UT Documents


I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Reply to Jonathan Cook

Dear Jonathan –

Thanks for the kind words and (excluding your headline) the thoughtful critique. I’ve long been a fan of your work as well, but in this case, you have profoundly misunderstood and misinterpreted my views. I’m not interested in ascribing blame, as I’ll be happy to concede that the fault may lay with my having unclearly expressed myself in a Skype interview, but I instead want to make clear what I do and do not actually  think on these matters.

In sum, I do not remotely deny that structural and corporate constraints at establishment media organizations severely constrict the range of acceptable views that can be aired. I’ve made that very point countless times over the years in all sorts of venues. I knew exactly who I was talking to in this interview: both the interviewer and the readership. We’ve all read, understood, and accepted the fundamental validity of Manufacturing Consent and related media theories. My point wasn’t to deny its validity but rather the opposite: to affirm its validity, but then point out that one nonetheless should try and can sometimes succeed in overcoming those constraints. That is a point

I made quite clearly here:

These kinds of biases are cultural and generalized, not absolute. . . .  The nature of theories of media bias isn’t that it’s impossible to ever inject certain ideas into them. That’s just not the case. Exceptions happen. But to the extent that you’re suggesting that most journalists would find it uncomfortable and even damaging to their career to write critically of their employers, of course that’s true.
Three points about this:

(1) In most of the interview, I was talking about my own personal experiences at Salon, the Guardian, and now with the Intercept: not generalizing to everyone’s experience. That’s because the context of the interview was the launch of our new media organization, and many of the questions which Michael asked were about whether I have been able, and would continue to be able, to maintain editorial independence and journalistic freedom despite working in conjunction with corporate structures. I have been able to do so, and tried to explain why and how.

I don’t remotely think my situation is common, or that all or even most independent journalists enjoy the same leverage, or that my own experience proves these constraints aren’t real and formidable. Of course they are real and formidable, and I repeatedly said so – both here and elsewhere. But I also know that I would never allow any media institution, or anyone else, to interfere with my journalistic freedom, and that was the point I was making. To me, that was the primary point of the interview: to explain my experiences doing journalism with these media organizations. So that’s what I spoke about.

(2) In general, I dislike theories of defeatism: telling other people that certain institutions or constraints are so formidable and absolute in their design that it’s literally impossible to successfully exploit or infiltrate them. I want to encourage people, especially independent journalists, to do the opposite: to think about how to exploit these institutions, to infiltrate them, to use them to one’s advantage, to overcome their repressive structures.

There are all sorts of reasons why one might try and fail. That’s because these institutions are indeed formidable, and they are designed to be self-protective, and most people will lack the leverage to defy their dictates for a whole variety of unavoidable reasons. But many people do use these institutions to be heard, to do the kind of impressive journalism they want to do, to find ways to inject prohibited and even subversive ideas into the discourse they produce. I think most people are aware of the reasons that’s so hard to do. But I also hope people will think about how to do that successfully. I want to encourage, not discourage, people to think about how to overcome limits and shatter these constraints.

(3) I do believe the internet has shifted the balance of power in journalism as compared to, say, 20 or 30 years ago – probably not radically, but definitely substantially. It is simply no longer necessary to go to work for a large media organization if you want to build a decent-sized readership. There are journalists, commentators and activists from around the world who have never been employed by a large media organization who have amassed thousands, or tens of thousands, or even more Twitter followers – more than many if not most of the full-time reporters and columnists for those established media organizations.

In a world where media organizations are financially struggling and are desperate for online buzz and traffic, that vests these independent journalists and activists with real leverage. Large media organizations need them more than they need these large media organizations, and so they can often set the terms of their work. I hope independent journalists don’t assume that they’re destined for failure if they try to use the resources and platforms of these large media organizations to be heard, because I don’t think they are. Many of them are succeeding at this, and I hope more do.
* * * * *

Large corporate media organizations are almost always going to be instruments for narrowing the scope of ideas and ensuring that the views which serve their institutional interests are promoted, favored and amplified. That’s intrinsic to their design and purpose. That proposition is self-evident and not in dispute. I certainly did not intend to dispute it, and don’t think I did.

But I also think that no human system is invulnerable. They all have weaknesses to exploit, and there are always new and innovative strategies that people can devise to undermine them if they believe that doing so is possible. I know it’s extremely difficult, and a huge challenge, and will often result in failure. Many of the independent journalists I admire most do their work entirely outside of these institutions, and that is a vital and obviously valid choice. But it’s not the only choice, and I want independent journalists devoted to the right values and ideals to maximize the strategic options they consider viable.

Thanks again for the critique. It’s always nice to have pushback from this direction –

Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Does Obama administration view journalists as Snowden's "accomplices"? It seems so.

(updated below)

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, appeared today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, his first appearance since outright lying to that Committee last March about NSA bulk collection. In his prepared opening remarks, Clapper said this:

Who, in the view of the Obama administration, are Snowden's "accomplices"? The FBI and other official investigators have been very clear with the media that there is no evidence whatsoever that Snowden had any help in copying and removing documents from the NSA.

Here, Clapper is referring to "accomplices" as those who can "facilitate the return of the remaining" documents. As Snowden has said, the only ones to whom he has given those documents are the journalists with whom he has worked. As has been publicly reported, the journalists who are in possession of thousands of Snowden documents include myself, Laura Poitras, Barton Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica.

Is it now the official view of the Obama administration that these journalists and media outlets are "accomplices" in what they regard as Snowden's crimes? If so, that is a rather stunning and extremist statement. Is there any other possible interpretation of Clapper's remarks?

UPDATE: In response to media inquiries about what Clapper meant when he referred to "accomplices", a spokesman for the DNI's office, Shawn Turner, is saying this:
"anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden [to] further harm our nation through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents." (Turner declined to be more specific when asked if that included journalists.)
Turner may be reluctant to admit it, but that essentially dispels all doubt - if there was any - that Clapper was publicly accusing journalists who publish Snowden documents of being "accomplices" in his "crimes". That a top-level Obama official is publicly accusing journalists of criminality for their journalism seems like fairly big (though unsurprising) news.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Reuters on Snowden

Reuters, today:

Other U.S. security officials have told Reuters as recently as last week that the United States has no evidence at all that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so.

Who elected them?

Who elected Daniel Ellsberg and The New York Times to take it upon themselves to reveal  thousands of pages of the top secret Pentagon Papers to the American public?

Who elected Dana Priest and her still-unknown source(s) to take it upon themselves to reveal in The Washington Post the existence of the CIA's top secret network of black sites?

Who elected Sgt. Joseph Darby and the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh to take it upon themselves to tell Americans about the classified operations at Abu Ghraib?

Who elected Mark "Deep Throat" Felt to illegally disclose, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to publish, secret information from an FBI investigation in the pages of The Washington Post?

Who elected Thomas Tamm, Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau to spill Bush's top secret NSA warrantless eavesdropping program in the pages of The New York Times?

Why did all these people - whom we didn't elect - think they had the right to decide which classified information should be disclosed?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rep. Rush Holt on Obama's NSA speech


(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has introduced legislation that would repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, released the following statement on the President’s remarks today about reforming the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs:

“The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.

“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause.  They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second.  They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware.  They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying. 

“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’  But this is a faulty and false choice.  As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’

“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies.  To the contrary, they exist to hold to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases. 

“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen.  A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough.  Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”


Sunday, January 12, 2014

EU Parliament committee report

From the draft report of the EU Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (page 26):

References: Article 10 of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) and Article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights

Thursday, January 09, 2014

From last fast-track bill for TPP

Page 18, Senate bill:


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

4 points about the 1971 FBI break-in

The New York Times this morning has an extraordinary 13-minute video from a team of reporters including the independent journalist Jonathan Franklin, and an accompanying article by Mark Mazzetti, about the heroic anti-war activists who broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and took all of the documents they could get their hands on, and then sent those documents to newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

Some of those documents exposed J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO program, aimed at quashing internal political dissent through surveillance, infiltration and other tactics. Those revelations ultimately led to the creation of the Church Committee in the mid-1970s and various reforms. The background on the Church Committee's COINTELPRO findings and the "burglary" operation which exposed it is here.

With the statute of limitations elapsed on their "crimes", ones the FBI could never solve, the courageous perpetrators have now unveiled themselves. The NYT story is based on a new book by Post reporter Betsy Medsger and the forthcoming documentary 1971 (of which my journalistic partner, Laura Poitras, is an Exective Producer). There are four crucial points to note:

(1) Just as is true of Daniel Ellsberg today, these activists will be widely hailed as heroic, noble, courageous, etc. That's because it's incredibly easy to praise people who challenge governments of the distant past, and much harder to do so for those who challenge those who wield actual power today.

As you watch the video, just imagine what today's American commentariat, media class, and establishment figures from both parties would be saying in denouncing these activists. They stole government documents that didn't belong to them! They endangered national security! They did not take just a few documents but everything en masse that they could get their hands on. Former FBI and CIA chief William Webster is shown in the film conceding that the documents they revealed led to important debates, but nonetheless condemning them on the grounds that they used the "wrong methods" - criminal methods! - to expose these bad acts, insisting that they should have gone through unspecified Proper Channels.

That all sounds quite familiar, does it not? Many of the journalists and pundits who today will praise these activists would have undoubtedly been leading the orgy of condemnations against them back then based on the same things they say today.

(2) The crux of COINTELPRO - targeting citizens for their disfavored political views and trying to turn them into criminals through infiltration, entrapment and the like - is alive and well today in the United States. Those tactics are no longer called COINTELPRO; they are called "anticipatory prosecutions" and FBI entrapment. The targets are usually American Muslims but also a wide range of political activists. See here for how vibrant these COINTELPRO-like tactics remain today.

(3) The activists sent the FBI's documents they took to various newspapers. While the Post published articles based on them (after lengthy internal debates about whether they should), the other papers, as Trevor Timm documents, "were not nearly as admirable." In particular:

According to Medsger’s book, even though the New York Times eventually published a story based on the documents, a reporter of theirs apparently handed the documents back to the FBI to help with their investigation. And the Los Angeles Times, never published any story and may have also handed the documents back to the FBI.
Moreover, the U.S. Government exhibited zero interest in investigating and prosecuting the lawbreakers inside the FBI. Instead, they became obsessed only with punishing those who exposed the high-level wrongdoing. This, too, obviously should sound very familiar.

(4) The parallels with the 1971 whistleblowers and those of today, including Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, are obvious. One of the 1971 activists makes the point expressly, saying "I definitely see parallels between Snowden's case and our case" and pronouncing Snowden's disclosure of NSA documents to be "a good thing". Another of the activists, John Raines, makes the parallel even clearer:

"It looks like we’re terribly reckless people," Mr. Raines said. "But there was absolutely no one in Washington — senators, congressmen, even the president — who dared hold J. Edgar Hoover to accountability." 
"It became pretty obvious to us", he said, "that if we don’t do it, nobody will.”
Medsger herself this morning noted the parallels, saying on Twitter that she hopes that her book "contributes to the discussion" started by Snowden's whistleblowing. The lesson, as she put it: "we've been there before."

Note, too, that these activists didn't turn themselves in and plead to be put in prison by the U.S. Government for decades, but instead purposely did everything possible to avoid arrest. Only the most irrational among us would claim that doing this somehow diluted their bravery or status as noble whistleblowers.

Here again we find another example of that vital though oft-overlooked principle: often, those labelled "criminals" by an unjust society are in fact its most noble actors.