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News :: Human Rights
UK Guardian Reviews Glenn Greenwald's New Book
27 May 2014
Click on image for a larger version

Before Glenn Greenwald appeared on Newsnight last October to argue the case for the Snowden revelations on a link from Brazil, the presenter that evening, Kirsty Wark, popped into the green room to have a word with the other guests on the show, one of whom was Pauline Neville-Jones, formerly chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee. The interview, she apparently told them, would show that Greenwald was just "a campaigner and an activist", a phrase she later used disparagingly on air.

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
by Glenn Greenwald

Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book
And so the BBC went after the man, not the story. However, on this occasion, the man held his own rather well, roasting Wark and Neville-Jones with remorseless trial lawyer logic, making them look ill-prepared and silly in the process. At the time, I remember thinking that Edward Snowden had chosen exactly the right person for the job of chief advocate – a smart, unyielding, fundamentalist liberal outsider.

Some of these characteristics made me wonder if his account of the Snowden affair would be one long harangue, but No Place to Hide is clearly written and compelling. Though I have been writing about the war on liberty for nearly a decade, I found that reacquainting myself with the details of surveillance and intrusion by America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ was simply shocking. As the stories rolled out last year, there was almost too much to absorb – from Prism, the program used by the NSA to access, among others, Google, Microsoft and Apple servers, to the UK's Tempora, which taps fibre optic cables and draws up web and telephone traffic; from the secret collaboration of the web and phone giants to the subversion of internet encryption and spying on ordinary people's political activities, their medical history, their friends and intimate relations and all their activities online. I published a dystopian novel in 2009 that featured a similarly intrusive program, which I named DEEPTRUTH, and let me tell you, I didn't predict half of it.

Greenwald's book is a tough read if you find these things disturbing. The insouciance and dishonesty of politicians – some of whom in the UK last week called for increased access to our data – as well as the muted reaction of the established media last year do not augur well for the future of nations that currently regard themselves as free. Democracy and liberty are not synonyms and what Greenwald's book reminds us is that we may well end up as a series of hollowed-out, faux democracies, where the freedoms that we grew up with vanish almost unnoticed, like the extinction of a species of migrant bird.

He writes: "A citizenry that is aware of always being watched quickly becomes a compliant and fearful one", as well as one that is far less likely to express legitimate dissent, of course. The irony of Snowden's actions is that he may have hastened the chill. There are now legitimate things that many of us will never express in private, unencrypted emails or look up on the web because of surveillance.

I read No Place to Hide wondering how we let the spies probe our lives with such inadequate controls, and how on earth we fell for the propaganda that this massive apparatus was there to protect, not control, us. Greenwald quotes Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, saying: "If you have something you don't want people to know about, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place" – and later amusingly catalogues the lengths to which Silicon Valley bosses "who devalued our privacy" have gone to protect their own.

When speaking in public, he often takes on those who say they do not believe that privacy is the core condition of freedom by asking for their private information – passwords, salaries, etc. I have used the same trick. No one ever raises a hand.

The book is organised in three sections, starting with the story of how Greenwald was contacted by Snowden, Greenwald's flight to Hong Kong with film-maker Laura Poitras and their meeting with Snowden, whose bravery and clarity of purpose Greenwald rightly praises. There follows a useful section describing the main revelations, using the original NSA/GCHQ documents, and a third that deals with Greenwald's views on the established media and privacy. It would have been good to have a chart or timeline of the major revelations as well as a proper index. And I did feel the argument lost momentum in the middle, but on the whole this is a vigorously executed and important book.

One of the depressing parts of last summer in Britain was the failure of the quality press and the broadcasting media to react to Snowden and Greenwald is rightly contemptuous of the journalists on both sides of the Atlantic who act as proxies for authority – better an activist journalist than a lackey anytime. But let me just say I think the book does a disservice to my colleagues at the Guardian, which after all is established media. The author tips his hat occasionally but does not really acknowledge the importance of the seasoned reporter Ewen MacAskill's work in Hong Kong, or the team that assembled to sift the documents, decode their inner secrets, prioritise information, gain reaction, shape the stories and provide analysis.
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Re: UK Guardian Reviews Glenn Greenwald's New Book
28 May 2014
The man who helped bring about the most significant leak in American intelligence history is to reveal names of US citizens targeted by their own government in what he promises will be the “biggest” revelation from nearly 2m classified files.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who received the trove of documents from Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, told The Sunday Times that Snowden’s legacy would be “shaped in large part” by this “finishing piece” still to come.

His plan to publish names will further unnerve an American intelligence establishment already reeling from 11 months of revelations about US government surveillance activities.

Greenwald, who is promoting his book No Place To Hide and is trailed by a documentary crew wherever he goes, was speaking in a boutique hotel near Harvard, where he was to appear with Noam Chomsky, the octogenarian leftist academic.

“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’," he said.

“Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?

What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”

Greenwald said the names would be published via The Intercept, a website funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder and chairman of eBay. Greenwald left The Guardian, which published most of the Snowden revelations, last autumn to work for Omidyar.

“As with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last,” Greenwald told GQ magazine. “The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicoloured hues.”

The publication last week of Greenwald’s book about the story behind Snowden’s leaks has re-ignited controversy about the motives of the young computer technician, who fled to Hong Kong nearly a year ago and was then given refuge by Russia, which has resisted US demands to extradite him.

Greenwald has even debated Gen Michael Hayden, a former NSA and CIA director, in Toronto. A famously aggressive and relentless former lawyer, Greenwald refused to engage in any social niceties with his adversary.

"I think that's he's a war criminal and belong in the Hague," he explained. "And so to shake his hand or chat with him at a cocktail party is something really unpleasant to me." Away from TV studios and debating chambers, however, Greenwald is affable and engaging.

There are even flashes of self-doubt. He confided that when he first met Snowden in Hong Kong "I wanted him to be this really presentable reliable figure so badly I was a little bit concerned my desires would influence or muddy my perceptions".

Some senior intelligence figures claim Snowden could have been a spy for China, Russia or even both — a notion that Greenwald rejects as "just a standard demonisation tactic".

Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the vast majority of what Snowden stole related to "military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques and procedures" - something the fugitive vehemently denies.

James Clapper, director of National Intelligence and another figure Greenwald wants jailed, has described Snowden’s actions as the “most massive and damaging theft of intelligence” ever carried out.

Snowden is believed to have used a “spider” such as Googlebot, an easily available automated web crawler that Google developed to find and index new pages on the web. After Snowden set parameters for how far the spider should range, investigators have concluded, it was able to collect data when he wasn’t present.

Jack Devine, a former CIA director of operations, said he did not believe Snowden had been a spy, but that he shared many psychological characteristics of American traitors such as his former colleague Aldrich Ames, who spent years betraying secrets to Russia and is now serving life in prison.

These included an inflated sense of cleverness and self-importance, clashes with superiors at work, a dissatisfaction with carrying out mundane tasks and a sense of being under-appreciated.

“If I saw it and I were [the Russians or the Chinese] I’d come running for him,” said Devine. “But I don’t think the system worked that well. Even if you spot a bad apple, it takes a lot to get them.”

Devine, author of the forthcoming Good Hunting: An American Spymaster’s Story, said Snowden’s current situation bore similarities to that of Kim Philby, the MI6 officer who spied for the Soviet Union and ended up in Russia, alone and vulnerable.

“The Russians have been doing espionage for a long time. They understand the psychology of discontented people. It would be most unusual if he were allowed to remain there as a guest for free.

“I don’t think he was a controlled asset but I think at the end of the day he will be.”

Greenwald said he and Snowden still speak nearly every day via an encrypted computer link. “Literally of all the people that I’ve ever met and now know in the world, Edward Snowden is by far the person most at peace and fulfilled as a human being,” he said.

Greenwald said the NSA’s failure to catch Snowden was part of the paradox that “there is this genuinely menacing system and at the same time are really inept about how they operate it’.

“Not only was he out there under their noses downloading huge amounts of documents without being detected but to this day they’re incapable of finding out what he took.”

Greenwald, who has 12 dogs, ranging in size from a Bernese mountain dog to a miniature pinscher, at his home in Brazil, also promised further revelations about GCHQ, the NSA’s British sister agency.

“The British are more unrestrained and vicious in their surveillance mindset than even the US.” he said. “When you go to the park in New York, you see these built-up muscular guys and they have these tiny Shih Tzu dogs.

“It will seem like a mismatch but the Shih Tzu is super-vicious and yapping. That’s how I see the relationship between the GCHQ and the NSA.”

Toby Harnden
Re: UK Guardian Reviews Glenn Greenwald's New Book
28 May 2014
Kinsley, Greenwald and Government Secrets
May 27, 2014

Michael Kinsley’s review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place to Hide” hasn’t even appeared in the printed Book Review in the New York Times yet – that won’t happen until June 8 – but it’s already infuriated a lot of people. After the review was published online last week, many commenters and readers (and Mr. Greenwald himself) attacked the review, which was not only negative about the book but also expressed a belief that many journalists find appalling: that news organizations should simply defer to the government when it comes to deciding what the public has a right to know about its secret activities.

In the most heavily criticized passage of the review, Mr. Kinsley wrote:

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making — whatever it turns out to be — should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can’t square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.

It’s not the first time that Mr. Kinsley has expressed these kinds of sentiments, as some astute Times readers noted.

Tom Barrett, of Edmonton, Alberta, wrote to my office with this observation:

I suspect I am not the only reader to be perplexed at the choice of Michael Kinsley to review Glenn Greenwald’s new book. The result is as predictable in its own way as having Jeremy Scahill review it, or James Clapper. Wouldn’t it have been better to have chosen someone with a more balanced take on both Greenwald and the arguments he makes to evaluate the book? One cannot entirely escape the disturbing suspicion that Kinsley was chosen because of Greenwald’s repeated criticism of the mainstream media in general and the Times in particular. I am nearly finished reading the book and will make my own judgment, but I feel let down by the decision to choose someone guaranteed to produce a hatchet job.

Brant Freer of Troy, Mich., wrote to describe the review as “a vicious attack not only on Greenwald but also generally on journalism in the public interest.”

I asked the Book Review editor, Pamela Paul, why Mr. Kinsley was chosen to review the book. The intention, she said, was not to produce a particular point of view or to somehow exact revenge for Mr. Greenwald’s criticism of The Times.

She wrote to me in an email:

We chose Michael Kinsley, a frequent contributor to the Book Review (he recently reviewed “Double Down” for us, and before that “Going Clear”), because he has decades of experience in news journalism as well as in book criticism, has written extensively about the media and current affairs, and is thoughtful and smart in his approach to reviewing.

Ms. Paul said that she was aware of the negative reaction to the review but that there had also been “some very strong positive responses.” She added: “I think this is one of those subjects that people have strong feelings about, and there are obviously entrenched interests on either side.” As for the piece itself, she said, “It is a smart, lively, well-written review that took a point of view about the book and the subject matter.”

Here’s my take: Book reviews are opinion pieces and — thanks to the principles of the First Amendment — Mr. Kinsley is certainly entitled to freely air his views. But there’s a lot about this piece that is unworthy of the Book Review’s high standards, the sneering tone about Mr. Greenwald, for example; he is called a “go-between” instead of a journalist and is described as a “self-righteous sourpuss.” (I’ve never met Mr. Greenwald, though I’ve written about his work, as Mr. Kinsley notes.)

But worse, Mr. Kinsley’s central argument ignores important tenets of American governance. There clearly is a special role for the press in America’s democracy; the Founders explicitly intended the press to be a crucial check on the power of the federal government, and the United States courts have consistently backed up that role. It’s wrong to deny that role, and editors should not have allowed such a denial to stand. Mr. Kinsley’s argument is particularly strange to see advanced in the paper that heroically published the Pentagon Papers, and many of the Snowden revelations as well. What if his views were taken to their logical conclusion? Picture Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps the Times reporter Neil Sheehan in jail; and think of all that Americans would still be in the dark about — from the C.I.A.’s black sites to the abuses of the Vietnam War to the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the widespread spying on ordinary Americans.

Yes, as Ms. Paul rightly noted to me, it’s true that a book review is not an editorial, and the two shouldn’t be confused. And she told me that she doesn’t believe that editing should ever change a reviewer’s point of view. But surely editing ought to point out gaping holes in an argument, remove ad hominem language and question unfair characterizations; that didn’t happen here.

A Times review ought to be a fair, accurate and well-argued consideration of the merits of a book. Mr. Kinsley’s piece didn’t meet that bar.

Updated, 9:22 p.m. | After the above post was published, Ms. Paul offered some further response. It is as follows:

As your post suggests, there is some amount of discussion online raising questions about this review that merits a response, in particular to the suggestion that this assignment was not made thoughtfully and the editing process not conducted with care.

It seems there is a lot of confusion on the Internet, especially among those who do not work in the media but even — disturbingly — within the media, about the differences between an editorial and a book review, between what “The New York Times” says and what a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review says.

Some readers have suggested that the review should have been more heavily “edited,” by which they seem to suggest that we should have swayed Mr. Kinsley’s opinion to more closely approximate their own. It would be egregious journalistic practice for us as editors at the Book Review to try to tell a reviewer his or her review should be more positive or more negative, that a book should be liked more or less because a friend or enemy wrote it, because of our own personal viewpoints or because of some other hidden agenda. Our book reviews are all the opinion of the critic, and while we certainly edit our reviews, we do not try to influence a reviewer’s judgment.

You can disagree with a reviewer, but you shouldn’t distrust the reviewer. I think there is no reason in this case to distrust Mr. Kinsley or to suspect that he did not read the book, digest its material and write a review based on his own judgment. As part of our editorial process, we made sure that Mr. Kinsley’s characterization of the work was backed up by material in the book itself. By that standard, the review was certainly fair and accurate.

To take on but one specific criticism of the review: At no point did Mr. Kinsley call Mr. Greenwald a sourpuss. The actual text reads as follows: “Maybe he’s charming and generous in real life. But in ‘No Place to Hide,’ Greenwald seems like a self-righteous sourpuss, convinced that every issue is ‘straightforward,’ and if you don’t agree with him, you’re part of something he calls ‘the authorities,’ who control everything for their own nefarious but never explained purposes.” For a reviewer to address how a writer comes across, particularly in a memoir or first-hand account, is entirely fair game for a book review, and by no means an ad hominem attack.

That some readers disagree with it, as some readers disagree with many of our reviews, only proves the point that a good book review can and should provoke discussion and debate.
Re: UK Guardian Reviews Glenn Greenwald's New Book
28 May 2014
May 27, 2014 12:00AM ET by Jeremy Carp

Last week, the Obama administration signaled that it would finally declassify a secret memo detailing its justification for using drones to kill U.S. citizens living abroad. The announcement came just hours before the Senate voted to confirm David Barron, the memo’s author, as President Barack Obama’s newest judicial appointee.

Earlier this month, a handful of senators threatened to block Barron’s confirmation unless the memo was made public, once again calling into question the government’s reliance on undisclosed legal authorities, or “secret law,” to justify its covert and often controversial actions.

While the White House’s move to release the drone memo is a step forward in bringing transparency to the administration’s legal reasoning, it’s just one piece in a much larger puzzle. All three branches of government rely on the secret interpretation of law — a trend that should give all Americans cause for concern.

Take, for instance, secret law in federal courts. Federal magistrate judges, in addition to issuing routine search warrants, hear warrant applications for electronic surveillance orders, which grant permission to monitor cellphones, personal computers and other electronic devices. These orders are almost always secret and almost never become unsealed.

In 2006, magistrates issued over 30,000 sealed electronic surveillance orders — more than the entire output of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court since its creation in 1978. These orders constitute a massive body of unpublished case law. “It is as if they were written in invisible ink,” Judge Stephen Wm. Smith said, “legible to the phone companies and Internet service providers who [receive them], yet imperceptible to unsuspecting targets, the general public, and even other arms of government.”

Just as widespread are secret laws emanating from the executive branch. American presidents have frequently issued secret directives on national security and foreign policy that carry the full force and effect of law. Different administrations have given such directives different names, but those issued by the Obama administration are labeled presidential policy directives.

These directives are often unpublished and created without consulting or even notifying Congress. In effect, a president can create new national security law entirely in secret. While some directives should rightfully be kept undisclosed, we know that others focus on issues directly affecting Americans’ liberties, such as whistleblower protections, domestic intelligence collection and cyber-policing. Since taking office, Obama has classified and left unpublished 18 of his 28 known directives.

Even Congress produces secret law. The most common source is the classified budget annex. Prepared by the intelligence committees, classified annexes are attached to general appropriations bills and detail the budget for intelligence programs authorized for that budget cycle. As its name suggests, the contents of the classified annex are secret; even many lawmakers are unable to read the annex before voting on it.

Classified annexes can contain much more than just dollar amounts. In January, for instance, The Washington Post revealed that the classified annex accompanying the most recent omnibus appropriations bill contained a secret provision blocking the transfer of CIA drone operations to the Pentagon. As John McCain let slip, the provision was kept hidden not just from the public, but also from many members of Congress.

While secrecy in governmental operations is sometimes necessary, these operations must still take place within the boundaries of publicly understood law. In a democratic society, voters derive power from their ability to hold elected officials accountable. When officials’ actions are guided by a parallel code of secret legal interpretations and authorities, voters lose that fundamental power of accountability.

The Senate’s recent effort to force the declassification of Barron’s drone memo is a first step toward returning the power of accountability to voters. But it is not enough to pick and choose individual sources of secret law to make public. Secret law is a systemic problem demanding a systemic response.

A recent Brennan Center proposal calls on Attorney General Eric Holder to lead a government-wide survey of existing secret law, and to chair an interagency working group to ensure publication of the law without revealing classified operational details. This would allow Congress and the public to participate in an honest and open debate about some of the government’s more controversial activities, such as targeted killing, bulk collection of communications, and torture.

Americans have a right to know that their publicly elected leaders are not playing by a hidden rulebook. In a time of political gridlock and extreme partisanship, it’s not enough to ask the public to believe that their secret interpretations of law are in the public’s best interest. We need transparency to know that the rules on the books are not being undermined by another set of secret laws.

Jeremy Carp is a research associate with the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.