at them.”
IN HIS OWN blog post on Sunday about the interview headlined The NSA debate is as much about journalism as surveillance Greenwald takes the case further.
The blog post by Greenwald in The Guardian after the BBC interview aired over the weekend. Click image to enlarge.
“In late June, the economist Dean Baker astutely observed that our NSA reporting was “doing as much to expose corrupt journalism as to expose government spying.”
It is, sadly, the truth.
“Indeed, from the earliest stages of this reporting, … we expected (and hoped) that the reporting we were about to do would expose conflicts in how journalism is understood and practiced as much as it would shine light on the NSA’s specific surveillance programs.”
We have reported frequently on the topic and the vital role Greenwald has played. We profiled him almost two months ago in Glenn Greenwald: scholar, journalist, media critic extraordinaire and covered the challenges he faced from other journalists in NYT columnist bares internecine battle over who is a journalist
He was challenged again on the BBC show and delivered a rousing defensive and offensive response.
In his blog post, he commented:
“The debates over the proper relationship between journalists and governments have been as illuminating and significant as the debates over government spying and secrecy.
“I was interviewed for 14 minutes by [BBC Newsnight] host Kirsty Wark. It was an adversarial interview, which is how interviews should be.
“But she chose to focus almost entirely on the process questions surrounding the reporting rather than the substance of the revelations, and in the process made some quite dubious claims that come straight from the mouths of government officials.
“Nonetheless, her choice of focus ended up highlighting many of the most important conflicts about how journalism is understood, and is worth watching for that reason.”
Watch a video of the show below and judge for yourself.
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