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The Guardian and Snowden

Snowden in Moscow: a Postcript

by ISRAEL SHAMIR

After the publication of Snowden in Moscow, I received many positive responses, a few queries, – and a few abuses. I am used to the whole lot, and I expect it whenever the Guardian newspaper is mentioned. I wrote and published in the Counterpunch and in other media the story how the Guardian deliberately censored Wikileaks files in order to pervert the contents and to fit their imperialist-left agenda. The Guardian besmirched Julian Assange and spread the sex innuendo stories about him, while I pointed out their malice and dishonesty in this regard.

The great newspaper paid me back with accrued interest, by running a few attacks and defaming me. Since then, in the imperialist-left circles I an known as Dictators’ Best Friend (for I wrote positively about Lukashenko’s Belarus, Putin’s Russia, North Korea and Kampuchea, Assad’s Syria, ), Feminists’ Enemy (for I reported on CIA connection of Anna Ardin, the Swedish woman who effectively honey-trapped Assange), antisemite (for my pro-Palestinian writing) and what not.

This time again, the imperialist left is doing its usual stuff, providing the Empire with the left foot to stand upon. Their sites went against Snowden: why did he go to Russia ruled by Putin the dictator, where gay marriages are not legalised? He had to surrender to the US, the great liberal country, a home of every gay and abused woman. Gosh, he should rather die or be holed forever in the transit but go to the country where no Jewish billionaire can be certain of his future (vide Khodorkovsky).

A typical response is that “we don’t hear a peep out of Greenwald, Assange or Snowden about the show trial and sentence of Putin’s arch rival today, one who turns out tens of thousands on the street and fights corruption, and we don’t hear a peep about the way gays are treated in Russia … and the article, by this nut job anti-semite, is by one of Julian Assange’s close associates”.

Another, equally typical response by an imperialist leftist is “[Snowden’s] decision to flee rather than face the consequences of his actions, has inevitably diminished his credibility. And worse, his apparent willingness to seek refuge in some of the most repressive states in the world, can only make things worse. The hand of the tyrant-lover and arch-hypocrite Assange  is obviously behind this”. Right, Snowden should go to Guantanamo in order to satisfy fine feelings of Shiraz Socialist!

That is why I was not amazed but still taken aback by sheer vehemence of Glenn Greenwald, a writer for the Guardian, who published (together with Laura Poitras) the first revelations of Snowden. He was upset by my words:

“Snowden was not seeking limelight, quite the opposite!  He wished to stop the crimes being committed by No Such Agency in the name of American people, no more, no less.  He hoped to become a new Deep Throat, whose identity would never be revealed.  His first profound revelations were made by correspondence; he flew to Hong Kong as he was familiar with the place, spoke fluent Chinese, and planned to return home to Hawaii. It appears  that the Guardian Newspaper pushed him into revealing his identity.”

He wrote to me:

“You “understand” nothing. This is a pure fabrication, the opposite of reality. From the start, Snowden was insistent that he be publicly identified as the source. The only thing I ever succeeded in convincing him to do was waiting a week so the first set of stories wouldn’t be swamped by focus on him. 

He was convinced that he had the obligation to account to the public for what he did, and that his detection by the US was imminent no matter what he did. He wanted his identity revealed on his terms, not on theirs.

Fabricating fantasies in your head – that are absolutely false and for which you have no basis – and then passing them off as what you “understand” is just pathetic and reckless.”

“Reckless” coming from the man who did put Snowden on the line, whose only consideration was, in his own words, “so the first set of stories wouldn’t be swamped by focus on him” – this is rich indeed!

I replied (the full texts are below):

Dear Mr Greenwald,

I am not prone to fabrications. As every journalist, I record what I am told. This is the way I received the story.

I understand that this interpretation is not pleasing for you.

Snowden found himself in a very dangerous spot – in HK, waiting for imminent arrest. In your version, it is his own recklessness and love for limelight, while you and Laura tried to convince him to be more prudent.

In the version I received, he was enticed to reveal himself, this revelation was published while he was in the dangerous spot. If he really wished to have his identity known, why could not he get himself to Venezuela or disappear before the sky will fall down on him?

I think the version I received is more consistent, more logical, makes more sense.

His response was a string of abuse:

“…you’re fabricating and lying. But really, who cares? It makes no difference what you say.”

Fine with me, I thought. He does not care what I say, I do not care what he says. I never even mentioned him by name.  But his friends on the PopRes (Popularresistance.org) site published this exchange of letters with their explanation of the vehemence.

The PR claim that my article “carries two implications the U.S. government would love you to believe:

1. Greenwald and the Guardian were complicit in Snowden’s leak, conspiring with him and managing his actions rather than simply reporting information.

2. Snowden never intended to reveal his identity, but rather hide out forever as a criminal because he really intended to hurt the U.S. rather than act as a whistle-blower of NSA crimes.”

This is quite unfair. These implications are of the PopRes authors only. I do not subscribe to them. In my view, a whistle-blower may “hide out forever”, like the Deep Throat did; in no way it should be seen as a “criminal desire to hurt the U.S.” “Conspiring” is a loaded word, I never used it, nor did I meant it.

Another set of implications by the PopRes: “The implication here is not only that Greenwald was making decisions for Snowden, but that Greenwald and the Guardian are somehow responsible for Snowden’s predicament. The notion that Greenwald is responsible for providing Snowden with a “safe route” is ludicrous…”

Again, these implications are yours, PopRes folks. Naturally Greenwald (whom I never even mentioned) did not make decisions for Snowden, as far as I know. As for responsibility – yes, I do think that the Guardian was responsible for providing Snowden with a safe route. Remember, Hong Kong was a preferred (by Brits) jurisdiction to arrange for rendition, as Counterpunch reported.

Journalism is a rough game, but it is still a human occupation. You can’t take a guy, goad him into spilling the beans, and drop him at the gate of police station. Even if he was ready to tell all he knew: still one is responsible for his safety.

Apparently we have different ideas of responsibility. My idea: “one should protect the source; help the man to reach safety, and only then to release info.” Their idea: “publish and let the guy fry. It is his choice. We are just publishing.”

I am being guided by compassion to the defector (for Snowden is a defector from the Power to the People side), PopRes and GG are guided by cold-nosed wish to get the stuff and dump the guy.

This is the bottom line, and we could reach it without so much of abuse and vehemence. We have different ideas of responsibility. Let us remain – each one – with these ideas. I have no wish to argue these points again.

PS I’d just use this space to thank people who wrote to me and thanked for my article on Snowden in Moscow, among them fellow Counterpunch writers Norman Pollack, Thomas Mountain of Eritrea, John Walsh, Jagdish Jain, Doris Eisler, Kim Alphandary, Dan Keefe, Yakov Rabkin, Jim Kable, Maria Poumier from Paris, Jocelyn Braddell of Dublin, Henry Makow, Mark Sleboda and other wonderful people.

From: Kitt Flynn

Sent: Thursday, July 18, 2013 4:06 PM
To: Israel Shamir
Subject: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

That sentence about Snowden being pushed by the Guardian is 100% incorrect. I suggest that you write to Glenn Greenwald and then post a correction. I been reading Greenwald regularly, and so knew that you were incorrect. I wrote him about it, he wrote back vehemently denying your “pushed” statement and stated that Snowden was insistent from the start that he be indentified.
Kitt Flynn

“It appears that the Guardian Newspaper pushed him into revealing his identity.”–Shamir


From: Israel Shamir
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 2:12 AM
To: Kitt Flynn
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

Well, provided you are in touch with GG, ask him what was his idea of what next. S identifies himself, then what? Goes to jail? As far as I understand, S did not want to be identified, but Guardian pushed him into it, without providing any safe route. S almost got arrested, and it is not the Guardian that saved him from arrest.


To: Israel Shamir
Cc: Glenn Greenwald
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 4:24 AM
From: Kitt Flynn
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

To Israel Shamir:
As I already told you, you were and still are incorrect. I don’t why you don’t just email Glenn Greenwald yourself. I’m sending this email along to him.

To Glenn Greenwald: The staff of Popular Resistance added a note to the top of the article by Israel Shamir with your rebuttal to the claim of “pushed.” I don’t know about Counterpunch. But as you can see Israel Shamir remains confused.

http://www.popularresistance.org/snowden-an-exile-in-moscow/


To: Kitt Flynn
Cc: Israel Shamir
From: Glenn Greenwald
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 4:27 AM
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

> ” As far as I understand, S did not want to be identified, but Guardian pushed him into it,”

You “understand” nothing. This is a pure fabrication, the opposite of reality. From the start, Snowden was insistent that he be publicly identified as the source. The only thing I ever succeeded in convincing him to do was waiting a week so the first set of stories wouldn’t be swamped by focus on him.

He was convinced that he had the obligation to account to the public for what he did, and that his detection by the US was imminent no matter what he did. He wanted his identity revealed on his terms, not on theirs.

Fabricating fantasies in your head – that are absolutely false and for which you have no basis – and then passing them off as what you “understand” is just pathetic and reckless.


To: Glenn Greenwald
Cc: Kitt Flynn, Jeffrey StClair
From: Israel Shamir
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:06 AM
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

Dear Mr Greenwald,
I am not prone to fabrications. As every journalist, I record what I am told. This is the way I received the story.
I understand that this interpretation is not pleasing for you.
S found himself in a very dangerous spot – in HK, waiting for imminent arrest. In your version, it is his own recklessness and love for limelight, while you and L tried to convince him to be more prudent.
In the version I received, he was enticed to reveal himself, this revelation was published while he was in the dangerous spot. If he really wished to have his identity known, why could not he get himself to Venezuela or disappear before the sky will fall down on him?
I think the version I received is more consistent, more logical, makes more sense.
As probably you are aware, I am not a friend of the Guardian, a newspaper that smeared me in many possible ways. I wrote about the wikileaks cables being censored and distorted by the Guardian. The newspaper promoted war on Afghanistan and Iraq, and what not. And still, I would not write what I wrote regarding S unless this were a story I received from reliable sources and that would make sense.
Regards,
Israel Shamir
Moscow


From: Glenn Greenwald
To: Israel Shamir
Cc: Kitt Flynn, Jeffrey StClair
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 6:08 AM
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

You’re an idiot. And a liar. And I really couldn’t care less what lies you tell.

I know you’re lying when you say you heard a “version” of the facts since there were only three people in the room when it all happened – me, Laura Poitras, and Snowden – and I know for a fact you spoke with none of them.

That means you’re fabricating and lying. But really, who cares? It makes no difference what you say.


From: Israel Shamir
Sent: Friday, July 19, 2013 8:39 AM
To: Glenn Greenwald
Cc: Kitt ; Jeffrey StClair
Subject: Re: Snowden/ “Guardian pushed”

Attack is the best defence, eh? You put the man on the line, you got the benefits, he got the trouble, now you want to be in the clear. Obviously, I’ve got to be an idiot and a liar to notice it.