Edward Snowden’s Incredible Mutating Document Trove

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.


New Zealand Television interview, September 13, 2014 (video, 9:00)

Greenwald: I have access to hundreds of thousands of documents in the possession of the NSA…


In Conclusion

Good Whistleblower/Bad Whistleblower

Another Snowden News Story, Another Lesson in Proper Whistleblowing

A Heat Vampire in Search of a Movie Deal

On The Pejorative Use of ‘Dumping’

Fuck The Guardian: Take Your Drip and Stick It

Fuck The Guardian: Part 2

Fuck The Guardian: Part 1

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61 Responses to Edward Snowden’s Incredible Mutating Document Trove

  1. Pingback: On the Pejorative Use of ‘Dumping’ | The Rancid Honeytrap

  2. Paley Chayd says:

    Let’s not forget Greenwald’s recent claim in your comments section that they have published “dozens upon dozens” of articles and “hundreds” of documents. Bullshit upon total bullshit.

    Also, the Cryptome estimate starts with 15,000 reported pages leaked and makes their estimate based on pages published. They should really compare documents leaked to documents published or try to estimate how many pages are in each document if they want to compare pages to pages. Since there are multiple pages in each document, the estimated years to to publish them all should be much higher.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I have been trying to stay away from the document/pages distinction, because ‘document’ is so imprecise. No matter how you look at this, the conclusions are the same:

      1. They have been lying constantly
      2. The document trove is not a manageable size for its current custodians. It would take decades to process all these documents as news stories and release them.
      3. Far more government secrets are being concealed than are being revealed.

      That’s a great point you make about Greenwald’s hundreds and hundreds claim. I may have to update my post with that. See, this is how crowd-sourcing works. I have gotten so much more out of discussing this with insightful, observant people like you than I would from just writing posts on it.

  3. Albert Meyer says:

    And what about the absurd charade at Heathrow airport? Am I the only one who noticed that the “official” story makes no sense?

  4. dtaylor says:

    Whether or not GG and company lied about the amount of “documents” is of little to no consequence to me. It could simply be a case of acquiring massive amounts of data and not having the time to filter it to understand exactly what one has. So the choice is either lying or sloppy, bumbling and simply unqualified. Do you think there is some purpose to them consciously lying about the number?

    As to your point #2 above, I definately agree that even if there are 9,000 peices of information, it is obvious that Snowden lied from the begining by saying he himself vetted them all.

    Thanks for this summary. It simply reinforces my position that I trust absolutely nothing about this story.

    • Tarzie says:

      Do you think there is some purpose to them consciously lying about the number?

      1.The smaller size made the needless comparisons to Manning more credible. As it turns out, they weren’t credible at all.
      2. The smaller size conceals the extent of the hoarding. Five newspapers with 9,000 docs might get through them in a reasonable amount of time. 100,000 docs not so much. People should be alarmed that, at current rates, it will take years for the organizations holding the docs to prepare stories about them.

      As to lying, generally I think it’s something people shouldn’t do, especially transparency advocates who have assumed custodianship of government secrets affecting everyone on earth. I find all the lying — which started with the bullshit story about all the care Snowden took with the docs — rather disquieting.

      The size of the trove is important. If Greenwald didn’t know how big it was, he should have said so. An extremely bad estimate, that is, a guess, when stated as something other than a guess, is a lie. Also, considering that the trove went from 9,000 docs to tens of thousands, bad guessing doesn’t seem to be what’s going on here.

      • dtaylor says:

        I think your point #1 is right, but I don’t think they were needless. I think they were critical in the chain of events that followed. I just keep coming back to your comment about this all being an example of an ‘acceptable way to whistle-blow’.

        As to point #2, I don’t think it follows. If it was a massive trove, then all measures by the Guardian would have been taken to ensure that the 9,000 number stayed in the media circle to avoid criticisms such as the ones you are leveling. I don’t think they cared. Only Snowden was concerned with how he appeared in comparison to Manning. Other estimates of the size could be slip-ups of a grandstanding media outlet not realizing it calls into question Snowden’s original claim.

        Regardless, its interesting that no other media outlets (who are not in the super-secret circle of access) have not tracked down Snowden to answer some of these questions. According to Antiwar.com he just accepted a whistle-blower award for christ’s sake.

      • Tarzie says:

        I think your point #1 is right, but I don’t think they were needless.

        By needless I mean these comparisons have produced no effect in terms of successfully telling tales on the government. In terms of indoctrinating people to the right way to blow whistles they weren’t needless at all. Lets not split hairs.

        As to point #2, I don’t think it follows. If it was a massive trove, then all measures by the Guardian would have been taken to ensure that the 9,000 number stayed in the media circle to avoid criticisms such as the ones you are leveling. I don’t think they cared.

        When the UK government said that Miranda was carrying 58,000 documents, Greenwald essentially said they were lying and does so now, even though their figure syncs up perfectly with what the New York Times disclosed about what is obviously the same trove: The GCHQ docs. After the Miranda incident he was still quoting the 15000 – 20000 figure, even though we know he knew better. It’s quite probable that the New York Times was not briefed on all the fake stories the Leak Club has to keep telling and just blurted.

        The Guardian has done all kinds of lying. That they don’t bend over backwards keeping all the lies fresh only means they’re aware of how inattentive people mostly are, not that the lies didn’t serve a purpose when they first entered the narrative. But any reasonably intelligent person is going to wonder how in the world four news organizations are going to get through a trove of 100,000 documents, and that’s very likely something the leak hoarders don’t want people wondering, at least at the start of the story, before they’re hypnotized. The lies about the trove aren’t critical for their credibility at this point, because people are now enamored of the David and Goliath spectacle and the cheesy movie of one heroic journalist in a world of fools.

  5. nigh says:

    may i propose a number 3. : the smaller size (which- i agree we the estimations made- is not true) is needed to underline the argument of “good leaking” vs. “bad leaking”.

  6. nigh says:

    number 1 says imo: the comparison of legal chances translated into years in jail look better for snowden if the amount of pages leaked by him are less than those leaked by manning because the legal argument of indiscriminate leaking falls apart when it is estimated that the leaker could have been able to revue every single page.
    number 3 says: in order to leak in a constructive manner aka “the debate”, it is not enough to evaluate every single page as a leaker, you need to allow evaluation by a journalist or another classical medium.
    the 1. refers to the subjective potential and risk of the leaker compared with their pages leaked, while the 3. refers to the necessity of msm as intermediaires compared with their pages received.
    (not sure if i could express my thought understandable.)

    • Tarzie says:

      I don’t really agree that the comparisons to Manning were fundamentally about legal risks. To me they were good leaker vs. bad comparisons, and that’s certainly how they got picked up in media by people like Chris Hayes. Your clarification is thought-provoking, though. The overwhelming message of The Leak Keepers is that whistleblowers must take extraordinary measures – which really means layer upon layer of consideration, vetting and redacting, prosecuted by layer upon layer of journalists, editors, lawyers and government representatives – to properly and effectively sound alarms on a government that surveils, jails, tortures and murders prolifically.

      • nigh says:

        actually – by now i m off topic possibly – i believe that the aim of this “debate” is not to educate whistleblowers. it is to install in the intermediated by msm public consciousness how important ” classical journalistm” is: they are in the position to negotiate which part of the illegal activities of power are allowed to reach the common citizen.

      • Tarzie says:

        i believe that the aim of this “debate” is not to educate whistleblowers. it is to install in the intermediated by msm public consciousness how important ” classical journalistm” is

        I don’t see that as an either/or. It’s all the same thing. Whistleblowers are being taught how to leak. News consumers are being taught how to consume leaks. Yeah, journalism is getting a big sell right now. But so is ‘not dumping.’ It all aims at neutralizing the power of disclosing state secrets.

      • nigh says:

        no, it is not the same thing. classical journalists are – if they are successful – well known, while whistleblowers are totally unknown till the moment they erupt from nowhere. “power” cant educate the unknown. it can only empower the known that fits its interests.

      • Tarzie says:

        “power” cant educate the unknown

        Oh please. Whistleblowers watch television like everyone else. Is it possible that this isn’t just about ONE THING? That the system is taking the raw material of this event to teach multiple audiences multiple lessons all sort of related to decommissioning weaponized information?

      • nigh says:

        not sure if i understand “dig in your heels”. – the ONE THING this is all about is maybe: to establish being watched as a “necessity”.

      • dtaylor says:

        Yup…right on. If any of the documents contained information related to jailing, torturing and murdering they are no doubt redacted. Only the ‘surveils’ is what is released in an extremely tiny trickle. Which coincides with a faction of the elite wanting to have such a ‘national conversation’.

  7. Trish says:

    Why did the Guardian and Glenn feel the need to distinguish manning from snowden?
    What purpose did it serve? Why would Glenn who had been vocal in his support for Manning throw her under a bus? Especially, when it was the Guardian that caused the Manning documents to be dumped.

    Part of me thinks it was used as a means to justify hoarding the documents. I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, but Glenn has not been honest.

    We do not know how many documents he has.

    We do not know what documents, if any, he has decided not to report on and why.

    We do not know why he has not encouraged the Guardian to share the information with multiple outlets.

    In the theatre of the absurd we know less about what Glenn has than what we know about the NSA. maybe, we need the NSA to hack Glenn, and leak what he has.

  8. dtaylor says:

    I think the presumption is that there would be a backlash to any alternative outlet that was given access. In this way, all the T’s were crossed and i’s dotted within the establishment.

  9. Oracle says:

    I chose to read this blog specifically because GG responded in the manner he did to Tarzie’s tweets. GG’s reaction is a reliable indicator that there is something being discussed here, that caused such a harsh response, inconsistent with what GG usually portrays. I believe that most of the posters on this site are journalists, or involved in journalism. This is your house. I understand this. If my comments are offensive, that is not my intention, I don’t wish to insult. Just ask, and I will leave.

    I have I believe a unique perspective, regarding information. First, I feel that I must throw this on the table, I consider the profession of journalism to be morally lower on the scale than prostitutes. I have not always been a good guy. I was told I was, and believed it for years. Please believe me when I tell you that many times I have seen journalists and media industries ignore, or pervert information on events and circumstances that most would consider newsworthy. If the media organization has advertisers, they can be controlled. And they frequently are. More important than lobbyists contributions to politicos is the amount of advertising revenue large corporations provide large media. An individual reporter may not be devoid of morals, but directors, shareholders and editors are. Almost anybody can be bent. An ugly fact, but still a fact. Greenwald may be protected, but I doubt that his family members in the US are.

    Unsupported Paranoia outburst!! has anybody wondered why the Government has not denied the veracity of the publicized Snowden material? No typical refusal to confirm or deny, or even comment on material that was never released by an official source? For whatever reason, GG is certainly not doing what he should be doing if all the information we have been given is true. Why redact Corporate contracters? maybe he no longer has it. Maybe those he loves will be harmed if he does. Maybe he never had it. The takeaway lesson I see here is that Manning, Snowden, Greenwald et all have screwed the pooch. The mere fact that we know their names makes them by far less effective. Were Snowden and Manning still in place, instead of incarcerated and exiled, they would be in a far better postion to get the important information to the public. Whatever might or might not have been in the docs that GG hoards, their value has already degraded. Damage control is almost certainly completed by now, the shutdown would not affect them I assure you.

    What ever GG has, they are aware of it. Almost any place in South America, 1k USD, or medical treatment for a sick son daughter niece nephew will easily get a house keeper to substitute an identical appearing coffeemaker, modem, computer monitor or keyboard. I used to really like rubbermaid kitchen garbage cans. They get gross and stink. Nobody has ever to my knowledge noticed that there was a false bottom on it. 3/4 of an inch worth of hidden space equates to almost 9 months worth of batteries. My point, is that it dosn’t require billions to obtain real time reliable elint.

    I digress. The takeaway here as I see it, is that the very people that the system requires to operate and sustain itself depends on people like Manning, Snowden and others. The greatest debt we owe Manning and Snowden is the new insider threat programs they have been scrambling to implement. In my day, those programs’ false positives compelled many of our oppos to flee to us. Some outfits still deal with any suspicion toward its staff by immediate promotion with raise to someplace with eith unclassified information, or disinformation. You cannot calculate how much damage an internal witch-hunt causes. What was the most impact of any of the Manning material? the collateral murder vid. If he had just released that and kept his mouth shut, what other similar material might have come our way by now? Same with Snowden. Anonymity is the greatest journalistic source there is. How useful is knowing that the US had the Japanese Naval codes in 1940? How useful would that have been Dec 6 0r 8 1941? Knowingly, unknowingly GG has served a useful purpose. Never ever trust a journalist.

    • Trish says:

      I am not a journalist, and while I agree most just fall in line, otherwise they would not have a job, I also think many of them are brain dead, or brainwashed that they are incapable of thinking beyond what they are told. Truth, most of society lacks critical thinking skills, and the public fool system plays a large part in that.

      i know I said this before, but The thing that has always bothered me about the snowden release is where are the documents that show US politicians, judges etc being spied on. It seems rather convenient that he would supply GG with docs about the Brazilian Govt, Glenn’s home for now, and fail to give similar documents relating to US politicians etc.

      seems odd to download thousands of documents showing how the US spies on everyone, but not provide documents on people they have spied on. Maybe, I am wrong but if there were docs showing them spy on major politicians etc, I think the backlash would be so severe that they would have a hard time defending it, and their power would be severely impacted.

      very strange

      • Tarzie says:

        The best case scenario is that GG is holding all the juicy stuff for the book, which is problematic in its own right. Apart from that, nothing makes sense. At this point, I couldn’t care less about the disclosures themselves, either in the way of what’s already been disclosed or what hasn’t. I think it’s safe to bet that there will be no shock the security establishment can’t readily absorb.I don’t anticipate seeing anything along the lines of your scenario, but I don’t think that would even cause much of a fuss. Maybe a few stirred up elites for a while. A little partisan theatre and then business as usual. That it would ‘severely’ impact the security establishment’s power seems like quite the optimistic reach to me.

      • john says:

        didn’t Russ Tice spill a bunch of high profile names a few months back? was he ever called back to capital hill to testify? and doesn’t gg’s rather brazen stewardship of these documents suggest that he’s quite confident that ‘nothing’ will ever be revealed? just wondering…

      • Trish says:

        I agree that we will not see documents along the lines I mentioned. But, I do think they would have had a huge impact. If it showed NSA spying on supreme court. Politicians, and knew they were having affairs, knew they were closet gay, had a love child, got a kickback from X – I think that would be huge. Yes, it would impact not just NSA, but all the “spying” agencies.

        Snowden. Is smart and had to know this type of information would be really powerful. Yes, Tice said they were doing it, but has no documents to back it up. Just curious why Snowden did not download these documents. according to the poster below he was thinking about this for five years.

        I too have heard the rumors about this being a turf war, and snowden is working for CIA. It wouldn’t shock me.

        One other possibility is that the leak keepers might have 90,000+ documents, but maybe most of them are no big deal. it is possible, that most of them are duds, so to speak. Glenn and co are trying to keep NSA on its toes with “more to come”. When in reality they have blown most of their wad. i only offer this because I just find it hard to believe that Glenn could, at his current rate of disclosure, and using his initial estimate for number of documents, think it is okay to take two years to disclose this stuff. On what planet, could he justify that. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is an arrogant prick, but I do think he cares about what is going on, and taking years to get the information out would be in direct opposition to that.

      • Tarzie says:

        Trish —

        Again, I think you vastly overestimate the impact of individual scandals, but certainly since the scenario you imagine involves elites on elites, it would likely cause a bigger stir than the routine hoovering of everyone’s data. But what do you imagine happening? Stronger regulations to keep the security apparatus in check? The defunding of the entire Intelligence Community? I think the best case in that particular scenario is an effort to develop and implement two-tiered surveillance if such a thing is even possible. Most likely the NSA and some key personnel would simply be bad-appled. Whatever they came up with, I am fairly sure it wouldn’t affect you or me at all. There are 16 agencies in the Intelligence Community around which hundreds of private contractors revolve, eating hungrily from the trough. You do not kill this with one scandal, if indeed, you can kill it at all.

        Journalism will not conquer the surveillance state. That’s a Hollywood dream, not real life.

        Don’t get me wrong, I think he is an arrogant prick, but I do think he cares about what is going on, and taking years to get the information out would be in direct opposition to that.

        Like all egotists in public life, Glenn has absolutely no problem equating his own interests with the greater good and has accordingly convinced himself that hoarding info is a super duper powerful way to not only limit professional competition but also to drive the NSA insane with suspense. I think once the book drops, he may loosen the reins.

        Regardless, he has always been a dipshit liberal incrementalist, despite what leftier idiots with muddled, insipid politics have tried to project onto him in an Obamabot way. Taking years and years to produce almost no change by the most ineffectual means available is the liberal incrementalist way.

  10. goodkurtz says:

    Say Tarzie, cop this.
    The account of the Guardian security bod visit is becoming beyond a fucking joke.

    At the 33 second point in this joint vid they gave to Brazilian tv, Miranda says this:
    “They intimidated the Guardian a month before, went to the office and took data, cleaned the hard drives, broke them…”
    So now for the first time we hear that they “took data” and cleaned hard drives”!


  11. bagheera says:

    Hi – I recently began reading your blog, so I apologize if these issues have already been raised…had a couple of thoughts after reading this post:

    1) one basic problem I have with the ‘security’ reasoning behind limiting access, specifically the idea that ‘foreign governments’ would take advantage of these documents were they in the open…have we already forgotten how terrible these major media organizations are at protecting their shit? this year was the first time the NYT acknowledged it had been breached by ‘Chinese hackers’ – the PLA has been systematically hacking American media (among other industries) for a while, but it only gets reported when it’s detected and when the defensive party feels absolutely compelled to disclose that the hack took place. It’s certainly not just the PLA either…Iran’s cracking Navy servers, after all…I’m not sure the guardian, washpost, propublica, etc. are much better-equipped? The second layer to this…NYT (I’m not sure about the others’ situations) contracted Mandiant for comsec in the aftermath of the hacks – just today, Mandiant received the DARPA AA contract for biometrics research, plus they’ve benefited from various natsec grants in the past. Not to mention founder/ceo Kevin Mandia, formerly of US Air Force and Lockheed-Martin, hires predominantly from a pool of ex-military and ex-intelligence security techs…I’m not suggesting there’s a ‘conspiracy,’ just this paradoxical situation in which the ‘leak-keepers’ as you’ve affectionately named them are either themselves insecure, or are completely reliant on the same security firms whose govt contracts are coming under increasing scrutiny as a consequence of the leaks.

    2) regarding snowden’s capacity to review all the documents – you might be interested in the NYT article today about his final personnel report in 2009 from the CIA. supposedly they suspected him of trying to crack classified documents above his access-level and worried about changes in his ‘attitude,’ so fired him – but the report was never forwarded to NSA and he was allowed to keep all his security clearances. again, you could think about this from the perspective of conspiratorial plotting…the idea snowden is some sort of ‘limited hangout’ and continuing to collude with CIA. But from the other side, you could also say that he’s had since 2009 to deliberate about these documents – given 4+ years of scrutiny, you would think the ‘leak-keepers’ could ease up a little bit. And it’s not a crime to publish classified documents, right? I was under the impression only the leaker could be held legally responsible, not the press. I understand Snowden’s unwillingness to get involved further, but it is distressing to see Wash Post writers only publishing what “national security officials” tell them is appropriate about the black budget….what’s the point of disclosing the black budget breakdown if nearly all of its contents remain black? How much legitimately NEW information came from that release? Out of a 178-page budget summary, just 17 pages of pie-charts got published. not to mention that every other paragraph is framed by propaganda from Eric Clapper and co. offering their rationalizations for each set of expenditures – I find it incredibly irresponsible for some dumbasses who thought that “the CIA’s dominant position” in the budget was a SHOCKING REVELATION to be the only ones with their hands on this material. But it seems things are unlikely to change, for the time being.

    • Tarzie says:

      Bagheera –

      I am going to start with your suggestion that Snowden could have meticulously reviewed every document, having had four years in which to do so. Let’s do the math: Say the trove is 80,000 documents — surely it has to be at least that big if the GCHQ piece alone is 58,000. Assuming Snowden just reviewed documents during work days, he’d have had to review 82 documents a day — multiple page documents, some quite long — during four 49-week work years of full five-day work weeks to cover everything. Sorry, that just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes the most obvious explanation for a self-serving, hard-to-believe story is that people just lie. I think the Leak Keepers should certainly ease up on the hoarding and redacting, but not on the grounds that Snowden looked everything over, because he simply couldn’t have.

      Moving on, much as I would like it to, I don’t think your point 1 effectively answers the the security concern about other countries building similar systems. Your argument is basically that the security of these media organizations is so shitty, the documents might as well be out in the open. But just because China hacked the New York Times doesn’t mean every other country can; nor does it mean that China or anyone else could gain access to areas of the New York Times’ network that are under stricter security measures. You’re at least on more interesting ground, I think, when raising the issue of security industry foxes in the henhouse, though, argumentatively, that’s also kinda weak. I think the better case for openness is that it enables security people to take measures against this stuff which can be used by activists and security people around the world.

      Not sure what to make of that story in the New York Times about the CIA and Snowden. The various sections of the security establishment are notorious for not sharing information, so everything could be just as it appears. But certainly that story fits perfectly with the theory that Snowden is fighting a turf dispute with the NSA on behalf of the CIA so I imagine its making conspiracy tongues wag. I try to stay clear of the limited hangout idea, myself, because we’ll never know, and I don’t know how much an origin story adds to a critique, when all the damage-minimizing and indoctrinating built into the system will work to full effect whether Snowden is the real deal or not. Whistleblowing through connected, subservient mainstream journalists is just a stupid fucking idea. If, in fact, this is an operation of some kind, whoever engineered it must certainly pat themselves on the back for choosing Greenwald. He’s the Terminator 2 of useful idiots.

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  13. plug says:

    Funny, that’s a very similar rate that WikiLeaks had when initially publishing Cablegate files. In mid December 2010 I crunched some numbers…

    According to the Cablegate website, they’ve indexed 1835 documents. they reckon wikileaks still has 99% to go re cable releases. If you take Nov 29 as the date “cablegate” started, with simple math they’ve leaked on average 88 cables a day. At that rate it’ll take them 7.7 years to get the data out.

    • Tarzie says:

      Funny, that’s a very similar rate that WikiLeaks had when initially publishing Cablegate files.

      It’s not a similar rate at all. Cryptome calculated that all involved news organizations together are publishing Snowden leaks at a rate of 48 pages per month. As slow as Wikileaks is, using your figures they are publishing cables at a rate of roughly 2,640 per month unless 88/month is what you meant to write. Both look like bottlenecks to me, though.

  14. Tarzie says:

    I don’t shut you down for raising background and motives. I do think we get diminishing returns from talking about Greenwald’s personality defects and brief law career.

    I have touched on motives where I think they’re relevant. For instance, I am speculating on Greenwald’s motives for hoarding secrets.

    Overall, I do not share your interest in individual merits and shortcomings, simply because I think Greenwald, Snowden etc are simply the raw material of forces more powerful than they are. Greenwald’s self-dealing, for instance, is only interesting to me in the extent to which it results in the suppression of state secrets and the extent to which that self-dealing is now remade by his personality cult — various flavors of left — into something desirable. Greenwald is, without even realizing it, selling a prolonged silence, and no one cares. Nor does it occur to these fake lefts that the willingness of Sony and HBO to make deals with him — including for his life rights — is proof of his complete harmlessness. The whole horrible spectacle reveals how infected the American left is with upper middle class know-nothings and aspirants. It’s worse than Obama 08 in its starry-eyed dipshittedness.

    • Tarzie says:

      Instead of proclaiming that you’re tearing Greenwald down, why don’t you actually do that thing?

      Clearly I am not up to it. How about getting a blog of your own and showing me how it’s done?

      Also, as I keep saying, I am not interested in tearing Greenwald down so much as showing how adroitly the system uses him.

      His evil essence is a matter of pure speculation and interests me far less than it does you.

  15. Tarzie says:

    Laurence, your interests and mine simply don’t coincide. I don’t feel compelled to respond to your constant performance reviews, particularly because there is no answering to you that doesn’t elicit abuse. There is nothing to stop you from saying what you think it all means, rather than dressing me down constantly for failing to do that.

    I get what you mean on the secrets potentially not meaning all that much, but I can’t say that with any certainty while everyone holding them continues to hoard. It may well be that Greenwald’s deal-making around his hoard means there’s not a lot there and so he wants to make all the money now before everyone is yawning. My primary interest at the moment is the degrading, toxic effect he is having on the reinterpretation of left dissidence and as the midwife of mass stupidity among people calling themselves leftists and anti-authoritarians.

    I don’t know what impact wider distribution of Snowden’s trove would have, but I think introducing just a little more difficulty into the workings of the security establishment is a good in itself, as is letting people know the extent to which they are most vulnerable. Yes, I realize that a lot of this stuff any reasonably skeptical person could have guessed, but having it in black and white, authored by the NSA itself, does seem to carry weight with people that guessing doesn’t.

    • Laurence Lange says:

      My primary interest at the moment is the degrading, toxic effect he is having on the reinterpretation of left dissidence and as the midwife of mass stupidity among people calling themselves leftists and anti-authoritarians.

      Seriously? What exactly is this “degrading toxic effect”?

      What is “left dissidence”?

      And are you truly surprised enough to seek a scapegoat for the observed mass stupidity among humans, however they label themselves? That’s a bit ironic, isn’t it?

      What would a noble, principled, leftist dissident do on the subject of Greenwald-Snowden-GuardianUK-NSA-Poitras intersecting in the Media Circus?

      Why is Greenwald’s tack (that’s sailing lingo, Tarzie) somehow not leftist or not anti-authoritarian? What makes it “not” in those categories?

      I’d like to hear your answers on those Qs.

      • Tarzie says:

        Laurence —

        If you always commented like this, I’d have no problem with you. These are reasonable questions. But why be such a douchebag about it all the time? That you think I fear your incisiveness is truly deluded.

        What exactly is this “degrading toxic effect”?

        Answered in my post on his movie deal. Short version: Acquiescence to state power and elites remade as dissidence for people who call themselves radical and anti-authoritarian. If nothing else, I’d prefer a world where radicals at least rolled their eyes at this shit, instead of defending it.

        What is “left dissidence”?

        Resistance or disruption that challenges power more than it accedes to it.

        And are you truly surprised enough to seek a scapegoat for the observed mass stupidity among humans, however they label themselves? That’s a bit ironic, isn’t it?

        I actually am a bit surprised at the extent to which people who I consider intelligent just suspend all criticism and analysis on this and embrace things to which they are diametrically opposed in other contexts. But it has turned up my misanthropy a few degrees. I think it signifies the absence of anything you could really call a left at this point.

        What would a noble, principled, leftist dissident do on the subject of Greenwald-Snowden-GuardianUK-NSA-Poitras intersecting in the Media Circus?

        Jeer from the sidelines as I’m doing or ignore it altogether and contend with other things.

        Why is Greenwald’s tack (that’s sailing lingo, Tarzie) somehow not leftist or not anti-authoritarian? What makes it “not” in those categories?

        I answered that in my post about his movie deal. See the bit about how he is a ‘Terminator 2 of Heat Vampirism.’ See also Steve Bloom’s excellent comment that I point to in Update 1. In my post I deal mostly with the power-serving character of his leaking. Bloom complements that with a look at the right-wing character of his defensive rhetoric.

  16. Laurence Lange says:

    Yes, by deleting my comments and then declaring they were deleted because “abusive” you engage in lying. I have not abused you anywhere, Tarzie. Never have I abused you.

    Unless by “abuse” you mean to suggest I don’t fall down at your feet, and lick you painted toenails.

    • Tarzie says:

      Unless by “abuse” you mean to suggest I don’t fall down at your feet, and lick you painted toenails.

      Yeah, way to prove you’re not abusive by making reference to a gay man’s ‘painted toenails.’ It’s the self-awareness that makes you so lovable.

      But actually it’s not the abuse so much as the obsessive focus on me. These constant performance reviews issued from the pedestal of your colossal intellect and keen understanding of how everything works. I find it unbearably tedious, especially when it goes into robo-trolling/commenting mode.

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  20. Kratoklastes says:

    Late to this post, but whatever…

    I think that perhaps the tendency to parse every statement as if it was made under oath (or read from an Obamaprompter) belies the ease with which one can ‘go off script’ in media interviews. Also, it seems at least possible that a media strategy was decided upon between GG and Snowden, and part of that included some level of deliberate obfuscation. And lastly, there is almost a requirement to prattle on about taking great care and so forth, because otherwise Bill Keller’s minions will hatchet your shit within the first news cycle.

    Plus, there’s the whole “shitting yourself with stage fright and other stuff” issue (less of an issue for GG than for Snowden).

    My media experience is limited, but (importantly) non-zero: I was interviewed on TV (Sky News) a few days after 9/11 asking for a view on the ramifications for insurance stocks… and I looked like a rabbit in the headlights, despite having routinely given talks to groups of ‘investment professionals’ and academics for several years prior. We had to ‘do over’ several times, and still my eyes were darting all over the place like a mental patient: thankfully it wasn’t live, or I would still be glowing red from the embarrassment.

    TL;DR: on-camera stuff is way harder than you might think (and the couple of genuine ‘celebrity’ people of my acquaintance say that the tendency to freeze abates but never goes away).

    OK, with that by way of background, how about this as a (partial) explanator of GG’s ‘documentary revisionism’: getting the numbers wrong (but making it clear that the number was large) adds to the uncertainty from the perspective of the .gov drone-tards who subsequently raided the Guardian – I know that whether it’s 2000 documents or 200,000 documents makes no difference ,storage-wise: either would fit on a single microSD card. But I’m not the sort of second-rate half-wit who works for the government.

    Add in some sleep deprivation (which drops the IQ by ten points) and some cross-talk in your earpiece, and rinse and repeat.

    The ‘Snowden personally reviewed blah blah blah’ was eyewash to try to win over the ‘middle’ who think everything has to be just like a well-run kindergarten. In all likelihood, it was said knowing with some degree of precision what effect it would have on the outcome of, or the sentencing phase of, Manning’s trial (answer: not much – ask @carwinb (Alexa O’Brien) and I’m certain she would agree). Manning was understood to be toast – deserving of our support and our respect and our gratitude – but it was clear that the mock trial that they held had a predetermined outcome: it was far more important that Manning make a good show in delivering the “mea maxima culpa” that formed the final act of Soviet show trials. (And as to that: it did not generate any hostile reactions, which surprised me given how craven it was. But as Arthur Silber so beautifully pointed out, when you are about to be consigned to the most brutal system since the Gulag, you have every right to say ANYTHING to mitigate your sentence – short perhaps of informing in a way that breaks the whole project).

    The things that trouble me about this Spectacle are quite different (although I’m no fan of the ‘gatekeeper’ trope… it’s creepy).

    First: why would David Miranda have to carry a physical copy of the encryption key? I can exchange keys across the planet using 2048-character extracts from individual messages on alt.anonymous.messages and the algorithm for finding the key. (I wrote up my concerns, and posted it to the original Guardian story about Miranda… the comment was deleted).

    Second: why the babble about Snowden having “4 laptops”? Let’s assume it was a million documents, each 100 pages. You’re still nowhere near a Tb (in fact 1Gb will hold roughly 70k Word pages, or 700k txt pages).

    So the need for 4 laptops “is sound like bullshit” – eyewash for the mug punters who think that the security-theatre alphagettis isl Jason Bourne all the way down, rather than second-raters.

    If it’s more like, say, 100k documents averaging 5 pages (say), it’ll fit on a 2Gb microSD card with buku space to spare – hell, set up a Linux livesysteem with an encFS partition to make ut even harder to get at. Or encrypt it locally (or put it in a TrueCrypt container) and upload it to Tresorit, Mega or Spideroak under a username only you know.

    And of COURSE Snowden has a dead man’s switch (DMS): as I wrote this as the opening para to a comment on the Guardian’s story:

    “IF this kid has any brains he will have copied a VASTLY larger corpus of documents than he has released to date, with much more interesting stuff in them… and they will be sitting in a repository linked to a dead man’s switch and will be blasted planet-wide if anything happens to him.

    That’s they only thing that the alphabet-soup agencies understand: a balance of terror.

    If you make it clear that the absence of a passcode in a given 24 hour period will disclose the identities (and cover identities) of clandestine personnel everywhere on the planet… they will leave you alone.”

    Subsequent to that, a group with whom I have had occasional dealings over the last 25 years decided that Snowden did not need to be taken under the umbrella of an existing DMS. He was also thoroughly ‘vetted’ (by people significantly more skilled than the dullards at the security-theatre alphagetti) and was reasonably clean: the non-offer did not stem from security concerns, but from the fact that he was already amply protected.

    Anyway… this is getting too long, and I need wine (it’s after midday fer Chrissakes).

    Last point: think for a second how easily the mainswamp (.gov and those who fellate it, like Keller and Sulzberger) gets people of either ‘persuastion’ (progressives or conservatives) to eat their own kin – it’s like everybody is so ’cause driven’ that the merest whiff of suspicion causes a knee-jerk reaction. Beria would be proud. Divide et impero. Then again, to be on either ‘side’ of the nonsense of politics, means a cognitive impairment that is indistinguishable from rank gullibility: the State is our enemy and is the primary enabler of sociopaths (having taken over that role from churches in the late 17th century).

    • Tarzie says:

      I find all of your excuse-making for Glenn’s inconsistencies and general weirdness completely unpersuasive, but I do appreciate the unusually lengthy effort. Sadly, its weaknesses speak very loudly for themselves: the idea that a spotlight hog who speaks in perfect drafts gets flustered is not an instant credibility grabber; echoing in-bred nitwit Rusbridger on the tech-non-savviness of global mass surveillance doers doesn’t help. I therefore feel no need to really pull this apart commensurate with your own effort. I honestly don’t understand what you’re getting at in the last half.

      I think you and I have very different assumptions about just how disruptive a thing Greenwald and his little data trove are. I’m more inclined to see things the way Sony, HBO and Silicon Valley-via-Omidyar do. From that we draw different conclusions about what’s weird and what isn’t, what’s probably true and what probably isn’t. We can leave it at that.

      • Kratoklastes says:

        Different Assumptions? Like What?
        We might have very different views on how disruptive Snowden’s trove is: given that I know what I think, ‘different views’ would mean that you assumed that the trove was of little importance. That is belied by your becoming (rightly) agitated at a perceived reluctance of GG and Co. to distribute the material for it to be subjected to crowdsourced analysis.

        To be clear: I personally think it’s a very important set of stuff (more important than the Manning leaks).

        ‘Excuse-Making’ for GG
        I wasn’t making excuses for Greenwald: even if true, the things I posited would not be exculpatory, but would mean that his ‘mis-steps’ would be the result of misjudgements rather than malice. This might be the internet, but it’s a mistake to try to reduce all issues to silly dichotomies of the form “If the guy doesn’t do what I think he ought to have by the time I think he ought to have, he’s a corrupt shill who’s been got at.”

        I am not like Beria, Bellarmine, Richelieu or Rand: in my view, to call for a fellow-traveller to be consigned to the Outer Darkness requires absolute certainty about their ‘crimes’, or a megalomaniacal faith in one’s own powers of deduction or analysis. The latter is almost certainly a manifestation of Dunning-Kruger, the former bar is not met (to my way of thinking) in GG’s case.

        What I have tried to do over the past several weeks (since my ‘bullshit detector’ wanged a needle from the ‘4 laptops’ and ‘Miranda had the decrypt key on him’ stories), is understand the operational frame – because something has gone awry and it’s both stupid and counterproductive to just grab at the ‘obvious’ (internet, cartoon, 4chan /b/) conclusion. (I love /b/, but it’s not a sound basis on which to base an analysis).

        Greenwald has not put a foot wrong in all the time I have read his material, until this trove plopped into his lap – at which point he seems to have found himself in over his head.

        Up until then he has been absolutely principled and consistent, which has infuriated ‘progressives’ since the White House went (D), revealing that they did not oppose Bush’s war crimes qua crimes, but simply because Bush was not ‘their guy’. The same people who were railing against Gitmo and Iraq and drones under Bush, are writing apologias today because it’s their bastard directing the death squads.

        So anyhow – because life is not a cartoon, it seems to me that it’s appropriate to give GG more rope and see what happens, rather than leaping to conclusions simply because he appears to have decided on a strategy that you or I happen not to like. (Under the counterfactual where you or I were having to make a long-tailed decision that could get us and our loved ones killed by the metrosexual Nobel Laureate’s Death Machine, it would be absurd to assert that our view of the right balance would satisfy an arbitrary 3rd party).

        (3) Security Theatre Dummies and ‘Rusbridger’

        I can honestly say that I have no idea what Rusbridger thinks about any issue whatsoever (I am only vaguely aware of his name – he’s from the Guardian, right?). However if he is of the view that the security-theatre and ‘intelligence’ complex are staffed by also-rans, then he’s on the money. The talent leaves after its first 2 year hitch when they realise how toxic the culture is; the ones who remain are triangulators who can’t actually get anything done.

        I have had plenty of interaction with several alphabet-soup agencies, going way back to the 1990s, when I helped train folks from CIA’s JWAC (Joint Warfare Analysis Centre) in computable general equilibrium modelling. I also know a good half-dozen guys who went from the military to one of the myriad 3-letter sets of bullshit artists, and they were not remotely close to the sharpest knives in the drawer.

        In some sense the incompetence of the security theatre dummies is problematic in itself: some of them furnish inputs into HopeyChangey’s weekly Death Squad Bingo… so the wrong native gets a Hellfire down his chimney (or the wrong man, his wife and children get killed by a J-SOCiopath). Also, large groups of dummies in charge of vast troves of sensitive data about the citizenry: not generally a good idea. So in that you miread me: the fact that the security-theatre alphagetti is staffed by morons, does not make it less dangerous. Imagine “Dumb and Dumber” with sniper teams and drone pilots…

        I don’t think this is a particularly long comment (nor was the last one): with my dictation software I just rabbit away into a mic and the machine does the rest (and I correct as many of the typos as I can find, and format it).

      • Tarzie says:

        This is actually quite the deft mischaracterization of my views on GG. I don’t think most of my objections to him are matters of conjecture. Most are specifically about things he does and says and the extremly dishonest way he goes about defending them. There are areas where I speculate — just how shitty were those Manning smears, a little shitty or a lot shitty? — but most of what I object to is right out in the open. I do not think ‘in over his head’ is what he appears to be, at least not where it comes to making deals. I also don’t think his politics or his character up to now have been exemplary, though until recently I was a big fan. I think he has always been a bit of a liar and quite a bit of a bully. I just think this only matters to people when these qualities are deployed for ends they don’t agree with. Clearly his personality cult — far more avid and vicious than even Obamabots — gets quite a kick out of what a nasty little shit he is with anyone who crosses him, no matter how many of his strategies and behaviors look exactly like things he castigates others for. If he wants to be given the benefit of the doubt you think I owe him, perhaps he should be less of a dishonest asshole in defense of opacity.

        Perhaps my biggest objection overall to his custodianship is the determined resistance to being accountable for anything he does. That’s his right I suppose, but it’s also my right to judge him for it and to be equally disgusted by transparency advocates that are uncritically eating this shit up, along with the cringe-making and constant civics lessons in proper whistleblowing and the extremely important role of the journalist in fighting the government so as not to inflict too much damage upon it. His paternalism is revolting to any genuine anti-authoritarian.

        As to the trove, I think in Greenwald’s care it is not that disruptive. Since I don’t know what it holds, I err on the side of wider distribution, yes, in case it is disruptive. 300 heavily redacted pages in five months is not disruptive. I think that most of the disclosures have been unsurprising, and will amount to next to nothing in the way of improvement for the majority of people.

        I don’t wish to get into a back and forth on the competence of surveillance state technicians except to say that even dumb techs understand the basics which I think you were talking about in your previous comment, though I’m not going to bother to look it up as I don’t really care.

        I am sick of hearing this unity bullshit, postulated alongside idiotic histrionics about Greenwald’s vulnerability to being snuffed out by the state. I don’t feel this is as simple as Greenwald vs. The Government and I do not see him as on ‘my side.’ Considering the leaks got out, I think the security establishment should be well-pleased with how hard Greenwald has worked to limit the damage, doing just enough, but no more, to authenticate his truly awe-inspiring but not altogether obvious courage, and this anodyne little telling of largely unsurprising tales as a stupendous power-toppling event. Do Greenwald’s drama-addicts ever stop to wonder how Barton Gellman writes roughly equivalent stories with one-tenth of the chest-beating, no civics lessons and with apparently no need of the armed security Greenwald enjoys in his little gated community outside Rio? Divisions don’t always go both ways, but this one certainly does, and I am well past being tired of people who smear and disinform all day preaching at me about unity. Apparently only the low-status players, and people who don’t run with mobs of ridiculously stirred up and incredibly stupid sycophants have any obligations in that regard. Well, fuck that. I don’t owe Greenwald, or his mob of truly repellant fanserfs, shit. He has supporters at Sony, HBO and now in NSA-scandal-implicated Silicon Valley. Y’know because he’s such a goddamn dangerous rebel. He doesn’t need me.

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  23. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    How long can Greenwald use this stupid hacky line about the “trove?” So ten years from now he’ll still be trumpeting The Amazing Snowden Blob Trove. It’s like an amoeba that constantly changes size, depending on what venue he’s speaking at. Oh that sounds familiar, too. Depending on the venue, he can be a “socialist” or a “libertarian.” Take your pick.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yeah, I’m so bored with this. I feel like an archivist of lies, but hardly anyone else will notice this. So I update. I mean how much bigger does the trove need to get before people thumbs down the Manning smears or the whole damn bullshit story. That interview was like a hundred others. I only watched it because the person that tweeted it didn’t give the time address for the “hundreds of thousands” claim.

      • Goldfish Training Institute says:

        Documenting it is great; knowing your ability to pull together themes and points, it could end up being its own blog post for you later.

        Yeah, his talks don’t vary at all. Just throw around “rule of law” “Constitution” “Snowden hero” and it’s done. The Greenwald “glossary” is pretty short. And listening to him for more than about 5 minutes cures my insomnia.

        The Glennbots also don’t vary their responses. “Out of the park Glenn!” “Your best ever Glenn!” “Glenn for president!” It’s nauseating.

      • Tarzie says:

        Look at this exchange with crypto professor Matthew Green. The combo of recognizing GG is withholding info and making excuses for it. See the whole thing, not just the embed

  24. Goldfish Training Institute says:

    Wow it’s like he turned his brain off the second you boxed him in. “Yes that info is probably in the slides GG holds. And if it is, he’s not colluding, you have the wrong guy.”

    Fucking collaborationists. I’m sure there’s some psychology around this form of denialism, but the bottom line is that these people for all their rhetoric are imperialists. Nothing needs to change for them. They refuse to see the obvious contradictions Greenwald is juggling. If your guy is making decisions on what to write based on what the USG decides, then he’s colluding with imperialists. Why is that so hard for people to get?

    Capitalists who are anti-imperialists. Anti-working class, anti-liberation movement collaborationists. I mean, it’s head-exploding shit what they are doing.

    • Goldfish Training Institute says:

      Sorry I”m so confused by these people’s positions even I’m losing it.

      Capitalists who are not anti-imps — I don’t think they’re anti-imp. This is how Greenwald manages to pull rabbits out of hats, though. He writes pieces that slant against imperialism. But when you realize these are coming from a guy who supports Citizens United, shills for libertarian think tanks, and blankets his speeches with “rule of law, Constitution, liberty,” whatever, I get a fucking brain freeze. I don’t know how all his sycophants can juggle the contradictions.

    • Tarzie says:

      Yup. Yup. Yup and Yup.

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