FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Greenwald Botches NSA Leak

by KEN KLIPPENSTEIN

Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA material was not well executed. One of several mistakes was that he sought refuge in Hong Kong, which, as the Times argues, “is likely to extradite leaker if U.S. asks”. And it’s not as though there weren’t alternatives: Snowden could’ve fled to Latin America, which is exactly where Julian Assange “strongly advise[s] him to go”.  As Assange put it, “Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There’s a long tradition of asylum.” Assange is presently being given political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London.

It’s also puzzling that one of the journalists whom Snowden contacted about the leak, Glenn Greenwald, did not advise Snowden to forgo Hong Kong in favor of Latin America. Greenwald is a former civil rights litigator turned journalist who writes helpfully and knowledgeably about civil liberties: he can’t plausibly claim ignorance about the fact that Hong Kong typically cooperates with U.S. extradition requests. Having by his own account corresponded with Snowden “since February”, this would’ve given Greenwald plenty of time to research the likelihood that Hong Kong would grant Snowden political asylum. Greenwald even notes that he was “working with” Snowden “long before anyone spoke to Bart Gellman,” the only other journalist with whom Snowden corresponded. So Greenwald was not short on time to research potential safe havens for Snowden.

Snowden even informed Greenwald of his intentions to flee the country: as Greenwald recalled, “He sort of said, ‘My plan is, at some point, go somewhere far away, and I want you to come there and interview me.’” Then would’ve been a good time to exercise some journalistic ethics and see to it that his source would be going to a safe place. Having failed that, he complied with Snowden’s request to publish his name. Now Snowden is in a country that’s likely to extradite him, and he can’t fly somewhere else because the world knows who and where he is.

When Snowden first contacted Greenwald, Snowden reasonably requested that they communicate using encryption. Greenwald replied that he didn’t have encryption software. Snowden graciously sent him a homemade video with instructions on how to install such software, which Greenwald never completed. Irritated, Snowden then moved on to a filmmaker, Laura Poitras, who, when asked if she gets a lot of requests to communicate via encrypted methods, said “No, I don’t.” Presumably neither does Greenwald, which makes it all the more baffling that he didn’t bother to install encryption software per the directions he was so helpfully given.

To be fair, The Guardian is hardly unique in its failure to equip its journalists with encryption software or even knowledge about such tools. As Forbes columnist Andy Greenberg helpfully explains in his recent book, “This Machine Kills Secrets”, most if not all of the mainstream media fail to have adequate encryption software with which to communicate with potential sources. In most cases, either encryption software is installed lazily—riddled with security holes—or it isn’t installed at all. In contrast, Wikileaks features excellent encryption software along with protocols that very meaningfully protect leakers’ anonymity. As perplexing as Snowden’s choice of refuge is, so too was his choice to submit his leak to The Guardian instead of Wikileaks. It’s worth noting that Bradley Manning was caught because of human rather than technological failure. Manning confided his leak in a friend who would later give him the Judas treatment. Wikileaks’ software, based in large part on the Tor anonymity engine, succeeded in concealing Manning’s identity.

Barton Gellman, who scooped Greenwald by about twenty minutes, had an interesting explanation for why he decided to publish the story when he did. Though he “would have been happier to have had a day or two” on the story, he “started to hear some footsteps, so I had to move.” The cynicism is astonishing. God forbid The Guardian should beat Gellman to the story by 30 minutes or so. If only Gellman’s concern over being the first to break the story was matched by his concern for the source’s safety; Snowden then might not be facing likely extradition, as he is now. When sources are regarded as merely opportunities for career advancement, it’s no wonder there aren’t more people leaking to the press.

It’s unclear to me which is the greater threat to freedom of the press: cyber surveillance or journalists’ vainglory.

Ken Klippenstein lives in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, where he edits the left issues journal, whiterosereader.org He can be reached at Reader246@gmail.com

More articles by:

Ken Klippenstein is an American journalist who can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or by email: kenneth.klippenstein@gmail.com

November 23, 2017
Kenneth Surin
Discussing Trump Abroad
Jay Moore
The Failure of Reconstruction and Its Consequences
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Trout and Ethnic Cleansing
John W. Whitehead
Don’t Just Give Thanks, Pay It Forward One Act of Kindness at a Time
Chris Zinda
Zinke’s Reorganization of the BLM Will Continue Killing Babies
David Krieger
Progress Toward Nuclear Weapons Abolition
Rick Baum
While Public Education is Being Attacked: An American Federation of Teachers Petition Focuses on Maintaining a Minor Tax Break
Paul C. Bermanzohn
The As-If Society
Cole A. Turner
Go Away, Kevin Spacey
Ramzy Baroud
70 Years of Broken Promises: The Untold Story of the Partition Plan
Binoy Kampmark
A New Movement of Rights and the Right in Australia
George Ochenski
Democratic Party: Discouraged, Disgusted, Dysfunctional
Nino Pagliccia
The Governorship Elections in Venezuela: an Interview With Arnold August
Christopher Ketcham
Spanksgiving Day Poem
November 22, 2017
Jonathan Cook
Syria, ‘Experts’ and George Monbiot
William Kaufman
The Great American Sex Panic of 2017
Richard Moser
Young Patriots, Black Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Darkness
Lee Artz
Cuba Libre, 2017
Mark Weisbrot
Mass Starvation and an Unconstitutional War: US / Saudi Crimes in Yemen
Frank Stricker
Republican Tax Cuts: You’re Right, They’re Not About Economic Growth or Lifting Working-Class Incomes
Edward Hunt
Reconciling With Extremists in Afghanistan
Dave Lindorff
Remembering Media Critic Ed Herman
Nick Pemberton
What to do About Al Franken?
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail