Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald is taking aim at new reports in venues including the U.K. Sunday Times that claim security documents leaked by Edward Snowden or others have outed British espionage agents to the Russians and the Chinese.
Americans followed suit, also claiming that some agents were in jeopardy. Members of the U.K. government talk about Snowden having “blood on his hands,” while also implicating others who may have had access. Some reports mention allegations that one of Glenn Greenwald’s associates, David Miranda, was carrying decryption information for files with him when detained by security forces.
Trumped Up Claims?
In response, Greenwald is pointing out that the report comes from Roberta Murdoch properties and, in his view, contains “dubious claims, contradictions and inaccuracies.” According to Greenwald, there’s a lack of investigative journalism, and an easy scapegoating of someone who made a lot of sacrifices to take security data public. Greenwald is also denying that the report about his associate David Miranda is accurate, pointing to facts about Miranda’s travel itinerary.
Thus Always to Whistleblowers
Greenwald also likens current activities to government reactions in 1971 around the Daniel Ellsberg Pentagon Papers, where disclosure of private information targeted the Nixon administration. In that time, Greenwald says, the government also targeted that whistleblower, with the contention that he was ‘passing secrets to the Soviets.’
Other more modern examples of whistleblowing activity include the cases of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. Typically, these individuals avoid traveling to the US to avoid various kinds of legal charges, and are subject to some defamation of character, as the government and the public respond to the consequences of their revelations. That’s not to say that these characters are blameless, but there’s a backlash that often follows news about whistleblower cases that shows both sides of a virulent debate about to what extent we allow “security” based authoritarianism into our lives.
While there are serious questions about the effect of data leaks on espionage, there’s also the unequivocal impact of Snowden’s disclosures on the American public debate. After much of the data went public, Americans learned about the scope of government eavesdropping. The consensus seems to be that the NSA should pull back on some of its data collection efforts. Even as the U.K. government acts to beef up its security protocols, in America, things like the Rand Paul filibuster and the alliance of libertarians and progressives show that many Americans are not in favor of an authoritarian, omnipotent state, and that they prefer some level of risk to complete surveillance.