Fuck The Guardian: Part 1

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger is clearly a man who takes his time.

Following the nine-hour shakedown of Glenn Greenwald’s spouse, David Miranda, by officials of Britain’s NSA satellite, The GCHQ, Rusbridger took to his paper’s blog  and disclosed what NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen called ‘the biggest Fourth Estate/free press news in a long time.’

People following the link may have felt they’d been sent the wrong way, because long before getting to the story that’s now all over the world’s front pages, Rusbridger leisurely recounts his attendance at a private screening of a ‘Dreamworks film about Wikileaks’ in which Peter Capaldi, who Rusbridger reminds us will be the next Dr. Who, plays Rusbridger, and very plausibly too, by Rusbridger’s account.  The film’s rendering of New York Times lickspittle Bill Keller is apparently equally convincing, such that the real Rusbridger yelled an expletive at him during a scene in which Keller is less cinematically courageous than himself.

After savoring this reverie on the immortalization of his heroism by Hollywood, the reader is still seven paragraphs away from Rusbridger’s bombshell, which is that two months ago,  ‘a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister’ contacted Rusbridger and in the course of two meetings demanded the return or destruction of the Snowden files. A month later ‘shadowy Whitehall figures’ showed up and after a few more meetings with an allegedly non-compliant Rusbridger –

one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

There is quite a lot that’s bizarre here, certainly, but not in the way Rusbridger means. There’s that Rusbridger is only just now getting around to telling anyone about this, a full two months after the Cameron government had issued its first threat. There’s also the image of  Rusbridger obligingly smashing Guardian computers and sweeping the remains up  under the watchful eye of GCHQ goons,  chortling to himself about their lack of tech savvy.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.

By that he means, can you believe the keepers of gigantic data repositories don’t know that files can be replicated??? Don’t these goons realize how terribly unimportant it is that they’ve forced the editor of the newspaper monopolizing the Snowden story to destroy all local files related to it?  Have they not considered that the lead on the story, Glenn Greenwald, lives and works in Brazil???  How DO these morons manage to keep the entire world under surveillance??? Oh har har bloody har.

Let’s put aside the obvious point that forcing a newspaper editor to destroy his own computers has all kinds of political and psychic benefits beyond, well, destroying the computers, and consider instead that David Miranda was detained while acting as a go-between for a manual exchange of local files between Greenwald and his Berlin-based colleague Laura Poitras.  Doesn’t this exchange suggest that this crew isn’t doing the kind of networked file replicating that makes the Guardian raid so cheeringly risible to savvy knowing knowers like Alan Rusbridger and Jay Rosen? Recall also that Miranda’s laptop was stolen from his and Greenwald’s home after Greenwald Skyped that he would send Miranda an encrypted copy of the Snowden files. Consider also that Lavabit, Snowden’s email provider, took itself offline, lest it, in the words of its owner, become ‘complicit in crimes against the American people.’

While intimidation is certainly playing a role here, it also seems as if the security establishment has not ruled out getting hold of all the files and destroying them. Nor should we underestimate the file-destroying powers of  a global surveillance mob that can burglarize a home in the Rio suburbs or force an encrypted email service off line as easily as it can bully some preening Guardian twit into indifferently smashing his own laptop.  Weird things happen. Remember how all those allegedly damning Bank of America files just disappeared? Poof. That story’s gone. We’ll never know what secrets those files disclosed, all because a couple of people thought they knew best when and how information should be disseminated and weren’t about to compromise control by sharing it with anyone else.

Even if Snowden’s files are so widely distributed at this point that government seizure is completely impossible no matter how repressive, ruthless and wide-ranging the surveillance apparatus becomes, a syndicate with even unwarranted confidence can wreak quite a lot of havoc. Isn’t it a side benefit, if not the the main point of mass surveillance, that people get driven offline into the kind of small, marginalized groupings that can be harassed, stolen from, jailed and murdered the old fashion way? Isn’t that exactly what happened when David Miranda, in lieu of an upload, wandered under Guardian auspices into the stateless zone of Heathrow, where the only thing protecting him really was the extent to which Anglo-American media elites would find his persecution problematic? And isn’t each of these events an opportunity for the global surveillance state to both sharpen and show its fangs and to make these spectacles seem increasingly normal, especially when ostensibly serious people like Rusbridger brush them off  as a pre-digital age anachronism, while idiotically beating their chests?

Before we continue further down this rabbit hole, it’s appropriate to ask how much of this repression/defiance theatre is necessary to getting Snowden’s disclosures to the people and to what extent it’s getting in the way. Greenwald and his Guardian colleagues would like you to savor these David and Goliath spectacles without considering that what’s being fought over here is not so much people’s access to Snowden’s disclosures as Greenwald and co’s right to own and profit by them. If Rusbridger thinks government destruction of files in the digital age is anachronistic, how, then, in reflective moments can he rationalize the mediation of whistleblowing by media elites like himself?

It is quite unlikely that if Snowden had simply handed off the files to, say,  Cryptome, that the raid of the Guardian offices, the theft of Miranda’s laptop, the interrogation of Miranda at Heathrow and arguably the closure of Lavabit would have happened at all. This is not to say that the surveillance state wouldn’t be in discipline and punish mode, but their hands would be very much more full than they are now. It’s also quite likely that the NSA’s secrets would be more widely known and understood than they are presently.

It’s fairly obvious what Greenwald and pals — some of whom will soon be immortalized, Rusbridger-like,  in films — are getting out of their monopoly. What it yields for the rest of us is much less obvious.

More on that tomorrow.


Did the Independent Just Spin and Old Guardian Slide?

Fuck the Guardian: Long Live The Independent?

Fuck the Guardian: Part 2

Homework for Fuck the Guardian: The Impact of Chelsea Manning

Confronting Edward Snowden’s Remarks on Manning 

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80 Responses to Fuck The Guardian: Part 1

  1. Recall also that Miranda’s laptop was stolen from his and Greenwald’s home after Greenwald Skyped that he would send Miranda an encrypted copy of the Snowden files.

    IIRC, if people read that whole conversation they’d see that GG said he was going to send Miranda the files and then decided not to. A lot of people seem to miss that part of it.

    It is quite unlikely that if Snowden had simply handed off the files to, say, Cryptome, that the raid of the Guardian offices, the theft of Miranda’s laptop, the interrogation of Miranda at Heathrow and arguably the closure of Lavabit would have happened at all.

    Right, but then there would be a raid, or other harassment, of Cryptome.

    • kobeski says:

      The point isn’t that nobody would be “held accountable” for pantsing the US/UK spying apparatus, but that all of the info would be released at once and would present the entire program, in context with itself, instead of this piecemeal program that is really only saying “Yeah, it’s like before, but worse” every couple of weeks.

    • Tarzie says:

      if people read that whole conversation they’d see that GG said he was going to send Miranda the files and then decided not to.

      And this is relevant because? This actually speaks to my point, that the NSA has driven the exchanging of files offline where it can be contained by force.

      Right, but then there would be a raid, or other harassment, of Cryptome

      Right and with only a million downloads having transpired before the raid happened, that would be a completely practical and effective thing to do.

    • ~lb*/ says:

      Anyone else considering that Miranda is playing a tethered goat? First the laptop incident & now the implication he couriers data for Greenwald. Either the worst OpSec ever or Snowden is doing training seminars. (I’d hate to think the NSA are so stupid as to cp disk & loose the newest stuxmet on the USG secret gov network. OK it gives me a chuckle.)

      Also, why would the GCHQ not want to confirm what info-data was on the Guardian laptops? Given their admission that they don’t know what Snowden has in his possession, any information in that regard might help to fill in the bigger picture of what was compromised. (I’m speaking as someone whose game it is to conceal & cover, not the person who wants to see it all published.) Summa: Rusbridger’s pants are ash.

      • Tarzie says:

        The GCHQ didn’t seem as interested in confirming what was on the laptops. Their message appeared to be return it or destroy it.

        I don’t know what most of the rest of your comment is really saying.

  2. Romancing the Loan says:

    I have heard some speculation that Snowden’s talk of a “dead man” switch for his files might entice completely unanticipated people to kill him in order to force a release of his whole stash.

    I liked my spouse’s idea for dealing with sensitive files: post them, encrypted, to the nearest torrent site labeled as the newest, hottest movie. Everyone will download them and only your contact will do anything other than get pissed and delete them. But no one will know which one he is.

  3. I like the theory that they are literally trying to mop up every physical copy of the files, and that the evidence for this is that they have to mule the shit around on flash drives. This is a very dangerous way to operate, as it really does risk the destruction of the files. Which leads me to my second point: I am in complete disagreement with Snowden and/or Greenwald’s argument that the leaker has the right to dictate the terms of the release of this information to its rightful owners: the public. Yeah, cheers, thanks a lot for breaking it out, but if you think you now get to tell me how I’m going to consume this information, eat shit. They’re not going to attack him MORE for dumping it — if anything, he’d then be irrelevant. And all along, Snowden has said some of the files he showed Greenwald for context really shouldn’t be released to the public because they really could damage what I can only assume he considers the “legitimate” intelligence gathering capabilities of the United States government, something for which I am utterly without sympathy.

    Dump all the files NOW, end this silly sideshow involving the shitty Guardian and the irrelevant personalities of Snowden and Greenwald, and remove the possibility that the empire really could regain control of this information and subsume it back into its body of secrets.

    • P Chayd says:

      I agree with most of what you say, Sassy, except for the first part about the “mop up” theory.

      If what we know about Snowden is true, they can’t really think they’ll be able to locate and destroy every copy of these files. Look at what he has already gotten away with. His ideas about screening and doling out information may be fucked, but the guy took a lot of secret information from the N.S.-fucking-A. basically undetected until he exposed himself. This proves he has the ability to hide and protect the information just like he said.

      The destruction of computers, detainment of Miranda and confiscation of his property are more about intimidation and trying to figure out what they have and what stories are coming next. I doubt Greenwald and Co. put the sole copy of anything sensitive on those drives.

      • Tarzie says:

        No one is saying that single copies reside anywhere. We’re saying that the number of copies maintained the very small number of people with access to Snowden’s info may seem entirely manageable to the surveillance state, which is attempting to seize and destroy them. That Snowden has gotten as far as he has doesn’t make him omnipotent. One would have thought Julian Assange was savvy enough to not lose a critical stash of Bank of America files. But he did.

        Let’s get serious here about how powerful this surveillance syndicate is: Greenwald Skypes husband from Hong Kong about mailing encrypted files. Husband’s laptop stolen from house in Brazil. That’s quite a lot of knowledge and power right there. Why do you think Miranda was carrying files that could have readily been uploaded to a file server somewhere?

        I think people really need to lose the knowingness about what the surveillance state is up to and what it’s capable of. In any case, the potential for losing all the files needn’t be there to demonstrate that the press freedom sideshow going on right now follows, needlessly in my view, from the Guardian’s monopoly on the story.

      • haydeon says:

        I see what you mean.

        Greenwald’s complaints about “state-loyal journalists” are ringing hollow when his stated reason for the slow, methodical release of information is protecting members of the state and state systems from what he thinks is unwarranted exposure and harm.

  4. thedoctorisindahaus says:

    The only snowden justification I find convincing is that he is reported to have said the techniques could be used by foreign oppressive governments.
    This is becoming increasingly non-credible.
    Nothing so far has suggested some superspy supertek we’ve never heard of that would give ideas to china/russia/india/saudi-whateva that they haven’t already had or already implemented.
    I suppose there might be technical details that are horrific, like cracking the best encryption in no time or overcoming any and all firewalls. But stuff like technical details of network monitoring are already open sourced software, for god’s sake. Anyone, with time and dedication, can become a network admin, logging every click their users make. Surely, the big players in the big game are already well ahead of that curve that opening up details would more likely help hackers and people find new ways to protect themselves.

    As to the profit motive. It may extend to other lazy ‘news’ outlets, who love having a little something to fling to their clickers every week.

    Much as we all love Justin Amash right now, star wars references and everything, I feel no confidence or optimism in leaving the biggest part of the battle to a congressional rep, while the rest of us are chewing popcorn watching the horror movie of our own powerless inaction.
    The indifference of other governments directly involved in this is even more frightening. Five Eyes is really a beating heart of fascist indifference. Ozzies and Canucks largely silent. UK conservatives totally shameless, even proudly defiant, while their erstwhile leftist allies and labour opponents sit yet another one out. And New Zealand pushing forth on increased prism-like powers.
    Whatever you think about the debate we’re having, the actions we’re getting are mostly horrible. Not that revealing all would change that, but we might lose nothing by it, either.

    OTOH. Releasing everything would still leave the next moves to a capable elite, not ‘the rest of us’. The plutocrats or the hackers are elites, just in different ways.

    And I wonder if, though we be pawns, the drip drip method doesn’t serve the anti-nsa faction of the elites? Sustaining a dangerously hypnotic spy thriller story to bring the masses’ opinion on their side, as, regardless their motives, that might be the most they can ever hope to extract from the masses, in their more involved struggle with the nsa.

    Gross as it sounds, right now the only ones who are actually able to do anything to the nsa, are the elites behind the scenes. I have trouble imagining they don’t find it a little scary up there, as vulnerable to secret destruction by the nsa’s side as a thumb drive guarded by a bespectacled, liberal Brit nerd squaring off with SS officers wearing the union jack.

    • Tarzie says:

      As to the profit motive. It may extend to other lazy ‘news’ outlets, who love having a little something to fling to their clickers every week.

      Your comments are all interesting. About the above, i do not object to people advancing professionally as analysts and interpreters of the leaks. My objection, clearly, is to the seeking of professional advantage via a monopoly on the leaks that has all kinds of social costs.

    • Your “drip-drip” method theory on the anti-NSA elites is good, plausible. To them it may not matter WHAT is in the files so much as that everyone knows they exist and the public’s anger can be managed and shaped to their ends (in theory).

  5. Daniel says:

    What’s become increasingly clear to me is that the people fortunate enough to have propriety over these juicy documents don’t fucking get that it’s not about them. The implications of a government attack on their hard drives have far more significant implications on the public at large than the major corporation with an expensive legal team and a built it international platform. So this, “Hey by the way, they busted into our office a couple months ago,” shit isn’t about an editor’s personal discretion. Ditto this “Just you wait and see” drip drop bullshit. It’s fucked up elitism and that their exercising it on “behalf” of the left mitigates fuck all.

  6. Vulgar Liberal says:

    I think you’re wrong. It’s clear to me that the drip-drip pace of releasing information is effective. It’s kept the news cycle focused around the NSA for way, way longer than I thought it would be. I was worried it would fade into irrelevance within the first week, to be honest. Given how close the vote in the house was to defund the NSA, and with, ostensibly, many more revelations to come, I think this has worked pretty well. As a result, I’m moderately optimistic about the potential for rolling back the surveillance state.

    Another tactical point is that the state seems to be acting pretty unhinged. This is good. I’m hoping for Greenwald and co to be persecuted further to galvanize public opinion. Drip-drip leaking seems like a good way to accomplish that, rather than render Greenwald and the Guardian irrelevant. The public doesn’t give a shit about whistleblowers or Wikileaks, as far as I can tell. The public doesn’t seem to give a shit about any of what Bradley Manning revealed either.The public does still seem to care about censoring establishment media outlets.

    I really don’t think there’s a profit motive to the drip-drip leaking. It might be noxious to your principles, annoyingly paternal, or a bad strategy, but I don’t actually think Greenwald is trying to profit off these leaks. I gave a few reasons why I support releasing information story by story. What’s the use of dumping it, other than fears of the information being destroyed?

    • thedoctorisindahaus says:

      My only problem with the kabuki of ‘making examples of people’ is that, even if your assumptions about who the public really cares about, are correct, the public is not in a position to act on or defend anyone. Reporters hardly defend one another. The public hasn’t even a platform to voice their impotent concerns.

      It’s great that people are disgusted. It’s not so great that the power of the people effectively ends at their feelings. The biggest marches ever didn’t stop the iraq war. And we victim blamed the public for not showing up.
      If they’d thrown miranda in jail, and had the stomach to put up with the criticism, the cameron government and the white house would have had to deal with…criticism. There is a difference between being a martyr and doing an action. In our world, where leading by example means you are left to act alone while everyone minds their business, being persecuted serves little to no purpose. But you may be more optimistic about the power of the people than I am.

      • Vulgar Liberal says:

        I don’t really know what you’re looking for. The point, to me, of leaks like this is to shape public opinion. I doubt you guys are looking for them to influence elite opinion. Short of causing public outrage and, in an ideal world, making support of the NSA politically toxic, exactly what are you hoping for? That’s literally the point of these leaks from my point of view.

        To me, the Iraq War protests were ineffective because they ended too soon. Continued, sustained outrage is key, not gigantic but short-lived public displays.

    • One main difference between drip-drip and the dump method is the former favors big organizations and allows the narrative to be shaped and controlled while the latter allows people — anyone! — to analyze, overlay, cross-reference, and most importantly CONNECT THE DOTS themselves. This was in fact done after Wikileaks and Anon dumps, and is indisputably good for the little guy. We know it’s effective because Barrett Brown and his cohorts are in fucking prison for their info liberation and — VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE — their journalism.

      So sure, you can prolong a very boring, fruitless drama wherein trickles of yawn-inducing information are let loose. This is good for the personalities involved and especially big media. It’s really good for the state, which, given plenty of time, gets to adapt and doctor its story. And again, don’t forget, some of it, we are told from the get-go, will NEVER be released because National Security. Which is not a thing.

      Or you can dump it all and let the masses sort it out. I think the burden is on those holding the info hostage to make their case why they should continue this way. They haven’t, to my satisfaction, and that’s why I demand they let us have our data.

      • Vulgar Liberal says:

        Two things:

        Dumping the documents is fine, great even, for people who follow politics closely and are already sypathetic to criticisms of the surveillance state. Most people get their news from establishment media outlets and are not sympathetic. I have no idea what you mean by “the little guy”. If the “little guy” is a dedicated researcher who goes through primary documents to find stories as a hobby, sure, it’s good for the little guy. Most people do not get their news from the little guy. This makes going through establishment media outlets important. The Guardian’s method of releasing information has been good for this.

        The reason they’re releasing it this way is because they think it will maximize the impact. Or at least, that’s the reason I think they’re releasing it this way.That’s the case they’re making. I’d like to hear an argument that it would maximize the impact to dump it. I was hoping you or Tarzie would make one. My guess is that it wouldn’t, but I’m happy to be convinced. Either way, it’s dishonest to pretend as if there’s no justification at all. The justification is strategic. You and Tarzie disagree with it on principle. That’s fine, but you’re pretending as if there’s some other reason.

        I also don’t think the fact that Barret Brown is in prison proves anything about the efficacy, but that’s not really relevant.

      • Tarzie says:

        One of these days you will argue by something other than assertion and false dichotomies and then I will reply to you at length.

        Dumping docucuments DOES NOT EQUAL ‘no one but radicals can read, analyze and disseminate them’.

        Dumping documents EQUALS ‘everyone can read, analyze and disseminate them’ with everyone including your wonderful super savvy knowing knowers at the Guardian if it makes you happy.

      • Vulgar Liberal says:

        You’ve completely missed the point. The advantage is in a slower speed of dissemination. Why this is more useful should be blindingly obvious.

      • Tarzie says:

        It’s not blindingly obvious no matter how many times you assert it without evidence.

      • Tarzie says:

        I think people are actually getting rather bored with the NSA. The delays between scoops is ridiculous. Embarrassing even.

      • “Most people do not get their news from the little guy.” Great, because guess what? Big media can still see the info when the little guy has it. Isn’t that amazing? And what’s more, they can do precisely what they are doing with it now, except they can’t CONTROL THE NARRATIVE. Sure, they will influence it and probably sway it, but they won’t be completely in charge of it. And the shit the little guy scrapes up might just make its way up the chain. It does happen.

        “Either way, it’s dishonest to pretend as if there’s no justification at all.” Who said they don’t have a justification? Not me. Not Tarzie, from what I can tell. It’s that we disagree with it. And we said why. I’m not sure why you’re still so confused.

        “I also don’t think the fact that Barret Brown is in prison proves anything about the efficacy, but that’s not really relevant.” That he was railroaded with minor bullshit for his journalism — which by the way was in fact picked up by larger outlets and amplified (to what effect, who knows?) — is proof they find him, and therefore smaller researchers, threatening to some extent.

        Your only argument seems to be that the Guardian has a right to control the entire game because, well, they think they know better. Pardon me for thinking that’s silly.

      • Vulgar Liberal says:

        I don’t understand what sort of intellectual high ground you think you have or why but there isn’t any content in your post absent assertions. You mock Rusbridger, speculate that maybe we’ll just lose all of the files on the NSA, and then assert that the surveillance state will abuse journalists which will normalize it and make everything worse. That, in addition to being baseless speculation (it could, just as easily, strengthen opposition) has nothing to do with whether or not the leaks are dumped. Then you assert it would be been better if the files had been dumped because the state’s “hands would be more full”, whatever that means.

        That’s all fine with me. I think asserting opinions can be interesting and worth arguing about. But that’s all you’re doing.

      • Tarzie says:

        Well, even if all I am doing is asserting, I only said it once, and entertainingly. You, well…

        But anyway, you’re wrong. Again. Saying that certain things MAY happen because they logically follow from other things isn’t arguing by assertion. For instance, Miranda’s muling of files is evidence that the Greenwald team is trying to keep their transfers offline. In the absence of a better theory, its fair to speculate especially since I don’t make a pretense of doing something else like oh, I dunno, someone saying over and over again that ‘DRIP DRIP DRIP IS JUST BETTER I TELL YOU IT’S BETTER BECAUSE IT’S BETTER IT JUST IS!!!’

        Saying that the Guardian has a monopoly on the information is not an assertion. It is a fact.

        The surveillance state is abusing journalists and it is not speculative to say that when things happen often they become more normal and that people in high places making light of them is at the very least a bad idea.

        Anyway, if you’re going to keep asserting, assert something new.

      • Vulgar Liberal says:

        Dude, I’ve only reasserted because I want a response to one, incredibly fucking simple point. Here, maybe this will help. From your newest post


        Monopolies on information are objectionable on principle and also tactically problematic. Any monopoly that media elites want to hold on critical information should be warranted by some greater good. I don’t see that greater good in the case of the Guardian.

        Alan Rusbridge is a dick.


        Here’s what I want you to explain

        “tactically problematic”

        I don’t see that. I asked, literally in my first comment, for an explanation. You said “bullshit bullshit justify authority anarchism”. I’m legitimately sympathetic to that, but I don’t care. I want to know in what way it’s tactically problematic. My view was “drip drip is sweet because it’s in the news longer”. I want to know why you disagree.

      • Tarzie says:

        I must have missed that question. I kept seeing that drip drip stuff.

        As I made clear, this post is not self-contained, and I intend to make my problems with the Guardian clear in time, though I have already raised a lot of them in other posts and on Twitter.

        However in this post i made it clear that I think the shakedown of Miranda, the attack on the Guardian office, the burglary of Greenwald/Miranda’s house and possibly the offlining of Lavabit all trace to the monopoly the Guardian is asserting over the leaks and that is self-serving of the Guardian to posit them as something else.

        I have also made it clear that I don’t like Rusbridge: I don’t like his suppression of the hard-drive story; I don’t like his obvious preoccupation with his own importance; and I don’t like the know-nothing knowingness with which he completely trivializes the crackdown on his London office. As he is the editor of a paper that holds the monopoly on the Snowden docs, HE IS A TACTICAL PROBLEM, the way any putz is a tactical problem to important enterprise. If he did not hold the monopoly on this important story, I probably wouldn’t give him a second thought.

    • Agreed. I’m inclined to think Greenwald & the Guardian took the Wikileaks lesson to heart. Assange discovered that when he bulk published massive troves of documents they tended to disappear without much investigation. That’s whey he chose to pair up with major news outlets and release War Logs and diplomatic cables on a drip-drip schedule — to INCREASE their effect on the public discussion.

      • Tarzie says:

        That is absolutely false. Elsewhere Greenwald has written on how significant Manning’s global impact was. It generated thousands of news stories around the world. Put another way, you are talking out of your ass and in the charmingly US-centric way that has been dominating the arguments against my point.

        Also everyone who is making comparisons between Manning and Snowden should take account of the fact that not only were they two different types of whistleblowers they were blowing the whistle on two different things. Snowden is blowing the whistle on an agency that intrudes on everyone’s life directly. Foreign policy isn’t like that, and will never matter as much to elites or to news watchers.

      • availablealias says:

        The Wikileaks docs disappeared without much investigation only if you get your news from the US.

      • Tarzie says:

        Yeah, what I am finding so particularly sickening about the defenders of the ‘drip drip drip’ method is their naval-centric preoccupation with the US news cycle.

  7. thedoctorisindahaus says:

    Yes what I’m driving at in a too subtle way, is that perhaps there has been holding back of the kind of criticism you’ve offered here, because the super thin, drip drip but still sensational exposure being played out, is good for catching clicks on all news outlets who, even forced to link back to the guardian, still keep their readers’ feeling well served with these tidbits every so often.
    I haven’t read internationally as widely as I would like. But from what I have, if those papers have any extra reportage at all, it’s only local to their audience. E.g. details about sweden’s monitoring of russia in swedish papers. Otherwise, I haven’t seen any in depth analysis. Is everyone extremely careful like the guardian? Or is everyone opportunistic, like the guardian?

    One further point.
    The exposing of what lying liars the NSA are and the lies they tell, is only fully achievable by repeated cycling. Expose a little info, let the pigs lie. One week later, expose the lie with a little more info. Ad nauseam.
    Until people are accustomed to the idea, which many are not, that the security services are just a sniveling, lying, self interested bureaucracy like any other. No honor among thieves and not many pure souls among them. Just turds, like any office.

    Worthwhile or not, I don’t know another way for that particular effect to be achieved without

  8. thedoctorisindahaus says:

    Worthwhile or not, I don’t know another way for that particular effect to be achieved without drip drip drip chinese reporter torture.

    The news that in fact NSA does not know exactly what snowden took:


    further makes this operation desert-lying-storm mechanism plausible.

  9. gregorylent says:

    seduced by style

  10. Happy Jack says:

    Some of this doesn’t add up. Rusbridger may not have informed the wider world about this incident, but I can’t believe that he didn’t tell GG about it. Given that, GG would have to be a drooling idiot to have Miranda transit through Heathrow if he was actually carrying anything important.
    For one, he could have shrugged off the stolen laptop to coincidence, as he had no idea who swiped it. However, add that to Rusbridger, and even GG’s dog can figure out someone is gunning for his stash. Second, given this knowledge, anyone capable of fogging a mirror would have enough sense to avoid London as a stop if at all possible.
    So you have two options. Stupid or ?

    • Tarzie says:

      You raise a really good point. I had been assuming that Rusbridger hadn’t told anyone including Greenwald, but that does seem rather unlikely, doesn’t it?

      Is it possible that he actually thought Miranda could make it to Berlin and back unmolested? This is all seeming weirder and weirder.

    • Something isn’t adding up, for sure. I don’t think Greenwald would knowingly put his own husband at risk of terror detention. Maybe, as he’s said when he talks about plans to visit the US, he believes in the law. This may be foolish as fuck but I really doubt he’s THAT reckless with the life of his family members. Unless Miranda insisted on it, which is a possibility. But then, I’m not sure I would have guessed I’d be dragged off a plane for my laptop. I hate these guessing games.

  11. Jeff Kaye says:

    You make some good points. But one could say that as distasteful as one may find the media elites (and I do), the attention they are able to draw to the materials they have is important in making the materials actually known and politically relevant. I say this as someone who almost entirely gathers his materials for writing from research that is “open source.” As an example, I am working on a story that will show that the predecessor to MKULTRA was a WWII Japanese program (part of Unit 731 and assorted parts of the Japanese Imperial Army) that did experiments on prisoners regarding hallucinogens, opiates, cyanide, and other incapacitants and lethal agents. The US pardoned those involved after the war, paid them for their data, and denied it happened. The biological warfare experiments later became known, but the experiments that paralleled MKULTRA — which have been available in libraries around the world, and even online — went practically unnoticed, and even when noticed (once by historian Sheldon Harris), the significance of them and the links to the CIA’s programs went unremarked.

    Even if Crytome had gotten the documents, they still would rely others to analyze them and report on their significance. Wide-spread knowledge of their significance would still depend on those same media elites. I think that is a terrible reality, but it is true, and won’t change until the social order changes, and the elites give way to true democracy, including in the media. The Internet makes the latter possible, but not inevitable, as the political struggle still is ongoing.

    One other example would be the Bradley Manning-Iraq War Logs revelations regarding FRAGO-242. This was a massive and years-long continuing war crime that violated treaties the US had signed. Despite the reporting on it — including by the Guardian and the New York Times — the issue never got traction. In part, the reporting by the latter was too limited. In part it is because those who exist to mirror the mainstream media, and who parrot only the causes that are trumpeted by the government or their recognized opponents (some of them paid agents), also failed to get the info out and make the totality of it comprehensible to the public, to argue its moral and legal and political significance.

    So the situation is complex, murky, nuanced, infuriating.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      I forgot to note that the FRAGO-242 documentation was publicly posted by Wikileaks, though the analysis was farmed out to other newspapers. So even in a case where both massive distribution of documentation AND media elite reporting took place, important information about the crimes of the US and allied forces still never got the attention it deserved.

      • Tarzie says:

        Whether or not a story gets the ‘attention it deserves’ has almost nothing to do with how it is initially made available and everything to do with how useful elites find its wider dissemination. I can’t believe people think that the NSA story has legs because of the Guardian’s savvy handling. It’s a ridiculous proposition. Greenwald writes stories all the time that get ignored. This one made him a celebrity. Why?

    • Tarzie says:

      People are really having a lot of trouble getting my very obvious point. Yes, if the documents were available to everyone, media elites would still dominate the discussion. The difference? More media elites, rather than a small handful of greatly varying competence and commitment. Plus lotS of other people, like genius software developers who create tools for analyzing, searching and connecting dots of documents and other technicians who can get to grips with the technical side in a way that Greenwald and co clearly can’t.


  12. i enjoyed this and agree with a lot of it. i think many commentators are missing the vital distinction between what is ON the drives, and what has been released (much, much less than what’s on them). We can argue about whether what has been released has been destructive to natsec (I think it largely hasn’t), but Greenwald’s own account of the data directly says that there is stuff ON the drives, not released, that would be destructive if released. therein lies the rub, because I don’t think that stuff should go on cryptome, and I don’t think the Guardian should publish it, and I’m not clear why Greenwald or Snowden or anyone else should think they have a right to hang onto it or that govts don’t in fact have a duty to pursue it, because it being outside classified storage means that enemies absolutely could get access to it. it is no longer secure. it is classified information too sensitive to be released and that therefore can’t be brought to bear on the public debate we should be having. it’s a real conundrum since nobody really knows what’s on those drives, nor should we, but Greenwald himself has stressed how damaging some of it would be if released.

    • Tarzie says:

      Hmm, I’m glad you enjoyed this but honestly can’t imagine what part you agreed with.

      • well, since you asked: i agree with your comments about the otherwise-unremarked weirdness of the two-month delay in Guardian telling about the destroyed drives; the fact that it is not unreasonable to think that the data could be destroyed and that the very fact of conveying it via encrypted drives suggests there are very few copies, so the State’s belief it might destroy the copies is not necessarily old-fashioned or unreasonable; and the heightened attention to drama that often obscures the import of the story (we had Drake, Binney, Wiebe before–why did their similar allegations [without a PPT to be sure] attract so much less attention?) and that Guardian is not just a critic (Greenwald loves to say “Snowden isn’t the story”) but also a serious propagator of that drama & even somehow depends on it for the attention it’s gotten.

      • Tarzie says:

        Thank you. We agree on quite a lot. I was too hasty.

  13. Nemo says:

    On the one hand, I agree with you that the Guardian is making this show all about themselves and ending their monopoly would put a stop to that. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much more effective would total transparency be, from a results standpoint. I mean, Wikileaks tried that, and while it made a greater number of imperial crimes known to the wide world, it did nothing to damage the Empire’s ability to commit those crimes. Indeed, the only tangible result from “Cablegate” was the destruction of Bradley Manning’s life.

    • Tarzie says:

      Actually there were more tangible results from Manning’s leaks than that but I am not sure that they warrant Manning’s complete destruction.

      I am no longer going to discuss comparisons between Manning and Snowden that take no account of the difference in what they were leaking.

      • Nemo says:

        “I am no longer going to discuss comparisons between Manning and Snowden that take no account of the difference in what they were leaking. ”

        Good point. Snowden’s info certainly seem to have cause much more of a stir than Manning’s ever did. Maybe I’m growing too cynical. Anyways, even if I doubt a revolution will come out of it, I can certainly agree that no harm would be done if there was a broader distribution of the primary documents.

    • Once again: a dump would prevent NO ONE, ZERO PEOPLE, NOBODY AT ALL, from doing what they will with any of this info. It would simply broaden by a factor of roughly however many billions of people have internet connections and a cursory interest the likelihood that more dots will be connected and better analysis will emerge and more outrage (or not! who knows!) will be stoked.

      It’s as if if I can read the shit the Guardian can’t. Maybe it will be a marginal improvement but there is absolutely no possibility of there being LESS info.

      Anyway, the empire was harmed, even if in small ways and they needed to expend energy to regroup. Fuck, revolutions were sparked in part because of the info Manning revealed! Do you people even read the news?

      • Nemo says:

        No need to get pissed. I agree that there’s no possibility of less info, and that broader distribution of the primary documents is a good thing. My only limited point is that I believe that no amount of info will do much to shake the foundations of Empire. I’m not defending the Guardian, just sharing my growing pessimism.

      • I get it, but I have severe disagreements with the idea that Manning’s actions produced no tangible results. As if it’s total collapse of the empire or nothing at all.

    • newcrownvic says:

      I remember some guy at Salon arguing that Manning and Wikileaks were most responsible for getting the US out of Iraq and that they had a big hand in the Arab Spring. This surely “damage[d] the Empire’s ability to commit [imperial] crimes.”


  14. Here is a real-life, personally known to me example of just the phenomenon Tarzie and I are talking about. Keep in mind the odds are that there are certainly many more with which I am not personally involved/aware of.

    In 2011, as editor for Antiwar.com, I edited a piece John Glaser wrote about a 2006 summary execution of an entire Iraqi family. Until then, it had been reported on when it happened as unsubstantiated but was then covered up by the military and assumed to be false, brushed under the rug. Glaser got the information by trolling the WikiLeaks DUMP of the materials liberated by MANNING, five years later. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/08/29/cables-reveal-2006-summary-execution-of-civilian-family-in-iraq/

    Then, a higher-up journalist who read Antiwar.com put the information in his own column defending the cable dump. GUESS THAT JOURNALIST’S NAME. http://www.salon.com/2011/09/02/wikileaks_28/

    *drops mic*

  15. poppsikle says:

    One of the biggest hurdles Glenn Greenwald has had to face, is people’s suspicion of those who act solely on the dictates of their conscience, as Snowden did. This for some reason, elicits endless jealous reaction, of the many who just cannot fathom what real courage is, the essence of a true whistleblower.

    Greenwald has, as has Snowden, addressed the issue of moral courage, and that ticks people off. They are very suspicious of heroes. Snowden is a true hero, one who has set off a needed chain of events to unveil the massive abuses of power going on, by the NSA. We all have benefited from it, the massive rights violations, they cannot continue.

    Greenwald has stuck with the story, the mark of a good investigative journalist. Too many important stories over the past few years, get one article and then are backed off of, which never brings out the story to the wider public. Almost every single one of his Tweets in reaction to the many confrontations he has had, have been honest and intelligent, not self-aggrandizing. The challenges Greenwald has faced are immense.

    Too few ask where are the other investigative journalists?? There is so much to report on, with the PRISM issue. Its a major scandal, in better times many other newspapers and media sources would have been jumping on the issue, instead of taking cheap shots and behaving like tabloid media.

    • Tarzie says:

      I don’t disagree with a lot of this but it’s entirely irrelevant to my complaints about information monopolies.

      Very bored with people who keep framing these posts as moral indictments of Greenwald when they are clearly no such thing.

      • poppsikle says:

        Its only a monopoly because so few other media sources are conducting investigative journalism into the issue. There are many angles to explore, left unexplored. And you might deny it, but the jist of your posts, is bashing Greenwald and the Guardian.

        This isn’t accurate for instance: “what’s being fought over here is not so much people’s access to Snowden’s disclosures as Greenwald and co’s right to own and profit by them.”

        You have accused them of mounting a David and Goliath story, when in fact, that’s what it is. Accusations like that, just get petty and as Greenwald has so often noted, the issue itself, of the massive rights violations being conducted by the NSA, is avoided while too many dally in pointless speculative gossip.

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  18. Tom Stanwell says:

    Tarzie, don’t you think it odd that Greenwald would publicly issue Puffed-Up Chest challenges (or self-defenses, depending on your psychological assessment of him) regarding his treasure trove of documents, and then would store some or all of the treasure on his partner’s computer in advance of travelling by jet — when modern TSA-ism is rampant?

    It’s like a B-movie “thriller”. It was done better, and cleverer, in the movie Cypher.

    Incidentally, people should take a moment to ponder the value of “total surveillance” to large businesses, from an intellectual piracy perspective. Uncle Sam holds the info, what do you wish to pay for it Mr Robber Baron?

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  22. Sophie says:

    Can I follow your blog by email? I can´t see how to do that…..
    Thanks, great posts 🙂

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