The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald just offered an inside account of his relationship with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. During a speech at the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago, Greenwald praised Snowden and those like him who shed light on abuse by the powerful.
Greenwald said that Snowden's sacrifice inspired him to continue to reveal the full extent of U.S. government surveillance efforts. To that end, Greenwald gave the audience a preview of his next Snowden exposé:
"There's another document that I probably shouldn't [share with you] because it’s not published," Greenwald said. "You’re getting a little preview." It's a report on "a brand new technology [that] enables the National Security Agency to redirect into its own repositories one billion cell phones calls every single day." (video at 40:00).
For now we'll have to wait on Greenwald to divulge more.
His speech, however, is remarkable for Greenwald's focus on the Fourth Estate and its uneasy relationship with Whistleblowers like Snowden, and independent journalists like Greenwald.
Shaking the Roots
Greenwald said that a primary motivation for publishing the Snowden documents was to "shake up the … corrupted and rotted roots of America’s political and media culture."
What you find is that the debate over imprisoning whistleblowers and journalists is being led by "TV actors who play the role of journalists on TV," Greenwald said.
He describes his Meet the Press interview with NBC host David Gregory as an illustration of this rot. During the interview Gregory all but stated that Greenwald should be arrested for "aiding and abetting" Snowden's efforts to expose the NSA’s spying operations.
Gregory has come under withering assault for framing the question in this way. And deservedly so. In his speech to the Socialism Conference, Greenwald said that Gregory himself had exposed confidential government information just moments before suggesting that Greenwald be arrested for doing the same.
The difference according to Greenwald, is that Gregory’s reveal was information that the government wanted out there, related to a 2011 FISA Court opinion on the NSA’s authority to collect phone and Internet records.
It’s a stunning rebuke of Gregory (see the video between 45:00 and 49:50). I have asked Gregory via Twitter to respond to Greenwald’s characterization of their exchange. Not holding my breath.
Appendages, Not Adversaries
"They’re appendages of political power," Greenwald said of media figures like Gregory. "They always lead the way in attacking whoever challenges the political system in Washington, because that is the system of which they’re a part. That is the system that props them up, gives them oxygen and provides them with all of their privilege, wealth and access."
This role has become "more vividly exposed in the last four weeks than it has in quite a long time." Greenwald says that transparency against political power is what these people least want, something that seems to belie any understanding that they might have of the ethos of journalism:
"One of the things that has been most disturbing over the last three to four years has been this climate of fear that has emerged in exactly the circles that are supposed to challenge government … It’s not just journalists but also dissident groups… there is a climate of fear in exactly those factions that are most intended to put a check on those in power, and that has been by design.
"…The revelations about the NSA are important, the things that we learn about journalism are important, but ultimately the thing that matters the most is that the rights that we know we have as human beings are rights that we ought to exercise, and that nobody can take away from us. The only way that those rights can ever be taken away is if we give in to the fear that’s being deliberately imposed."