Journalism

Glenn Greenwald: The Outsider

The anti-establishment journalist who midwifed the Edward Snowden revelations talks about surveillance, reporting, and new fault lines in American politics.

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Glenn Greenwald might be the single most polarizing figure in American journalism. In the 12 months between May 2013 and May 2014, the self-made blogger, civil libertarian, and investigative journalist was called "treasonous" by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), given a prestigious Polk Award for national security reporting, accused of "paranoid libertarianism" by The New Republic, and awarded a Pulitzer Prize for public service. Along the way, the itinerant one-man shop left his job at The Guardian, wrote a book called No Place to Hide, and helped launch an intriguing if vaguely defined new digital magazine called The Intercept, backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and featuring fellow left-of-center muckrakers Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

Greenwald, 47, is the man most responsible for bringing the surveillance revelations of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden to light, in an ongoing series of articles buttressed by additional investigative corroboration. Snowden initiated the contact with Greenwald after reading his staunch, criticize-all-sides civil-liberties blogging at outlets such as Salon. To admirers, the two share an adherence to constitutional liberties so strong that they're willing to take on their own ideological bunkmates and live in exile from their homeland. (Greenwald resides in Brazil.) To detractors, they are part of a transnational movement to sabotage U.S. hegemony.

Central to Greenwald's ethos is his status as an outsider. A civil rights litigator by training, Greenwald switched careers to political commentary in the mid-'00s. He started a self-published blog called Unclaimed Territory, which leveled an acerbic critique at the Bush administration's civil liberties record and the Washington press corps that enabled it. In 2006 he wrote a book-published by the activist phone company Working Assets-called How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run Amok. Improbably, it made The New York Times bestseller list and shot to No. 1 on Amazon.

In November, the Senate narrowly defeated the Snowden-inspired USA FREEDOM Act, which would have provided the first check in generations on the NSA's power to collect blanket information about American citizens. While criticized by some civil libertarians for not going far enough, the bill demonstrated that a few dedicated outsiders can influence the culture enough to at least make Washington sweat. For his unique contribution to American media and discourse, the Reason Foundation, which publishes reason, in November awarded Greenwald its second annual Lanny Friedlander Prize, which honors an individual or group who has created a publication, medium, distribution platform, or way of doing media that vastly expands human freedom by increasing people's ability to express themselves and engage in debate.

In September, Greenwald sat down with Reason TV producer Todd Krainin in Montreal to talk about surveillance, privacy, journalism, and the emerging left-right coalition on civil liberties.

reason: No Place to Hide reads in many ways like an All the President's Men for the 21st century, with you and Laura Poitras playing the role of Woodward and Bern­stein. Where they differ is what really interests me. Even though it's a timeless tale, at the end of All the President's Men you have a president who resigns, you have people who go to jail, you have some measure of accountability. I don't quite know if we're at the end game with [your] scenario, but do you see that ever happening? Do you see some measure of accountability? Or today have things changed to such a degree that the government just acts with impunity?

Glenn Greenwald: I do. Even in Watergate, that took a relatively long time from the original disclosures to the point where Washington, the political class, took it seriously enough so that there was accountability. In fact, if you look at the first year and a half to two years of Watergate reporting, overwhelmingly the polling broke down on partisan lines, where Republicans were rather dismissive of the seriousness of what was being reported and Democrats were trying to exploit it for political gain. It was only once it reached a tipping point and prominent Republicans came out and said this is really wrong, and then the battle for the tapes, it all sort of unfolded the way we now remember it. But it took a good while. The nature of politically powerful people is that they have a lot of defenses and a lot of strength-by definition-and you don't deflate them or bring them down or hold them accountable easily. It's always a battle.

I do think there have been some very significant changes as a result of [our] reporting. There hasn't been a lot of legislation passed. But I never thought that the place to look for restrictions on the power of the U.S. government would be the U.S. government itself, because human beings generally don't walk around thinking about ways to restrict their own power.

I think the much more significant changes are the changes in consciousness that people have, not just about surveillance, but about privacy, the role of government, their relationship to it, the dangers of exercising power in the dark, and the role of journalism as well. There are all kinds of ways that surveillance is now being curbed, from other governments acting in coalition to impede U.S. hegemony over the Internet, to technology companies like Facebook, Yahoo, and Google knowing that, unless they make a real commitment to protecting their users' privacy, they're going to lose a generation of users to other countries' companies. The most important of all is the awareness of individuals about the need to protect their own privacy by using things like encryption and other tools of anonymity. I think these things are a really important form of change and accountability that will come from the reporting.

reason: Is time also a factor? [As you] mention in the book, initially there's a fear of surveillance, there's a shock. And then over time, you get used to the cameras being on you. I know this just as a photojournalist: In the beginning, you put a camera on someone and they're nervous, they're worried about their appearance, and after an hour it's like it's not even there anymore. Does that dilute the urgency in any way?

Greenwald: There is definitely an extent to which you can normalize almost every form of abusive behavior on the part of the state. You can pretty much accustom a population to almost anything. There are studies that show that at the end of the Stasi, when the wall and East Germany fell-and even once East Germans became integrated into the West or at least into reunified Germany-that, behaviorally, it took a long time for East Germans to change from the population under this repressive, tyrannical microscope of surveillance to one that was free. Because they had become acculturated to simply accepting the world with those kinds of limitations.

But I also think that there is an instinctive drive that human beings have for privacy, for having a place where we can go and think and communicate and act without the judgmental eyes of other people being cast upon us. Because we understand reflexively how important that is to be able to dissent and explore who we are. So I don't ever see a time when people will be satisfied with having no privacy in the digital age.

reason: [Is the] NSA's blanket surveillance now legally permissible under any possible interpretation of the law, in your opinion?

Greenwald: What's important to understand when we talk about what's legal is the extent to which our institutions that determine legality have been completely co-opted, either by the other branches of government or just by the kind of post-9/11 fearmongering hysteria that has subsumed federal judges as much as they have everybody else, if not more so.

Take the PATRIOT Act, for example. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is the provision that the Justice Department cited to convince the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA] court to allow the NSA to collect all telephone records from Verizon and Sprint and every other major carrier-the metadata of every person with whom every other American is communicating. If you go back and look at the debate that took place over the PATRIOT Act-and there was a debate over the PATRIOT Act, even in the wake of 9/11-there were lots of people standing up and saying, this is really alarming, this is going to vest extremist surveillance power in the government. Nobody thought-neither the proponents of the PATRIOT Act who wrote it, like Jim Sensenbrenner, who were devoted to extremist power in the wake of 9/11, nor the critics of the PATRIOT Act, who were motivated to depict as extreme a picture of the legislation as they could-nobody remotely dreamed that that law could ever be cited to justify mass indiscriminate surveillance on Americans.

All it did was lower the standards so that you no longer needed probable cause, but a much lower level of proof of reasonable suspicion to target somebody for surveillance. Yet a FISA court in secret ended up accepting this rendition of the PATRIOT Act that nobody thinks it plausibly permits. That's really become the problem: The law almost is irrelevant, and it gets twisted and distorted by the very institutions that are supposed to safeguard [it], to justify almost anything the government wants to do.

reason: It sounds like a very similar situation to how torture and water boarding were permitted, right?

Greenwald: Right. I mean, the law in its most idealized form is this consistent, objective, concrete, identifiable set of rules and principles that constrict people's behavior. But in reality, the law, like everything else, is an instrument that those who wield the greatest power can use to maximize their power and to shield themselves from challenge and protection. You're exactly right: Nobody thought water boarding and these other techniques were anything but illegal, criminal torture. In fact, the U.S. government has prosecuted people for using them exactly on that theory. But legal memos got written. Courts have, if not accepted them, accepted the fact that their existence justified the decisions. So they just become legal by sort of fiat power. That's why, although I began writing about politics as a journalist [by focusing] a lot on legal questions, I almost never focus on them now, because they're really not relevant to the struggle for power or popular opinion.

reason: Can you explain what The Intercept is, and what it is going to provide to the public that isn't already out there in this diverse world of media in which we live?

Greenwald: It's a little difficult to describe what The Intercept is because it's still very much a work in progress.

The idea behind it when we began was that there's been fundamental flaws in American journalism that we wanted to set out-I wouldn't say "to rectify," because that's too much of an ambitious aspiration-but to at least start to work to produce other models. There are two central flaws we wanted to rectify. One was the fact that most well-funded institutional media outlets have become, for a variety of reasons, far too close to and deferential to those who wield the greatest political and economic power, as opposed to adversarial to it, and therefore have kind of gutted the purpose of journalism, which is to serve as a check on those who wield power and not as an uncritical servant or amplifier of their message.

And then the second flaw that we wanted to rectify was the lack of vibrancy and independence in how journalists are allowed to report and opine and talk about the world. There's kind of become this very soul-draining, soulless voice that journalists are expected to adopt. It's one of contrived neutrality or objectivity that prevents them from really having any passion or spirit behind their journalism. We really wanted to reanimate the idea of what journalism was supposed to be, which is not this cloistered profession that follows all these archaic, unwritten rules but instead was about crusading for some kind of outcome or against a particular injustice. That means letting journalists be free to pursue their own voice and not trying to homogenize them or neuter them.

I think it's much more honest to simply be candid about the subjective assumptions that you're embracing, rather than to pretend that you're something that you're not. But more to the point, I think that that kind of pseudo-objective journalism neuters it. It means that you can't really ever be perceived as taking a strong position because that somehow compromises your objectivity. It means that you're basically toothless, that you no longer have the ability to check those who are in power or to call out their lies when they're lying or to be aggressive in telling the truth. That's a big part of why journalism has been failing.

reason: In some ways, the story of Snowden is really just a springboard for some larger philosophical issues that you really get into in your book, about who gets to be considered an insider in the establishment and who's an outsider.

Greenwald: I think that this dynamic is-I wouldn't necessarily say universal, because that's probably too great of a claim-but it's extremely common across cultures and eras. The idea that orthodoxies are maintained by imposing punishment for those who defy them. I think it's always the case, or most often the case, that the path of least resistance is to embrace and act in accordance with societal convention, and [that] there are generally punishments for deviating from that convention. So a big part of it is just simply that normal human dynamic, that people who wield power have an interest in having the status quo, or the prevailing order, maintained.

One important way of doing that is to ensure that there are penalties for those who challenge it. And one important penalty that gets imposed on those who challenge it is the idea of societal scorn or shame. You'll be depicted as crazy or unstable. You can find Soviet or Chinese dissidents who were put into mental hospitals rather than prisons, on the grounds that they were crazy for challenging the prevailing order. Scientists like Galileo and Copernicus, and Socrates in philosophy, were regarded similarly. So I think there is a very important component of it there, and one of the reasons why journalists who are very amply rewarded become such reliable servants of power is because they too have an interest in preserving the status quo.

It's important to remember that even the most popular opinions, or the things that are done by those who seem like they are the guardians of convention, can also be really crazy. Like the idea of being able to target an American citizen for execution by drone without due process. That is actually a really radical, and one could say crazy, idea. And if it were being proposed by some fringe ideologue, rather than being done by a popular American president, it would be regarded as self-evidently crazy.

reason: You make the point that it is absolutely crucial that journalists be outsiders.

Greenwald: My role, as a journalist, is not to give comfort. I'm not a therapist, or a nurse, or a pastor. I think one of the most crucial parts of journalism is to constantly poke and prod at convention and orthodoxy and to challenge assumptions that people are just implicitly accepting. Not just even if it makes people uncomfortable, but especially then. I think you need, always, to have every kind of human belief being challenged and scrutinized and put under a microscope. That's an important part of what journalism is about.

reason: But do you romanticize that aspect of the journalistic viewpoint a little bit? For example, yes, you've come under fire from a lot of journalists, and people [have called] for your imprisonment in some cases. But isn't that just part of what you're actually promoting, which is adversarial journalism? Some people are going to look at you in a really negative light. They're going to ask you the same kind of hard questions that you would ask of the NSA, for example.

Greenwald: Absolutely. And journalists tend to be really thin-skinned, especially in the Internet age, where it's really the first time journalists had to be confronted with criticism. Ten years ago if you wrote a column for The New York Times, if you were Maureen Dowd or Tom Friedman, the only criticisms you ever heard were people who wrote letters to the editor and got published, and none of them ever cared at all about that. Now everywhere they go Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd hear constant criticism, and sometimes the criticism is vicious, and it's vitriolic, and it's personal, and unproductive, and whatever. But I would rather have those people-and I would include myself in that-subjected to excessive criticism and attack than insufficient criticism and attack.

reason: A lot of the revelations that you came across from Snowden have in many ways proven to be more outrageous than even the most creative of conspiracy theorists could have ever imagined. You even write about how shocked you were personally. I'm wondering, did that have an impact on how, or even whether, you view our government, in general, as a force for good? Did it make you more skeptical about it?

Greenwald: Definitely. I don't see how it can not do that.

I've been writing about the dangers of state surveillance, U.S. surveillance, for a lot of years. And we've gotten little snippets of the magnitude of this surveillance, just how unaccountable and out of control it is. But to see the sheer breadth of it-the fact that their explicit institutional ambition is to collect all communications on the Internet, literally all-is something that is difficult to explain in terms of how you react. It does feel like you're confronted with this almost caricature of tyranny, which is a hard word to use when you're talking about your own government, because we are so inculcated to think that tyranny is something that happens elsewhere, in bad countries. But to watch the U.S. government, in its own documents, not just trying but coming very close to converting the Internet into a realm of unlimited, indiscriminate surveillance, which is another way of saying eliminating privacy in the digital age, is really stunning.

But the more jarring part of it is how secretive it all was. You watch your government, that claims to be a democracy and claims to be accountable to its citizenry through the ballot box, engaging in this indescribably consequential behavior, and purposefully keeping not just the details but the broad strokes of what they're doing completely secret from the people who are supposed to be deciding whether they want their government to be doing that. It's a real subversion of not just privacy but of democracy itself. And yeah, to watch it in action, essentially, with definitive proof of what they are doing, definitely heightened my skepticism over the reliability of the U.S. government's claims, the role they play in the world, and its motives as well.

reason: Have you been surprised or disappointed in any way with the weak reaction against the NSA by a lot of the people on the left?

Greenwald: No, I haven't been surprised, in part because there were so many other policies that progressives-or liberals, or Democrats, whatever you want to describe them as being-pretended not just to oppose but to vehemently condemn and be offended by when they were done by George Bush, and when Barack Obama was condemning them. And then they just stood by quietly, meekly acquiescing if not outright endorsing Obama once he was in power [and] embracing these same theories, in some cases even expanding them. So this kind of radical, grotesque form of progressive hypocrisy was something that I had become extremely accustomed to, had written about, and had just expected as a fact of life.

At the same time, the reaction to the NSA reporting on the conservative side was actually quite mixed. It is true that there were a lot of conservatives who were consistent, meaning they defended eavesdropping in the Bush regime and they defended it when done under Obama, and were hostile to the reporting. But a huge amount of the support for Edward Snowden and the reporting that we were doing came from the right, as well as the left. A lot of that was just as hypocritical as the hypocrisy on the left, because a lot of those conservatives were perfectly fine with the NSA scandal under George Bush, and suddenly got worried about individual privacy when a Democrat was in control. But a lot of it was this kind of small government, pro-individual privacy strain on the right that was offended by the idea of this level of government spying. It was really interesting because it didn't break down at all along partisan or ideological lines.

In fact, if you look at the first NSA vote to defund the bulk metadata program, the two sponsors were John Conyers [D-Mich.] and Justin Amash [R-Mich.]. You can't find more disparate members of Congress than those two, and the people that lined up behind them to do that were across the range of the political spectrum. Ultimately, the big breakdown was along demographic lines, where young people tend to support Snowden and to be really offended and alarmed by this kind of surveillance, while older people were more tolerant of it. But the behavior of Democrats was completely predictable. They pretended to be hideously bothered by a much smaller-scale amount of eavesdropping revealed under George Bush and then were completely supportive of what was done under President Obama.

I think that the much more relevant split, politically, is no longer left vs. right or Democrat vs. Republican but insider vs. outsider. You saw this most prominently in the last year with that NSA vote, where the people who saved the bulk metadata program were the White House, Nancy Pelosi, and John Boehner-this kind of unholy trinity of establishment insiders-who whipped all their establishment members of Congress in defense of the NSA. And you had the kind of Tea Party outsiders with the outsiders on the left joining together to try to defund it. This coalition has actually become more apparent in lots of different areas, including drug policy and penal reform and intervention and war questions.

Even if you look at the two outside agitation movements of the last five years, which were Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement, perceived as polar opposites, they were both actually born out of anger over the bailout. So I think objections to crony capitalism and the kind of inherent corruption of how the public and private sectors are interacting are also commonalities among the left and the right, and those are some extremely significant issues. You can [add] social issues to that as well, whether it be choice or marriage equality, where you find advocates of those positions on both the right and the left. There is a lot more common ground than people typically recognize.

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  1. I get the feeling that I wouldn’t agree with anything Greenwald said about economics.

    But the guy is awesome at defending privacy rights and poking governments in the eye.

    1. The ‘other’ news media pokes the gubment in its eye occasionally. Glenn actually tries to rip the eyeballs out of the face of government. Slight distinction there and one I’m happy to provide. I do so enjoy watching Glenn working feverishly to rip the eyeballs out of gubment skulls. Someone gots to do it, nigs. Can’t be left up to Reason scribes and its adorbs commentariat.

    2. This. He’s a leftist I can at least respect for his consistency, unlike the legions of Team Blue shills who gave up pretending to give a shit about civil liberties or war when Obama took office.

      1. I think he has been more critical of Obama (PBUH) than he was of W.

        Though I don’t think I have read anything of his that is less than 2000 words in length.

  2. Socrates would have been beheaded or brutally tortured this afternoon had he existed contemporaneously within most modern Middle Eastern countries. As a reader of Greenwald since his inception I love his dogged commitment to gnarling up power structures but his communication vector doesn’t incorporate enough criticism of Middle Eastern tyranny in my view.

    On another note worth absolutely zero: why the FUCK are cooking shows so bereft of sexiness and imagination? What sort of creatures produce this lifeless shit? I’d love to see a show where a half-naked man and woman cook all sorts of goodies and then feed it to each other whilst spilling wine and craft beer into the heaving bosoms of other half-naked delightful humans. Maybe have someone tripping on shrooms and eating spare ribs in the background. I say half-naked because of the children. I’d prefer total nudity but in American culture where death and utter destruction is adored by the millions a cock and labia can ruin the collective mind.

    I’m sure Socrates would have approved, poor giant dead brain that he is.

    1. are you on an early start or is this a continuation of last night’s festivities?

      1. I don’t know what happened last night, Mr. McScruffy and as far as this morn: just woke up feeling bitchy. Have to take the family to Columbus for some shopping in a few minutes. I shall remorselessly imbibe as soon as I return safely ensconced within the folds of my oaks. Additionally, I wish you the happiest of Saturdays, kind Herder of Nerves.

    2. I am reminded of the words of Socrates when he said: “I drank WHAT?”

      1. Sir, let me take this moment to compliment you on your fashion sense, particularly your slippers.

        1. I’m glad someone caught that reference.

          1. Well, FdA is a Real Genius.

    3. Speaking of food and imagination, Cosmo has got a great idea for, how shall we say, the hard to please partner for this Valentine’s Day:

      Chocolate Anuses.
      http://www.cosmopolitan.com/se…..-butthole/

    4. There’s good naked and bad naked, and your idea flirts with bad naked, if not eye fucks it.

    5. why the FUCK are cooking showsall shows that rely on real people being themselves so bereft of sexiness and imagination?

    6. Half-naked or naked cooking hosts pretty much excludes any recipe that involves bacon.

      The union would have a shit fit if a glob of spattering bacon grease landed on someones hooter or ball sack.

      1. Exactly. Our friend here is forgetting that the fleshy part of his nimble organic/synthetic biological conjoinment is susceptible to such injuries.

        Or did he think that cooks wear aprons for the snazzy look?

    7. I would definitely watch a little Kelsey Nixon and Giada action. Although I would rather participate.

    8. I’m sure Socrates would have approved, poor giant dead brain that he is.

      “Socrates’ philosophies
      and hypotheses
      can’t define how I be droppin’ these
      mockeries
      lyrically perform armed robbery
      flee with the lottery
      possibly, they spotted me.”

      1. Rap is mindless bullshit which doesn’t deserved to be mentioned in the same cognitive universe as Socrates.

  3. the emerging left-right coalition on civil liberties.

    “Civil liberties are BAD, Children. Mmmmmkay?”

  4. Greenwald and Snowden are heroes.

    1. Why do want the terrorists to win, Bo? Do you hate The Children or something?

      1. If we had an administration that gave a fig about liberty and privacy they’d be given medals instead of the threats and harassment our current one gives them.

  5. Greenwald is still a moron for his post-Hebdo article. So much so I really can’t take him seriously. He demonstrated he was more interested in deference to political correctness than freedom of speech.

    1. This pretty much. The Snowden stuff is great, but that doesn’t wash away his idiocy on other subjects.

      1. The cynic in me (and it’s pretty strong on Greenwald) says Greenwald helped Snowden to hurt the USG and feel great about it. To be clear, there are much worse things than doing what’s right for imperfect reasons.

  6. OT: Salon at its best. Nightmare libertarian project turns country into the murder capital of the world

    http://www.salon.com/2015/01/2…..the_world/

    Lots of NEOLIBERAL chucked around. Aside from the ZEDE, which has not yet even been implemented, guess how many ‘neoliberal’ policies this article mentioned. You have one guess.

    1. This “elite” police unit, which serves under the direct command of the presidency, is intended to support President Hernandez’s heavy-handed crime reduction efforts.

      Sounds libertarian to me.

      I guess this is how they are going to fight us. They will simply misrepresent libertarian principle.

      1. Question: is it one purpose, or are they just this dumb and ignorant? I think they just don’t care enough to know, so we get the latter.

        1. “is it one purpose, or are they just this dumb and ignorant?”

          The people write it do so on purpose, those parrot it are dumb and ignorant.

      2. They misrepresent their own true purposes and everyone elses. You can’t go all 1984 without massive chicanery.

        1. I see a lot of this from all sides. They find anything and everything bad in the world and label it Libertarian, and the more unlike Libertarianism the better. Hitler was a Libertarian. Ebola is Libertarian. Airplane crashes are Libertarian. Global warming? Thats right, it too is Libertarian.

          1. I’m guilty of doing this with progressivism. All the stupid, nonsensical leftist bullshit that floats around out there? It’s all progressive to me. I don’t have time to fine tune that crap.

      3. It’s the left. You were expecting intellectual honesty?

        1. The real question is how to counter it?

          1. and I’m not sure what the right strategy is. I am increasingly convinced, however, that shaking our heads and walking away is the wrong one. Call bullshit early, often, and consistently. You can reason with reasonable people; these folks deserve mockery, ridicule, and being called out.

            1. This. Countering it is not that hard. The important part is calling BS as long as you do it even half-competently. Do not try to be friendly about it either.

              Remember, they hate us for our freedoms.

          2. Well the great thing is that its actually being countered now. Before internet and cable they had a virtual monopoly on information dissemination so they could lie to their hearts content without being called on it.

    2. Holy Jeebus; I stopped reading when I reached this gem of a claim (emphasis mine) –

      “The ZEDE’s central government is stacked with libertarian foreigners,” including a former speechwriter for presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr., conservative political operative Grover Norquist, a senior member of the Cato Institute think tank, and Ronald Reagan’s son Michael

  7. Resolution 008610, signed by General-in-Chief and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino L?pez, establishes the “use of force, with a firearm or any other potentially lethal weapon” as the last resort to “prevent disorder, support the legitimately constituted authority, and counter all aggression, immediately confronting it with the necessary measures.”

    http://panampost.com/sabrina-m…..mediately/

  8. I’m starting to think of civil libertarians the way I think of agnostics.

    Agnostics are just indecisive. There are hardly any real agnostics–they’re mostly just people who imagine that believers never experience any uncertainty. The fact is that there are atheists who would change their minds given new and persuasive evidence, and believers who make their claims aware of and despite their uncertainty. The only way anyone should claim to be an agnostic is if when asked whether there is a God, they reach into their pockets and flip a coin. They’re not uniquely acquainted with uncertainty–they’re just indecisive and afraid of committing to a position.

    That’s basically the way I see “civil libertarians”, too.

    Actually, civil libertarians are probably worse. If you can see clearly that the government shouldn’t restrict people’s speech–but can’t see clear to oppose the government imprisoning people for not forking over whatever percentage of their earnings–then fuck you. You’re certainly not being moderate on the issue because you approve of the government imprisoning people for earning a living. Isn’t the extreme position the one that imprisons people for earning a living?

    1. re: “Agnostics”

      but it sounds cool?

      would you prefer ‘Apathiests’?

      (h/t to the person with that handle)

      Many people just genuinely don’t give a shit either way. (hand raised)

      i broadly concur re: everything else.

      re: greenwald – i appreciate him helping disclose Snowden’s stuff. But I don’t necessarily give him personally much credit beyond simply being the courier. Snowden strikes me as 10,000X more intellectually credible. Half the time greenwald opens his yap something comes out about how ‘Hugo Chavez got a bad rap’, or ‘its Unfair Feinstein Didn’t Prosecute Petraeus’ or some other questionable proggy cant

  9. There is good news in Nigeria. In this case, it was a good idea to not intervene. They’re taking care of it.

    The Nigerian government is buying guns on the black market and hiring private military experts (aka mercs aka Cytotoxic called it) to train their forces. (The dicks in South Africa’s government has threatened to arrest the mercenaries upon return home. Apparently this is actually working.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com…..e22731252/

    They are also buying lots of old equipment from Warsaw pact nations like Czek.

    http://www.naij.com/376574-nig…..haram.html

    1. Chad’s army is very competent and battle-hardened. They have established a base in Cameroon and are now fighting and killing BH in Nigeria.

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/…..49254.html

  10. WaPo “dissects” Mitt’s decision not to run. Largely typical political insiders say, blah blah blah. Then- this:

    One issue that seemed to weigh on Romney was the Jan. 7 terrorist attack in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo publication. Romney talked about the issue with close advisers the night before he declared he would seriously consider running.

    “Paris was the biggest of all the factors,” the Romney associate said. “It was a tipping point for him about how dangerous the world had become.”

    He decided not to run for Most Heavily Protected Man in the Universe because a couple of armed lunatics walked into the office of a fringe political publication and murdered the unarmed employees they found there?

    Honestly? And this is the guy so recently braying about how much righter he was about foreign affairs than President Dunce Cap?

    1. You would have to have rocks in your head to want the job, Charlie Hebdo or not.

    2. I think you misread that paragraph.

      He was saying that the Charlie Hebdo attack *inspired Romney to want to run*

      That ‘the dangerousness of the world’ was for him a motivating factor to get involved.

      Not to ‘bow out’.

      e.g. “Romney talked about the issue with close advisers the night before he declared he would seriously consider running.”

      the story was trying to clarify how quickly he first “jumped in guns blazing” and then quickly “bowed out 2-3 weeks later” when he realized that the funding would be so split that he’d only be damaging other people’s efforts while inspiring no particular unity of support.

  11. The thing that always got on my tits about Greenwald was his just utter and complete knee-jerk defence of people who would certainly behead him in roughly 3 seconds given the opportunity. (For shorthand – “the “Palestinians” and associated radical jihadis who are more or less beloved unconditionally by the left.)

    Yet, there is almost nothing on earth more obnoxious in my eyes than the authoritarian cockwombles in Washington.

    So on balance, plaudits to Glenn for poking scumbag group B in the eye so sharply. I just wish he had the intellectual honesty to wrap his head around the sensible notion that “enemy of US Government DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUATE to people worth supporting and defending.”

  12. I think you misread that paragraph.

    I concede that possibility.

  13. Greenwald is a hypocrite. Bitches about the West, but doesn’t say anything when other cultures do the same thing.

    Waterboarding? Evil. Terrorism by Muslims? Good because they are oppressed brown people fighting the West’s oppression.

  14. Watching “Rocky”. God, I haven’t seen this in ages. What a movie.

    7-12″ of snow tonight. Fuck me.

    Happy almost Super Bowl, Reasonoids!

  15. Edward Snowden works counter intelligence for the CIA. Glenn Greenwald is COINTELPRO. Snowden’s “intelligence leak” is nothing more than a limited hangout.

  16. Somehow we all had to know the Patriot Act would morph into splinters
    beyond our radar. “an instrument that those who wield the greatest power can use to maximize their power and to shield themselves from challenge and protection.” Sure, and when has that never been the case, here and in every country on the planet?

    Normalize behavior? Are you kidding me, we inadvertently sanctioned it, if not, we definitely gave it its name. How many of you have home security cameras and for how many years? They’ve been in high-end apartments, and parking garages before they debuted into our homes.
    Home security, why not national security, we’re not offended by being watched as long as we’re allowed to do our own watching. Throw in a continual montage loop of the Twin Towers and everybody sanctimoniously agreed, What Privacy?

  17. Great article Glenn, and Citizenfour was very well done, TY for sharing the info, we NEED to know!

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