Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doubts about Glenn Greenwald

Interesting interview of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds raises doubts about the ethics of journalist Glenn Greenwald, and in turn may raise doubts about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:
"Glenn Greenwald, NSA Documents, and Checkbook."

HT: Commenter Mike Corbeil at Kevin Ryan's blog, Dig Within.


JDB said...

Is there new information, with verifiable evidence, either in this interview or in Edmond's multiple writings on the topic, that shed new light on Greenwald or Snowden?

I had considered blogging about this controversy, but, despite having seen this interview and read Edmonds' articles, I've found it hard to identify concrete claims to which it's even possible to meaningfully respond - beyond lots of innuendo, circumstantial evidence, guilt by association, etc.

Since you think this interview alone is sufficient to "raise... doubts", perhaps I missed something substantial beyond these things.

(It's worth noting that even the many bad methods of inquiry exhibited by Edmonds et al, e.g. guilt by association, aren't even good instances of that bad type. For instance, take the guilt by association to Omidyar due to the link to the paypal blockade of Wikileaks. Well, Greenwald helped create, and currently participates in, an organization to fund Wikileaks in response to the Paypal blockade:
That Edmonds wouldn't mention this fact to her trusting readership when she attacks Greenwald on this very issue is really obnoxious.)

JDB said...

Also, I followed the Kevin Ryan link you apparently find worth reading, and was almost instantly confronted with incompetent use of the Internet. The very first claim for which evidence was provided alleges an inconsistency by citing the following two articles,


on the issue of how many documents there are.

The Forbes article cites Keith Alexander with the word "thousands," and the second link cites... no one ... in saying that there are 1.7 million documents - only to then cite Greenwald who keeps it in the thousands.

Thus, the construction "It was originally reported..." followed by "Today, however, that number is said to be..." is completely worthless. At best, this shows an inconsistency between NSA officials. Or perhaps NSA officials and the fevered imagination of Walter Pincus - who has a very bad track record in writing on this issue, and who no responsible writer would favorably cite.

JDB said...

Of course there are legitimate questions about Omidyar, which anyone working for him should answer. Responsible journalists, e.g. Alex O'Brien, know how to ask them without employing the strategies I mentioned. For example:

(Alex O'Brien is the reporter who produced extremely impressive work on the Manning trial, available on her site:

But since you like Youtube, and I am very agreeable, I'll also refer you to 31 minutes into this interview:

JDB said...

Lol, I happened upon someone else who appears to understand the Internet:

Greenwald himself has commented, in the past, on the numbers issue:

But incompetency or dishonesty prevents smearing blog posts like Ryan's or some of Edmonds' from mentioning such things.

Bilbo said...

Thanks for the links, JDB. I've started reading them. I'll probably put up a new post about this soon, urging much more caution than I have shown on this question.

JDB said...

Granted, exploring it caused me to look further into Alexa O'Brien's exchanges with Greenwald.

(I wrote "Alex" above, but it's "Alexa.")

Bilbo said...

Have there been further exchanges between Alexa and Glenn?

Bilbo said...

Also, I left a full quotation from Brad's blog at Ryan's blog. I haven't know Ryan to reply to commenters, but he doesn't seem to mind publishing comments that disagree with his own.

Bilbo said...

Okay, I think I've checked out all the links. It looks like Ryan, Edmonds, et al are wrong about the number of documents issue. But if Edmonds NSA source is trustworthy, then Greenwald has withheld documents about PayPal that he received from Snowden. And there certainly are serious questions about Omidyar and possible conflict of interest for Greenwald. And by remaining silent about it, Snowden isn't doing his own case any favors.

JDB said...

"if Edmonds NSA source is trustworthy, then Greenwald has withheld documents about PayPal that he received from Snowden."

If Greenwald is trustworthy, then Greenwald is withholding thousands and thousands of documents - before he can fully understand and responsibly report on them. Like every journalist does with documents, ever.

As for Edmonds' anonymous smear source, she gives a convoluted answer in the Youtube video to how her source could possibly know what Snowden's documents have in them. In the course of giving her convoluted answer, she says her source is not a whistleblower type - thereby hilariously suggesting by accident that her source might have a pro-NSA interest in undermining Greenwald and Snowden!

As for PayPal being in the documents, Greenwald says he has "no doubt" that they work with the NSA, and then Edmonds makes an undergraduate philosophy move in equating that with "100% certainty" and suggesting that he must know that on the basis of documents he has rather than, say, his extensive knowledge of and past investigative work on the surveillance state - which seem to be a perfectly good basis for having "no doubt" about something like this (after all, why would the NSA exempt PayPal...?).

It's all a pretty sad display.

The questions about Omidyar himself are perfectly legitimate, and Omidyar himself has partly but not fully addressed them publicly (I emailed you some of this material). As for conflicts of interest with Greenwald, this is undermined by Greenwald's claim that he will have editorial freedom, and the fact that his colleagues are all well-established as very independent journalists and writers. That being said... it's impossible to know for sure whether their characters will collectively change once they start working. But I guess it's fun to smear people on the Internet while one has only speculative grounds for doing so.

JDB said...

"Have there been further exchanges between Alexa and Glenn?"

Not that I know of. At one point on Twitter Greenwald said he would continue reporting on the PayPal case and anything else he wants to, and O'Brien humorously started teasing an upcoming Greenwald expose on eBay and PayPal. But other than that Twitter-entertainment, I don't know of any further development.

See here:

Followed by this:

and things like this:

People are really bad at out-attacking and taunting Greenwald, so I've been enjoying this particular topic even on a purely rhetorical level.