I posted my Monday column a day early — yesterday — in order to stay on top of the NSA story and some of the problems emerging with the reporting. Here are some thoughts and observations from the last 24 hours.
–Once again, it’s nearly impossible to have a nuanced position these days. I bent over backwards to repeat my ongoing opposition to the growing surveillance state, and made it abundantly clear that my intent with the column was to question some of the problems with the reporting and why there were such glaring omissions and errors. But there’s an increasingly evident overlap between the kneejerking on the far-right and the kneejerking on the far-left (I will make an effort to point it out whenever I can) and too many people tend to blurt things out without reading or grasping what’s being said. Consequently, criticizing Greenwald makes me an Obamabot. End of story. The left is sliding into a very dangerous place right now, and I’ll definitely report back on this one.
–There are some questions emerging regarding Ed Snowden’s story. Why did someone who was disillusioned with Obama’s record on national security continue to work for Obama’s national security apparatus — for more than four years? Why did he escape to Hong Kong when it’s clearly not the free speech haven he claimed it was? If he prefers to seek asylum in Iceland, why didn’t he go there before the story went public? How did he attain the access to be able to “wiretap anyone?” I assume we’ll get answers to some of these questions. Maybe?
–Marc Ambinder wrote a blindly complicated article for The Week in which he explained what PRISM is. It’s essentially a program that analyses data. It doesn’t retrieve the data, it merely compiles it. He also explained that the way the NSA can have “direct access” is via servers that mirror the tech giant servers. So if the NSA requests information from Facebook about an account in Pakistan, Facebook creates a mirror that clones the real time date from that account. But that mirror site has to be hosted on a server and all of the tech giants denied giving the NSA access to their servers. More questions.
–Greenwald tweeted this last night to the DNI: “Clapper: leaks “literally gut-wrenching” – “huge, grave damage” – save some melodrama and rhetoric for coming stories. You’ll need it.” In the context of this story, Greenwald ought to be serving in the capacity of a hard news reporter. But what sets off a red flag in my head is how his reporting and his tweets totally blur the line between an agenda-driven opinion blogger and reporter. I know this isn’t exclusive to Greenwald, but it’s a problem that’s getting worse. If you’re going to be an opinion/agenda journalist, be that, and be clear about it. If you’re going to be a hard news reporter, be that, and be clear about. But Greenwald is the big, bad Glennzilla and so he has to literally taunt Clapper in public.
–And finally, as I’ve spent many years discussing here, the war on terrorism has to end. The 2001 AUMF has to be repealed. The PATRIOT Act has to be rolled back. There’s a series of changes that have to occur in order to return us back to a more reasonable and sensible counter-terrorism process. So deploying our military around the world to hunt down “evildoers” is out of the question. Allowing the president extra-constitutional war powers in perpetuity is also out of the question. Drones are out of the question. And now, digital intelligence gathering is on the chopping block. Of course, I’m also in favor of rolling back the reach of the NSA on this front, but I get the sense that some, like Greenwald, would prefer to see intelligence gathering utterly weakened and occurring in the light of day, thus making it totally ineffectual. Some things need to remain secret, and we need to have some sort of covert intelligence apparatus. No, fighting terrorism isn’t worth endless war or limitless power, but we still have to do it somehow. And so what level of counter-terrorism is acceptable? I’m seriously asking.