J. D. Heyes
July 29, 2013
It’s not often that a major news organization in America admits when it makes a mistake, so it is definitely news when one does. In this case, it’s the Washington Post.
Like so many other mainstream American news agencies, newspapers, websites and magazines, the Post seemed more outraged by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosure that the agency he worked for was spying on Americans’ electronic communications – in violation of U.S. law and the agency’s mandate – than the fact that the FBI has targeted U.S. journalists and reporters pursing legitimate stories.
‘Factual errors, innuendo’
The Post’s angst was typified by national security reporter Walter Pincus, who ripped into Snowden and, by extension, Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the story. Prior to that story, the Post also questioned Greenwald’s motives for reporting the story in the first place. That’s quite a change of heart for the newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking the story of Watergate.
“Glenn Greenwald isn’t your typical journalist. Actually, he’s not your typical anything. A lawyer, columnist, reporter and constitutional liberties advocate, Greenwald blurs a number of lines in an age in which anyone can report the news,” the Post’s Paul Fahri wrote June 23.
“Did Edward Snowden decide on his own to seek out journalists and then a job at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii facility as an IT systems administrator to gather classified documents about the National Security Agency’s worldwide surveillance activities?” Pincus wrote in his piece July 8.
Pincus went on to make a number of assertions and statements that were, writes John Nolte at Breitbart News, “riddled with factual errors, half-truths, and innuendo,” as evidenced by the paper’s “lengthy three paragraph correction” published online shortly thereafter.
Pincus’ diatribe was rebutted within hours by none other than Greenwald himself which he made available online.
Among the “factual errors” and innuendo committed by Pincus, as pointed out by Greenwald:
— Pincus wrote, “On April 10, 2012, Greenwald wrote for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials.”
Greenwald responded: “I have no idea what you’re talking about here, and neither do you. I never wrote anything “for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog”. How you decided to pull that fact out of thin air is a genuine mystery.” He went onto say that “April 10, 2012, article of mine you seem to be referencing – about the serial border harassment of the filmmaker Laura Poitras – was written for Salon, where I was a Contributing Writer and daily columnist. Neither it, nor anything else I’ve ever written, was written ‘for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog’.”
— Pincus wrote, “In that same interview, Assange previewed the first Greenwald Guardian story based on Snowden documents that landed a week later.”
Greenwald responded: “This claim is not just obviously false, but deeply embarrassing for someone who claims even a passing familiarity with surveillance issues.”
— Pincus wrote, “The National Security Agency – and this has come out in one court case after another – was involved in a project called Stellar Wind to collect all the calling records of the United States.”
Greenwald responded: “Stellar Wind, as you rather amazingly do not know, is the code name for the 2001-2007 Bush NSA spying program. As part of that program, the NSA (as you also rather amazingly did not know) engaged in the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. Back in April, 2012, NSA whistleblower William Binney went on Democracy Now and detailed how, under Stellar Wind, the NSA argued that the Patriot Act ‘gives them license to take all the commercially held data about us’ and has thus ‘assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens.'”
Journalists hammering fellow journalists who make Obama uncomfortable
Following the exchange, the Post published its “correction.” In part, the Post acknowledged that Greenwald’s Poitras article was indeed written for Salon, and that there is no evidence that Assange had previewed in advance “the story that Greenwald wrote for the Guardian newspaper about the Obama administration’s involvement in the collection of Americans’ phone records.” Finally, the Post said:
The column also does not mention Snowden’s past work in the intelligence community. The lack of this context may have created the impression that Snowden’s work for Booz Allen Hamilton gave him his first access to classified surveillance programs.
For a paper that used to pride itself on the kind of investigative journalism that won it Pulitzers, it appears that now its senior writers are only interested in exposing unconstitutional behavior that occurs during administrations with which they disagree philosophically. It’s no wonder these “institutional” news organizations are losing readers.
This article was posted: Monday, July 29, 2013 at 5:26 am