I have analyzed Glenn Greenwald’s writing many times over the years. His slick use of rhetorical devices, and his propensity to exaggerate, jump out at me and smack me upside the head when I read his writings. I’ve compiled what I think are the top 5 exaggerations by Glenn Greenwald since the NSA story broke. These are mostly from his appearances, where he apparently feels more free to exaggerate than when he commits something to paper.
Before I get to the list, I feel it is my duty to point out Glenn’s incredible hypocrisy about the right of privacy.
In his one big case as a lawyer, defending the white supremacist Matt Hale, Glenn Greenwald was smacked down by the judge for unethically recording witnesses without their knowledge. Mr. Privacy, Glenn Greenwald, invaded the privacy of witnesses in order to defend that vile creature.
Seizing the opportunity, Defendants’ counsel (Glenn Greenwald) hit the record button and commenced surreptitiously taping the conversation with Dippold. The conversation lasted for some time, covering in detail Dippold’s contacts with Hale, the WCOTC, and various other parties having an interest in the underlying litigation. Dippold never asked if Defendants’ counsel was taping the conversation. Nor did Defendants’ counsel make any representations to Dippold suggesting that the conversation was or [**4] was not being taped. […]
Approximately one month later, Plaintiff discovered the existence of another tape. This tape pertained to a conversation between Defendants’ counsel and Ian Sigel, another witness in the case. […]
Plaintiff moved to compel disclosure of these tapes, arguing that this conduct was unethical and therefore vitiated any attorney work-product privilege that may have attached to these recordings, and sought a protective order prohibiting any further recordings. The magistrate judge granted both motions, finding defense counsel’s conduct unethical under two separate rules: Local Rule 83.58.4(a)(4), prohibiting “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;” and Local Rule 83.54.4, stating “a lawyer shall not … use methods of obtaining evidence that violate the legal rights of [another] person.”
Now to the top 5 exaggerations by Glenn Greenwald on the NSA story.
Here is Glenn Greewnald from On Point with Tom Ashbrook, on NPR.
“What has been damaged by these revelations is the reputations and credibility of the people in power who are building this massive spying apparatus completely in the dark and with no accountability.”
Except Glenn, that is a massive exaggeration. Here is James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence from the Volokh Conspiracy.
- By order of the FISC, the Government is prohibited from indiscriminately sifting through the telephony metadata acquired under the program. All information that is acquired under this program is subject to strict, court-imposed restrictions on review and handling. The court only allows the data to be queried when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization. Only specially cleared counterterrorism personnel specifically trained in the Court-approved procedures may even access the records.
- All information that is acquired under this order is subject to strict restrictions on handling and is overseen by the Department of Justice and the FISA Court. Only a very small fraction of the records are ever reviewed because the vast majority of the data is not responsive to any terrorism-related query.
In short, there’s less difference between this “collection first” program and the usual law enforcement data search than first meets the eye. In the standard law enforcement search, the government establishes the relevance of its inquiry and is then allowed to collect the data. In the new collection-first model, the government collects the data and then must establish the relevance of each inquiry before it’s allowed to conduct a search.
If you trust the government to follow the rules, both models end up in much the same place. I realize that some folks simply will not trust the government to follow those rules, but it’s hard to imagine a system with more checks and restrictions and doublechecks than one that includes all three branches and both parties looking over NSA’s shoulder.
From Glenn Greenwald’s original article on the PRISM program. (not linked)
When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.
But Glenn, that’s not true either. Most of the service providers who he accused of allowing “direct and unilateral” access have denied the claim.
Here is a piece that blows away this exaggeration/lie by Glenn. From The New York Times…
But instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations said. Facebook, for instance, built such a system for requesting and sharing the information, they said.
The data shared in these ways, the people said, is shared after company lawyers have reviewed the FISA request according to company practice. It is not sent automatically or in bulk, and the government does not have full access to company servers. Instead, they said, it is a more secure and efficient way to hand over the data.
On CNN, Glenn Greenwald said the following…
“There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world,” charged Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian,” speaking on CNN. “That is not hyperbole. That is their objective.”
First of all, “complete secrecy” is a major exaggeration, considering I can search in Google and find many articles about the center that the NSA built in Utah. As a matter of fact, a Google search landed me this press release from January 6, 2011 about the groundbreaking ceremony for the new “data center” in Utah. Complete secrecy Glenn?
He goes on to say that the “only goal” is to “destroy privacy and anonymity.” You see, in Glenn’s world, it doesn’t even have a little bit to do with preventing terrorism. The United States government, collectively, thinking as one giant Dr. Evil, is “only” out to destroy your privacy and anonymity. But it isn’t just American citizens that the United States government wants to do that to, it’s the entire world people, don’t you see? And then Glenn thinks that just by saying, “That’s not hyperbole, That is their objective” – that somehow it makes it true. The only thing missing is an evil laugh and a pinky raised to your lip.
I’m sure there are many psychologists out there that are having fun with Glenn’s paranoid exaggerations. He is a case study in paranoia, if you ask me. Did you ask me?
In one of his many rounds to the gullible media, he talked to NPR and said the following…
The National Security Agency is currently devoted to the objective of creating a worldwide surveillance net that allows it to monitor what all human beings are doing and how they’re behaving and interacting with one another.
In that statement, he takes it even further than in others. He adds the word “monitor” to his hyperbole, which implies real-time snooping in most people’s minds. It begs the question, how many “oppressors” does he think are employed at the NSA? And damn, they must be getting overtime if it allows them to “monitor what all human beings are doing and how they are behaving and interacting with one another.” I’m sorry, that’s just freaking crazy. And anyone who excuses that type of hyperbole is just enabling this sick man.
I think David Simon characterized this stupidity best in his piece called “We are shocked, shocked…”
Is it just me or does the entire news media — as well as all the agitators and self-righteous bloviators on both sides of the aisle — not understand even the rudiments of electronic intercepts and the manner in which law enforcement actually uses such intercepts? It would seem so.
Because the national eruption over the rather inevitable and understandable collection of all raw data involving telephonic and internet traffic by Americans would suggest that much of our political commentariat, many of our news gatherers and a lot of average folk are entirely without a clue.
You would think that the government was listening in to the secrets of 200 million Americans from the reaction and the hyperbole being tossed about. And you would think that rather than a legal court order which is an inevitable consequence of legislation that we drafted and passed, something illegal had been discovered to the government’s shame.
And the number 1 exaggeration is……drum roll please……this little gem from his appearance on Morning Joe where Mika dared to challenge him.
The objective of this is to enable the NSA to monitor EVERY SINGLE CONVERSATION AND EVERY SINGLE FORM OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR!
Ding, ding…..we have a winner! “…NSA to monitor EVERY SINGLE FORM OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR” Chew on that one for a while. How many millions of NSA employees do you suppose it would take to do that?
How in the hell can Glenn Greenwald get away with saying such crap on national television without someone challenging him? Anyone falling for his hyperbole and paranoia really needs to wake up, do a reality check and then get a grip. It’s one thing to be outraged about our government stepping on our privacy rights, with checks and balances within all three branches of government, but it is quite another to buy into the idea that the objective of the NSA is to “monitor every single conversation and every single form of human behavior”.
Come on, why the exaggerations? Is it because the truth doesn’t accomplish Glenn Greenwald’s goal of world domination? (That was me exaggerating.)
P.S. When I first learned that my phone calls were being kept track of, well over 30 years ago, when I first saw a phone bill that had the numbers listed and the times the calls were made, I was a little concerned. I didn’t freak out, I just accepted that with new technology, that was the world we lived in. That was 30 freaking years ago. Since then, Google can target ads for snowblowers on damn near every web page I go to, because one day, I did a search for snowblowers.
If you weren’t aware that all your electronic communications are out there for anyone with even a little bit of technical ability to grab on to, I really think you need to pay a little more attention.
I didn’t like the idea of it over 30 years ago, but having accepted that fact so long ago, I have a hard time getting too upset about it now. I take comfort in the fact that I am not a criminal and frequently think that if someone is “monitoring” my calls or emails, they are bored shitless.