A portrait of Naomi Klein. (thierry ehrmman / (CC-BY-2.0))

Celebrated journalist, author and activist Naomi Klein told Glenn Greenwald he wasn’t doing enough to support privacy in his reporting of emails hacked from the personal email account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and published online without curation or redaction, and Greenwald agreed.

“Naomi Klein believes there are serious threats to personal privacy and other critical political values posed by hacks of this sort,” Greenwald wrote at The Intercept in an introduction to his conversation with Klein, which was published as a podcast and transcript.

“The fact that the individual whose emails were hacked wields significant power may mitigate some of those concerns, but, she believes, it does not remotely obviate them. She also believes that while a public service has been performed by the reporting on some of these emails, media organizations (including The Intercept) have not sufficiently emphasized the dangers to personal privacy posed by the hacking of someone’s email inbox.”

In their exchange, Klein said: “These leaks are not, in my opinion, in the same category as the Pentagon Papers or previous WikiLeaks releases like the trade documents they continue to leak, which I am tremendously grateful for, because those are government documents that we have a right to, that are central to democracy. There are many things in that category.

“But personal emails — and there’s all kinds of personal stuff in these emails — this sort of indiscriminate dump is precisely what Snowden was trying to protect us from. That’s why I wanted to talk with you about it, because I think we need to continuously reassert that principle.

“As journalists — now that it’s out there — we do have to go through it and talk about the parts that are politically important and newsworthy. But at the same time, we have a tremendous responsibility to say that people do have that right to privacy. I heard you defend [the leak] to some degree on the grounds that these are very powerful people. Certainly Podesta is a very powerful person, and he will be more powerful after Hillary Clinton is elected, if she’s elected, and it looks like she will be. But I’m concerned about the subjectivity of who gets defined as sufficiently powerful to lose their privacy because I am absolutely sure there are plenty of people in the world who believe that you and I are sufficiently powerful to lose our privacy, and I come to this as a journalist and author who has used leaked and declassified documents to do my work. I could never have written ‘The Shock Doctrine’ or ‘This Changes Everything’ without that. But I’m also part of the climate justice movement, and this is a movement that has come under incredible amounts of surveillance by oil industry-funded front groups of various kinds. There are people in the movement now who are being tracked as if they were political candidates, everywhere they go.”

Greenwald replied: “I absolutely agree with you that there are very profound concerns about individual privacy that are being trampled over with these leaks and certainly with the ones to come. And we probably haven’t given that enough thought, primarily because what ends up happening is the leaks happen; journalists like me give lip service to the fact that it’s too bad they weren’t curated, they should have been; and then everyone starts digging into them for newsworthy stories. Maybe it’s been rewarding that approach, maybe it’s just not given sufficient attention to it, but I’m not sure what the answer is, because as long as the capability exists, I think people are going to continue to do it.”

Speaking about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published the leaks without curation, Greenwald said: “[T]here are also very extreme concerns from vesting so much power in one person. It’s sort of ironic given that the NSA scandal and all these other scandals arose out of the idea that a tiny number of people, in secret, with no accountability, have been making these choices. And now you have other people posing as their adversaries creating a similar framework for themselves.”

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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