Tuesday Reads: The Agony of Glenn Greenwald, The Ickiness of Ted Cruz, & Other NewsPosted: August 20, 2013
As of yesterday, we’ve reached the point with the NSA leaks story that the entire focus is on Glenn Greenwald and his martyrdom. Even Edward Snowden has now faded into the background.
On Sunday, Greenwald’s domestic partner David Miranda was detained for nine hours by UK authorities as he passed through Heathrow Airport on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro where he and Greenwald live. Miranda was finally released, but his laptop, an external hard drive, a number of memory sticks and other electronic devices were confiscated. Greenwald reacted by threatening the UK government with harmful revelations from the Snowden stash.
As with previous Greenwald stories, this one quickly evolved from a tale of horrendous government repression as reported by the Guardian to a more complex story reported by other news outlets–forcing the Guardian to walk back or provide more details on aspects of its original reporting. Bob Cesca does a good job of summarizing the process.
Like most people, Cesca was at first shocked by the news of Miranda’s detention. Then he began reading the stories under the headlines.
When I read The Guardian‘s article about the incident, however, more questions popped up — as with much of The Guardian‘s reporting on this topic, the publication’s tendency for coy, smoke-and-mirrors reporting invariably raises more questions than it answers. The article was credited to “Guardian staff,” for one, there weren’t any quotes from Miranda himself and the only source for the article appeared to be Greenwald, who, from my experience covering this story, tends to be incendiary and misleading.
The wailing and garment rending was underway — the predictable group freakout we’re forced to endure every time a new article is published. Greenwald himself wrote that the U.K. authorities were actually worse than the Mafia because the Mafia doesn’t target family members. (Clearly, Greenwald knows less about the Mafia than he does about political realities or history.)
An aside: Cesca coined the term “the 24 hour rule” after a the first few Greenwald NSA “bombshells.”
The 24 Hour Rule: 1) A wild claim is made via a news article, most often The Guardian, about the U.S. government or related entities. 2) The article sparks wild fits of outrage. 3) Then, within 24 hours, a mitigating detail is added, undermining or totally debunking one or more of the central claims contained with the article. Related quote: “A lie can travel half-way around the world before the truth gets its pants on.”
Back to Cesca’s take on the Miranda story:
As the hours rolled by, Charlie Savage, reporting for The New York Times, began to revealmore details about the trip — details which The Guardian mysteriously didn’t include in either of its articles….
First, we learned from The New York Times that The Guardian financed Miranda’s trip to Germany and back. This means Miranda was conducting some sort of official business for the publication. Around the same time, Amnesty International referred to Miranda as “a Guardian newspaper employee.” Combined with the Laura Poitras detail, it’s obvious that Miranda was commissioned to do some serious leg-work on the Snowden/NSA reporting, the extent of which was unknown at the time.
And then, late in the evening east coast time, The New York Times revealed the purpose of Miranda’s trip to Berlin:
Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.
So Miranda, Greenwald’s spouse, served as a paid courier to transfer stolen, top secret national security documents from Greenwald to Poitras, and from Poitras back to Greenwald.
While I’m not defending UK authorities for their ham-handed treatment of Miranda–and neither is Cesca–it’s really not surprising that Miranda was stopped and questioned. It also later came out that Miranda had been offered an attorney, but he refused the offer (Greenwald had originally said his partner was refused access to legal advice). From The Guardian on Monday:
He was offered a lawyer and a cup of water, but he refused both because he did not trust the authorities. The questions, he said, were relentless – about Greenwald, Snowden, Poitras and a host of other apparently random subjects.
“They even asked me about the protests in Brazil, why people were unhappy and who I knew in the government,” said Miranda.
He got his first drink – from a Coke machine in the corridor – after eight hours and was eventually released almost an hour later. Police records show he had been held from 08.05 to 17.00.
The questions about the Brazilian government weren’t actually that outrageous, since Glenn Greenwald had contacted high level officials there and they had tried to intervene.
So the “24-hour rule” still holds. This entire story turned around in 24 hours, but many news outlets are still reporting information that is either wholly or partially untrue. After it became clear that their original reporting on the Miranda detention was problematic, the Guardian released another bombshell article written by Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusberger in which he claims that two months ago GCHQ (Britain’s version of NSA) agents forced the Guardian to destroy their hard drives and computers unless they turned over their NSA materials. Again Bob Cesca has a good summary. Please read the whole thing if you can–it’s not long.
We’ll have to wait another day to see if this story also morphs into something different. Cesca has a list of questions for Rusberger. My big question is why wasn’t this reported immediately after it happened, and why didn’t the Guardian go to court over it?
And so Glenn Greenwald and his victimization remain the center of international attention. I have to wonder why Greenwald arranged for his partner to travel through Heathrow in the first place. Was he deliberately inviting something like this? He couldn’t have asked for better free publicity that he and the Guardian are getting right now.
Meanwhile, any discussion of NSA spying is hindered by so much inaccurate information; yet the NSA story is distracting Americans from focusing on equally important and even more pressing issues like jobs, the economy, voting rights, the war on women’s autonomy, the environment, and the upheavals in the Middle East. So now I’ll move on to some other news–I’ll add more links on the Miranda story in the comments.
In other news,
The Atlantic has a good story on economic inequality: Are the Rich Getting Too Much of the Economic Pie?
When one of you asked, “Are the rich getting too much of the economic pie?” the team behindEconomics in Plain English got pretty excited. Because you said “pie.” So we headed toDangerously Delicious Pies in northeast Washington, D.C., with business editor Derek Thompson to explain income inequality over dessert. We ordered three pies — peanut butter, blueberry, and something amazing called the “Baltimore Bomb” — to make three charts that illustrate the income and wealth gap in the U.S. We’re not the first to mix math and pastry, as we discovered recently, but we hope this video offers a tasty perspective on a complex economic question.
Watch the video–and others by the same group–at the link.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani court indicted Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday in connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the first time that a former military leader has faced criminal proceedings in Pakistan.
The court in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad, filed three charges against Mr. Musharraf, including murder and conspiracy to murder, said a prosecutor, Chaudhry Muhammed Azhar.
Mr. Musharraf, who has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated, pleaded not guilty, his lawyers said. Reporters were excluded from the hearing. Afterward, police commandos and paramilitary rangers escorted Mr. Musharraf back to his villa on the edge of Islamabad, where he has been under house arrest since April in connection with other cases stemming from his rule from 1999 to 2008.
The sight of a once untouchable general being called to account by a court had a potent symbolism in a country that has been ruled by the military for about half of its 66-year history. While the military remains deeply powerful, the prosecution has sent the message that Pakistan’s top generals are subject to the rule of law — at least after they have retired.
In Egypt, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has been arrested. The LA Times reports:
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities early Tuesday arrested the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, another demoralizing blow to the Islamist organization amid a crackdown by the military to silence dissent and build support for its control of the nation.
Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie was arrested in a Cairo apartment. Dressed in a gray tunic, the 70-year-old spiritual leader looked shaken, sitting next to a bottle of water in police custody. The image distilled the desperation the world’s most influential Islamist organization faces against an army that appears determined to crush it.
Most of the Brotherhood’s top leaders, including Khairat Shater, its chief strategist and financier, and former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown in a coup last month, are in detention or have gone underground. Much of the group’s strategy appears to have shifted to the Anti-Coup Alliance, an umbrella group the Brotherhood organized to protest Morsi’s downfall.
The army’s crackdown on the Brotherhood has been ferocious. Police raids on two Brotherhood sit-ins last week and the protests and violence that ensured killed more than 900 Morsi supporters, many of them shot by live ammunition fired by security forces that have shown little restraint.
“When the hand of oppression extends to arrest this important symbol,” the Brotherhood said in a statement regarding Badie, “that means the military coup has used up everything in its pocket and is readying to depart.”
I’ll be honest–I’m really clueless about what’s going on in Egypt right now. I just hope the situation doesn’t descend into a Syria-like civil war.
Texas Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz is back in the news. The Dallas Morning News revealed yesterday that Cruz holds dual citizenship in the US and Canada.
Born in Canada to an American mother, Ted Cruz became an instant U.S. citizen. But under Canadian law, he also became a citizen of that country the moment he was born.
Unless the Texas Republican senator formally renounces that citizenship, he will remain a citizen of both countries, legal experts say.
That means he could assert the right to vote in Canada or even run for Parliament. On a lunch break from the U.S. Senate, he could head to the nearby embassy — the one flying a bright red maple leaf flag — pull out his Calgary, Alberta, birth certificate and obtain a passport.
“He’s a Canadian,” said Toronto lawyer Stephen Green, past chairman of the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section.
The circumstances of Cruz’s birth have fueled a simmering debate over his eligibility to run for president. Knowingly or not, dual citizenship is an apparent if inconvenient truth for the tea party firebrand, who shows every sign he’s angling for the White House.
Cruz has decided to renounce his Canadian citizenship, according to CNN:
“Because I was a U.S. citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the U.S., and because I have never taken affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, I assumed that was the end of the matter,” Cruz wrote in his statement.
“Now the Dallas Morning News says that I may technically have dual citizenship. Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship,” he continued. “Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth, and as a U.S. Senator, I believe I should be only an American.”
Too bad he didn’t decide to run for office in Canada. I guess we’re stuck with him now.
I’ll end with this Daily Beast story about what Ted Cruz Princeton roommates recall about him. Some excerpts:
When Craig Mazin first met his freshman roommate, Rafael Edward Cruz, he knew the 17-year-old Texan was not like other students at Princeton, or probably anywhere else for that matter.
“I remember very specifically that he had a book in Spanish and the title was Was Karl Marx a Satanist? And I thought, who is this person?” Mazin says of Ted Cruz. “Even in 1988, he was politically extreme in a way that was surprising to me.” [….]
“It was my distinct impression that Ted had nothing to learn from anyone else,” said Erik Leitch, who lived in Butler College with Cruz. Leitch said he remembers Cruz as someone who wanted to argue over anything or nothing, just for the exercise of arguing. “The only point of Ted talking to you was to convince you of the rightness of his views.”
In addition to Mazin and Leitch, several fellow classmates who asked that their names not be used described the young Cruz with words like “abrasive,” “intense,” “strident,” “crank,” and “arrogant.” Four independently offered the word “creepy,” with some pointing to Cruz’s habit of donning a paisley bathrobe and walking to the opposite end of their dorm’s hallway where the female students lived.
“I would end up fielding the [girls’] complaints: ‘Could you please keep your roommate out of our hallway?'” Mazin says.