Glenn Greenwald’s Grand Finale That Wasn’t
This May, while Glenn Greenwald was on his book tour of the US surveillance state (during which he wasn’t arrested or tortured, despite months of asserting he would be), he announced he would soon be publishing his grand finale in the series of NSA stories, an exposé of the names of American citizens who were NSA targets.
Well, last night this BOMBSHELL article was finally published after delays, and ladies and gentlemen hang on to your horse masks, because now we: Meet the Muslim-American Leaders the FBI and NSA Have Been Spying on.
The problems start this time with the headline; even though it states “the FBI and NSA have been spying on” these people, in fact the article produces no evidence that the surveillance continued past 2008 — in other words, it apparently began and ended during the Bush administration.
How many names of “Muslim-American leaders” does the Mighty Greenwald reveal in this grand finale? Would you believe… five?
And one of them, Hooshang Amirahmadi … well, I’ll let The Intercept tell you:
Amirahmadi, who does not self-identify as a Muslim and describes himself as an atheist, believes that the NSA surveillance was motivated by his diplomatic work, not his religious heritage.
Oddly enough, after this piece appeared and people noticed the obvious discrepancy in calling Amirahmadi a “Muslim” when he’s actually an atheist, suddenly an “update” appeared in the text:
[Update: Although Amirahmadi used the word “atheist” to describe his religious identity to The Intercept, in a HuffPost Live interview on Wednesday, he said he prefers to be called a “secular Muslim.”]
Of course, Mr. Amirahmadi has a right to call himself whatever he wants, but this is very convenient timing; right after people criticized this passage.
As for the evidence that these five men were spied on solely because they were Muslims, as the article insinuates over and over:
Given that the government’s justifications for subjecting Gill and the other U.S. citizens to surveillance remain classified, it is impossible to know why their emails were monitored, or the extent of the surveillance. It is also unclear under what legal authority it was conducted, whether the men were formally targeted under FISA warrants, and what, if anything, authorities found that permitted them to continue spying on the men for prolonged periods of time. But the five individuals share one thing in common: Like many if not most of the people listed in the NSA spreadsheet, they are of Muslim heritage.
That’s a rather astonishing paragraph; what it says is that Greenwald and his co-author Murtaza Hussein don’t know why these men were monitored, they don’t know the extent of the monitoring, they don’t know the legal authority for the monitoring, and they don’t know what was discovered during the monitoring — but then they blithely assert it was probably because of their Muslim heritage. With no evidence whatsoever. The entire basis for this assertion is a single spreadsheet with no details at all about the reasons for the surveillance.
Since there’s really no context at all for these claims, not to mention evidence, it would be pointless to try to rebut them. I’ll just note one more amusing sidenote to this nothing-burger; Greenwald is now denying he ever said this was going to be the finale:
Dear Media: No, this story is not the “finale”. There are many other stories that will be reported - here & elsewhere - from the archive.
But here’s a direct quote from his book tour interview on May 26:
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who received the trove of documents from Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, told The Sunday Times that Snowden’s legacy would be “shaped in large part” by this “finishing piece” still to come.
“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’,” he said. “Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?
“What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”
Greenwald said the names would be published via The Intercept, a website funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder and chairman of eBay. Greenwald left The Guardian, which published most of the Snowden revelations, last autumn to work for Omidyar.
“As with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last,” Greenwald told GQ magazine. “The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicoloured hues.”
Why is Greenwald suddenly backing away from his promise that this would be the best and last piece, covering the sky in spectacular multi-colored hues? Maybe because the fireworks show has fizzled?
I’ll leave you with the Huffington Post’s huge headline, tweeted by Greenwald the instant it appeared: