Asset Protection Strategies, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Does the National Security Media Abet the Surveillance State?
By Staff News & Analysis - May 20, 2014

The (misguided) passion of Glenn Greenwald … It's not that journalists have thin skins – it's that they have no skins. This adage gets trotted out once a month or more in better newsrooms to provide context for the overreaction of a reporter or editor who has found himself on the receiving end of criticism for something they've published. This week, some journalists who have been critical of Glenn Greenwald are seeking skin grafts for their skin grafts after reading his denunciation of them in the final chapter of his new book about the Snowden files, No Place to Hide. – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: Glenn Greenwald is not as responsible as he could be and prone to drama.

Free-Market Analysis: This interesting Reuters article provides us with a quasi-review of Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide, and concludes that Greenwald is occasionally overwrought.

The real issue seems to be that Greenwald doesn't think much of "national security" reporters while others do. The editorialist who wrote the Reuters editorial is not nearly so negative about "national security" reporters as Greenwald is.

Greenwald believes such reporters are abetting the surveillance state; the editorialist believes there is a purpose for what they do.

Here's some more:

I'm fine with Greenwald skinning a few journalists, if only because everybody in our business needs an aggressive defoliation now and again. But Greenwald – who with Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman, have aided liberty with their exposes of government surveillance – gets tangled up in his own rancor when he dismisses as supplicants the national security beat reporters who consult with government officials before publishing.

… He continues, saying that the establishment media is "contemptuous of those who challenge or undermine Washington's centers of power." As evidence, Greenwald points to the New York Times decision in 2004 to delay by more than a year the publication of its domestic spying story, and of a Los Angeles Times call to spike – under Dean Baquet, the new executive editor of the New York Times – an AT&T-NSA story.

Also steaming his endless buffet is the idea that journalists talk to national security officials before they publish secrets. Greenwald's schema also doesn't square with the Washington Post's aggressive pursuit of the Snowden story. No paper is more representative of the establishment and Washington power than the Post, and yet it has published on and on about the NSA files.

… But talking to the government isn't the same thing as taking orders from it. National security reporters can write more insightful and more accurate stories by discussing the leaks they obtain. They can also avoid publishing stories that are detrimental to my immediate safety, your immediate safety, the immediate safety of Glenn Greenwald's life as well as the lives of U.S. troops.

The cartoon Greenwald paints of a weakling press taking orders from the government clashes with the well-documented accounts of how contentious and brutal the reporting and publishing process can get. Remember, not even Glenn Greenwald has dumped his entire stash of NSA files into the public domain.

He's in his Fortress of Solitude right now, turning them over in his hands and making mental notes. Like anybody who takes the mound, Greenwald wants to decide when to hurl his fastballs. Is anybody calling Greenwald a pliant hack for his style of deliberative journalism?

I've put myself on record as being a fan of Greenwald's adversarial reporting, but that doesn't mean I approve of every story and editorial choice he's made. I'm also a fan of the more conventional and cautious brand of journalism, which frequently needs a kick in the ass from outsiders like Greenwald. Who says you can't be a critic of both.


While this is a fairly reasonable analysis in terms of its tone, there are some oddities. The emphasis is on "national security" reporting but certainly in the 1990s, national security reporting didn't have nearly as high a profile as it does today.

The proximate cause of national security reporting is probably 9/11 and this makes Greenwald's reporting more persuasive, in our view – as there are plenty of questions that linger about 9/11 that we don't usually see rehashed in the press.

In other words, the signal event that gave rise to the "national security reporter" as yet goes unscrutinized by this same breed.

What phones did the passengers use to call their loved ones while on the doomed planes (the FBI cannot explain); why was the crater in the ground in Pennsylvania so small even though a large plane supposedly crashed there; why did the FBI confiscate video tapes from all the vendors in the area surrounding the Pentagon; why did Building 7 only fall a half-hour AFTER the BBC claimed it had toppled; why were so many of the terrorists mis-identified and apparently still alive today and residing in the Middle East.

These are just some questions pertinent to 9/11 but there are plenty of other questions regarding national security issues that have sprung up over the past decade. The most basic ones surely feature why the US and NATO went to war after 9/11 and specifically why they attacked Afghanistan and Iraq.

But there are other issues. Why was Osama bin Laden never seen "live" in videos after the beginning of the 2000s? Why were videos distributed of him during all that time so obviously fake? Why is there so much controversy about bin Laden's "death" and how he died (when he might have died a decade ago)? Why has the US continually destabilized other countries in the Middle East such as Libya, Egypt and now Syria?

On and on … The point Greenwald would make among others is that having national security reporters hasn't exactly clarified the confusion surrounding the "war on terror."

Thank goodness for the alternative press. We haven't read the book so we are not certain about the way Greenwald treats the alternative 'Net media but many of the "hard questions" regarding the erection of the surveillance state have been continually raised by the alternative media while the mainstream media has maintained a strategic – if not respectful – silence.

The alternative 'Net media, including the reporting facility you are presently perusing, has fought hard to accrue credibility; the general narrative presented by the alternative media is far more pertinent than the one offered by the mainstream.

That is why enterprises like The Daily Bell have survived in the early part of the 21st century with scant resources while deeply funded enterprises like Newsweek and BusinessWeek have had to shutter before being resuscitated as digital ghosts of their former selves.

After Thoughts

Greenwald is right to question whether "national security" reporters are apologists in disguise. The media generally are not well served by those who practice stenography instead of pursuing real investigative reporting. Unfortunately, too often in the 21st century, it is the former approach that the mainstream media adopts rather than the latter.

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