Greenwald’s Latest Article Distorts the Truth Again

Just search for “warrant” and you’ll find what Greenwald is trying to conceal under reams of rhetoric
World • Views: 26,686

A couple of weeks ago when Glenn Greenwald posted an attack on Microsoft, I pointed out:

I’ve learned that when a new Greenwald bombshell comes out, you can cut right to the chase by searching the document for the word “warrant.”

And sure enough, in today’s new “bombshell” story by Greenwald, searching for “warrant” immediately brings up the most important point, buried in the tenth paragraph under tons of exaggeration and hyperbole:

Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

That’s right — once again, Greenwald is not documenting any actual wrongdoing. It’s a very deliberate rhetorical trick he uses over and over — conflating the ability to do something with actually doing it, and glossing over the fact that there are very serious legal consequences in store for anyone who actually does abuse these systems.

Greenwald’s purpose with this latest article is to try to shore up Edward Snowden’s absurd claim that he could “wiretap anyone, even the President,” without any oversight. Here’s how he frames this defense:

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

Read this section carefully — because what Greenwald is detailing does not support Snowden’s claim at all. Greenwald is describing searching a database for information on non-US citizens. How is this the same thing as “wiretapping the President?” Of course, it’s not. He’s not describing any kind of “wiretapping” at all.

This is not “journalism.” It’s deliberately deceptive demagoguery, in the service of absolutist libertarianism.

UPDATE at 7/31/13 12:37:12 pm

By the way, also note this line, tossed off near the end of the article:

The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.

On several occasions, Greenwald has mocked NSA claims that their surveillance programs worked to catch terrorists. But the statement that XKeyscore had been successful in capturing 300 terrorists comes from a secret document. The NSA would have no reason to lie about this in a document not intended for the public to read.

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