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Ear to the Ground

Greenwald: Privatized Reporting Claims Are Absurd

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Posted on Dec 2, 2013
Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn Greenwald responded Sunday to accusations from news personalities that he has “monopolized” and “privatized” reporting (an accusation that seems to be newly cooked up for the purpose of discrediting journalists) on documents given to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The instigator of Greenwald’s comprehensive response is writer Mark Ames. At PandoDaily last week, Ames wrote that Greenwald and fellow reporter Laura Poitras “promptly sold [the Snowden] secrets to a billionaire,” Pierre Omidyar, with whom Greenwald is forming a new news organization, and made “a decision to privatize the NSA cache” by joining Omidyar and giving him a “monopoly” over those documents.

Greenwald previously ignored attacks from Ames because, as Greenwald writes, “his recklessness with the facts is so well-known … and because his fixation is quite personal: it began with and still is fueled by an incident where The Nation retracted and apologized for an error-strewn hit piece he wrote which I had criticized.”

Greenwald responded Sunday only because Ames’ line of attack has been taken up by establishment journalists and think tank figures, as well as state officials who seem likely to prosecute Greenwald if given the opportunity by the reporter’s return to the United States (he has long lived in Rio de Janeiro). Greenwald writes:

This week’s attack has been seized on by various national security establishment functionaries and DC journalists to impugn our NSA reporting and, in some cases, to argue that this “privatizing” theory should be used as a basis to prosecute me for the journalism I’m doing. Amazingly, it’s being cited by all sorts of DC journalists and think tank advocates whose own work is paid for by billionaires and other assorted plutocrats: such as Josh Marshall, whose TPM journalism has been “privatized” and funded by the Romney-supporting Silicon Valley oligarch Marc Andreesen, and former Bush Homeland Security Adviser and current CNN analyst Fran Townsend (“profiteering!”, exclaims the Time Warner Corp. employee and advocate of the American plundering of Iraq).

… the rhetorical innuendo in the Pando post tracks perfectly with that used by NSA chief Keith Alexander a few weeks ago when he called on the US government to somehow put a stop to the NSA reporting: “I think it’s wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000—whatever they are, and are selling them and giving them out as if these— you know, it just doesn’t make sense,” decreed the NSA chief. This attack is also the same one that was quickly embraced by the Canadian right to try to malign the reporting we’re now doing with the CBC on joint US/Canada surveillance programs.

To the journalists, Greenwald responded pointedly and richly:

I would think journalists would want to be very careful about embracing this pernicious theory of “privatizing” journalism given how virtually all of you are not only are paid for the journalism you do, but also have your own journalism funded by all sorts of extremely rich people and other corporate interests.

The constitutional-lawyer-turned-security-state-reporter went on to say a number of other things. The journalists criticizing him are “essentially criminalizing all professional investigative journalism.” Rather than letting one media organization monopolize the leaked documents, Greenwald, who along with Poitras was hand selected and entrusted with the documents by Snowden, has shared thousands of them with The Washington Post, The Guardian and The New York Times, and published individual reports in countries they’re most relevant to in order to achieve the greatest effect of public information. And, if he were selling the documents to Omidyar, the backer of his new project, he would cease publication until that venture was up and running rather than publishing a continuous stream of articles in news organs around the world. “Those making this accusation are revealing more about themselves than about us,” he writes, speaking to the general practices and expectations of the dominant news culture, which Greenwald has always criticized and could never be reasonably said to have been a part.

Read the rest of Greenwald’s response at his site here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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