Washington Post Says Prosecution for Snowden, Greenwald Calls Out Hypocrisy

By Kody Fairfield


In an epic move of pure hypocrisy, it appears that the Washington Post‘s (WaPo) editorial board has come out against a pardon for NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden: the same whistle blower whose sourcing to WaPo helped them to break one of the largest stories on government overreach ever to exist.

In response to the WaPo Op-Ed, journalist for the Intercepter and original confidant for Snowden Glenn Greenwald wrote a scathing rebuttal, and exposed the WaPo editorial board’s “intellectual dishonesty.” He highlighted what he called “profoundly misleading” about big name critics like the WaPo, who prefer to leave out the fact that Snowden left the decision of what to be published to the journalists, because he did not trust himself to make the correct distinctions.

Now, according to the WaPo Op-Ed release on September 17, 2016, the editorial board states that in light of the newest Snowden movie and movement of civil rights organizations such as the ACLU, Human Right’s Watch, and Amnesty International to pardon Snowden, it would appear that the admiration for him is at an all-time high. The board then went to say that most of his admirers believe he did indeed break the law, but believe that he was justified in one case, and that he produced actual federal corrections in exposing the grotesque overreach.

Mr. Snowden’s defenders don’t deny that he broke the law — not to mention oaths and contractual obligations — when he copied and kept 1.5 million classified documents. They argue, rather, that Mr. Snowden’s noble purposes, and the policy changes his “whistle-blowing” prompted, justified his actions. Specifically, he made the documents public through journalists, including reporters working for The Post, enabling the American public to learn for the first time that the NSA was collecting domestic telephone “metadata” — information about the time of a call and the parties to it, but not its content — en masse with no case-by-case court approval. The program was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy. Congress and the president eventually responded with corrective legislation. It’s fair to say we owe these necessary reforms to Mr. Snowden.

The board then began into their criticism of Snowden, partially focusing on his exposure of PRISM, a program that collects stored internet communications based on demands made to internet companies such as Google under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms.

This is a program which the board claims is “both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy.” It was also not permanent; the law authorizing it expires next year.

Greenwald responded to this by slamming the WaPo editiorial board stating:

In arguing that no public interest was served by exposing PRISM, what did the Post editors forget to mention? That the newspaper that (simultaneous with The Guardian) made the choice to expose the PRISM program by spreading its operational details and top-secret manual all over its front page is called … the Washington Post. Then, once they made the choice to do so, they explicitly heralded their exposure of the PRISM program (along with other revelations) when they asked to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

WaPo‘s Editorial Board would then claim that worse than PRISM, however, was Snowden’s release of information on, “defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China.” They claim this was far more dangerous as a security risk to the United States security.

Greenwald responded to this claim with, “what they inexcusably omit is that it was not Edward Snowden, but the top editors of the Washington Post who decided to make these programs public. Again, just look at the stories for which the Post was cited when receiving a Pulitzer Prize,” continuing, ” I personally think there were very solid justifications for the Post’s decision to reveal those. I personally think there were very solid justifications for the Post’s decision to reveal those. As Snowden explained in the first online interview with readers I conducted, in July 2013, he was not only concerned about privacy infringement of Americans but of all human beings, because — in his words — “suspicion-less surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95 percent of the world instead of 100 percent. Our founders did not write that ‘We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all U.S. Persons are created equal.”

The board then oddly went on to make an astonishing claim, which set a double standard for Snowden vs. the federal government surveillance stating:

No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency’s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly “tremendous damage” to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

It essentially would appear that the editorial board believes that since there is no proof that any American was ever harmed by the overreach of these government programs (besides all the violations of the Constitution which would be a harm to citizens), these programs should be okay to exist. After all, as it is often said, “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ironically however, the defense for this argument is nothing by a hypothetical. They state that it is “possible” that the release of the information could place US national security at risk, not that there is any proof of this, rather that it could happen, and therefore should take precedent over citizens’ rights to privacy.

The board would finish their argument against a pardon with the setup of what they felt were the two best mediations between Snowden and the US government.

Ideally, Mr. Snowden would come home and hash out all of this before a jury of his peers. That would certainly be in the best tradition of civil disobedience, whose practitioners have always been willing to go to jail for their beliefs. He says this is unacceptable because U.S. secrecy-protection statutes specifically prohibit him from claiming his higher purpose and positive impact as a defense — which is true, though it’s not clear how the law could allow that without creating a huge loophole for leakers. (Mr. Snowden hurt his own credibility as an avatar of freedom by accepting asylum from Russia’s Vladi­mir Putin, who’s not known for pardoning those who blow the whistle on him.)

The second-best solution might be a bargain in which Mr. Snowden accepts a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency in recognition of his contributions. Neither party seems interested in that for now. An outright pardon, meanwhile, would strike the wrong balance.

Furthering his discrediting of the WaPo editorial board, Greenwald left a stinging review of the article and their apparently “slavish” loyalty to the federal government.

Whatever else may be true, one’s loyalty to U.S. government officials has to be slavish in the extreme in order to consider oneself a journalist while simultaneously advocating the criminalization of transparency, leaks, sources, and public debates. But that’s not new: There has long been in the U.S. a large group that ought to call itself U.S. Journalists Against Transparency: journalists whose loyalty lies far more with the U.S. government than with the ostensible objectives of their own profession, and thus routinely take the side of those keeping official secrets rather than those who reveal them, even to the point of wanting to see sources imprisoned.

But what makes today’s Washington Post editorial so remarkable, such a tour de force, is that the editors are literally calling for the criminal prosecution of one of the most important sources in their own newspaper’s history. Having basked in the glory of awards and accolades, and benefited from untold millions of clicks, the editorial page editors of the Post now want to see the source who enabled all of that be put in an American cage and branded a felon. That is warped beyond anything that can be described.

In a nation founded on the government serving the people, who are guaranteed certain protections and privacies from their government, it sure seems like George Orwell‘s 1984 has become a piece of the playbook for certain media publications, and worse off, government agencies.

Which side do you fall on? Does Snowden deserve the protections of a whistle blower, as Glenn Greenwald proclaims?

Related posts

1 comment

Leave a Comment