Glenn Greenwald on Snowden's Latest Revelations

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A screen shot of Edward Snowden's NBC interview. (NBC)

Whether he's a whistleblower, or a traitor, Edward Snowden managed to command an audience last night in an interview with Brian Williams on NBC.

Snowden justified his actions, saying that he believed himself to be a patriot working on behalf of the American people.

Among other revelations, Snowden claimed that the U.S. had trained him as a spy. As he told Williams, "I was trained as a spy, in sort of the traditional sense of the word, in that I lived and worked undercover, overseas, pretending to work in a job that I'm not, and even being assigned a name that was not mine."

The National Security Agency has yet to comment on Snowden's previous occupation, but Secretary of State John Kerry has not been so tight lipped.

"Edward Snowden is a coward, he is a traitor and he has betrayed his country and if he wants to come home tomorrow to face the music, he can do so,” Secretary Kerry said in an interview with MSNBC.

NSA officials may soon have another Snowden bombshell to handle. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped Snowden reveal his secrets, says that he plans to publish a story on the kinds of people being targeted by NSA surveillance, adding that it is "a very long list."

Greenwald, the author of "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S. Surveillance State," reflects to Snowden's latest revelations with The Takeaway's John Hockenberry.   

Greenwald was present in Moscow for the taping of the NBC interview, and he says that Snowden's confidence comes as no surprise.

"He's extremely content with the choice that he made," says Greenwald. "He feels that he can put his head on the pillow every night and know that he took action in defense of his political beliefs. That gives him a great deal of internal tranquility and peace, and I think that came through in the interview."

Many accuse the whistleblower of working for Moscow, but during his interview with NBC, Snowden claimed that has "no relationship with the Russian government at all." Greenwald says this is a tactic that the U.S. government has used before.

When Daniel Ellsberg "leaked the Pentagon Papers, the Nixon Administration and all of its allies in the media constantly told the public that he was getting paid by the Russians, that he was a Russian spy, that he was on their payroll, and that he was harming national security," says Greenwald.

When asked about Snowden's ties to Russia, Greenwald says the accusation is meant to hurt Snowden's credibility in the same way they were designed to discredit Ellsberg.

"It is the same accusatory clichés and fear mongering campaigns that they use against every whistleblower," says Greenwald. "If anybody has a shred of evidence that Edward Snowden has any relationship with the Russians like your question asked about, then they should come forward with it. He didn't choose to be in Russia, he was passing through Russia on his way to Latin America. He was forced to remain there because the U.S. government revoked his passport and then bullied the Cubans out of giving him safe passage through to Ecuador, where he wanted to seek asylum."

See Also: Daniel Ellsberg Discusses Snowden NSA Leak

Greenwald adds that it is "incredibly irresponsible" for anyone to believe that Snowden is working for the Russian government because no such evidence has ever presented itself. 

When it comes to Secretary Kerry's comments that Snowden is a traitor, Greenwald said that type of rhetoric is used as a smokescreen. 

"He sounds like Dick Cheney talking about John Kerry in 2003," says Greenwald. "Democrats used to get so offended when Republicans would impune their patriotism, call them traitors and raise the specter of Venezuela and Cuba and foreign countries as a means of destroying their reputation. If you look at what the Nixon Administration said about Daniel Ellsberg, or what the Bush Administration said about the whistleblowers who blew the whistle on torture in Abu Ghraib and rendition and the NSA program in 2005, they all sound exactly like John Kerry."

According to Greenwald, the anger displayed by high officials like John Kerry runs deep.

"Of course John Kerry is angry—anyone who wields political power hates when transparency is brought to them, and when the acts that they try to hide from the public are exposed," says Greenwald. "This whole idea of 'he helped the terrorists'—isn't this the exact rhetoric that the Bush Administration spent eight years using to demean and malign critics like John Kerry?"

Greenwald says there has yet to be concrete evidence showing that anyone has been harmed by Snowden's revelations, adding that he encourages any individual with such information to come forward.

"The only things that have been harmed are the political reputation and credibility of people like John Kerry from having hidden from the American public exactly that which they ought to have known," he adds. 

Though he stops short of saying that these leaks harmed the United States, Greenwald does acknowledge that these revelations have made things more complicated for the U.S. government in the sphere of global politics.

"The documents prove that the U.S. has been engaging in industrial espionage and has been engaging in exactly the kind of economic surveillance that they've been denouncing the Chinese for engaging in," says Greenwald. "Yes, if you deceive your own citizenry by claiming that other countries engage in a certain behavior and that behavior is wrong, at exactly the same time that you yourself engage in that behavior, of course that will make things more difficult for you on the world stage."

Greenwald says that Snowden's whistleblowing may make things more difficult for the United States, but it holds the government accountable.

"[Whistleblowing] made it more difficult for the U.S. to condemn other countries for human rights abuses while we keep Guantánamo open, or while we kill children around the world in drone attacks," says Greenwald. "It does make it more difficult for the U.S. to uphold standards when they violate those standards. That's a good reason why they should stop violating those standards."

Blaming whistleblowers or journalists for exposing the "bad acts" of the U.S. government is counterintuitive, Greenwald says.

"The blame lies with the people who did those bad acts, and in this case it's the U.S. government," he says.

Though many are skeptical, Greenwald says that he believes Snowden because of the concrete evidence that he has seen.

"The reason I believed him is because he happened to have tens of thousands of documents that came directly from the files of the NSA that we were able to verify and authenticate—they proved that what he was saying about the NSA and what it was doing was absolutely true," says Greenwald. "I was then able to spend many, many hours with him talking to him about his motivations—they were all consistent and they held up. And, most importantly of all, the information he provided was information that turned out to be entirely correct."

The Takeaway contacted the State Department, the Department of Defense and House Intelligence Committee for a response but have not heard back.

See Also: Greenwald on Snowden's Leaks: 'Hold Me Accountable'


Glenn Greenwald

Produced by:

Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [11]

isabel from New York

Finally some true reporting. Snowden should be allowed to reside anywhere. He is a true hero for exposing the NSA. I watched the interview and was very impressed by this young man and his courage. Few of us possess this courage. Most of us go about our ways, as long as the government leaves us alone; meaning to just go about our daily way, we feel safe. Hm. I read George Orwell's "1984". If he was alive today, what would he write now? 1984 is nothing when compared to what is going on present time. Everyone is a target, we the US citizens as well as citizen s and non-citizens from other countries. Sad really. 9/11 has made us all more paranoid but far from safer.

I am aware other countries do much the same thing. We need more international reporters all over the world.

May. 31 2014 08:56 AM
Dell deChant from New Port Richey, Florida

Glenn Greenwald made two questionable analogies on Thursday's program: (1) the analogy between the actions of Mr Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, and (2) the comparison of what Mr Cheney said about John Kerry when Kerry was running for president and what Kerry said (as Secretary of State) about Snowden's actions.

We find the first analogy questionable for the simple reason that Ellsberg voluntarily surrendered to the government, was put on trial (ultimately having all charges dismissed). Snowden, on the other hand, fled the country. Although both Snowden and Ellsberg stole and released classified documents, Ellsberg had the courage to face the charges against him, while Snowden revealed a decided lack of courage. Some might even find his actions cowardly.

As for the second analogy (Kerry sounds like Cheney): Cheney's attacks on Kerry are markedly different from Kerry's attacks on Snowden. First, Cheney's attacks were offered in the context of a political campaign and based on accusations made about Kerry by political operatives -- accusations later shown to be fallacious. Kerry's attacks on Snowden were based on the actual fact that Snowden stole classified documents and released them to the public -- a fact that is not in doubt and that Snowden happily acknowledges.

In both these instances, Glenn Greenwald offers up false analogies to defend Mr Snowden, or at least brighten his image to the public. What is unfortunate about the use of these flawed analogies is that it distracts us from the more critical question of when and whether individuals entrusted with classified documents or any confidential materials may violate that trust.

Dell deChant
New Port Richey, Florida

May. 30 2014 04:10 AM
Dan Vorhis from Freeland, WA

John Hockenberry, why don't you invite John Kerry to your show for an interview? Would you be able to muster sufficient courage and intellect to rigorously challenge Kerry and this administration over the NSA's poor choices? We need more Greenwalds and Snowdens, Mr. Hockenberry. It's time to step up.

May. 29 2014 06:30 PM
gini seidel

Do all Americans need to be aware of the actions of the government? Do we need to be aware that "Big Brother" is watching?
Without some constraints in the amount of intrusion into our lives the less freedom we all have. I, for one am totally disgusted by the comments of this administration that would hang a 'whistleblower' for treason??
We should have applied these same rules to 'President Cheney' when he outed a CIA operative, or lied about WMD to further his Military-Industrial complex.

May. 29 2014 04:05 PM
Steve MacIntyre

I used to respect John Kerry, but no more after listening to his mendacious and vituperative attack on Edward Snowden.

May. 29 2014 02:24 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

It is the job of journalists to reveal, it is the job of Secret Agencies to conceal.

May. 29 2014 12:56 PM

It was refreshing to hear the honest exchange between Glenn Greenwald and John Hockenberry. Kerry mirroring Cheney was a sad but potent comparison that really hit home. It shone a historic spotlight at the doublespeak of our government when it comes to protecting what they view as their right to privacy while holding little to no regard for the privacy of the American people. I for one am grateful to hear insight gained through real investigative journalisms based on research and facts as opposed to spokespeople news which is too often the state of general reporting. Thanks, John & NPR.

May. 29 2014 12:49 PM
B. Wright

Few of us would have the guts to put our lives on the line and speak up when un-supervised big government decides to dismiss our constitution, lie to congress and become the ultimate big brother treading on the rights snd dignity of the American people. Snowden is an American hero.

If Greenwald is a traitor for reporting this issue to the American people, then so is the New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, Fox and NPR traitors for continuing to report on it.
Our democracy is founded on truth and transparency, and it is time the American people stand up to the White House trying to silence reporters for exposing these illegal, unconstitutional programs.

May. 29 2014 12:44 PM
patricia lake from Portland, Oregon

The more I listen to Edward Snowden, the less I trust his motives. I have always felt there was a self-serving aspect to both what he did and his overall demeanor. I am not a proponent of government surveillance, but I do not condone the way he went about revealing his concerns. I lean to the side of traitor. What truly terrifies me is the shoddy oversight and procedures that allowed him to copy these files. Combining power and incompetence leads to disaster -just consider the Iraq War.
P. Lake

May. 29 2014 12:42 PM
Mallows from Florida

We need more journalists and polititians with Mr. Greenwald's backbone. No pandering. Simply the facts.

May. 29 2014 09:35 AM
David Mitchell

I just listened to John Hockenberry's interview of Glenn Greenwald.

If I wanted to listen to this type of uninformed, argumentative, and biased interview, I can turn on Fox News. I can't believe this made it onto (my local) NPR station.

May. 29 2014 09:28 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.