Reporter Glenn Greenwald defends his methods and choices in the Snowden spying drama.
FEW WOULD ARGUE that the biggest single news story of the past six months in terms of its impact on international affairs has been the continuing revelations about spying by governments in the U.S. and the U.K.
Now a vituperative verbal battle has broken out about the journalist at the center of the reporting on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden: Glenn Greenwald has responded with a passionate, extensive and convincing defense of his methods and actions.
It is an absolutely must-read for anyone who cares about how the most startling and significant revelations about government wrongdoing have been exposed – and, likely, will continue to be so.
IT IS NO surprise that the reporting of Greenwald and his journalistic partner Laura Poitras has drawn criticism. Some would rather the facts not be known. Others may resent not being chosen as the conduit for the leaks.
The motivations are many.
But the one that caught Greenwald’s attention appeared Nov. 27 on the site Pando.com.
The article on the Pando.com web site with spurred Greenwald’s response. Click image to enlarge.
The headline Keeping Secrets: Pierre Omidyar, Glenn Greenwald and the privatization of Snowden’s leaks is startling enough, but the assertions that follow about Greenwald’s decision – after stunning work at The Guardian in the U.K. – to join with billionaire Pierre Omidyar are almost laughable if they are taken at face value.
“Whistleblowing has traditionally served the public interest. In this case, it is about to serve the interests of a billionaire starting a for-profit media business venture,” writes Mark Ames.
“This is truly unprecedented. Never before has such a vast trove of public secrets been sold wholesale to a single billionaire as the foundation of a for-profit company.”
How could this possibly have any basis in truth when even the most casual observer must know how many other media outlets have at least some if not most of the secrets?
But this is not all. The writer accuses the two reporters of selling the secrets to a billionaire while “they have a monopoly over secrets that belong to the public.”
Greenwald begins his Dec. 1 rebuttal Questions/responses for journalists linking to the Pando post – and other matters with the reason he is responding at all.
“Amazingly, [the Pando article is] being cited by all sorts of DC journalists and think tank advocates whose own work is paid for by billionaires and other assorted plutocrats,” Greenwald writes.
Normally, he says, he would simply ignore it, except that it echoes a line taken by officials with a vested interest in squelching the Snowden disclosures and prosecuting those involved in their publication.
“[A]ny theory that is being simultaneously embraced by [NSA chief] Gen. Keith Alexander, foreign governments on whom we’re reporting, and DC functionaries to insinuate that there is something untoward or even criminal about our journalism is one I’m going to answer,” Greenwald writes.
In direct rebuttal to the Ames attack, he is blunt:
“The accusation that we sold, and Omidyar purchased, NSA secrets, and the related claim that he now has a “monopoly” on the NSA documents, is without question the single dumbest accusation I’ve heard since we began reporting on these documents.”
As Greenwald then goes on to explain, every investigative journalist is, in some way, paid for his or her work “because that’s how professional journalists earn a living.”
The extensive explanation his actions and methods published by reporter Glenn Greenwald. Click image to enlarge.
Furthermore, to do work on a global scale requiring input from many others – editors, writers, researchers – who also need to be paid, is not cheap.
“It is simply an unavoidable reality that if you want to do effective investigative journalism aimed at the US government, the National Security State, and the world’s most powerful corporate factions, then you need resources to do that,” Greenwald writes.
The journalist who broke stories of major international significance explains in detail his meticulous reasoning for sharing the Snowden secrets the way he and Poitras have chosen, instead of dumping all the raw documents on the internet in a manner similar to WikiLeaks.
“I’m extremely proud of the model we’ve created, one that borrows heavily from the WikiLeaks model of worldwide media partnerships, as it’s ensured that no one media outlet has monopolized these documents,” he writes.
He acknowledges complaints that his method is too slow in revealing information of vital importance.
“But there are so many reasons why this dump-it-all approach makes no sense in this particular case,” he wrote.
The most compelling, it seems, is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“One of the few protections you have when you’re reporting on classified materials is that you’re doing it as a journalist. It’s therefore vital that we never act as a source or distributor of the materials,” he writes.
There is a great deal more worth reading. There are lessons for everyone about how and why journalists do what they do, and the impact this has had on matters of vital public importance.
But, let’s leave the last word to someone who has been in the trenches a long time, indeed.
“After all these years of toiling on these issues, I’m thrilled to have a loud platform to warn of the dangers of state surveillance, US militarism, and government secrecy, and to herald the importance of individual privacy, internet freedom, and transparency for the world’s most powerful factions,” Greenwald writes.
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