Greenwald to name names?

28 May

Updated below.

Glenn Greenwald, the man Edward Snowden handed the NSA “spying documents” over to, has announced that he has neared the end of the material he will release to the public.  If you haven’t been satisfied with the number of documents published through a few media outlets so far, you can buy his new book, which I understand has a couple more new “revelations” in it.  The book is oddly separated from the documents themselves (I gather you can go to a website and download the documents the book mentions for yourself) and has no index (strange editing choice for a book on such a subject).  Maybe there will be more in his upcoming movie, although that is being publicized as the story of how he and Snowden met and planned the release of the documents; no mention has been made that the movie will include any revealing of the document materials.  Now he has plans for the ending point, a final release of one last item, a “Grand Finale”,  which he will publish later this year at his new billionaire Pierre Omidyar-funded website, The Intercept: he is going to release the names of individuals targeted by the NSA.  (What the hell happened to all those other tens of thousands of documents never released?  We just don’t get to see what’s in them?)

According to this Realclearpolitics article, entitled ” Greenwald’s Finale: Naming Victims of Surveillance”:

The man who helped bring about the most significant leak in American intelligence history is to reveal names of US citizens targeted by their own government in what he promises will be the “biggest” revelation from nearly 2m classified files.

His [Greenwald’s] plan to publish names will further unnerve an American intelligence establishment already reeling from 11 months of revelations about US government surveillance activities. […]

“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’,” he said. 

“Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?

What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”

Greenwald said the names would be published via The Intercept, a website funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder and chairman of eBay. […]

From a Commondreams article :

And in an interview with The Sunday Times published over the weekend, the award-winning journalist spoke about a coming “finale” that would expose specific individuals who have been targeted by the powerful spy agency. […]”

Now hold on just a daggone minute.  Greenwald has repeatedly stated that one reason he has vetted the releases with the US government prior to publication is that he and Snowden wanted to make sure that the innocent targets of the NSA would not have their lives disrupted and possibly put in danger by revealing their names.  He has also made numerous times, in what is basically the same wording, the remark that a major factor explaining the slow release of documents is the painstaking work of making sure that the names of individuals targeted by the NSA have their identities (including other potential identifying information aside from their names) redacted prior to public release of any given document.

And the “grand finale” will be…releasing these victims’ names??

I want to be clear: I’m not speculating on what the names are.  I personally don’t care whose names are on the list and am repulsed by the people who are speculating about which names will be revealed.  I am not speculating on whether or not the targets are “innocent”, or what level of “innocence” they hold.  (They are all “innocent” in that none of us should have had our communications spied on, collected, and stored.  Actually, I thought that was one of the major points Snowden had to make.)   Once the list is released, are we all going to pore over the names and opine on who deserved to be spied on?  Are we going to join the NSA in picking out the targets who “deserved” to be targets (based on who we “dislike”) and feign horror over other outed names, saying, “Oh, so-and-so shouldn’t have been a victim of the spying”?

I am not going to play along with that game because it makes me complicit.  It turns us –  all of us the victims and targets in this governmental shredding of our rights – into the same “judge and jury” the spy agencies have been acting as (illegally) all these years.  But that isn’t my main point here.  My point is that when Greenwald has been taken to task for working with the government in vetting the releases, one part of his answer has always been that he needs to keep the targets’ identities secret and secure.  When people complain that the leaks are happening too slowly, he says that it takes a considerable amount of time to redact the names and any identifying information of the victims of the NSA spying in order to protect their privacy and possibly their lives.  He has made these points over and over.

Has Greenwald tried to get in touch with these NSA surveillance victims privately to warn them that they were among the specific targets?  Has he contacted them to ask their permission to out their names on this “grand finale” list?  Is he going to publish every single name he has in his possession, only the names of the people he doesn’t like, or just the names that he thinks will have some shock value?  If he is only publishing some of the names (I am of the opinion that releasing any names is grotesque), how is it that he thinks he is the one who should choose which names to display to the public?  If he is picking and choosing the names on his own, well, by God, what a misuse of power; power that came into his hands only through fate and accident.

I have to say that if the “grand finale” is indeed the naming of the targets’ names, this is weird, inexplicable, and completely contradictory given the lengths Greenwald supposedly went through to protect these people from the beginning.

UPDATE, 3 July:

Turns out Greenwald is going to delay the Big Reveal based on “last-minute claims” from the government that he needs to “investigate”, so my concern over the the so-called list  of names was premature.  He made this announcement via Twitter, where he does his most prolific writing.  That is also where he made the announcement (earlier the same day) that the article was going to be published at midnight on The Intercept:

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 11:56 am:
Tomorrow at 9am ET, I’m doing a @reddit_AMA with @MazMHussain about our new NSA story to be published tonight at midnight on @the_intercept

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 7:32 pm:
After 3 months working on our story, USG today suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing

So all his fans were waiting breathlessly at the comment section for midnight.  Midnight happened and then someone pointed out the second “tweet”.  Now they are all making a gazillion excuses for him and praying for his safety.  No-one seems to much question that he claims to have been working on this article for three whole months or that the intrepid whistleblowers can’t blow the whistle on the government because, gosh darn it, once again, the mean old government won’t let them.  It would all be pretty funny if it weren’t so stupid.  Some other reporter just published an article a day or two ago which states the NSA has been collecting emails on the entire planet based on “suspicions” raised regarding 230 individuals.  He did not name the names.  Still, kind of a scoop on Greenwald.

Me, I’m just glad that something is preventing Greenwald from publishing the names of the innocent and illegally targeted.  But I must say, this whole weird episode – the really small number of articles Greenwald has written since getting the Snowden documents, the abrupt statement that he was done with what he was going to write about them (aside from this last Grand Finale) despite the dearth of articles and information, the odd notion that the whistleblower and his chosen oracle vet everything through the same government they are whistleblowing on prior to publication of any articles, Snowden’s recent claim that he still works for the government, Greenwald’s and Snowden’s defense of “some spying” as being “useful and necessary”, the very idea behind the “Grand Finale” and now the indefinite postponement of said “fireworks” – makes it look like Greenwald just pulled the best freaking rick-roll in the history of rick-rolling.

Here’s your Grand Finale, people:


Posted by on May 28, 2014 in security state, Uncategorized


3 responses to “Greenwald to name names?

  1. Ché Pasa

    May 28, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    True enough, it just gets weirder and weirder.

    Some thoughts, random order:

    1) “The Press” has been seeking an exemption from the surveillance all the rest of us are under. This started with the AP in March or May of last year, well before the Snowden Apparition.

    2) Greenwald seems to be an advocate for exemptions — not solely for journalists, but for their family members, their corporate patrons, and so forth.

    3) But not ever an exemption for you’n’me.

    4) Congress wants and demands an exemption for themselves and their high-ranking staff, but not lower ranks. (Interesting…)

    5) Oligarchs and corporate executives dermand their own exemptions.

    As for the Final Revelations of “who” has been surveilled by NSA, do you think Greenwald will name names or will he say what we already know: categories of dissidents are routinely surveilled, whereas other categories are not?

    He seems to be hedging on this.


  2. teri

    May 29, 2014 at 5:36 am

    In the articles I have read about the naming of names, they all say specifically that GG intends to give the names of individuals. Perhaps the interviewers took liberties, although even looking at only direct quotes from Greenwald, I think it is clear he is referring to individuals. But who knows with all the slippery, slidey wording everyone in the public sphere uses now. He can always say later he meant the individuals who make up a particular group. (As in; all the individual people who belong to Amnesty International.)

    Naming the individuals is highly objectionable, in my opinion, for the reasons I gave in this post, but naming a bunch of groups is just lame. Especially as a “grand finale”. Russ Tice, NSA whistleblower, already gave a whole list of groups being spied on by the NSA, and included in his disclosures that well-known individuals, giving examples such as a Supreme Court judge and then-Senator Obama, were specifically targeted. It’s not news. (Tice also told us about Echelon and Signit back in ’05.) []

    We already know the NSA is spying on everyone; one can assume that includes groups of people as well. We already know that Homeland Security and the FBI monitor all sorts of individuals and groups and have involved local police forces in the monitoring/spying. We already know that corporations mine our data and sell it to everyone else. If the idea is that by naming certain groups as targets those groups will then seek – and perhaps get – exceptions, we are stuck with the status quo: the rest of us john doe’s have no protection. Which makes the whole “Snowden revelations” exercise pointless for the average citizen.

    Which, given the lack of any major uprisings against the machine, half-assed wimpy complaints from other countries who now know they were swept up in NSA’s systems, and basic disinterest from our Congress, pointlessness seems to be the point. The end result comes to: we are doing this, will continue to do this, your leaders don’t give a fuck, and there is nothing you can do about it.

    But you bring up an interesting and valid point. Perhaps the agenda behind the “revelations” all along has been to merely carve out exemptions for a select few. While we leave comments on articles and go “ooh” and “ahh” over what we think is new information (and maybe we will have a chance to drool over a list of names soon), nothing will essentially change unless you are Pierre, Glenn, or Barack. Ten years from now, we’ll still be grousing about how our rights are being taken (and no-one will notice if some of us just disappear) but most of us will simply adapt to the conditions in the gulag and keep our mouths shut, lest we draw attention to ourselves.


  3. Ché Pasa

    May 29, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    That’s pretty much how I look at it at this point. Message: there’s nothing you can do but lie back and think of England.

    Of course there is something we can do, but you’ll never — ever — hear of it from Greenwald or his sponsors (except perhaps: “Buy Omidyar Networks’ Oooper Doooper Security Systems!!!”) I know Greenwald was asked, by Amy Goodman no less, “what can we do?” and he demurred. The answer, such as there was one, was “nothing” apart from disappearing from modern life.

    At the same time the push for exemptions from bulk/mass surveillance for certain select categories of individuals and interests goes on.

    As for naming names, there have already been some names named (like Merkel), but if they come up with a full list of names, the question will be why — the why of surveillance (some of these people obviously need to be surveilled!!!) and why they weren’t told sooner (if they shouldn’t have been surveilled.) On the other hand, what about all that hoo-hah about protecting the innocent? After all, an entire country was redacted by Greenwald — to protect the innocent, right? So now the innocent are to be named?

    Doesn’t make a lick of sense. But then cognitive dissonance has been part of the process all along…



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