Tuesday Reads

Laurette with a coffee cup, Henri Matisse

Laurette with a coffee cup, Henri Matisse

Good Morning!!

I’m getting a late start today, because I was trying to find out what’s going on with my broken computer. I learned that it was shipped yesterday and supposedly will get to me on Thursday. It’s still in Oakland, so I’m not sure I believe that. Anyway, it’s a relief that I will get it back sometime soon. I have really missed it. At the same time, I’m very anxious about it. I’ve only had this computer since September and already the motherboard failed. I just hope it doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, enough about my problems. Let’s get to the news of the day.

The Boston Marathon bombing seems to have been mostly forgotten, but as this year’s marathon approaches, the trial of accused bomber Dzhokar Tsarnaev is almost complete. Yesterday the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments and today the jury begins deliberations.

Tsarnaev Jury Selection, Day 1

From The New York Times: Boston Marathon Bombing Trial Wraps Up With Clashing Portraits of Naïveté and Extremism.

BOSTON — The courtroom filled with a swelling chorus of Islamic chants as television screens showed the battlefield carnage on Boylston Street, with severed limbs, an 11-year-old boy with bone fragments from someone else lodged in his body, and bright red blood splashed on the pavement like so many buckets of paint.

Once more, the people of Boston on Monday were plunged back into that moment on April 15, 2013, when Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a pair of immigrant brothers, terrorized the city and the nation by setting off deadly bombs at the Boston Marathon in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

“That day, they felt they were soldiers,” the prosecutor said of the brothers. “They were the mujahedeen, and they were bringing their battle to Boston.”

The scene set the stage for closing arguments in this trial, in which testimony began a month ago, against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 21, whose brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a shootout with police. In an emotional 80-minute multimedia finale delivered to a courtroom packed with survivors and victims’ families, the government cast Mr. Tsarnaev as an equal partner with his brother, equally determined to extract “an eye for an eye” against the United States for killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Read all about the closing arguments at the NYT link. The prosecution’s argument was very graphic and highly emotional. The case goes to the jury this morning. The defense already admitted that Tsarnaev is guilty, so the only real question will be whether he gets the death penalty or life in prison without parole. I certainly hope not, and most Greater Boston residents feel the same way, according to a poll by NPR station WBUR.

I expect to get my copy of a new book released today called The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy, by Masha Gessen. I’m really looking forward to reading it, because Gessen is knowledgeable about both Russia and the U.S. She is also the author of a biography of Vladimir Putin and a book about Pussy Riot. According to the reviews, Gessen focuses on the reasons behind the Tsarnaev brothers’ actions rather than on the crime itself, beginning with the history of Chechnya’s battle to stay separate from Russia.

From Wikipedia: Gessen was born in Moscow, lived for ten years in the U.S. before moving back home to Moscow. She moved back to New York  in 2013 after Russian authorities suggested they might take children away from gay parents. She is a lesbian and a well known activist for LGBT rights and against Putin. I’d love to read her book about Putin too.

From the LA Times review of the book (the NYT review is linked above):

Masha Gessen does something unexpected with “The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy.” In a book about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their role in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, she barely describes the crime. Here it is, her account, which comes almost exactly at the halfway point: “Patriots’ Day 2013 fell on April 15, tax day — an ironic coincidence for a big American holiday. At 2:49 p.m. that day, a couple of hours after the winner completed the Boston Marathon, when runners were crossing the finish line in a steady stream, two bombs went off near the end of the route, killing three people and injuring at least 264 others, including sixteen who lost limbs.”

Still, if such an approach seems counterintuitive, that’s the power of this remarkable book. For Gessen, the details of the catastrophe — the backpacks, the surveillance footage, the suspension of civil liberties throughout Greater Boston for several days — are so well known as to be, in some sense, moot. More essential is the background, both historical and personal. In that sense, “The Brothers” is reminiscent of Lawrence Wright’s “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” which won a 2007 Pulitzer Prize.

Wright, of course, published his book several years after the fact, while Gessen’s story is unfolding in the Massachusetts courtroom of the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial. “The Brothers,” however, is less interested in the case per se than in its context, going back to the 1940s and the relocation by Soviet authorities of ethnic Chechens to the central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

What does this have to do with the bombing? Nothing and everything. The Tsarnaev brothers were the children, or grandchildren, of this relocation, which uprooted their father’s family. Nearly 60 years later, when they, with their sisters and parents, came to Boston not long after the Sept. 11 attacks, it was just one more place that did not want them, that regarded them as alien or worse.

I can’t wait to read Gessen’s book. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new and useful from it.

John Oliver interviews Edward Snowden

John Oliver interviews Edward Snowden

Another topic I haven’t written much about recently–the Edward Snowden saga–is back in the headlines after an interview he gave to HBO’s John Oliver. From Fortune: Edward Snowden’s most outlandish interview yet.

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor, has conducted lots of interviews since he shocked the world with revelations about top secret government surveillance programs and fled to Russia. He’s video-streamed his visage onto a big screen at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas (as well as a smaller one). He’s appeared on panels, including what became the final public appearance of the celebrated New York Times media columnist David Carr. He’s wandered the halls of the TED conference on the screen of a telepresence robot.

But this weekend on John Oliver’s hit HBO series Last Week Tonight, Snowden participated in what is likely his kookiest interview to date. The show took a deep dive into government surveillance, a subject nearly two years in the public spotlight thanks to Snowden’s leaks, and encompassed subjects ranging from the Patriot Act and espionage to, er, “truck nuts” and “dick pics.”

I didn’t see the interview and I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch it; but the video is at the Fortune link if you’re interested.

Apparently the big revelation in the interview was that Snowden never read the documents he stole before releasing them. From Billboard:

If we learned anything from John Oliver‘s super-secret one-on-one interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, which aired Sunday on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, it’s that A) Few Americans probably know who is, and B) The spy agency does not have a department solely dedicated to collecting photos of your junk.

Oliver traveled to Russia to secure the interview with Snowden, who is sought by U.S. authorities for leaking thousands of NSA documents, and though there were plenty of laughs (truck nuts!) the host made sure to grill the asylum-seeker about the seriousness of his situation.

For one thing, Oliver asked Snowden if he had read all the classified docs that he leaked to the media. He said he had “evaluated” all of them — to which Oliver brought up the release of information that revealed the names of U.S. spies. “That’s a fu–up,” Oliver concluded. “You have to own that… You’re giving documents which you know could be harmful, and you know could get out there.”

Snowden responded, “You will never be completely free from risk if you’re free… The only time you can be free from risk is when you’re in prison.”

Snowden just isn’t a serious person. The Daily Mail has an in-depth report with plenty of quotes and videos. Here’s the headline: The damning truth about Snowden: Traitor who put Western lives at risk from terrorists reveals he didn’t even read all the top-secret files he leaked.

rand paul1

This morning Rand Paul revealed (to no one’s surprise) that he’s running for president of the U.S. CBS News reports:

Rand Paul announced his bid for president Tuesday morning on his campaign website, randpaul.com.

On the web page, Paul wrote, “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.” The Kentucky senator has already begun asking his supporters for donations to help his cause, too.

His political action committee sent a long email imploring supporters to contribute anywhere from $10 to $500 for a “Stand With Rand Money Bomb.” Paul has used this fundraising technique in the past to collect small-dollar donations online from grassroots supporters.

“The media tells us — if our Republican Party has any hope of defeating Hillary Clinton — you and I should choose a nominee with a track record full of sellouts, compromises and Big Government betrayals. So even though I’m at or near the top of every state poll for the nomination, they continue to try and dismiss my message of liberty and limited government!” the appeal reads.

Paul is expected to formally launch his White House bid at an event in Louisville, Kentucky Tuesday afternoon. The announcement has been expected for weeks, and Paul spent the early part of the week converting his campaign-in-waiting to an actual campaign.

So now the Republicans have two clowns in the clown car: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz–not a particularly auspicious start if you ask me.

rape

One more big story came out late yesterday–a report organized by the Columbia Journalism Review on the Rolling Stone article on the rape problem at the University of Virginia in which the central character apparently fabricated her story. There were many other women in the story who had been raped on the UVA campus, but they were overshadowed by “Jackie’s” apparently false accusations of a man who seems not to exist at all.

Here’s the report at Rolling stone: Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report

and the CJR story: Rolling Stone’s investigation: ‘A failure that was avoidable.’

Amanda Marcotte had two good articles on the report yesterday.

Talking Points Memo: Sorry, Rape Deniers: The Rolling Stone Report isn’t What You Hoped.

Raw Story: The big reveal in the report on Rolling Stone’s rape story fiasco that no one is talking about.

I hope you’ll check out those stories. They’re both well worth reading.

Just one more link from The Daily Beast: Rolling Stone Reporter ‘Nearly Broke Down.’

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

 


Tuesday Reads: Hacker Twitter Storm and Post-Prom Nightmares

twitter-storm-alison-12001

 

Good Morning!!

 

In the comments on yesterday’s post, I mentioned that there has been quite a bit of tension building up between Glenn Greenwald and some of the more extreme members of the (for lack of a better name) cypherpunks crowd–Wikileaks, Cryptome.com, and the hacker community (including Jacob Applebaum, who is closely involved both with Wikileaks and Laura Poitras, Greenwald’s partner in crime. I guess I should have stayed up later last night, because this morning I woke up to the aftermath of a major storm in the Twitterverse, where most of these types of people choose to communicate with each other.

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald

The fight stemmed from an article posted at The Intercept yesterday, in which the authors chose to redact the name of one of the five countries targeted by NSA data collection. However, it really goes back much further than that.

There has been a long running disagreement between Greenwald and the other groups I mentioned on how much of Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA data to publish. The hacker/Wikileaks crowd thinks Greenwald should simply release everything and let the chips fall where they may, and Greenwald claims he is carefully vetting the material with Snowden’s help in order not to reveal anything that would harm anyone.

Greenwald has actually revealed only a small portion of the material so far, presumably holding back information that he wanted to include in his book. But now the book has been released, and it apparently contains much information that has already been published. For those who have been obsessively following the NSA leaks story, there doesn’t seem to be a need to buy the book. Why is Greenwald being so stingy?

Here’s some background from Michael Kelley at Business Insider: WikiLeaks Threatens To Reveal Information That Glenn Greenwald Says Could Lead To ‘Deaths’.

Jacob Applebaum

Jacob Applebaum

America’s National Security Agency (NSA) can “vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation” in the Bahamas and an unnamed country, the new publication The Intercept reported Monday, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

Intercept Editor Glenn Greenwald — who wrote about documents leaked by Snowden when he was a columnist for The Guardian — said the publication didn’t reveal the country because it was “very convinced” that doing so would lead to “deaths.”

After a heated discussion between WikiLeaks, Greenwald, Intercept Editor-In-Chief John Cook, and American WikiLeaks hacker-turned-Der Spiegal contributor Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks tweeted that it will reveal the name of the second country being spied on by the NSA.

As Kelley points out, the implications is that Wikileaks knows the name of the country either by unmasking the redaction with software or because Wikileaks has access to the Snowden files.

The most plausible way for WikiLeaks to have access to a Snowden cache is if Appelbaum, who led the reporting on several Der Spiegel articles based on NSA documents (which may or may not be from Snowden), shared information with his friend and WikiLeaks Editor-In-Chief Julian Assange. Applebaum tweeted that The Intercept’s redaction was “a mistake.”

Appelbaum, a close friend of Laura Poitras, the other journalist whom Snowden gave a large set of documents, also gave a presentation detailing a classified document listing technology available to the NSA’s hacking unit, known as TAO. It is not known how he acquired those documents.

Laura Poitras

Laura Poitras

So which is it? The careless ways in which the Snowden documents have been passed around between The Guardian and The New York Times and other news organizations; with Greenwald’s husband David Miranda carrying them through London to Berlin and back; as well as the fact that Snowden is in Russia, suggest that the entire cache will eventually be released, and presumably all hell will break loose. It’s only a matter of time. 

Charles Johnson posted the entire Wikileaks-Greenwald argument at Little Green Footballs: Slap Fight of the Day: Wikileaks vs Pernicious G

Today on Twitter this happened: Julian Assange, who most people believe is the one behind the @Wikileaks account, threw a huge tantrum because Glenn Greenwald redacted the name of a country from his latest disingenuous article. Greenwald says he was convinced publishing the country’s name would lead to deaths. Assange doesn’t give a shit about that, of course.

There are some inadvertently hilarious moments here; Wikileaks’s Jacob Appelbaum says redacting the country “makes Wikileaks look extreme.” I almost fell out on that one. And then there’s the tweet in which Assange basically calls everyone in Greenwald’s crew “a bunch of racists.” And it all ends with Assange issuing a super-villain threat to release the country’s name “in 72 hours.”

Scroll through the collection below to see what it looks like when extreme libertarians have a purity war.

Head over to Green Footballs if you want the details. Read more exchanges between Wikileaks, Jacob Applebaum, and John Cook, editor of The Intercept at Chirpstory. Read more at Buzzfeed, where Miriam Berger and Miriam Elder provide a timeline of the tweets along with their interpretation: Julian Assange Is Angry At Glenn Greenwald And He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore.

cook-gawker-e1310306853377

Finally, Bob Cesca’s take on the whole affair: The Wikileaks vs Greenwald Twitter Fight: Julian Assange Threatens To Reveal Deadly NSA Info.

It all began Monday morning when The Intercept posted a new Snowden revelation with cutesy headline: “Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas.” Get it? Pirates! The article exhaustively describes an operation called MYSTIC and another called SOMALGET in which NSA gathers audio and metadata of cellphone calls in the Bahamas in order to spy on human traffickers and drug cartels. The Bahamas is notorious for both.

Naturally, the article featured all of the deceptive Greenwaldian bait-and-switch we’ve come to expect from his Snowden articles. For example, in paragraph seven, Greenwald and his co-authors Ryan Devereaux and Laura Poitras noted that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey routinely vacation in the Bahamas:

By targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network, the NSA is intentionally collecting and retaining intelligence on millions of people who have not been accused of any crime or terrorist activity. Nearly five million Americans visit the country each year, and many prominent U.S. citizens keep homes there, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

NSA is spying on Oprah! Stop the presses! But no, if you read all the way down to the 54th paragraph (!!) Greenwald tosses in a token mention of NSA’s rules about preventing data collection against U.S. Persons, whether or not they happen to be inside the U.S. There are very strict “minimization” procedures to eliminate the data that might’ve been inadvertently collected. Why? Because it’s illegal to spy on Americans without an individual warrant. And, by the way, Greenwald & Company noted that the SOMALGET program is, yes, legal.

It sure seems like there are enough hints in the story for anyone to guess the redacted country. Pirates? SOMALGET? Plus the fact the Assange accused Greenwald of “racism.” Read much more interpretation and more tweets at The Daily Banter.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on this story from now on and I’ll pass on any new information.

In other news . . .

On Sunday JJ wrote about an alleged gang rape that reportedly took place after the Calhoun High School senior prom in North Georgia on May 10. The reason I’m writing about it is that Sky Dancing has been getting a huge number of clicks from people looking for more information on this story. It seems people want to know what is happening, but the local papers have not published anything on the crime or the investigation since Sunday. Doesn’t that seem odd and troubling? Is a cover-up in the works. As JJ pointed out it brings back memories of Steubenville, Ohio. After the gang rape there, local officials tried to sweep it under the rug, but a blogger and an “Anonymous” group kept the story alive. Maybe someone with inside information from Calhoun needs to get something like that started? As in Steubenville, there are hints that coddled football players may be involved.

 

Jacqueline Gomez

Jacqueline Gomez

Meanwhile, in another prom-related tragedy, a girl was found dead after a prom at MacArthur High School in Houston. According to her mother, the mother of Jacqueline Gomez’ boyfriend was supposed to bring her home that night, but instead the boy’s mother allowed the couple to stay in a hotel room against the Gomez’ mother’s wishes. To me the whole thing sounds really suspicious. From KHOU.com, Mother: Daughter was not supposed to stay at hotel after MacArthur HS prom.

There are new startling details from the mother of a teenagerfound dead on prom night. Her mother feels like she was mislead by her daughter’s prom date and his mother….

Gomez was off to her senior prom at the Hyatt North Houston Hotel. Her mother was too distraught to show her face on camera, but said she expected to see her daughter back at home later that night….

Barron said Gomez’s date’s mother picked the couple up from her home. She also picked them up from the hotel later that night. That’s when she last spoke to her daughter on the phone.

“I just spoke to them after prom, a couple words, told me she was going to get something to eat,” said Barron.

That’s when the boy’s mother got on the phone and asked if Gomez could spend the night at their house.

“I said no, bring her back home,” said Barron. “I gave them a couple hours, and I never heard back.”

The next call she got was from a homicide detective with the Houston Police Department. She said detectives told her the room was booked by the boyfriend’s mother.

What happened? Who gave Jacqueline the drugs and did the boy’s mother know about it? More information from The Houston Chronicle: Texts Hint Girl May Have Overdosed After Prom.

A series of text messages offered new details into the death of Jacqueline Gomez, the 17-year-old Aldine ISD senior found dead Saturday in a Houston motel room the morning after her prom. The texts, sent from an account identified as Gomez’s date, also indicate investigators believe the girl probably overdosed….

Yet nobody can be certain how the MacArthur High School student died until autopsy results are complete – which could take several weeks, the Harris County medical examiner said. And that has the date and Gomez’s family and friends anxiously waiting for the mystery to be solved.

Meanwhile, her friends and family refute any suggestion that Gomez was ever a “party girl,” saying she spent most of her time working at a Kroger grocery and preparing to graduate in June.

Was Jacqueline given a date-rape drug? We may never find out, because those drugs wash out of the system very quickly. Check this out:

“He was posting pictures of himself crying on Instagram. So I a sent him a text that day to ask what had happened to my girl,” said Justice Gonzalez, a close friend of Gomez who saw the couple leave the prom together Friday night to go to that room. Authorities report Gomez was found dead in her bed about 9:20 the next morning.

“They said she overdosed,” part of the text reads, likely referring to law enforcement officials.

He went on.

“I woke up. I tried waking her but she wouldn’t,” the date texted back, adding four frowning faces. “I was screaming and crying telling her to wake up. But she didn’t. She didn’t,” He ended his text with two frowning faces with tears.

He stated she had appeared “perfectly fine and happy” when they left the “Miami Night” prom. She also seemed “happy” when they both went to sleep, he said.

He had told authorities that they had some alcohol, but said in a text to the friend that Gomez had also taken the painkiller hydrocodone.

Why the f&ck didn’t didn’t he take her home, and WTF was his mother thinking?! Furthermore, why can’t something be done to prevent these kinds of after-prom horrors?

Now I’m really mad, and I’m running out of space and time. I’ll post links to other news in the comment thread, and I hope you’ll do the same.

 


Tuesday Reads

deppbooks

Good Morning!!

We’ve had another mass-murder and I think I can safely predict it will have no effect on America’s gun culture. Now we’ll have the aftermath: the list of the dead and wounded; the background on the “ticking human time bomb” who “went off” after years of psychological problems and run-ins with law enforcement; the fruitless talk of change that won’t happen because of the right wing nut jobs who apparently run the country despite the Democrat in the White House.

Navy Yard Murders

So far. seven of the people Aaron Alexis killed at the Navy Yard have been named:

— 59-year-old Michael Arnold

— 53-year-old Sylvia Frasier

— 62-year-old Kathy Gaarde
— 73-year-old John Roger Johnson
— 50-year-old Frank Kohler
— 46-year-old Kenneth Bernard Proctor
— 61-year-old Vishnu Pandit

From The Boston Globe: Navy Yard shooting victims had long careers there. You can read some background on each of these shooting victims at the link.

In other news of the massacre, police have now established that Alexis was the only gunman. 

Fifth Anniversary of the 2008 Crash

I didn’t see much mention of it, but yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the Lehmann Brothers bankruptcy that precipitated the 2008 financial collapse. The White House released a report on the progress made since then, and President Obama warned Republicans that if the nutjobs in the House continue their efforts to shut down the government, they could easily reverse that progress. From The New York Times:

President Obama on Monday seized on the fifth anniversary of the 2008 financial collapse to warn that House Republicans would reverse the gains made and willfully cause “economic chaos” with the uncompromising stands they have staked out on looming budget deadlines.

“Budget battles and debates, those are as old as the republic,” Mr. Obama said before a friendly audience assembled in a White House annex. But, he added, “I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants.”

A bloc of conservative House Republicans have said that unless Mr. Obama’s signature health insurance law is delayed or repealed, they will not support financing for government operations in the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 or an essential increase in the nation’s borrowing limit in mid-October.

Failure to act on federal funding would provoke a government shutdown; even worse, failing to increase the debt limit would leave the government unable to pay bills and creditors and ultimately threaten the nation’s default.

“The last time the same crew threatened this course of action back in 2011, even the mere suggestion of default slowed our economic growth,” Mr. Obama said, recalling that summer’s market-rattling showdown.

No doubt the warning fell on deaf ears…

johnny-depp-reading-il-manifesto

Fifth Anniversary of the 2008 Crash

I didn’t see much mention of it, but yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the Lehmann Brothers bankruptcy that precipitated the 2008 financial collapse. The White House released a report on the progress made since then, and President Obama warned Republicans that if the nutjobs in the House continue their efforts to shut down the government, they could easily reverse that progress. From The New York Times:

President Obama on Monday seized on the fifth anniversary of the 2008 financial collapse to warn that House Republicans would reverse the gains made and willfully cause “economic chaos” with the uncompromising stands they have staked out on looming budget deadlines.

“Budget battles and debates, those are as old as the republic,” Mr. Obama said before a friendly audience assembled in a White House annex. But, he added, “I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants.”

A bloc of conservative House Republicans have said that unless Mr. Obama’s signature health insurance law is delayed or repealed, they will not support financing for government operations in the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 or an essential increase in the nation’s borrowing limit in mid-October.

Failure to act on federal funding would provoke a government shutdown; even worse, failing to increase the debt limit would leave the government unable to pay bills and creditors and ultimately threaten the nation’s default.

“The last time the same crew threatened this course of action back in 2011, even the mere suggestion of default slowed our economic growth,” Mr. Obama said, recalling that summer’s market-rattling showdown.

No doubt the warning fell on deaf ears…

Johnny Depp reads

UN Report on Chemical Weapons in Syria

Yesterday the UN released a report on its investigation of the chemical weapons attack in Syria. From the LA Times: U.N. report cites ‘clear’ use of chemical weapons in Syria.

United Nations report finding “clear and convincing evidence” of a deadly chemical attack built new momentum Monday for demands by the United States and allies to impose tough penalties on Syria if it fails to honor promises to surrender its arsenal.

Although the 38-page report from a U.N. scientific team does not assign blame, Western diplomats and independent experts said it offers undeniable evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s forces fired sarin-filled rockets with Russian markings into Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The United States says more than 1,400 people were killed.

Western diplomats said the weapons and sarin described by U.N. experts displayed sophisticated manufacturing techniques beyond the capabilities of rebel forces, and that U.N. data about the trajectory of the rockets indicated that they were fired from government-held territory.

“The technical details of the U.N. report make clear that only the regime could have carried out this large-scale chemical weapons attack,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “It defies logic to think that the opposition would have infiltrated the regime-controlled area to fire on opposition-controlled areas.”

A little more from The New York Times:

The weapons inspectors, who visited Ghouta and left the country with large amounts of evidence on Aug. 31, said, “In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used.”

But the report’s annexes, detailing what the authors found, were what caught the attention of nonproliferation experts.

In two chilling pieces of information, the inspectors said that the remnants of a warhead they had found showed its capacity of sarin to be about 56 liters — far higher than initially thought. They also said that falling temperatures at the time of the attack ensured that the poison gas, heavier than air, would hug the ground, penetrating lower levels of buildings “where many people were seeking shelter.”

The investigators were unable to examine all of the munitions used, but they were able to find and measure several rockets or their components. Using standard field techniques for ordnance identification and crater analysis, they established that at least two types of rockets had been used, including an M14 artillery rocket bearing Cyrillic markings and a 330-millimeter rocket of unidentified provenance.

These findings, though not presented as evidence of responsibility, were likely to strengthen the argument of those who claim that the Syrian government bears the blame, because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency.

johnnydepp

“Greenwald Derangement Sydrome”

After months of wading through Glenn Greenwald’s turgid, error-filled Guardian articles on his NSA “bombshells” and his defenses of his ticket to the bigtime Edward Snowden, and reading his self righteous and self-promoting tweets detailing praise for his “scoops” and his irrational hatred of President Obama and Democrats in general, I’ve reached the point where my dislike of this man is so intense that I can’t stand to look at his smarmy, smirking visage or listen ot his grating, whiny voice. My GDS is so strong that I feel instant empathy for anyone he attacks–even if it’s the Devil incarnate. This brings me to one of the silliest pieces Greenwald has written yet: Inside the mind of NSA chief Gen Keith Alexander. See Alexander had the temerity to have his NSA office designed too look like the deck of the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. Greenwald intones:

The article describes how even his NSA peers see him as a “cowboy” willing to play fast and loose with legal limits in order to construct a system of ubiquitous surveillance. But the personality driving all of this – not just Alexander’s but much of Washington’s – is perhaps best captured by this one passage, highlighted by PBS’ News Hour in a post entitled: “NSA director modeled war room after Star Trek’s Enterprise”. The room was christened as part of the “Information Dominance Center”:

“When he was running the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a ‘whoosh’ sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather ‘captain’s chair’ in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen.

“‘Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard,’ says a retired officer in charge of VIP visits.”

Next, the obligatory attack on Obama:

Numerous commentators remarked yesterday on the meaning of all that (note, too, how “Total Information Awareness” was a major scandal in the Bush years, but “Information Dominance Center” – along with things like “Boundless Informant” – are treated as benign or even noble programs in the age of Obama).

Which “numerous commentators?” Greenwald doesn’t name them, because they probably consist of Greenwald, his boyfriend who is young enough to be his son, and a couple of other Guardian writers.

Okay, Alexander’s office is kind of dumb, but is it really symbolic of some deep evil intent? The interesting thing about Greenwald’s recent Guardian articles is that he is no long writing “substantive” pieces on the NSA leaks. Those have been turned over to writers at the Washington Post, The New York Times, and other media outlets. Perhaps the Guardian got tired of defending Greenwald’s lies and exaggerations.

Along similar lines, I want to call attention to this article at ZD Net that Ralph posted last night. NSA cryptanalyst: We, too, are Americans. It’s an important reminder that not all government employees are evil, despite the claims of Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and their gang of resentful libertarian white men. Please read it if you haven’t already.

Homeless Man Honored by Boston Police Department

I’ll end with a feel-good story about a Boston man named Glen James who found a backpack containing “$2,400 in cash, $39,500 in traveler’s checks, passports, and various personal papers.” The Boston Globe reports:

A humble homeless man who returned a backpack full of cash and traveler’s checks to police said he felt “very, very good” to do it and used a ceremony honoring him at police headquarters to thank all the people who have ever given him money on the street.

Glen James said, “I don’t talk too much because I stutter.” But he handed out a handwritten statement in which he said, “Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a … penny of the money I found. I am extremely religious — God has always very well looked after me.”

The statement also said, “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone — every pedestrian stranger — who has given me spare change. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said that James’s actions were “really a remarkable tribute to him and his honesty.”

“He’s an honest guy and realized the property belonged to someone else,” Davis said.

The middle-aged man, balding, bespectacled, and thin, appeared friendly but shy and slightly overwhelmed by the attention from the media drawn to a feel-good story.

On his way out of the building after the news conference, the police department clerks gave him an ovation.

Now someone please find this man a job and a place to live and maybe send him for FUE hair transplant in Sydney if you are a rich philanthropist.

So….what’s on your reading menu today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!

 what’s on your reading menu today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Edward Snowden Apparently Will Defect to Russia

Edward Snowden "press conference" July 12, 2013

Edward Snowden “press conference” July 12, 2013

It’s being reported in Russian newspapers that Edward Snowden has left the tiny hotel room at Sheremetyevo International Airport that has essentially served as his prison cell for the past month. Although it hasn’t been officially announced that Snowden has accepted Vladimir Putin’s terms and been granted asylum, there really isn’t any other likely explanation for the news of Snowden’s exit from the airport.

Snowden’s lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who also serves in the public relations department of the Russian intelligence agency FSB, told Russia Today that Snowden plans to live in Russia and get a job there.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden plans to settle in Russia and is ready to begin a court battle if the country’s migration service denies his asylum plea, Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who assists the whistleblower, told RT.

“It’s hard for me to say what his actions would be in terms of a positive decision [on the asylum plea],” Kucherena said. “We must understand that security is the number one issue in his case. I think the process of adaptation will take some time. It’s an understandable process as he doesn’t know the Russian language, our customs, and our laws.”

“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job. And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in,” he added.

Kucherena expressed hope that the whistleblower’s plea will be granted, because the reasons which prompted Snowden ask for political asylum in Russia “deserve attention.”

Yes, and I’m sure that Kucherena’s employers at the FSB agree that Snowden’s four laptops full of secret NSA also “deserve attention.”

In my morning post, I recommended an article by Michael Kelley of Business Insider: The Intel In Snowden’s Head Could Be More Damaging Than The Material He Leaked. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Here’s an excerpt:

National Security Agency whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden reportedly flew to Hong Kong carrying “four laptop computers that enable him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets,” raising the concern that data could have been compromised in China or Russia.

But the information in his head may be more valuable, and accessible, than highly encrypted files.

Beyond trying to acquire information about the 10,000 NSA files Snowden accessed in Hawaii, a U.S. adversary would want to learn from Snowden’s expertise of internal NSA processes — such as its recruiting and vetting processes — to gain insight into America’s decision loop.

“Snowden understood exactly how far he could push [the NSA],” Robert Caruso, a former assistant command security manager in the Navy and consultant, told Business Insider. “That, coupled with his successful exploitation of our entire vetting process, makes him very dangerous.”

Basically, Snowden “transformed himself into the kind of cybersecurity expert the NSA is desperate to recruit” while he simultaneously developed the moral convictions motivating his leak of classified documents detailing the NSA’s global dragnet.

This afternoon, reacting to the announcement that Snowden will stay in Russia and get a job, Kelley writes:

The Moscow lawyer of NSA whistleblower/leaker Edward Snowden tells Russia Today that the 30-year-old is planning to spend the foreseeable future in Russia.

“He’s planning to arrange his life here. He plans to get a job,” Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer with links to the country’s intelligence service (i.e. FSB), told RT. “And, I think, that all his further decisions will be made considering the situation he found himself in.”

The situation he found himself in was being stuck in Russia after the U.S. voided his passport while he was in Hong Kong and Snowden flew to Moscow on a travel document from Ecuador‘s consul in London.

Kucherena, who sits on public council of the FSB, has been speaking for Snowden since July 12 — the day Snowden accepted all offers of support and asylum.

In the earlier of the two articles, Kelley linked to a July 12 post by Joshua Foust on Snowden’s airport “press conference” with members of Russian human rights groups. “Snowden’s… Defection?” I also previously linked  (see comments) to the Foust post.

Foust began by noting the presence at Snowden’s airport press conference of Olga Kostina, who among other things “runs PR for the FSB (Russia’s successor to the KGB).” Foust wrote:

As a rule, when a cleared intelligence employee seeks refuge in another country running a hostile intelligence service while carrying gigabytes of top secret documents, that isn’t the behavior of a whistleblower. That is the behavior of a defector. The involvement of known FSB operatives at his asylum acceptance – and the suddenly warm treatment of HRW and Transparency International after months of government harassment – suggests this was a textbook intelligence operation, and not a brave plea for asylum from political persecution.

Foust goes on to discuss the involvement of Wikileaks in getting Snowden to Russia. I’m not sure how much to buy into this hypothesis, but it bears watching.

The Russians are very good at what they do. And so, to be fair, is Wikileaks. The anti-secrecy organization (well, anti-other-people’s-secrecy considering the draconian NDAsthey make employees sign) has a close relationship to a renown holocaust denier named Israel Shamir who brags that he is Wikileaks’ representative to the Russian andBelarussian governments. John Schindler describes the connection:

Not surprisingly, awkward questions followed including in The Guardian, not exactly a right-wing rag. Reports followed – all links here are to The Guardian, which given that newspaper’s current involvement with the Snowden case should indicate something – that Shamir, is indeed deeply involved in the Wikileaks operation: As “Adam,” Shamir (along with his Swedish son, a well-known anti-Semitic activist), has a key role in Wikileaks decisionshe was the editor of the group’s Russian-related US diplomatic cables that were leaked by PFC Bradley Manning, and perhaps most distastefully, he was involved in a smear campaign against the Swedish women who accused Julian Assange of rape (the reason he remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London).

Foust notes that Wikileaks originally criticized Russia as much as they did the U.S., but they joined Snowden in praising Russia’s supposed concern for human rights in a statement published on the Wikileaks web site. Again, I’ll wait and see how this plays out; but Foust suggests that Snowden’s defection to Russia might not have been an accident.

Most of Snowden’s most prominent defenders were in touch with him long before he chose to leak; Wikileaks, which has developed deeper ties to the Russian and Belorussian governments, apparently helped Snowden travel to Moscow. This looks like the first trickle of information before a bizarre — and complex — intelligence operation gets blown open in the public. That doesn’t mean Wikileaks wittingly participated (useful idiots abound) but I bet money U.S. counterintelligence officials are now wondering just how deep the Russia connection to Snowden — and, to Wikileaks — really goes.

I have no doubt the Greenwald cult followers will continue to defend Snowden, but anyone who thinks his laptops are going to remain secret (if they haven’t already been compromised) under these circumstances is completely delusional. There’s nothing anyone can do at this point but sit back and watch the show.

Stay tuned.


Thursday Reads: Hot and Bothered Edition

HeatWave-8747

Good Morning!!

Today is day 5 of the latest heatwave, which isn’t scheduled to break here in southern New England until Sunday. I don’t think I’m capable of writing very much today–we’ll see how it goes.

From USA Today: Heat wave scorches central, eastern USA

A killer heat wave brought the hottest weather of the summer to much of the nation Wednesday, and at least two more days of broiling temperatures are forecast before cooler weather slides in over the weekend.

About 130 million people are sweltering through the heat wave in the Midwest and Northeast this week, reports AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

High daytime and nighttime temperatures, high humidity, intense sunshine and lack of wind will continue to make these areas “seem like the middle of the tropics,” he said.

High temperatures in the 90s are again likely Thursday and Friday all the way from the Plains to the Northeast. Heat advisories and warnings are in place from the Dakotas to New England.

Boston Bombing Aftermath

Quite a few people in New England are all hot and bothered about the August 1 cover of Rolling Stone–a glamorous photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The photo accompanies a long article by Janet Reitman, who has a reputation as a good investigative journalist.

The cover copy suggests that Reitman will reveal how sweet little Dzhokhar became “radicalized” into a “monster” who participated in the Boston Marathon bombing. I  read the article, and was disappointed to find that it is mostly a rehash of material that was covered long ago in The Boston Globe and The New York Times. Reitman appears to have interviewed some of Tsarnaev’s high school friends, but again they offered no new insights. Reitman had scheduled an appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, who was born and raised in Boston. In the wake of the controversy, Reitman cancelled, which is also disappointing. Why not go on and defend her story?

I can’t say I’m all that bothered by the cover, since the photo was also featured long ago in The New York Times and other publications, but I can respect that for survivors of the bombings it seems pretty dismissive of their suffering to glamorize the perpetrator. Here are a few links on the topic–see what you think.

Erik Wemple at The Washington Post: To Rolling Stone detractors: Please

Slate: Rolling Stone’s Boston Bomber Cover Is Brilliant

The Boston Globe: Why Boston reacted right to Rolling Stone

Time: Drugstores, Supermarkets Boycott Rolling Stone Over Boston-Bomber Cover

In other news related to the Boston bombing suspects, friends of three men who were brutally murdered  in Waltham in September 2011 have been talking to the media. Susan Zalkind, a friend of Erik Weissman appeared on the Rachel Maddow show this week.

Susan Zalkind, a close friend of Eric Weissman who was found murdered with two of friends in a Harding Avenue home in September 2011, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show on Tuesday to discuss her investigation and reactions to the case, which is officially under investigation. However, authorities reportedly believe accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his friend Ibragim Todashev committed the murders as a drug ripoff. Tsarnaev was killed during the April 19 shootout with police in Watertown. The Federal Bureau of Investigation shot and killed Todashev in his Florida home in May after allegedly attacking agents. Todashev had been in the process of writing a confession implicating himself and Tsarnaev in the murders.

Other friends of the three murdered men talked to CNN, and High Times Magazine has the video. Friends believe that police didn’t take the investigations of the murders very seriously once they concluded that the three men were drug dealers.

Meanwhile, the FBI is refusing to release the Todashev autopsy. From Russia Today:

The FBI has ordered a Florida medical examiner’s office not to release the autopsy report of a Chechen man who was killed during an FBI interview in May over his ties to one of the suspected Boston Marathon bombers.

The autopsy report for Ibragim Todashev, 27, killed by an FBI agent during an interrogation which took place in his apartment on May 22 was ready for release on July 8. However, the FBI barred its publication, saying an internal probe into his death is ongoing.

The FBI has informed this office that the case is still under active investigation and thus not to release the document,” according to statement by Tony Miranda, forensic records coordinator for Orange and Osceola counties in Orlando.

The forensic report was expected to clarify the circumstances of Todashev’s death.The Bureau’s statement issued on the day of the incident provided no details of what transpired, saying only that the person being interviewed was killed when a “violent confrontation was initiated by the individual.”

Back in May Ibragim Todashev’s father showed pictures of his dead son’s body at a press conference in Moscow, revealing he had been shot six times.

“I only saw things like that in movies: shooting a person, and then the kill shot. Six shots in the body, one of them in the head,” Abdulbaki Todashev said.

Student Loan Interest Rates

A group of Senators have made a deal on student loan interest rates, according to Politico.

Key bipartisan Senate negotiators met in Majority Whip Dick Durbin’s Office late Wednesday and emerged confident that they could finally put the vexing issue behind them.

“It would save students in 11 million families billions of dollars,” said Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). “We’d like to be able to do this together and we hope that we can come to a decision right away because families need to make their plans.”

Alexander, the top Republican on education issues, said their proposal would apply retroactively to students who have already drawn federal loans at higher rates which went into effect on July 1.

A Senate aide familiar with the talks said the bill could go on the floor as soon as tomorrow. Leadership aides said that’s implausible but not impossible. Otherwise the bill would get a floor vote early next week.

Of course Republican members of the House will probably have different views on this. I have no idea if this is a good plan or not, and I’m too hot to care. I won’t live to see my student loans paid off, that’s all I know for sure.

Michael Hastings Fatal Crash

Russ Baker’s site Who What Why recently published an interesting (and not too wacky) article on the car crash that killed Michael Hastings. It’s written by Michael Krikorian, a former LA Times crime reporter base on footage from surveillance cameras that caught some of the accident. Krikorian doesn’t offer conspiracy theories–just reports of what he saw at the accident scene, his reactions to the videos caught on cameras a his girlfriend’s pizza restaurant nearby, and some reactions from experts to whom he showed the tapes. The  most mysterious questions seems to be why Hastings was driving so fast. And why didn’t he apply the brakes when he started to skid?

Four seconds into the start of the tape, a minivan or SUV goes by the front of restaurant. Three seconds later, another vehicle goes by, traveling from the restaurant front door to the crash site in about seven seconds. At 35 seconds into the tape, a car is seen driving northbound and appears to slow, probably for the light at Melrose.

Then at 79 seconds, the camera catches a very brief flash of light in the reflection of the glass of the pizzeria. Traveling at least twice as fast as the other cars on the tape, Hastings’s Mercedes C250 coupe suddenly whizzes by. (This is probably the “whoosh” that Gary, the Mozza employee, heard.)

The car swerves and then explodes in a brilliant flash as it hits a palm tree in the median. Viewed at normal speed, it is a shocking scene—reminiscent of fireballs from “Shock and Awe” images from Baghdad in 2003….I think it’s safe to say the car was doing at least 80….

Highland has a very slight rise and fall at its intersection with Melrose. It’s difficult to tell by the film, but based on tire marks—which were not brake skid marks, by the way—chalked by the traffic investigators, it seems that the Mercedes may have been airborne briefly as it crossed the intersection, then landed hard. Tire marks were left about 10 feet east of the restaurant’s valet stand….

About 100 feet after the car zooms by on the tape, it starts to swerve. At about 195 feet from the camera, the car jumps the curb of the center median, heading toward a palm tree 56 feet away.

About halfway between the curb and the tree, the car hits a metal protrusion—perhaps 30 inches tall and 2 feet wide—that gives access to city water mains below. This is where the first small flash occurs. This pipe may have damaged the undercarriage of the car, perhaps rupturing a fuel line.

Check the story out and see what you think. It appears the police have closed the book on the case except for waiting for tox screens on Hastings to come back.

Edward Snowden Updates

Glenn Greenwald continues to lecture all and sundry that Snowden isn’t the story–the focus should be on the NSA leaks. Meanwhile, he continues to publish about three times as many articles on himself and Snowden as on the leaks. Yesterday’s offering was about e-mails between Snowden and a retired ultra-conservative/libertarian Senator from New Hampshire, Gordon Humphrey. You can read the full e-mails at the link, but one thing Snowden wrote became the subject of much speculation yesterday.

My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.

Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).

You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.

Did this mean that Snowden believes himself to be impervious to torture? According to tech experts and hacker types, it means that he has encrypted the data in such a way that even he cannot get at it by himself. Here’s an article in the Christian Science Monitor that explains this in somewhat simple terms. Author Dan Murphy writes:

I think his good intentions, as he sees them, are fair to assume. But his certainty that it is impossible to compromise what he knows seems questionable. Presumably he has digital files that are encrypted in some fashion. But if the files are accessible at all, there has to be a key.

Or even imagine a Escherian progression of unbreakable locks containing the key to the next unbreakable lock in the progression, which in turn contains the next key. Layers of difficulty are just that – problems to be overcome. Assertions of insurmountably seem specious as long as a key or set of keys exists and someone hasn’t destroyed the first one in the sequence.

And if Snowden’s claims are to be believed, a key to whatever data he has does exist. Greenwald says Snowden’s NSA files have been set up for release in the event Snowden is killed by the US. Greenwald hasn’t said what the mechanism would be and what precisely would be released beyond, “if something does happen to [Snowden] all the information will be revealed and it could be [the US government’s] worst nightmare.”

That implies that there is some process, known to some people or persons, that allows for access. And while state of the art encryption can foil technical efforts to break it, it’s hard to see how gaining access to the knowledge of others is impossible. Spy agencies use trickery, bribery, coercion, and sometimes worse to pry out others’ secrets. Yet Snowden was insistent in his letter to Senator Humphrey….

Greenwald implies today that what Snowden meant was that he doesn’t know how to get at the files himself. But then, who does?

If the answer is “no one,” then it’s hard to square with his claim of a release being made in the event of his death. If the answer is “someone” or “some group of people,” then his confidence that secrets can’t be compromised seems misplaced. (I asked a number of people who know more about encryption than I about this; the answer always circled back to “the key is the vulnerability.” Perhaps there’s something we’re all missing?)

Here’s another article from Wired that speculates on the so-called “dead man’s switch.”

I’ve got lots more on Snowden, but I’m running out of space and I think I may be the only one here who still cares what’s going on with him. I can post some more links in the comments if there’s any interest.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links on any topic in the comments.


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:

graymail:

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?