(I’ll be writing two shorter pieces for Banter every day in addition to my usual columns. I’ll occasionally be cross-posting them on the blog. Here’s one of the shorter posts from yesterday. -Bob)
You might recall one of Glenn Greenwald’s most infamous and hilariously exaggerated claims: the Obama administration is conducting a “war on whistleblowers.” As I’ve pointed out before, The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage totally debunked it, explaining that the spike in leak prosecutions is the product of circumstance and not any concerted “war.”
But there’s another over-the-top line that Greenwald’s been blurting recently. In an online Q&A with Reddit, Greenwald repeated what’s become one of his most hyperbolic talking points so far: that “the objective of the NSA” is “to eliminate privacy worldwide, literally.” Yes, literally.
This is sort of like insisting that the objective of a restaurant is to give you food poisoning.
NSA’s objective, of course, is foreign intelligence gathering. Since its inception, it’s been tasked with cracking codes and ascertaining what our international enemies (and friends in some cases) are up to for the benefit of national security. It hasn’t always played by the constitutional rules, but as an agency that operates mostly in secret, government oversight on numerous levels has been remarkably effective at weeding out and ending some of the more egregious problems. Today’s NSA, which Greenwald seems to think is trying to eliminate privacy, is arguably more transparent with more oversight than during any other time in its history.
But while we’re talking about privacy purity, let’s take a look at one of the web bugs on Greenwald’s Reddit chat: Google Analytics. Here’s what it collected about me when I loaded the page:
Ad Views, Analytics, Browser Information, Cookie Data , Date/Time, Demographic Data, Hardware/Software Type, Interaction Data , Page Views , Serving Domains, IP Address, Search History, Location Based Data, Phone Number
Hmm. I wonder what Greenwald would say about Greenwald’s regard for privacy. Someone should ask him.