Greenwald On The Reporting Of The NSA's Recent Denials: So, Now We Trust The Liars?

from the maybe-it's-the-uniforms... dept

The NSA has taken a different approach to addressing the recent leaks involving the surveillance of foreign officials (and foreign citizens). Rather than limit itself to bland statements about oversight and legal framework, the NSA has chosen to claim the reporting is "misleading," if not flat out wrong. (The NSA and the administration are also taking turns throwing each other under the bus. While this is very amusing, it does very little to address the veracity of the leaks…)

Glenn Greenwald notes on his blog that these recent tactics have a hint of desperation about them, considering they were only deployed after news broke of the NSA's surveillance of high-level foreign officials.

[T]hese exact same Boundless Informant documents have been used by newspapers around the world in exactly the same way for months. The NSA never claimed they were inaccurate until yesterday: when it is engulfed by major turmoil over spying on European allies.
The same documents the agency now claims are wrong or misleading have been public for months now, but it's only now, after the administration and Sen. Feinstein turned on the NSA, that Gen. Alexander and James Clapper are pushing the narrative that the documents themselves are being misinterpreted. Greenwald points out that both have been very careful not to deny the gist of the story itself (large scale collection of foreign phone metadata) but rather that the slides deployed by reporters in Spain and France are being misread.

The agency also made the dubious decision to implicate the foreign intelligence agencies that feed them information in hopes of undermining the reporting (as well as spreading the blame.
[T]he fact some of this data is collected by virtue of cooperation with a country's own intelligence service does not contradict our reporting. To the contrary: the secret cooperation between some European intelligence agencies and the NSA has been a featured part of our reporting from the start…

The NSA spies extensively with (but rarely on) its four closest, English-speaking surveillance allies in the "Five Eyes" group: the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But for many European nations, the NSA cooperates with those nations' intelligence services but also spies on their populations and their governments without any such cooperation. That negates none of our reporting: it is simply a restatement of it.
The NSA seems to be running short on credible counter-arguments. Many representatives in DC simply aren't buying the lines about "oversight" and "legality" any more. Even its defenders have begun distancing themselves. So, it's decided to start casting doubt on those reporting on the leaks. Fair enough, I suppose. There are many rhetorical tactics it could deploy and seeding doubt by questioning the reporting is just one of them. The problem is that the press in general has been more than happy to give the NSA's responses a credibility they haven't earned.
NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander asserted yesterday that two "Boundless Informant" slides we published - one in Le Monde and the other in El Mundo - were misunderstood and misinterpreted. The NSA then dispatched various officials to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post to make the same claim, and were (needless to say) given anonymity by those papers to spout off without accountability. Several US journalists (also needless to say) instantly treated the NSA's claims as gospel even though they (a) are accompanied by no evidence, (b) come in the middle of a major scandal for the agency at home and abroad and (c) are from officials with a history of lying to Congress and the media.
Sadly, despite a very long history (that spans several administrations) of general untrustworthiness in both intelligence agencies and administrations themselves, government officials (even those speaking from under the cover of anonymity) are instantly given more credibility than any journalist, even when those officials have the most to gain by lying.

Journalists who consistently lie or are repeatedly inaccurate tend to be speedily expelled from the system. Government and intelligence officials who lie tend to remain employed, or at worst, exit via the revolving door, landing well-paying gigs in the private sector. Journalists have the most to lose, while government officials (especially when granted anonymity) have nearly nothing to lose, not if the misstatements and disinformation help shore up the narrative.

Knowing this, why would journalists take these statements at face value? Even worse, why would they help the government PR machine by publishing a narrative handed to them by a faceless, nameless "official" who has everything to gain from spinning the story? That's not journalism. That's "reporting."

Greenwald quotes the EFF's Trevor Timm on this baffling attitude.
"Oh, NSA says a story about them is wrong? Well, that settles that! Thankfully, they never lie, obfuscate, mislead, misdirect, or misinform!"
Greenwald has taken a lot of heat for his lack of objectivity, but judging from this, more journalists need to be questioning statements coming from "officials" looking desperately for a place to plant their unreliable narratives. Four months of the NSA having to eat the words of each previous denial after each new leak should be more than enough proof that if its collective lips are moving, it's lying. At best, it's offering its least egregious "untruths."



Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 11:44am

    the one Greenwald needs to watch very closely is Cameron in the UK. now this new reporting/journalism thing or whatever it is has gone through, he is going to be looking for ways to make whistle blowing illegal, particularly if it involves the UK government. the bigger problem we have and it's gonna get worse, is how far are the people gonna be pushed before they push back against government/corporate takeover?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 11:44am

    He's probably still upset about the UK detaining his partner under terrorist laws.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 11:57am

    Re:

    Wouldn't you be? Or are you an actual sociopath?

     

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  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:05pm

    Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    They'll stonewall to the last second, then figure out some weasel so they didn't really lie -- easiest way is already prepared, just claim NSA prevented them from "transparency".

    None of you have any actual reason to trust Google. You just so desperately want to believe that part of the corporatocracy is on your side that you won't even hear the questions!

    Google is definitely a SPY AGENCY. It's spying on ALL of us right now. There's NO form of spying that's "nice". Google is definitely unreliable because won't tell us how much spying it does, how, or what it does with our information. It's like someone who poses as your friend but rummages through all your stuff -- especially your underwear -- sneak copies contact list from your phone, looks through the lock box you keep under the bed and copies down everything, and uses anything and everything learned for his own benefit or amusement, possibly revenge if caught... GOOGLE IS A CREEPY SNEAK. All spies are.

    And LYING is an inherent part of SPYING.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    * facepalm *

    You have a government agency out of control, and you are worried with a private corporation that can be taken down with a simple court order?

    You need to fix the government first before you fix anything else, you know?

     

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    icon
    out_of_the_blue (profile), Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    The only reason I said the above is because I woke up suddenly, after having a nightmare about the G, only to feel the damp mattress beneath my legs. The G caused that, only the G, never the NSA! Since I'm the only one freaked out about the G here, then it's automatically true that they're the biggest threat to mankind.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    mcinsand, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:23pm

    where did we see this behavioral pattern before???

    This morning, after reading John Steele's self-discrediting performance in Judge Wright's court ( http://ia601508.us.archive.org/28/items/gov.uscourts.cacd.543744/gov.uscourts.cacd.543744.232.0.pdf ), the similarities between Steele's and the NSA's obfuscatorial tapdancing really hit me in the face. Perhaps, if Steele had copyrighted, trademarked, or patented his methods for a person with no credibility to still discredit himself further, then maybe Steele could have a legitimate lawsuit on his hands; he could sue the NSA for infringement.

     

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  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    And then you people wonder why "nobody" takes Techdirt seriously, other than other fringe lunatics that, though often having good points, scare people away with gimmicks like this.

    What you are doing isn't hilarious. It isn't witty. It isn't even particularly well executed. It is sad, pathetic and stupid.

    You are "harassing" (not quite the right word, but I can't think of anything better) someone just because you disagree with him/her.

    This says a lot about you...whoever you are.

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    out_of_the_blue (profile), Oct 31st, 2013 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    "And then you people wonder why "nobody" takes Techdirt seriously, other than other fringe lunatics that, though often having good points, scare people away with gimmicks like this."

    Mike, care to rebut with how many views TD gets per day? Also, roughly how many professional quality publications cite TD articles? I know there's a quote somewhere on this site about how the Wall Street Journal loves TD.

    "What you are doing isn't hilarious. It isn't witty. It isn't even particularly well executed. It is sad, pathetic and stupid." So...? I'm not trying to be funny. I'm not trying to be witty. I'm trying to out-troll the troll. It is MEANT to be sad, pathetic and stupid. So thank you for telling me that I hit the mark. I'm merely repeating what the real OOTB says and jacking it up to 11.
    "You are "harassing" (not quite the right word, but I can't think of anything better) someone just because you disagree with him/her."
    I agree, not quite the right word, but we'll use it. Please, define for me harassment. I don't see how what I'm writing is harassment. If I were to draw a caricature of Obama with a speech balloon saying "Duh...I dunno what NSA is doing", would that be harassment? That's pretty much what I'm doing here. Besides, how do I harass someone whose identity I don't know? All we know is the online handle. That's it.

     

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  10.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Oct 31st, 2013 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    ...
    This says a lot about you...whoever you are.


    That's about a book right there..

     

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  11. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    "Mike, care to rebut with how many views TD gets per day?"

    It's funny that you think that Mike has any obligation to cover you for your own asshattery.

    Regardless, just check how many comments this site gets per day now, and compare that with a few years ago. It used to get articles with HUNDREDS of comments in the most hotly debated topics. Now, you get a handful of "I agree" comments. People started leaving somewhere around the time the insightful/funny/report buttons were introduced.



    Regarding the rest, you can tap dance around it however you like it. The truth is, you're being a jackass ten times worse than out_of_the_blue ever was at any point. But I think that I understand. Sometimes it is hard to deal with viewpoints different than ours.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    In retrospect, that was a bad finale, I should've edited that out. But what's done is done.

    Plus, I'm AC, no harm done :)

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 2:07pm

    This is the point I've been raising (though not as eloquently)about not being able to believe the NSA and what they, the politicians that support them, and the administration that up till recently has been running interference for them.

    Since they didn't come at at the start with the honest admittance nor tried in any way to acknowledge wrongdoing, that nothing you hear from them can be believed. The very point they fail to acknowledge it was wrong tells you just what sort of mindset is guiding the whole outfit.

    I understand that spying is done. I understand that pretty much all countries do it. But the NSA has exceeded it's authority and it's guide lines. Saying it is legal changes not one iota that bad laws can be revoked on constitutional grounds and are often done that way in court. That is why the administration has been so hell bent on using lack of standing and national security to prevent this from surfacing in court.

    The cat is out of the bag with more following it. All the good will and creditability has been squandered and no one any longer believes any authority saying good about the NSA nor of government operations either. The polls certainly reflect this in their approval ratings.

     

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  14.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 31st, 2013 @ 2:50pm

    Re:

    I understand that pretty much all countries do it.


    (I know that you didn't put this forth as an excuse, but this line triggered a tangentially related thought).

    Using that as a reason that it's OK for the US to do it is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine.

    For those who put this forth as an actual argument, my first thought is: what are you, 12? My second thought is connected to the fact that most of the people saying this are also people who believe in "American exceptionalism": if America is so exceptional, then why are we setting our moral compass according to what all the other nations do? Shouldn't we, I dunno, be exceptional?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Stephen A, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 3:34pm

    Maybe the best indication of the state of the NSA in this whole surveillance scandal isn't that they performed this way-to-intrusive spying in the first place.

    It might well have been their response. When lies, threats and ambiguous statements are your response to revelations of a total disregard of basic human rights, you've got a serious integrity problem here.

     

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  16.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Oct 31st, 2013 @ 4:53pm

    Re:

    at AC (lonyo? is that you)
    "I understand that spying is done. I understand that pretty much all countries do it."

    oh do you, indeed ? ? ?

    please, here is a list of countries, tell me which ones you think are tapping into the main trunk lines of the telecommunications system...
    ...you know, 'cause 'they all do it'...

    Afghanistan
    Akrotiri
    Albania
    Algeria
    American Samoa
    Andorra
    Angola
    Anguilla
    Antarctica
    Antigua and Barbuda
    Argentina
    Armenia
    Aruba
    Ashmore and Cartier Islands
    Australia
    Austria
    Azerbaijan
    Bahamas, The
    Bahrain
    Bangladesh
    Barbados
    Bassas da India
    Belarus
    Belgium
    Belize
    Benin
    Bermuda
    Bhutan
    Bolivia
    Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Botswana
    Bouvet Island
    Brazil
    British Indian Ocean Territory
    British Virgin Islands
    Brunei
    Bulgaria
    Burkina Faso
    Burma
    Burundi
    Cambodia
    Cameroon
    Canada
    Cape Verde
    Cayman Islands
    Central African Republic
    Chad
    Chile
    China
    Christmas Island
    Clipperton Island
    Cocos (Keeling) Islands
    Colombia
    Comoros
    Congo, Democratic Republic of the
    Congo, Republic of the
    Cook Islands
    Coral Sea Islands
    Costa Rica
    Cote d'Ivoire
    Croatia
    Cuba
    Cyprus
    Czech Republic
    Denmark
    Dhekelia
    Djibouti
    Dominica
    Dominican Republic
    Ecuador
    Egypt
    El Salvador
    Equatorial Guinea
    Eritrea
    Estonia
    Ethiopia
    Europa Island
    Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)
    Faroe Islands
    Fiji
    Finland
    France
    French Guiana
    French Polynesia
    French Southern and Antarctic Lands
    Gabon
    Gambia, The
    Gaza Strip
    Georgia
    Germany
    Ghana
    Gibraltar
    Glorioso Islands
    Greece
    Greenland
    Grenada
    Guadeloupe
    Guam
    Guatemala
    Guernsey
    Guinea
    Guinea-Bissau
    Guyana
    Haiti
    Heard Island and McDonald Islands
    Holy See (Vatican City)
    Honduras
    Hong Kong
    Hungary
    Iceland
    India
    Indonesia
    Iran
    Iraq
    Ireland
    Isle of Man
    Israel
    Italy
    Jamaica
    Jan Mayen
    Japan
    Jersey
    Jordan
    Juan de Nova Island
    Kazakhstan
    Kenya
    Kiribati
    Korea, North
    Korea, South
    Kuwait
    Kyrgyzstan
    Laos
    Latvia
    Lebanon
    Lesotho
    Liberia
    Libya
    Liechtenstein
    Lithuania
    Luxembourg
    Macau
    Macedo nia
    Madagascar
    Malawi
    Malaysia
    Maldives
    Mali
    Malta
    Marshall Islands
    Martinique
    Mauritania
    Mauritius
    Mayotte
    Mexico
    Micronesia, Federated States of
    Moldova
    Monaco
    Mongolia
    Montserrat
    Morocco
    Mozambique
    Namibia
    Nauru
    Navassa Island
    Nepal
    Netherlands
    Netherlands Antilles
    New Caledonia
    New Zealand
    Nicaragua
    Niger
    Nigeria
    Niue
    Norfolk Island
    Northern Mariana Islands
    Norway
    Oman
    Pakistan
    Palau
    Panama
    Papua New Guinea
    Paracel Islands
    Paraguay
    Peru
    Philippines
    Pitcairn Islands
    Poland
    Portugal
    Puerto Rico
    Qatar
    Reunion
    Romania
    Russia
    Rwanda
    Saint Helena
    Saint Kitts and Nevis
    Saint Lucia
    Saint Pierre and Miquelon
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
    Samoa
    San Marino
    Sao Tome and Principe
    Saudi Arabia
    Senegal
    Serbia and Montenegro
    Seychelles
    Sierra Leone
    Singapore
    Slovakia
    Slovenia
    Solomon Islands
    Somalia
    South Africa
    South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
    Spain
    Spratly Islands
    Sri Lanka
    Sudan
    Suriname
    Svalbard
    Swaziland
    Sweden
    Switzerland
    Syria
    Taiwan
    Tajikistan
    Tanzania
    Thailand
    Timor-Leste
    Togo
    Tokelau
    Tonga
    Trinidad and Tobago
    Tromelin Island
    Tunisia
    Turkey
    Turkmenistan
    Turks and Caicos Islands
    Tuvalu
    Uganda
    Ukraine
    United Arab Emirates
    United Kingdom
    United States
    Uruguay
    Uzbekistan
    Vanuatu
    Venezuela
    Vietnam
    Virgin Islands
    Wake Island
    Wallis and Futuna
    West Bank
    Western Sahara
    Yemen
    Zambia
    Zimbabwe

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 7:00pm

    Re: Re:

    If other countries jump off a cliff, we should too !

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 7:02pm

    Yeah - spying on the little people, no big deal

    OMG ! spying on big shots with power and influence??? Holy crap, there's gonna be hell to pay.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 31st, 2013 @ 8:08pm

    Re: Re:

    China, UK, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, India, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, Brazil, North Korea, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Holy See all do it .. not sure about the rest..but I bet there are more.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 2:47am

    Yeah, I will take care of your girls! - Fox while assuring farmer he would take good care of the hen.

     

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  21.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Nov 1st, 2013 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    1. bwaaa ha ha ha haaaa citation ?

    2. great, that's a couple handful out of over 200 countries that even if i concede they are doing *some* level of spying, there is NO WAY they are 'all' (*cough*cough*) doing it at the level that uncle sam is doing, NO EFFING WAY...
    so a couple handful = 'all' ? ? ?

    3. WHOEVER is doing it to the extent WE ARE (WHICH IS NO ONE), are scumbags JUST LIKE US...

    4. besides, as another poster pointed out above, i don't want my country performing to the lowest common denominator, i want it acting BETTER than is required for ethical behavior... presently, we are not...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2013 @ 4:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Same with Google's denials! Think co-conspirators will just ADMIT it?

    You're treating someone trolling ootb as if they were ootb. Might want to get your sarcasmometer adjusted.

     

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