posts about or somewhat related to ‘Glenn Greenwald’

Where there is good journalism, there will be scoops
As of 12:45 pm today, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux published a new in-depth piece at The Intercept called "Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers" examining the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, as discovered in classified documents the news outlet obtained. The article breaks down the system piece by piece, with startling observations from classified documents.

The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

Even if you don’t live in Dearborn, you should be concerned. 

…officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.

According to information from the documents, during the Obama administration, there are more people in the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) than ever before (an even bigger system with an even lower bar for making the list), there are 47,000 people on the government’s “No Fly” list, as well as a disproportionate about of suspects on the watchlist based on their assumed terrorist group affiliation (see above pie chart). Which is skewed, because the estimated size of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, is significantly smaller than the amount of people on the AQI watchlist:


If this information doesn’t make you want to put on a tinfoil hat and anti-surveillance coat and go off the grid for a while, on top of all of that, the story itself was scooped by a government agency and handed to the AP. The AP story in question, written by Eileen Sullivan, came out just minutes before the Intercept piece. 
From HuffPo:

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept, 

We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge.

TLDNR; We’re probably all on a secret watchlist. And as soon as we find out we are, the government will know we know. 
-Mariana
Images: Chart via The Intercept ”Who’s on the watchlist?” that breaks down the list by affiliated terrorist group, and screenshot from Ryan Devereaux’s Twitter.

Where there is good journalism, there will be scoops

As of 12:45 pm today, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux published a new in-depth piece at The Intercept called "Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers" examining the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, as discovered in classified documents the news outlet obtained. The article breaks down the system piece by piece, with startling observations from classified documents.

The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

Even if you don’t live in Dearborn, you should be concerned. 

…officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.

According to information from the documents, during the Obama administration, there are more people in the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) than ever before (an even bigger system with an even lower bar for making the list), there are 47,000 people on the government’s “No Fly” list, as well as a disproportionate about of suspects on the watchlist based on their assumed terrorist group affiliation (see above pie chart). Which is skewed, because the estimated size of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, is significantly smaller than the amount of people on the AQI watchlist:

image

If this information doesn’t make you want to put on a tinfoil hat and anti-surveillance coat and go off the grid for a while, on top of all of that, the story itself was scooped by a government agency and handed to the AP. The AP story in question, written by Eileen Sullivan, came out just minutes before the Intercept piece. 

From HuffPo:

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept, 

We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge.

TLDNR; We’re probably all on a secret watchlist. And as soon as we find out we are, the government will know we know

-Mariana

Images: Chart via The Intercept ”Who’s on the watchlist?” that breaks down the list by affiliated terrorist group, and screenshot from Ryan Devereaux’s Twitter.

In Praise of Sources

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations →

Via Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept:

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents…

…Among the core self-identified purposes of [the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group] are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums…

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Read through for source documents demonstrating how this done.

Who am I to Disbelieve Them?
Via Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian.

In other words, if the government tells me I shouldn’t publish something, who am I as a journalist to disobey? Put that on the tombstone of western establishment journalism. It perfectly encapsulates the death spiral of large journalistic outlets…
…The NSA reporting enabled by Snowden’s whistleblowing has triggered a worldwide debate over internet freedom and privacy, reform movements in numerous national legislatures, multiple whistleblowing prizes for Snowden, and the first-ever recognition of just how pervasive and invasive is the system of suspicionless surveillance being built by the US and the UK. It does not surprise me that authoritarian factions, including (especially) establishment journalists, prefer that none of this reporting and debate happened and that we all instead remained blissfully ignorant about it. But it does still surprise me when people calling themselves “journalists” openly admit to thinking this way. But when they do so, they do us a service, as it lays so vividly bare just how wide the gap is between the claimed function of establishment journalists and the actual role they fulfill.

FJP: We’re interested, of course, in what Greenwald’s about to create in his new  $250m backed venture from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
Via The Guardian:

Omidyar said he hopes the project will promote “independent journalists with expertise, and a voice and a following” while using Silicon Valley knowhow to build an audience. “Companies in Silicon Valley invest a lot in understanding their users and what drives user engagement,” Omidyar said. The company will be online only and all proceeds will be reinvested in journalism.

Omidyar writes about his investment here.

Who am I to Disbelieve Them?

Via Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian.

In other words, if the government tells me I shouldn’t publish something, who am I as a journalist to disobey? Put that on the tombstone of western establishment journalism. It perfectly encapsulates the death spiral of large journalistic outlets…

…The NSA reporting enabled by Snowden’s whistleblowing has triggered a worldwide debate over internet freedom and privacy, reform movements in numerous national legislatures, multiple whistleblowing prizes for Snowden, and the first-ever recognition of just how pervasive and invasive is the system of suspicionless surveillance being built by the US and the UK. It does not surprise me that authoritarian factions, including (especially) establishment journalists, prefer that none of this reporting and debate happened and that we all instead remained blissfully ignorant about it. But it does still surprise me when people calling themselves “journalists” openly admit to thinking this way. But when they do so, they do us a service, as it lays so vividly bare just how wide the gap is between the claimed function of establishment journalists and the actual role they fulfill.

FJP: We’re interested, of course, in what Greenwald’s about to create in his new $250m backed venture from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

Via The Guardian:

Omidyar said he hopes the project will promote “independent journalists with expertise, and a voice and a following” while using Silicon Valley knowhow to build an audience. “Companies in Silicon Valley invest a lot in understanding their users and what drives user engagement,” Omidyar said. The company will be online only and all proceeds will be reinvested in journalism.

Omidyar writes about his investment here.

Glenn Greenwald v The BBC: How Journalism Works Edition

The BBC’s Newsnight interviewed The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald about the Edward Snowden NSA leaks last week.

Many of the questions are strange. On a scale of did-she-really-ask-that to facepalm, most fall somewhere in the middle. Take, in a paraphrased instance, “How do you know that your reporting isn’t helping terrorists?”

Because, terrorism.

Greenwald’s been in this seat many times before (think: Meet the Press’ David Gregory asking him why he shouldn’t be arrested along with Snowden for the leaks) and goes through his laundry list of what journalism is, how it works and why just because the government says it’s true doesn’t necessarily make it true.

NYU’s Jay Rosen has a good rundown on the exchange. In particular, the journalist’s strawman tick of beginning questions with something along the lines of, “Some people say… .”

Via Rosen:

I’ve been talking about this interview on Twitter today because to me this is a weak form of journalism. It takes common criticisms made of the subject and simply thrusts them at him one after the other to see how he handles it. The basic format is: “People say this about you. What is your response?” Questions 1-7, 9 and 13 are all of that type.

Defenders of this style always say the same thing: Hey, that was a tough interview! People in the public eye should be made to answer their doubters. You may not like it, especially if you’re a fan of the person in question, but that’s our job as journalists: to be tough but fair.

No, your job as a journalist is to decide which of the common criticisms have merit, and ask about those, leaving the meritless to chatrooms. It is also to synthesize new criticisms, and ask about those. It is to advance the conversation, not just replay it. People say these bad things about you– what is your response? is outsourcing the work to other interested parties. It doesn’t make for a tough interview; it makes for a predictable one, easier for the subject to handle. It’s also the cheapest and simplest way to manufacture an “adversarial” atmosphere

Video runtime: ~14 worthwhile minutes.

They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn’t co-operate. They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK… It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong.

David Miranda, in an interview with The Guardian about his nine-hour detention at Heathrow Airport under England’s Schedule Seven of its Terrorism Act “which allows officers to stop, search and question individuals at airports, ports and border areas.”

Miranda is the partner of The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA surveillance story. Miranda tells The Guardian that “he was not allowed to call [Greenwald], who is a qualified lawyer in the US, nor was he given an interpreter, despite being promised one because he felt uncomfortable speaking in a second language… His carry-on bags were searched and, he says, police confiscated a computer, two pen drives, an external hard drive and several other electronic items.”

Miranda was passing through England from Berlin where he had met Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker also working on the NSA leaks. He says the drives he carried contained “materials” being passed between Poitras and Greenwald. 

This isn’t a story about whether one agrees with Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified National Security Agency documents, or what one thinks of Glenn Greenwald’s journalism. It is a story about whether sweeping powers passed with the understanding they’d be used against terrorists will henceforth be marshaled against anyone Western governments want to target, even if there is zero chance that they are associated with Al Qaeda or its affiliates. This is a story about whether national security journalism is already being treated as terrorism so that government officials can bring more powerful tools to bear against leaks of classified information. And it’s a story about the impropriety of targeting the loved ones of journalists in adversarial relationships with the government in order to intimidate them or others.

Journalists Against Journalism →

CORRECTION 7/3/13: An earlier version of this post misspelled Cagle’s name and stated that Greenwald started the blog. Credit actually goes to Free Press and Susie Cagle. Our apologies.

The blog features caricatures, drawn by cartoonist Susie Cagle, of journalists who are “eager to throw fellow journalists under the bus.”

The blog states: 

Glenn Greenwald’s groundbreaking reports on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs have set off a firestorm. What’s strange, though, is how much of the mainstream press’ outrage has focused on Greenwald — not the leaks he exposed…Indeed, many of the journalists featured here have skipped the hard questions and gone right to making accusations.

Illustrations include David Gregory and Andrew Ross Sorkin. Nominations can be submitted to @freepress on Twitter.

 

On the Espionage Act charges against Edward Snowden →

Via Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian:

Few people - likely including Snowden himself - would contest that his actions constitute some sort of breach of the law. He made his choice based on basic theories of civil disobedience: that those who control the law have become corrupt, that the law in this case (by concealing the actions of government officials in building this massive spying apparatus in secret) is a tool of injustice, and that he felt compelled to act in violation of it in order to expose these official bad acts and enable debate and reform.

But that’s a far cry from charging Snowden, who just turned 30 yesterday, with multiple felonies under the Espionage Act that will send him to prison for decades if not life upon conviction. In what conceivable sense are Snowden’s actions “espionage”? He could have - but chose not - sold the information he had to a foreign intelligence service for vast sums of money, or covertly passed it to one of America’s enemies, or worked at the direction of a foreign government. That is espionage. He did none of those things.

What he did instead was give up his life of career stability and economic prosperity, living with his long-time girlfriend in Hawaii, in order to inform his fellow citizens (both in America and around the world) of what the US government and its allies are doing to them and their privacy. He did that by very carefully selecting which documents he thought should be disclosed and concealed, then gave them to a newspaper with a team of editors and journalists and repeatedly insisted that journalistic judgments be exercised about which of those documents should be published in the public interest and which should be withheld.

That’s what every single whistleblower and source for investigative journalism, in every case, does - by definition. In what conceivable sense does that merit felony charges under the Espionage Act?

The News: Yesterday the US government charged Edward Snowden with espionage for releasing documents to the media about the National Security Agency’s top secret surveillance program. 

As many have pointed out, prior to the Obama administration, just three leakers had ever been charged under the Espionage Act since it was first enacted in 1917. Since coming to office, the Obama administration has charged seven leakers under the Act. 

Related: The New Republic examines whether such prosecutions are limiting investigative journalism in Is the ‘Chilling Effect’ Real? TL;DR? Yes, yes they are.

On Secrecy, War, Teenagers and Headlines

00Last Friday a US drone strike killed US-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because two weeks before a drone strike killed his US-born father. At the time, the US government said that the son was a twenty-something Al Qaeda fighter. A recently released birth certificate shows he was 16. What follows is a back and forth across two articles that focus on the issue, followed by a third, New York Times article that appeared today and calls this relatively new form of warfare a success.

01Glenn Greenwald: Two weeks after the U.S. killed American citizen Anwar Awlaki with a drone strike in Yemen — far from any battlefield and with no due process — it did the same to his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, ending the teenager’s life on Friday along with his 17-year-old cousin and seven other people.

02Amy Davidson: Maybe he was just in the wrong place, like the Yemeni seventeen-year-old who reportedly died, too. Abdulrahman’s family said that he had been at a barbecue, and told the Post that they were speaking to the paper to answer reports said that Abdulrahman was a fighter in his twenties. Looking at his birth certificate, one wonders what those assertions say either about the the quality of the government’s evidence—or the honesty of its claims—and about our own capacity for self-deception. Where does the Obama Administration see the limits of its right to kill an American citizen without a trial?

03Glenn Greenwald: It is unknown whether the U.S. targeted the teenager or whether he was merely “collateral damage.” The reason that’s unknown is because the Obama administration refuses to tell us. Said the Post: “The officials would not discuss the attack in any detail, including who the target was.” So here we have yet again one of the most consequential acts a government can take — killing one of its own citizens, in this case a teenage boy — and the government refuses even to talk about what it did, why it did it, what its justification is, what evidence it possesses, or what principles it has embraced in general for such actions. Indeed, it refuses even to admit it did this, since it refuses even to admit that it has a drone program at all and that it is engaged in military action in Yemen. It’s just all shrouded in total secrecy.

04The New York Times: Another Victory for a New Approach to War

The death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is the latest victory for a new American approach to war: few if any troops on the ground, the heavy use of air power, including drones and, at least in the case of Libya, a reliance on allies…

…[T]he last six months have brought a string of successes. In May, American commandos killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In August, Tripoli fell, and Colonel Qaddafi fled. In September, an American drone strike killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a top Qaeda operative and propagandist, in Yemen.

This is an important victory for the First Amendment, and for the freedom of the press in the United States. Some people don’t seem to understand the connection between the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources and a free press. But if whistleblowers in government, in corporations, and elsewhere in society can be hounded and persecuted, and if the Justice Department is able to use its power to turn reporters into informants, then investigative journalism in America will surely wither and die. The First Amendment will have lost its meaning.

Email from the New York Times’ James Risen to Salon’s Glenn Greenwald.

On Friday, a judge ruled that Risen would not have to testify about the identity of a source during the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official.

Sterling was arrested in January and is accused of leaking classified information to Risen.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon. Obama’s whistleblower war suffers two defeats.

Aggressive Campaign Targeting Pro-Wikileaks Journalists Uncovered by Hacker Group Anonymous

The results of a routine hack by members of the group Anonymous has uncovered an insidious plot to undermine and discredit several prominent journalists sympathetic to Wikileaks, according to the contents of leaked emails posted to The Pirate Bay and Anonleaks.ru.

Among the targets listed in the cache of nearly 60,000 emails belonging to the corporate security firm HBGary Federal, were Jennifer 8. Lee formerly of The New York Times, as well as Glenn Greenwald of Salon and James Ball of The Guardian. Lee is seen as a major factor in the spread of the “Collateral Murder” video, in which an American Apache helicopter gunned down a group of Iraqi men, including a Reuters photographer.

According to the contents of one email, apparently sent by  HBGary Federal CEO Aaron Barr, journalist Glenn Greenwald could be made to acquiesce if placed under sufficient pressure. “These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them, if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals,” the email said.

For his part, Greenwald responded that the journalists named as possible attack targets might choose legal redress, but it was also alarming how free the security companies felt discussing their plans, with no one raising objections.

A nasty fight is underway that clearly has many levels to sink.

(Source: Fast Company)

Lies, Lies and Objective Journalism →

Last week, after returning to the States from covering Egypt’s revolution, Anderson Cooper called out Hosni Mubarak and other politicians for lying to the media about their response and options to the uprising.

Soon, American establishment media were criticizing Cooper for taking taking sides in the conflict and losing his journalistic objectivity.

As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald writes:

Over the weekend, The Los AngelesTimes James Rainey mocked CNN’s Anderson Cooper for repeatedly using the word “lie” to describe the factually false statements of Egyptian leaders.  Though Rainey ultimately concluded that “it’s hard to find fault with what Cooper had to say” — meaning that everything Cooper identified as a “lie” was, in fact, a “lie” — the bulk of Rainey’s column derided the CNN anchor for his statements… Rainey also suggested that the harsh denunciations of Mubarak’s false statements were merely part of “Cooper’s pronounced shift toward more opinion-making in recent months … trying to adopt the more commentary-heavy approach of [CNN’s] higher-rated competitors, Fox and MSNBC.”  To Rainey, when a journalist calls a government lie a “lie,” that’s veering into “commentary-heavy opinion-making” rather than objective journalism 

Rainey, as Greenwald notes, wasn’t the only figure with questions about Cooper’s objectivity. Media critic Howard Kurtz had this to say during a Q&A with Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey, “Now I think most journalists would agree with him, perhaps most Americans would agree with him. But should an anchor and correspondent be taking sides on this kind of story?”

Says Greenwald:

Rainey, Kurtz and Dickey all have this exactly backwards.  Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders — and describing them as such — is what good journalists do, by definition.  It’s the crux of adversarial journalism, of a “watchdog” press.  “Objectivity” does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims.  The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that:  treat factually false statements as false.  ”Objectivity” is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a “lie,” but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they’re viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions.  The very idea that a journalist is engaged in ”opinion-making” or is “taking sides” by calling a lie a “lie” is ludicrous; the only “side” such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth.   It’s when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are “taking sides” — they’re siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies.

We couldn’t agree more, and recommend reading Greenwald’s full critique of the critique over at Salon.