FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Source Betrayed: the Washington Post and Edward Snowden

by

The tensions between those engaged in the dangerous and compromising pursuit of whistleblowing, and those who use the fruit of such efforts has been all too coarsely revealed in the Washington Post stance on Edward Snowden.

Oliver Stone’s Snowden has done a good deal of stirring on its release, suggesting that the pardon powers of the Presidential office should be activated. A recent petition calling for a pardon of the former National Security Agency contractor has already received signatures from Steve Wozniak, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jack Dorsey.

The ACLU, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch similarly believe that Snowden should be exempted from the vengeful retribution of the US state for his 2013 revelations of uncontained, indiscriminate mass surveillance by the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ.

In taking its boggling stance, the Post’s myopic editorial refuses to deem such interception programs as PRISM threatening to privacy, though it does concede that one all-hoovering metadata program “was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy.” (Point to note there: it was The Guardian, rather than the Post, that jumped on that one.)

In rather damnable fashion, the board suggests that these technological nasties were otherwise very much within the remit of the law, blithely ignoring the ACLU suit that yielded a completely different result. A program such as PRISM should otherwise never have been revealed, and the US Republic could have gone on being unmolested.

With some reluctance, the not-so-wise denizens of US democracy went to work on the Hill to conduct the first extensive overview of intelligence practices in four decades. The effort was an imperfect one, but only took place because of Snowden’s constructively disruptive influence.

This is all minor feed for the editors. Something they can never forgive Snowden for is how his information revealed “leaked details of basically defensible international operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain cyber operations in China.”

This position, one effectively calling for the prosecution of the paper’s own source, goes totally against the effusive defence of Snowden, run in the same publication, by media columnist Margaret Sullivan.

The Obama administration’s woeful record favouring the prosecution rather than the protection of whistleblowers, argues Sullivan, could be turned “around, not entirely, but in an important way by pardoning the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and allowing him to return to the United States from his Russian exile without facing charges.”

The action by the editors is also problematic on another level. As Glenn Greenwald reminded readers in The Intercept, the move was distinctly peculiar coming from a publication owing “its sources duties of protection, and which – by virtue of accepting the source’s materials and then publishing them – implicitly declares that the source’s information to be in the public interest.”

Various blades were already unsheathed as Stone’s film began doing its magic. Last week’s flawed House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence committee report went over trodden, and sodden territory, doing its best to cast muck on Snowden’s efforts. Its bipartisan membership deemed it a “comprehensive review” but could only come up with a mere 36 classified pages of material. We were left with the crudest of summaries.

In the summary, nothing about the actual damage to US interests was outlined. Much of this remains fantastic at best, unverifiable and speculative at worst. It fell on the members to focus on the issue of Snowden’s own moral fibre, which somehow compromised his revelations. Snowden, urges the report members, was, and is “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” with “a pattern of intentional lying.”

What, in fact, is revealed in the report is institutionally sanctioned mendacity on the part of the US security establishment, and its political defenders. The distortions of fact range from questioning whether Snowden ever “obtained a high school degree equivalent” (which he did) to the “gross exaggeration” about his “senior advisor” role for the CIA. The proof, being very much in the disclosed pudding, suggests that Snowden was certainly doing more than rudimentary filing. Do desk clerks make history?

These tactics go to the modus operandi of those countering the external disclosure of wrongdoing within a sclerotic system of information. The assumption, and one made good by prosecutions, is never that a whistleblower is right, but that he or she is presumptively wrong whatever is revealed. The onus is on guilt in the breach, not innocence in patriotic exposure.

Snowden’s historical role is already well etched. He exposed a corrosive form of somnambulism in action, of an espionage world gone feral to the dictates of technology. It was a system that had the connivance, and in some cases, compliance, of some of the highest political figures in the countries of the Five Eyes Agreement. If treason is to be sought, it will not be falling very far from the tree of governance.

While the debate about Snowden’s pardon will continue to simmer, the verdict for the Post is a dire one. As Daniel Denvir noted with sharp relevance, “There is a special place in journalism hell reserved for The Washington Post editorial board”.

 

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 20, 2017
Sebastian Friedrich – Gabriel Kuhn
A New Class Politics
Patrick Cockburn
The Massacre of Mosul: More Than 40,000 Civilians Feared Dead
Paul Street
The Abandonment: Reflections on James Foreman’s “Locking Up Our Own”
Kim Codella
A Practical Education
Frank Scott
America’s Trump, Not Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Clancy Sigal Goes Away
Don Monkerud
The Real Treason in DC: Turning Our Lives Over to Corporate
Brian Dew – Dean Baker
Are Amazon’s Shareholders Suckers?
Ralph Nader
Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Covering Islam, Post-Jack Shaheen
Binoy Kampmark
Uhlmann’s Trump Problem
Patrick Walker
In Defense of Caitlin Johnstone
Barry Lando
Those Secret Putin-Trump Talks
Sean Marquis
Thank You, Donald Trump
July 19, 2017
Adam Ziemkowski and Rebekah Liebermann
How Seattle Voted to Tax the Rich
Patrick Cockburn
Why ISIS Fighters are Being Thrown Off Buildings in Mosul
John W. Whitehead
Zombies R Us: the Walking Dead of the American Police State
Mateo Pimentel
Net Neutrality’s Missing Persons
Adil E. Shamoo - Bonnie Bricker
Yemen Policy is Creating More Terrorists
L. Ali Khan
U.S. Misreads Pakistan’s Antifragility
David Macaray
Fear and Trembling in the Workplace
Brian Trautman, Gerry Condon and Samantha Ferguson
Veterans Call on U.S. to Sign Nuclear Ban Treaty
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
Ricardo Vaz
Venezuelan Opposition “Consultation”: Playing Alone and Losing
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Cold-Hearted Agenda is Immoral
Raul Castro
We will Continue to Advance Along the Path Freely Chosen by Our People
July 18, 2017
James Bovard
Obama’s AWOL Anti-War Protesters
Gary Leupp
CNN: “Russia is an Adversary, Ukraine is Not.”
Ryan Shah
Beware the Radical Center
John Carroll Md
Cold Hands Don’t Need Narcotics
Derrick Jensen
Endangered Species Don’t Need an Ark – They Need a Living Planet!
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Canadian Conjucture
Arturo Lopez-Levy
Trump’s Cuba Restrictions: a Detour, Not the Future
Russell Mokhiber
State Street Bentley University Business Ethics and Corporate Crime
Laura Finley
Being Too Much
Robert J. Gould
What is Our Experience of our Flawed Democracy?
Taju Tijani
The Burden of Indivisible Nigeria
Guillaume Pitron
China Now Leads in Renewables
Ted Rall
How I Learned Courts are Off-Limits to the 99 Percent
Binoy Kampmark
Militarising Civilian Life: Australia, Policing and Terrorism
July 17, 2017
Gregory Wilpert
Time for the “International Left” to Take a Stand on Venezuela
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Embrace of the Saudi Crown Prince, and a Qatar Nightmare Scenario
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Liu Xiaobo: the West’s Model Chinese
Terry Simons
Why I Did Not Go to Vietnam
Jim Green
Nuclear Power’s Annus Horribilus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail