Glenn Greenwald: If anything happens to Edward Snowden US will be gravely harmed

Dead man's switch

Dead man’s switch

It may be time for Edward Snowden to look for another spokesman/PR flack. Then again, it might already be too late.

Today Snowden’s designated media mouthpiece Glenn Greenwald gave an interview to an Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, in which he provided some rather stunning quotes about Edward Snowden’s ability to harm the U.S. government. Reuters picked up the story and reprinted the Greenwald quotes in English.

(Reuters) – Fugitive former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden controls dangerous information that could become the United States’ “worst nightmare” if revealed, a journalist familiar with the data said in a newspaper interview.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first published the documents Snowden leaked, said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday that the U.S. government should be careful in its pursuit of the former computer analyst.

“Snowden has enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had,” Greenwald said in an interview in Rio de Janeiro with the Argentinean daily La Nacion.

“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”

I don’t know about you, but to me those sound like threats. Technically, they could be called “graymail” From the Urban Dictionary:


to force the government to choose between prosecuting an employee for serious crimes or preserving national security secrets
Libby’s lawyers deliberated on how to graymail the government in order to achieve an acquittal.

It’s not illegal, but it doesn’t seem all that “heroic” either.

Greenwald immediately published a defense of his comment at The Guardian: About the Reuters article.

When you give many interviews in different countries and say essentially the same thing over and over, as I do, media outlets often attempt to re-package what you’ve said to make their interview seem new and newsworthy, even when it isn’t. Such is the case with this Reuters article today, that purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina.

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 doesn’t mean he thinks the US government is attempting to kill him – he doesn’t – just that he’s taken precautions against all eventualities, including that one (just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint).

So what are the distortions? Greenwald doesn’t say. I had google translate the La Nacion article, and the quotes appear to be identical with those reported by Reuters. Greenwald doesn’t deny saying them; he simply states categorically that what he said “has [nothing] remotely to do with threats.”

O-kaaay….  But they sure do sound like threats to me. In an update Greenwald provides a quote in context which he says proves he wasn’t threatening anyone:

Here’s the context for my quote about what documents he possesses:
“Q: Beyond the revelations about the spying system performance in general, what extra information has Snowden?

“A: Snowden has enough information to cause more damage to the US government in a minute alone than anyone else has ever had in the history of the United States. But that’s not his goal. [His] objective is to expose software that people around the world use without knowing what they are exposing themselves without consciously agreeing to surrender their rights to privacy. [He] has a huge number of documents that would be very harmful to the US government if they were made public.”

Greenwald then tries to fudge the quote about how the U.S. “should be down on its knees…”

And exactly as I said, the answer about the dead man’s switch came in response to my being asked: “Are you afraid that someone will try to kill him?” That’s when I explained that I thought it such an was unlikely because his claimed dead man’s switch meant that it would produce more harm than good from the perspective of the US government.

But here is the original quote from the La Nacion story (translated awkwardly by Google):

If something were to happen, those documents would be made public. This is your insurance policy. The U.S. government should be on your knees every day praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if something happens, all information will be revealed and that would be their worst nightmare.

Please explain to me how that is “has [nothing] remotely to do with threats.” At the point Greenwald has taken on the role of a combination PR flack and defense attorney. He spends hours on Twitter sending out links to every favorable story about Snowden and he uses his Guardian column to write critiques of negative media reports on Snowden and himself. Greenwald is way out of his depth; his defenses of Snowden and his giant scoop are getting increasingly irrational. How long is The Guardian going to allow this to continue?


27 Comments on “Glenn Greenwald: If anything happens to Edward Snowden US will be gravely harmed”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    If you’re wondering what Snowden might have that would harm the US so much, here’s an article from yesterday’s Washington Post: NSA’s Snowden review focuses on possible access to China espionage files, officials say

    • RalphB says:

      Greenwald is such a hysterical narcissist, I don’t know whether to believe a word he says or not. Chances are it’s 75% hot air or we would have seen it published.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Supposedly only about 25% of the stuff the Guardian has has been published.

        Snowden also claimed to have the names and other info of all of the employees of the NSA and the locations of every CIA outpost around the world. Supposedly he got the job at Booz Allen in order to get access to these maps and identity info. That was from his own mouth.

        • RalphB says:

          All the employee names and other info is what I frankly don’t think he actually has. though he may think he does.That sort of list probably doesn’t even exist in one place.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Comment from a terror expert:

  3. bostonboomer says:
  4. bostonboomer says:

    Uh oh. Melissa Harris Perry is in trouble with Greenwald now.

    In an open letter posted to her website, and on her TV show Saturday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry chastised NSA leaker Edward Snowden for making “a spectacle of himself.”

    Harris-Perry argued that by hopping from country to country in his attempt to gain asylum, Snowden is making himself into a bigger news story than the NSA surveillance practices his leaks revealed. The only way to remedy the situation, she wrote, is by coming home and facing the consequences of his actions:

    We could be talking about whether accessing and monitoring citizen information and communications is constitutional, or whether we should continue to allow a secret court to authorize secret warrants using secret legal opinions.
    But we’re not. We’re talking about you! And flight paths between Moscow and Venezuela, and how much of a jerk Glenn Greenwald is. We could at least be talking about whether the Obama administration is right that your leak jeopardized national security. But we’re not talking about that, Ed.

    We’re talking about you. I can imagine you’d say, “Well, then stop! Just talk about something else.” But here’s the problem, even if your initial leak didn’t compromise national security, your new cloak-and-dagger game is having real and tangible geopolitical consequences. So, well, we have to talk about … you.

    • Seriously says:

      Great post! I think Glenn and his pathological delusions of grandeur would be baffled by the idea that their are larger issues at stake than whether or not his friend the martyr of the western world is headed for the slammer. He needs to get an interpreter before the vanity crusade totally obliterates the underlying issues in the minds of the public.

  5. dakinikat says:

    My guess is we can assume that the Russians and the Chinese have all of whatever it is by now … and also wikileaks … so the greenwald greymail threat seems a little lame by my standards.

  6. dakinikat says:

    BREAKING: Jury reaches a verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, according to court’s public information officer

    verdict in 15 minutes

  7. dakinikat says:

    Margaret and Helen: Tampons don’t kill people. Republicans do.