Greenwald on Snowden Leaks: "Hold Me Accountable"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Glenn Greenwald at the Young Americans for Liberty's Civil Liberties tour at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. October 18, 2012 (Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Part I of this interview appears here. Click here for a full transcript.

Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks have changed the way the U.S. and the world thinks about national security, freedom, and privacy. While the leaks have sparked debates about the ethics of mass surveillance in our technologically driven age, Snowden’s revelations also bring up another question—one of journalistic ethics.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped Edward Snowden’s break news of the NSA’s surveillance apparatus, finds himself in the middle one of the year’s biggest news stories. In this second half of a two-part interview with The Takeaway, Greenwald shifts his focus from national security issues to the meaning of responsible journalism.

By working with Snowden to expose the NSA’s secret data collection strategies to the world, Greenwald made a bold statement about the kind of journalist he is—one who is willing to use classified government information to challenge the U.S. government.

He has no regrets or qualms about having acted as a trusted confidant to Snowden. For Greenwald, taking a critical stance towards the establishment has always been the driving force of his career.

“I think that one of the things that I’ve focused on in the eight years that I’ve been writing about politics has been to focus on what the proper role of journalism is vis-a-vis political and corporate power and that role ought to be adversarial,” he tells The Takeaway. “I’m really glad that Edward Snowden had somebody who he trusted to come forward and bring this information to, and I think the question of whether or not it’s inappropriate is answered by the impact that these stories have had in provoking real debate around the world.”

Still, Greenwald admits that having insider knowledge as a journalist can also become a dangerous tool that comes with large-scale political consequences. He cites false claims by The New York Times in 2003 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as an example.

“In the run up to the Iraq War The New York Times—the most trusted journalistic institution in the world—put one incredibly false and inflammatory claim after the next on their front page regarding the threat that Saddam Hussein supposedly posed and helped bring about a war. Journalism can be abused in all sorts of ways,” he says.

While he has access to much more confidential government information than he’s willing to publish, he has set his own boundaries.

“I would never publish material that would provide specifications for how surveillance systems could be built by other states,” Greenwald says. "I wouldn’t publish the information that the NSA has gathered on particular people, their identities, their emails, their telephone calls, if I have those because that would assault their privacy. There’s a whole range of information I wouldn’t publish and haven’t published even though I could."

Greenwald also believes his own work should be subject to transparency. Journalists, not just government entities and corporate bodies, make decisions that have a direct impact on the public, and they should be held accountable for them.

“The public will ultimately judge what it is that I do just like anybody else who’s acting in a way that affects public life, and I think that’s how it should be,” he says.

Guests:

Glenn Greenwald

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Jillian Weinberger

Editors:

T.J. Raphael

Contributors:

Peggah Navab

Comments [4]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

It is the job of Governments to have secrets. It is the job of Journalists to uncover those secrets. The Government mostly wins with a few Snowden exceptions.

Dec. 17 2013 02:04 PM
CAROLINE from NJ USA

The following comment is important to my concerns.

“I think that one of the things that I’ve focused on in the eight years that I’ve been writing about politics has been to focus on what the proper role of journalism is vis-a-vis political and corporate power and that role ought to be adversarial,” he tells The Takeaway. “I’m really glad that Edward Snowden had somebody who he trusted to come forward and bring this information to, and I think the question of whether or not it’s inappropriate is answered by the impact that these stories have had in provoking real debate around the world.”

Who can one go to when one is a "whistle-blower"? Most are hobbled by those with control. Snowden could have gone to Congress, but who's to say they would have listened, probably not - Political Hot Potato! One whiff and he'd have been whisked away to prison, and what had been uncovered would be buried in a House or Senate Committee never to see the light of day. 10 years down the road someone would leak something :~( OH! It's been 10 years! Bush set it up this way - only to go more secretive as Obama took over.): Bush filled up Americans with fear, and lies that suit his agenda. He believed in his own delusions, and after 9-11 everyone was afraid to question anything the President said for being labeled "Un-American".

So, now we listen and try to discern what is more, or most, damaging to the USA, socially, politically, worldwide, individually . . . yep, yep

Dec. 17 2013 01:31 PM
Jerrold Richards from Lyle, Washington

I think the above-described segment has been replaced by a segment on the breaking news about the judge's decision concerning NSA snooping. This comment is intended to be about the latter.

The cancerous growth of the Corporate Intelligence State now has become obvious to all, and scary to many or most of us. We may be at one of those crossroads of history. We may have to debate and decide which we are going to have, an empire, or a representative government in which the rights of live human citizens are respected. We have been putting off this decision for decades, trying to have both. I’m not sure this approach can continue. One or the other, is my guess.

A courageous judge has taken on directly the intimidating snooping of Corporate Intelligence State. I wonder where it will go from here. I am paranoid enough to expect some catastrophic manufactured crisis to justify the trashing of the US Constitution entirely.

On a closely related matter, I wonder how our founding fathers and mothers would feel about being fondled in airports by fat pervs. I expect they would think that is a gross a gross violation of our civil rights, every bit as much as the bulk storage of our telephone records. Certainly when I am being so fondled, it does feel like an invasion of my basic rights, the specific intent being to intimidate me and my fellow citizens, done by thugs who will crush me like an ant if I complain too much, if I behave even slightly not like a sheep.

Maybe some courageous judge can take on this aspect of the Corporate Intelligence State as well.

Dec. 17 2013 12:33 PM
anna

Well, a nice beginning. Two voices of people who clearly didn't have an hour of history in their lives and are not familiar with such concepts as human nature. One is stating that "We can't trust anyone ANYMORE" and the second does trust NPR and ... someone else. Yeas, sure.
Well, send Americans to school.

Dec. 17 2013 09:13 AM

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