Early on, I wrote about the Edward Snowden NSA leaks that were reported by Glenn Greenwald:
Are we being set up for a more open aggressive tracking by the government? I have no reason to question the sincerity of Glenn Greenwald and his desire to break open the secretive tracking of Americans by the United States government. However, I am very suspicious of the manner in which MSM jumped on the story and pushed it so hard.What caused my thinking to go in this direction is the fact that earlier whistleblowers had warned about NSA spying on Americans and MSM paid little attention. Yet, Snowden providing information that would do little damage to the spying network, that is, the information that the NSA was collecting phone numbers from Verizon, was given major coverage from MSM. Who the hell didn't already know something like this was going on?
I wrote when the Snowden story was first breaking:
Anyone paying close attention to the news would have suspected, a long time ago, that something like this type of spying and data collection was going on. Indeed, I regularly commented on such here at EPJ, most recently on May 4, in a post titled, Are All Telephone Calls in the US Recorded by the Government?, I wrote:Since then we have this speculation from Naomi Wolf:
I have always suspected that they are. Now, there is evidence this is the case. Glenn Greenwald reports:The real capabilities and behavior of the US surveillance state are almost entirely unknown to the American public because, like most things of significance done by the US government, it operates behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy. But a seemingly spontaneous admission this week by a former FBI counterterrorism agent provides a rather startling acknowledgment of just how vast and invasive these surveillance activities are.[...]On Wednesday night, Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could[...]On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN, this time with host Carol Costello, and she asked him about those remarks. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that "all digital communications in the past" are recorded and stored.Notice that the above Greenwald commentary goes beyond his current report that is causing all the focus, his current report being that Verizon provided data to NSA of all phone calls made over its networks during a given period. Thus, it appears we have something of a limited hangout here by USG. The purpose is unkown, though I suspect what may be going on is that the USG may be wanting to use in court cases some of the data they are collecting. BUT in order to do this, they have to acknowledge they have the data in the first place, which may be what the leak to Greenwald is all about (and the leaks to WaPo about USG tracking internet data).
I hate to do this but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be[...]Some of Snowden’s emphases seem to serve an intelligence/police state objective, rather than to challenge them.
a) He is super-organized, for a whistleblower, in terms of what candidates, the White House, the State Dept. et al call ‘message discipline.’ He insisted on publishing a power point in the newspapers that ran his initial revelations. I gather that he arranged for a talented filmmaker to shoot the Greenwald interview. These two steps — which are evidence of great media training, really ‘PR 101″ — are virtually never done (to my great distress) by other whistleblowers, or by progressive activists involved in breaking news, or by real courageous people who are under stress and getting the word out. They are always done, though, by high-level political surrogates.
b) In the Greenwald video interview, I was concerned about the way Snowden conveys his message. He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling. To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points — again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points.[...]Again I hate to cast any skepticism on what seems to be a great story of a brave spy coming in from the cold in the service of American freedom. And I would never raise such questions in public if I had not been told by a very senior official in the intelligence world that indeed, there are some news stories that they create and drive — even in America (where propagandizing Americans is now legal)
As for the filmaker that Wolf mentions, yesterday there was a mini-profile about her in NYT. NYT tells us:
The filmmaker Alex Gibney recalled bumping into his fellow documentarian Laura Poitras at the airport last year, when they both happened to be taking the New York-to-London flight.In other words, Poitras is no bit player in the Snowden drama. But the big question is, how did NYT know to contact Alex Gibney to verify that, yes, Poitras does get pulled out of lines at airports? Did Poitras provide this lead to NYT to establish her anti-government creds? Interesting.
“She warned me that she was on a watchlist, and that she would be pulled out of the line,” he said Tuesday in an interview. “And sure enough, she was.”
Last week, Ms. Poitras, 49, emerged as the pivotal connection between the former government contractor Edward J. Snowden and writers for The Guardian and The Washington Post who published his leaked documents about government surveillance.
In an interview Wednesday from a hotel in Hong Kong, she described herself as an unexpected player in the Snowden leak. “This is not something I was seeking out,” she said.
Mr. Snowden first contacted her in January[...]
Still, the way Mr. Snowden’s leaked document about Prism — the National Security Agency program that collects data from online providers of e-mail and chat services — was published is hardly typical. Both The Guardian and The Post wrote about a top-secret slide presentation on Prism at roughly the same time; for the Post article, Ms. Poitras shared a byline with Barton Gellman, whom she knew from their time together on a fellowship at New York University and contacted in February.
Later, for a profile on Mr. Snowden in The Guardian, Ms. Poitras shared a byline with Glenn Greenwald, a civil liberties writer she knew from the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian reporter.
In the interview, Ms. Poitras declined to elaborate on how the two articles came about.
She also shot the 12-minute video in which Mr. Snowden explains his motivation for leaking. It has been viewed 2.5 million times, according to The Guardian, since it was posted over the weekend on the newspaper’s Web site.
Ms. Poitras also sought to deflect attention from herself and her role.Bottom line, Poitras may want to deflect attention from her role, but, in fact, she is a major player. Wow, try this at home, try to be a bit player and provide some information to WaPo and the Guardian and get bylines at both papers! Her role seems to explain why MSM paid so much attention to the Snowden leaks in the first place, that is, she is very media savvy and would know how to place a story to get maximum coverage out of a story.
Thus, do we have a straightforward story of Snowden just lucking out and hooking up with a filmaker, who also happens to have extraordinary media savvy and media connections or is this a case of a "mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma," where Poitras was in the plotting at the very early stages, for reasons unclear to outsiders?
I don't think there is enough information to make a call on this from the outside, at this time. That said, I am not impressed with the Snowden leaks to date. He has only leaked information that a closer follower of government snooping would have already known about or suspected.
Greenwald has reported that there are more Snowden leaks to come. Let's see what the nature of those leaks are. Will they truly provide shocking revelations or just more unimpressive repackaged news? This may provide the best clue as to whether Snowden is a new generation anti-state cyber-warrior hero or a cleverly crafted state operative in play to advance a very dangerous new totalitarian grab of control over the people.