Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’
– Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman
Enlarging on a point I made in this update to my last post, I offer a sampling of all the varying tales told by the Leak Keepers and others on just how many documents Snowden gave them. When reading these accounts, keep the following in mind:
1. A writer at the Cryptome site recently estimated that at current rates of disclosure, it will take 26 years for the Guardian to reveal all of Snowden’s documents. That estimate was based on an estimate from Greenwald of 15,000 documents, which we now know to be false. The trove is at minimum five times that size and probably much larger.
As savvy reader Paley Chayd pointed out, Cryptome generously equated the vague Leak Keeper word, ‘document’ with the more precise, ‘page.’ Chayd also noted that in Greenwald’s tirade here recently, he claimed that he and his colleagues had published ‘hundreds’ of documents. According to Cryptome, they have published no more than 300 unique pages, a figure that consolidates everything published in the US, British, Brazilian and German press.
2. When The Guardian introduced Snowden to the world, they stressed the meticulousness with which he chose the documents, and emphasized, offensively really, the extent to which this distinguished him from Chelsea Manning, whose trial had just begun. This emphasis on Snowden’s meticulousness, which was picked up immediately by the mainstream press, certainly suggested a relatively small trove, since large troves can not be meticulously gone through by single, better-than-Manning whistleblowers with limited time.
3. Only four news organizations have unlimited access to any part of what looks like a rather large trove: The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ProPublica. Greenwald has made his lack of interest in distributing documents to other news organizations quite plain. That means whatever we learn about these documents will come through these organizations, plus whatever Greenwald and his colleague Laura Poitras write in partnership with other news organizations and publishing houses.
4. The New York Times received over 50,000 documents two months ago. They have published one story based on The Snowden Leaks so far. Now is a good time to remember that when The New York Times had custodianship over parts of Cablegate, then editor Bill Keller bragged that he checked with the White House before publishing anything. Greenwald had some thoughts on this at the time, which Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting quoted in this write-up on Keller. Considering Greenwald’s and The Guardian’s current conduct, and FAIR’s entirely unsurprising, cowardly silence about it, it’s amusingly ironic and instructive.
Now, at last, the tale of the living, growing document trove, as told by various news reports:
The Guardian, June 9, 2013
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,”
Morning Joe, June 10, 2013
Thomas Roberts: What makes Bradley Manning any different from Edward Snowden . . . because Manning is widely considered to be a traitor and not a whistleblower?
Greenwald: … if you ask [Snowden] what the difference is, he will say that he spent months meticulously studying every document. When he handed us those documents they were all in very detailed files by topic. He had read over every single one and used his expertise to make judgments about what he thought should be public–and then didn’t just upload them to the internet–he gave them to journalists who, he knew, and wanted to go through them each one by one and make journalistic judgments about what should be public and what wasn’t, so that harm wouldn’t come gratuitously, but that the public would be informed, and that he was very careful and meticulous about doing that.
Der Spiegel, July 13, 2013
[Greenwald] told [German news show] host Reinhold Beckmann that he and journalist Laura Poitras had obtained full sets of the documents during a trip to Hong Kong, with around 9,000 to 10,000 top secret documents in total.
MSNBC, July 17, 2013
“I think there’s a real misconception over whether he’ll continue to leak,” Greenwald said. “He turned over to us many thousands of documents weeks and weeks ago back in Hong Kong… As far as I know he doesn’t have any intention of disclosing any more documents to us.”
AFP, August 6, 2013
“I did not do an exact count, but he gave me 15,000, 20,000 documents. Very, very complete and very long,” Greenwald said, responding to questions from [Brazilian] lawmakers.
The Telegraph, August 30, 2013
Oliver Robbins, the deputy national security adviser for intelligence, security and resilience in the Cabinet Office, said in his 13-page submission: “The information that has been accessed [from the siezure of David Miranda's belongings at Heathrow] consists entirely of misappropriated material in the form of approximately 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents.
The New York Times, September 5, 2013
The documents are among more than 50,000 shared by The Guardian with The New York Times and ProPublica, the nonprofit news organization. They focus on GCHQ but include thousands from or about the N.S.A.
There you have it, folks: from 9,000 meticulously chosen docs to many times that in just four months. Clearly, The Leak Keepers lied, which is something they seem very inclined to do, and which seems particularly revolting in light of all the un-Manning shenanigans. More importantly, the surveilled people of the world — and by that I mean everyone — are never going to see most of those docs. Three cheers for old media, doing what old media always do.