If you haven't seen it yet, Glenn Greenwald gave a fantastic speech
last week about all of the NSA surveillance leaks. The whole speech is about an hour long, but I wanted to highlight one key point, in which Greenwald discusses how the leaks haven't just outed the NSA surveillance, but the subservience of the DC press to the government they cover. The embed below should start right at the moment he discusses this, but if not, it's at 42:20:
Part of what he discusses (around 45:45) is about the conversation where David Gregory asked Greenwald why he shouldn't be arrested
for "aiding and abetting" the leaks of confidential surveillance info. The ridiculousness wasn't just in the question, but that in that very same
conversation, when Greenwald had brought up the secret FISA court order that supposedly called out the NSA for failing to abide by the 4th Amendment. Gregory insisted that his "government sources" had told him what was in that secret ruling, and he proceeded to lay out what he believed was in that ruling (which Greenwald insists was factually inaccurate). However, as he notes, here was David Gregory, effectively "leaking" a classified FISA Court ruling (wrongly) based on a "leak" from an administration official. And yet, no one seemed concerned about that -- just about whether or not Greenwald should go to jail.
"But what was really amazing was that 90 seconds later, he was calling for my prosecution, for having disclosed classified information, and yet, he, 90 seconds earlier, had just gotten done saying that somebody in the government had come to him and described this top secret court document, which he then disclosed to the public and to the world, by telling me what he thought it said."
He then describes how Barbara Starr, a CNN reporter who covers the Pentagon -- though, Greenwald jokingly calls her the "Pentagon spokesperson who works for CNN as the 'Pentagon reporter'" -- did the exact same thing, disclosing that US officials are claiming that terrorists are "changing tactics"
following the Snowden leaks, based on claims from "anonymous" government sources. These anonymous government sources sure are busy. I had been collecting a few such examples, but Michael Calderone at HuffPo beat me to it by highlighting a whole bunch of similar stories
Anonymous officials this week have told several news organizations -– often using nearly identical language -- that the NSA leaks had prompted members of terrorist groups to change the way they communicate.
A “senior intelligence official” to ABC News on Monday:
“The intelligence community is already seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communication behaviors based on what they’re reading about our surveillance programs in the media.”
A "senior intelligence official" to the Washington Post on Monday:
Already, several terrorist groups in various regions of the world have begun to change their method of communication based on disclosures of surveillance programs in the media, the official said. He would not elaborate on the communication modes.
A "US intelligence official” to CNN on Tuesday:
“We can confirm we are seeing indications that several terrorist groups are in fact attempting to change their communications behaviors based specifically on what they are reading about our surveillance programs in the media.”
Two “US national security sources” to Reuters on Tuesday:
Intelligence agencies have detected that members of targeted militant organizations, including both Sunni and Shi'ite Islamist groups, have begun altering communications patterns in what was believed to be a direct response to details on eavesdropping leaked by the former U.S. spy agency contractor, two U.S. national security sources said.
Two “U.S. intelligence officials” to the AP on Wednesday:
Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida members, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance.
Of course, the details are incredibly sparse to non-existent. And, frankly, that's understandable since it seems like it's almost surely bullshit. The report from Starr claimed the following:
The administration official offered an example of one concern: Terrorists may be less inclined to communicate via "clean" e-mail accounts that have no links to them because they believe the U.S. government can track those.
But... does anyone seriously believe that terrorists are so dumb that they're communicating via basic email accounts like that? We're talking about Al Qaeda, who was so careful with Osama bin Laden's communications that he typed out his emails on a thumb drive, which someone else then took far away to input into a computer. Terrorists know the US government is spying on them, and so far none of the revelations has been all that surprising or revealing about how the government spies on terrorists
. The concern has been about how the public
is swept up in the process.
But, really, all of those
stories above seem a hell of a lot more
revealing about US intelligence techniques than anything that Ed Snowden has leaked. MSNBC's Chris Hayes is spot on
in this scathing response to Starr and others, and the "media insiders" as he notes that the reports of government officials telling the world that terrorists are changing how they communicate seems a lot more revealing, but no one seems to be calling for any of the reporters above to go to jail:
As Hayes says:
This article not only self-servingly advances the narrative that the intelligence community would like us to believe -- that the Edward Snowden leaks have helped the terrorists -- but, in doing so, it could be seen as doing far more in alerting terror groups to what the US intelligence community knows about them and their communications than anything published by the Guardian or the Washington Post. And yet, somehow, I have not heard members of Congress calling Barbara Starr's reporting dangerous, or pushing for her prosecution...
The whole video is great. But, between all of these things, you see the same thing over and over again. The actual leaks from Ed Snowden don't appear to be damaging, other than to the reputations of some in DC. And the later leaks being used to tar and feather Snowden appear to be much more revealing. But, somehow the insider press is fine with "leaks" that support the government's official position, but aren't okay when the leaks actually challenge the government.
Funny how that works. Or, rather, not funny at all.