Cutting the Crap on the Snowden Q & A With the Guardian

If the Guardian wants to salvage any credibility at all, they need to jettison Glenn Greenwald. They should also apologize for giving this guy free rein, with no editorial control. It’s one thing to set up a blog and let him blather on with his opinions. But a news organization can’t be this sloppy when it comes to actual news operations.

Edward Snowden, who gave Greenwald a “scoop” that’s been melting since he “scooped” it, granted Greenwald and the Guardian a “Q & A session” to explain questions that people have about him. Now, think about this a minute. First of all, the Guardian is supposed to report news stories, not become them. Greenwald and the Guardian are already more of a story than the “news’ about an NSA surveillance regimen that has been conducted in the open for about seven years. There’s really no “news” here. Not only that, but Greenwald’s tendency toward inaccuracy should be sending editors over there into apoplectic fits. For example, take a look at how he begins his introduction to the Q&A:

It is the interview the world’s media organisations have been chasing for more than a week, but instead Edward Snowden is giving Guardian readers the exclusive.

First of all, it’s not an interview. Taking questions from random, anonymous people is NOT an interview, for the same reason they don’t call press conferences “interviews.” Second of all, we don’t know that “the world’s media organisations” have been chasing Snowden for an interview. But if they catch him and actually interview him, it will be his first.

There is also something else to keep in mind as you read this drek. Greenwald moderates the comments to his column, and routinely rejects many. How do we know these questions will be a fair representation of what was asked? How do we know the questions Greenwald chose aren’t friends or supporters of his?

Greenwald starts off by asking two questions that aren’t half bad for a Fox News panel show. For a “reporter,” they’re not that great, though. Follow along as I comment on some of these questions and answers. As always, my responses/comments will be in red.

Greenwald’s first questions:

Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?

The first half of the first question are actually not bad. Why he went to Hong Kong is very relevant to this story. On the other hand, what “journalist” would actually think evidence of an unrelated transgression by the US government would serve as a rationale for anything Snowden did, whether or not you believe he did the right thing? This is middle school level thinking. And what about that second question? Besides potentially putting him in greater legal jeopardy (something lawyer Greenwald should understand), is it really part of a reporter’s job to  imply that “someone” might try to kill the subject?

Snowden’s answers to these questions are pretty amazing:

First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.

First of all, whistleblowers are heavily protected under the law. Snowden is not a whistleblower. By definition, a “whistleblower” exposes illegal activity, and nothing Snowden uncovered is illegal. Now, you can make the case that perhaps the behavior should have been illegal, but that’s another debate. If Snowden is such a fan of “justice,” as he seems to be claiming, I have to ask him, where’s the justice in putting NSA analysts, who are working Americans like you and me, on the spot and portraying them as somehow disloyal to the concept of justice?

By the way, since he left the country before Greenwald published the story, his excuse about the cries of treason and the inability to get a fair trial as an excuse for running to China ring a bit hollow. Everything he’s done so far has been very deliberate, and very highly planned. This is not a refugee seeking asylum, but a guy who’s trying to make himself out a hero, when he’s anything but. 

Second, let’s be clear: I did not reveal any US operations against legitimate military targets. I pointed out where the NSA has hacked civilian infrastructure such as universities, hospitals, and private businesses because it is dangerous. These nakedly, aggressively criminal acts are wrong no matter the target. Not only that, when NSA makes a technical mistake during an exploitation operation, critical systems crash. Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

The above is absolutely clueless, on so many levels. Wow. How can Snowden call himself a whistleblower, when he obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about? First of all, based on the laws in place right now (again, whether or not you disagree with the law), terrorists who are connected to certain elements and groups ARE “legitimate military targets.” The information that Snowden disclosed actually helped them out by providing details on a program that needed to keep details secret. 

But notice what he says above. He seems to be more concerned about our government “hacking” “innocent” people in other countries, and  suggesting that “the majority of them are allies.” That’s a pretty strong charge, and nothing that has been released thus far points to anything like that. Not that it would matter. There are channels within the US legal system to deal with this sort of thing. He owed it to those who are trying to protect us to use those methods, rather than go to an American blogger who writes for a British newspaper from a home in Brazil to try to knock the wind out of the intelligence apparatus. 

Nothing in what Snowden gave Greenwald uncovers any atrocities or massive violations of human rights or civil liberties, so he should really can the self-righteous” public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name” garbage. Revealing secrets about our government chasing terrorists is really little different from Dick Cheney’s outing of Valerie Plame. We are NOT entitled to know everything. That’s why we have oversight. And there is more oversight now than in the past. 

2) All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.

Forget the paranoia. See, here’s the problem with the above statement. We don’t know what the “truth” is when it comes to this guy. Documents are worthless without context, and how do we get proper context from a guy who is unknown to anyone, and who has essentially lied about everything he’s told us about himself so far. In the video that started this, he implied that he was an analyst, and used the first person to describe what he said was done with the data he was supplied, then we find out later, he was essentially an IT guy. He claimed to make $200,000 a year, when he made $122,000. He claims he’s a hardcore Libertarian, says he didn’t vote for Obama, but that he supported Obama’s agenda. 

I hate to break it to him, but “truth” is already being “stopped,” in part because a whistleblower has to be trustworthy, and he hasn’t shown himself to be that. Whistleblowers don’t fly to China to escape American justice. For that matter, people with convictions – people who actually believe in what they’re advocating for, stay and fight. 

About the salary thing… someone asked about that:

Did you lie about your salary? What is the issue there? Why did you tell Glenn Greenwald that your salary was $200,000 a year, when it was only $122,000 (according to the firm that fired you.)


I was debriefed by Glenn and his peers over a number of days, and not all of those conversations were recorded. The statement I made about earnings was that $200,000 was my “career high” salary. I had to take pay cuts in the course of pursuing specific work. Booz was not the most I’ve been paid.

Who would answer a question that way? If he’s trying to make a case for his truthfulness, he’s doing a lousy job. A REALLY lousy job. And doesn’t it raise more questions that he took a significant pay cut to work at the NSA? I mean, we’re not talking about $10,000 here. We’re talking about a $75,000 pay cut – in the tech industry, of all places. That should set up some red flags, shouldn’t it? I mean, he may have a perfectly good explanation, but it’s hard not to think that taking a hefty pay cut and then escaping to China isn’t at least a little hinky.

Speaking of China, he was also asked about that by a fellow reporter at the Guardian, Ewan McCaskill:

I should have asked you this when I saw you but never got round to it……..Why did you just not fly direct to Iceland if that is your preferred country for asylum?


Leaving the US was an incredible risk, as NSA employees must declare their foreign travel 30 days in advance and are monitored. There was a distinct possibility I would be interdicted en route, so I had to travel with no advance booking to a country with the cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained. Hong Kong provided that. Iceland could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.

Think about this a moment…

Leaving the US was a risk? Why? If you’re a whistleblower, there are channels. And the guy Snowden’s talking to is a lawyer, and knows many other lawyers. There’s no way he couldn’t prepare for the potential blowback. And if the government’s doing the horrible things Snowden claims, he should stay and fight and protect us from them.

This answer really fails a smell test. First of all, Snowden was on a leave of absence, under the pretense of being treated for his epilepsy. Second, he went to Hong Kong more than two weeks before he released the documents. Interdiction? He signed into the hotel in Hong Kong under his own name and used his own credit cards. Sure doesn’t sound like someone who felt as if he was in mortal danger. He didn’t even leave that hotel for four days after the disclosure.

Another interesting answer:

Edward, there is rampant speculation, outpacing facts, that you have or will provide classified US information to the Chinese or other governments in exchange for asylum. Have/will you?


This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public, as the US media has a knee-jerk “RED CHINA!” reaction to anything involving HK or the PRC, and is intended to distract from the issue of US government misconduct. Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.

The smear wouldn’t even have been considered had he chosen another destination than China. Like it or not, the Chinese government has zero legitimacy with regard to human rights or above-board dealings. It is not a destination country for a self-professed “Libertarian.” And if he was a Chinese spy (and believe me – I am not saying he is.), and trying to disclose information from the NSA, Hong Kong has residual legitimacy, and Beijing would not. 

But this could be my favorite response to a question in the entire Q&A:

What would you say to others who are in a position to leak classified information that could improve public understanding of the intelligence apparatus of the USA and its effect on civil liberties?

What evidence do you have that refutes the assertion that the NSA is unable to listen to the content of telephone calls without an explicit and defined court order from FISC?


This country is worth dying for.

But it’s not worth standing up to the justice system for? If he was an actual whistleblower, he could have easily gotten any number of lawyers to represent him, and a number of laws to protect him. Just a few day ago, a whistleblower at the Department of Labor, who uncovered a pattern of underreporting of workplace injuries and fatalities and was fired for it, just received an $820,000 settlement for his whistleblowing. The difference between Snowden and other “freedom fighters” before him is that Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela stayed and fought. They didn’t run and hide. 

I’d also note that he was standing in China when he said “this country.”

There are so many other questions, and so many other ridiculous answers, I encourage everyone to read this drivel. This guy isn’t a hero. He’s not a whistleblower. I don’t know if its driven by ego or what, but there’s something in this entire situation that doesn’t smell right. If Glenn Greenwald wants to come up with a news story, that may be a better one. 

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  1. The U.S. was going to take retaliatory action against the Chinese for hacking. One of the actions would include “hack back”. With the information gleaned from Snowden, the Chinese can now better protect themselves and strike out at the U.S.

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  3. Snowden said one thing with which I agreed, which is that strong encryption is effective. The NSA cannot possibly know much more about how to decrypt than the outside world does, because to do so would require an entire shadow scientific establishment working in secrecy, that was well ahead of the civilian world. Throwing money at the problem isn’t going to make mathematics happen; and they don’t make their own computers from scratch, either.

    Snowden didn’t elaborate on what he meant by the NSA getting around encryption, but surely it refers simply to getting the same intelligence by different means. What you encrypt in e-mail then discuss on an unencrypted phone is not secure.

    I cannot get a single non-technical person to announce they’ll support and use encryption, though. I couldn’t before Snowden and have had no more success now. Why not is a mystery to me.

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