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“Dead Man’s Switch”: Is Edward Snowden Blackmailing America?

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has spent the last several weeks disseminating Edward Snowden’s revelations about National Security Agency eavesdropping practices, caused a stir this weekend with an interview he gave to Argentina’s La Nación.

“Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the U.S. government in one single minute than any other person has ever had in the history of the United States,” Greenwald told La Nación‘s Alberto Armendariz (my translation). He goes on to talk about how Snowden has to avoid landing in the custody of the “vengeful” U.S. at all costs, how Russia is a good place for him for now, and how Snowden’s objective is letting the world know how the NSA is violating privacy rights. Snowden is not out to destroy the U.S., Greenwald says. If Snowden dies, however, Greenwald adds, watch out:

He has already distributed thousands of documents and made sure that various people around the world have his complete archive. If something happens to him, these documents would be made public. This is his insurance policy. The U.S. government should be on its knees everyday praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if anything should happen, all the information will be revealed and this would be its worst nightmare. [La Nación, my translation]

In an interview with The Associated Press, Greenwald elaborated on what Snowden is sitting on: “In order to take documents with him that proved that what he was saying was true he had to take ones that included very sensitive, detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do.” These documents, Greenwald added, “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

Greenwald’s interview with La Nación reached the U.S. largely through a Reuters article that reported the quotes in English. Greenwald was annoyed enough by this act of translational journalism that he responded in a blog post at The Guardian:

Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It’s particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly “blackmailing” and “threatening” the US government. That is just absurd. That Snowden has created some sort of “dead man’s switch” — whereby documents get released in the event that he is killed by the US government — was previously reported weeks ago, and Snowden himself has strongly implied much the same thing….

That has nothing to do with me: I don’t have access to those “insurance” documents and have no role in whatever dead man switch he’s arranged. I’m reporting what documents he says he has and what precautions he says he has taken to protect himself from what he perceives to be the threat to his well-being. That’s not a threat. Those are facts…. The only people who would claim any of this was a “threat” or “blackmail” are people with serious problems of reading comprehension or honesty, or both. [Guardian]

That explanation didn’t impress Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, who said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Monday that the comments from Greenwald (or “that reporter”, as he calls him) about the U.S. getting on its knees are “out of line.” Despite the considerable respect he has for The Guardian, Bernstein added, “that’s an awful statement, and the tone in which he made it.”

It’s one thing to say that Mr. Snowden possesses some information that could be harmful, and that could be part of the calculation that everybody makes here. It’s another to make that kind of an aggressive, non-reportorial statement [that] a reporter has no business making. [Bernstein on Morning Joe]

That, too, prompted a response from Greenwald: “I realize Carl Bernstein hasn’t done any actual reporting for a couple decades now, but he should nonetheless take the time to read what he’s opining on.” Reuters gave “a complete distortion of what I actually said,” Greenwald told Politico. “The point I made is the opposite one: That Snowden has been as responsible as a whistleblower can be in ensuring that only information the public should know is revealed.”

Let me get this straight, said Elaine Radford at The Inquisitr. Snowden is sitting on the documents that would cause the worst damage to the U.S. in its entire history, and he’ll unleash them if anything happens to him — nice government there, pity if anything should happen to it — but it’s not blackmail?

First, “considering that the United States wouldn’t go on its knees to Nazis, Nikita Khrushchev, or Osama bin Laden, Greenwald seemed to be expecting a bit much,” Radford said. Second, if he’s trying to make Snowden more sympathetic to Americans, asking America to get on its knees is pretty counterproductive — “most of us think we settled that one sometime around 1776.” But the big point, is “I don’t see how you can take the claim as anything other than a threat of blackmail.”

Like any other reporter, Greenwald is entitled to report what his source has claimed. Greenwald may even have a duty to report it if Snowden is in fact trying to blackmail the United States into dropping its criminal case against him. That in itself seems perilously close to the crime of extortion to me….

The Snowden “worst damage” dead man’s switch threat seems to suggest that Snowden has plans to destroy America by some sort of hacker attack or release of harmful information if he doesn’t get his way. You know, I don’t want to hang a guy because a reporter gave a bad interview. But c’mon. If the Snowden “worst damage” comment actually reflects how Edward Snowden thinks, it’s way past time to stop calling this man any kind of hero. [Inquisitr]

 

By: Peter Weber, Senior Editor, The Week, July 15, 2013

July 16, 2013 Posted by | National Security | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Privacy? We Gave That Away Already”: You Might Want To Rethink Your Relationship With Technology

All the President’s Men, the movie made from the book that inspired my career in journalism, was on (very) late night TV the other night. What’s strikingly anachronistic about the film is not the sideburns and bug-eye glasses, but the rudimentary journalistic tactics of the reporters who broke the Watergate story.

They weren’t on Google, searching for information that may or may not be accurate, and using a research technique that is so easily tracked that pop-up ads related to the search will begin appearing almost immediately. They didn’t drive through toll booths with a convenient electronic device on the windshield that can (and do) track their movements and the specific time of the movements. They didn’t do email interviews, cell phone interviews or even many hardline phone interviews that could leave an electronic trail.

The movie shows the real, unglamorous shoe-leather work of being a reporter. It’s one scene after another of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein driving to a neighborhood, parking blocks away to avoid detection and then knocking on people’s doors, sweet-talking their way into living rooms for interviews. It’s Woodward finding ways to meet his source, “Deep Throat” – not by thumb-typing a text, but by signals that involved the moving of a plant on a balcony. This was how the duo managed to get people to talk to them – sometimes at great personal risk – and how Woodward managed to keep Mark Felt’s identity a secret until Felt’s family disclosed his role in 2005.

Journalists are concerned at the surveillance of their phone records. And many are also jarred by the disclosure that federal authorities have been monitoring certain activity on the web and collecting phone call data. But where would anyone get the idea that any communication attached to technology and electronic’s is really private?

We have a new Facebook generation which is remarkably willing to give up its collective privacy by posting their embarrassing photos and travel plans and insignificant “status” updates on what is the biggest billboard in the cyber-sky. And yet the same people live in the delusion that no one is monitoring it? That a potential burglar isn’t tipped off by someone’s Pinterest photos of the family currently on vacation, a sign that the house is unattended? That a potential employer might see a photo of an applicant with someone doing shots off his chest and think, “maybe this isn’t someone we want working here?”

True, the idea government surveillance has a different quality to it, from both sides. We expect our government to respect our privacy. The government, meanwhile, knows it is also expected to track the bad guys. The balance of those two goals will surely be debated yet again after the recent disclosure of surveillance techniques. But in the meantime, Americans might want to rethink our relationship with technology and the privacy we lose by using it.

This applies exponentially to journalists, who might want to get back to basics – especially when reporting sensitive stories. When I was reporting in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, almost no one would be interviewed on the phone. They had just ousted a communist regime, and they were convinced, still, that their phones were being tapped. They didn’t even talk openly on the subway, so well-trained they were to be discreet. It made it harder to report, but it also promoted some better work tactics. I had to actually go meet someone somewhere and do interviews in person. I was less likely to misinterpret, and came back with more information than I would have gotten in a quick phone conversation. Woodward and Bernstein did it. So should the rest of us.

 

By: Susan Milligan, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, June 10. 2013

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Privacy, Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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