Review: NSA Critic Greenwald Prevails In Book, Lecture


With the launch of a new book this week, Glenn Greenwald makes a compelling case against the vast surveillance that threatens core American freedoms.

Glenn Greenwald Cover No Place To HideI saw Greenwald in action at a May 14 lecture in Washington, DC, read his No Place to Hide, and sampled his other interviews and critical commentaries.  

Greenwald documents the historic threats we face to our constitutional rights. Also, he persuasively counters the complaints of critics from both the right and left, leaving them for the most part diminished. His assessment of the mainstream media this week was harsh: "Neutered, Impotent and Obsolete," he told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman.

Greenwald's judgment is accurate on the kind of sensitive stories here at issue.

By contrast, a review of the book by Georgetown professor David Cole published in the Washington Post understates the problems because, not so coincidentally, the Post presents itself as a watchdog organization but functions also a longtime instrument of the governing class, including those who profit from the surveillance state. One recent indication of those close relationships is the $600 million contract that the CIA has given to Amazon.com, the money-making engine founded by the Post's new owner, Jeffrey Bezos. The CIA contract for Amazon.com to handle the agency's cloud computing is just a small part of the close coordination between the private sector communications media and the intelligence agencies in recent decades, as often documented on this site.  

First, let's summarize Greenwald's content. His book’s core centers on the National Security Agency's (NSA) purported secret mission: “Collect it all” regarding electronic communications of the world’s population, including James ClapperAmericans under no suspicion of wrong-doing.

Subtitled Edward Snowden, the NSA and the U.S Surveillance State, Greenwald's book describes in engaging fashion how he and his videographer colleague Laura Poitras met the National Security Agency contractor Snowden nearly a year ago in Hong Kong, and proceeded to publish stunning news reports based on NSA documents.

The book and a free website for documentation provide (at Document No. 97) a 2011 top-secret NSA presentation to four English-speaking U.S. allies (Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand) portraying a slide headlined: “New Collection Posture.”

The slide expands on the theme “Collect it all” to argue that the intelligence process should also include such steps as “Process it all,” “Partner it all” [to allies], and “Exploit it all.”

NSA and its defenders have suggested that the slogans do not mean in practice what they specifically state. Shortly before the Snowden revelations last year, White House Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, shown in his official photo, falsely told a Senate oversight panel that the federal government does not collect bulk intelligence.  

 
Keith Alexander For seven years until this spring, NSA was led by director Keith Alexander, a four-star general who also headed the U.S. Cyber Command until his retirement this spring. Alexander, shown in an official photo, has sought to prevent reform by downplaying the real extent of spying, as have his colleagues. Alexander, like many of them, has positioned himself for the revolving door, with an announcement this week of his offerings of security services to financial customers seeking better cybersecurity

Disputing the view of NSA's defenders are best-selling author James Bamford and several prominent former NSA executives —including Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kurt Wiebe. They argue that NSA has for years been violating its longstanding mandate not to spy on Americans, and that Snowden and Greenwald correctly and courageously are alerting Americans to the threats against privacy and other core democratic traditions, including freedom of speech and association.

Binney is a high-ranking former NSA executive who resigned in the wake of 9/11 after three decades because of the NSA's increased focused on Americans' communications in violation of its statutory authority. He said in a Democracy Now! interview regarding NSA "they've assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens."

Greenwald quotes documents arguing that in a one-month period in 2013, for instance, one unit of the NSA collected data on more than 97 billion e-mails and 124 billion phone calls from around the world.

Even though the official NSA positions and that of such critics are virtually incompatible, many commentators try to split the difference between the two sides. This posture is safest route for a commentator. But career-protecting commentary is wrong-headed in this instance because of the serious, documented threats to American public life.

In assessing the weight of this evidence, we must remember the great imbalance of power between NSA critics and the establishment. The establishment includes the vast majority of government officials, former officials, NSA Official Logomainstream reporters, academics and other relevant thought-leaders. They can achieve well-paying positions and prestige by defending the surveillance state. Greenwald, by contrast, is a unusual example of a critic who is financially successful.

Greenwald's book and interviews underscore the rare combination of circumstances that allowed this vital information to be published. Greenwald, a Brazil-based columnist for the London-based Guardian newspaper, was approached by Poitras, a freelancer, to cooperate with Snowden on disclosures.

Snowden, 29, was a former CIA and NSA staffer who had become a NSA contractor. Snowden was appalled by the amount of information that the government and such contractors could obtain and retain -- and by the disparity between conventional perceptions of the law's privacy protections and the actual practices of the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

Snowden also approached Barton Gellman, a former Washington Post reporter who continued writing for the paper on a contract basis.

In a familiar tale now enhanced with many telling details, the writers developed their print and video stories based on Snowden's materials and dramatically improved public awareness of the arguably illegal surveillance system. Greenwald does a good job in describing the real-world obstacles in bringing such work to fruition. Interviews and excerpts below tell the tale, as here:

 

Georgetown professor David Cole wrote a review of Greenwald's book for the Post entitled, ‘No Place to Hide’ by Glenn Greenwald, on the NSA’s sweeping efforts to ‘Know it All.’ 

Cole, a columnist for the Nation well-known as a civil rights advocate, gave Greenwald's book a "a mixed review" that praised the accomplishments while also depreciating Greenwald's iconoclastic attitude. Cole noted for example the ability of Occupy Wall Street protesters to complain for months at a time. "The force of Greenwald’s argument is sometimes undermined by his hyperbolic style and more-radical-than-thou attitude. He depicts the NSA, for example, as part of a grand scheme by elites to control the masses, of a piece with what he sees as “the response to the Occupy movement . . . to crush it with force, through tear gas, pepper spray, and prosecution.” Really? Maybe I’m imagining things, but I recall seeing Occupy demonstrations for months on end throughout the country, including in the nation’s capital."

Cole did not note, however, that ultimately authorities crushed such protests, sometimes with oppressive methods, as described in OWS Activist Found Guilty of 'Assaulting' Cop Who Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Her. Cole promptly published another review in the blog Just Security with fewer snide remarks, Collect It All!: Newly Released NSA Documents Reveal Omnivorous Appetite for our Private Data,

Greenwald has from the first received harsh criticism from many quarters. His book's examples are chilling. British intelligence agents raided Guardian offices last July and destroyed computer hard-drives containing Snowden's documents. Greenwald until recently feared imprisonment on spy charges following the Obama administration's crackdown on whistleblowers and the detention of Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, at a United Kingdom airport for interrogation on "terrorism" suspicions that can increasingly void civil rights in Western nations. 

Greenwald has responded persuasively to the vast bulk of the criticism in his book and lectures. One ongoing complaint is that he has damaged the country by his reporting. He convincingly responds that critics fail to provide proof of any damage, and that he is pursuing the higher calling of reporting violations to the Constitution that cover a wide range of freedoms Americans are losing. 

Some also argue that he should have dumped all of Snowden's documents into the public domain instead of reporting them piecemeal. Greenwald said he and Poitras are bound by Snowden's specific instructions on that point, agreed to in advance of any reporting. Further, he says that dumping documents creates potential legal liability to espionage charges under current interpretations of the Justice Department. Journalists who add reporting to their document disclosures have a better chance of avoiding prison.

Some argue that Greenwald has not been trained as an expert in relevant computer science and related fields. He freely admits that. But his eight years of high profile coverage at Salon and elsewhere are clearly far more than most journalists have under their belt even in this specialized field. Most relevantly, Greenwald's style, knowledge and hard-hitting approach impressed Snowden to seek him out last December en route to historic and so-far solid reporting.

Pierre OmidyarFinally, some now take potshots at his recent financial successes, including a movie deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment announced May 14 and the launch of a new news organization, First Look Media / The Intercept. The new investigative reporting organization, whose staff includes Poitras, is funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, founder of EBay (shown in a file photo). All such arrangements and their implications are fair game for scrutiny, of course.

But I suggest that the more important priority is to focus on the unique historical opportunity to learn from the Snowden revelations.

Greenwald makes the telling point that no one in authority apparently has been held accountable for lawbreaking, only whistleblowers. Further, he cites Snowden-provided documentation showing that the secret federal court supervising surveillance on Americans is "the ultimate rubber stamp."

The secret court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), supposedly a reform measure arising from 1970s revelations of CIA abuses, approves virtually all requests in secret with few of the due process protections Americans normally expect in courts.

Greenwald documents also the well-known timidity of congress in exercising anything resembling oversight of the intelligence agencies. The abject deference to secret authorities is deeply ingrained in the financial power of a military industrial complex that Cold War presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy each feared as a growing threat to democracy. We reported extensively last year here at the Justice Integrity Project on those presidential concerns, for example, in our 11-part series on the bungled investigation and media accounts of the JFK assassination. The themes are central also to my recent book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters.

Glenn GreenwaldThe evening of May 14, I saw Greenwald, left, lecture on his book to an audience of about 400 at the Sixth and I Streets Synagogue in downtown DC. He answered all questions in blunt but thoughtful manner.

One example was a

conveyed by retired Congressman Neil Gallagher (1959-73) via filmmaker Jason Ross on whether the NSA might be using the fruits of its surveillance in the manner of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to intimidate members of congress from their watchdog roles. Gallagher, now 93, is among those who allege Hoover used the threat of scandal -- real or trumped up -- to avoid oversight and to punish political opponents. Former NSA analyst Russell Tice has alleged that NSA does the same things with its dossiers on members of congress.

Later, Greenwald signed books and made individual conversation with more than half the members of the audience despite his long day at the beginning of his book tour. 

I took extensive notes because his talk was enlightening even for one who has covered the issues closely for years. I'll dispense with summarizing relevant parts because his remarks paralleled disclosures in his book and in other interviews excerpted below.

Instead, I'll add my opinion that Greenwald is, if anything, understating control mechanisms elites use in surveillance, politics, the media and elsewhere in violation of civil rights law and democratic norms. His book and lectures stick to the core topics of surveillance and other rights violations, and for now it is up to the rest of us to act on the information he so adeptly provided with the help of Snowden and their colleagues.

 
 
 
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Justice Integrity Project Backgrounds on NSA, CIA, JFK Assassination and 'Presidential Puppetry'

Thomas Drake photo by Noel St.JohnJustice Integrity Project, Former NSA Execs Warn Americans Against Loss of Political and Privacy Rights, Andrew Kreig, July 25, 2013. The National Security Agency (NSA) operates largely without accountability to other government branches or the public, according several former high-ranking NSA executives speaking July 25 at a forum at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. They said the NSA tries to collect as much phone, email, and social media data as possible from the world's population, including U.S. citizens, for storage and potential retrieval later. The process represents a massive loss of political freedom and privacy that Americans have enjoyed through history until recent years, according to panelists convened by the Government Accountability Project.  Former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake, an expert panelist, is shown in a photo by Noel St. John.

Justice Integrity Project, Backgrounder on Obama's Big Data Domestic Spying System, Andrew Kreig, June 16, 2013. This column assembles background information about conflicting claims about recent revelations about the Obama-Bush domestic spying program. The program began immediately after President Bush took office in 2001, and was later expanded after 9/11 and the imposition of the Patriot Act.

Justice Integrity Project, Daniel Ellsberg: Snowden's NSA Leak Was Heroic, Historic, Andrew Kreig, June 10, 2013. Edward Snowden's release of secret NSA surveillance methods used against the America public makes him the most admirable and important whistleblower in national security history. That's essence of comment by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, the nation's best-known and most-honored whistleblower after he risked imprisonment in 1971 to leak to the media the secret Defense Department history of the Vietnam War. “There’s no American official or former official that I admire more at this point," Ellsberg told a reporter. "There’s never been a more important disclosure to the American people than the leak [by Snowden] — and I include the Pentagon Papers in that." Ellsberg continued by saying of Snowden, 29. "He’s clearly ready to give his life or his freedom for the interests of his country.”

Johnn F. Kennedy Looking UpJustice Integrity Project, JFK Murder, The CIA, and 8 Things Every American Should Know, Andrew Kreig, Dec. 9, 2013. The Central Intelligence Agency implicated itself in the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and its ongoing cover-up, according to experts who have spoken out recently. Former congressional investigator Robert Tanenbaum said he and his boss quit the last official probe of JFK’s murder in 1978 because Congress was too frightened of the CIA’s power to permit a probe of the agency's suspicious actions.

Justice Integrity Project, 'Puppetry' Revelations Clarify 'State of the Union,' Andrew Kreig, Feb. 3, 2014. My new book Presidential Puppetry can help viewers better understand the implications of President Obama's State of the Union address last week. Obama announced to a joint session of Congress Jan. 28 his plans for 2014 and beyond. His rhetoric soared. But specifics fell far short of his promises during his 2008 presidential campaign, as Atlantic columnist Conor Friedersdorf noted in “The Decline and Fall of 'Hope and Change.'” Puppetry shows via a century of history why Obama is a status quo centrist playing the role of reformer. Like his parents, he has a hidden national security background that helps show why he is a minion for the truly powerful and not a master.

New Haven Register, Kreig’s ‘Presidential Puppetry’ gives road map to master manipulators, Andy Thibault, Dec. 31, 2013. Andrew Kreig covered federal courts in the 1970s for the Hartford Courant. His reporting on the 2008 and 2012 elections inspired him to probe who really pulls the strings in Washington. The result is a most provocative book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. Kreig broke the story of how President-elect Obama’s transition team feared a revolt if the new commander in chief pushed prosecution of CIA officials for torture and other crimes. Presidential Puppetry documents how Obama is among all recent U.S. presidents who have fostered confidential relationships with the CIA or FBI before they entered politics. Editor's Note: This review was published also in the Torrington Register-Citizen and Middletown Press. 

 

Related News Coverage of Glenn Greenwald's Book No Place To Hide

Update: First Look / Intercept, A Response to Michael Kinsley, Glenn Greenwald, May 23, 2014. Michael Kinsley is the person whom Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, chose to review my book, No Place to Hide, about the NSA reporting we’ve done and the leaks of Edward Snowden: someone who has expressly suggested that journalists should be treated as criminals for publishing information the government does not want published. And, in a totally  unpredictable development, Kinsley then used the opportunity to announce his contempt for me, for the NSA reporting I’ve done, and, in passing, for the book he was ostensibly reviewing. Kinsley has actually done the book a great favor by providing a vivid example of so many of its central claims. By far the most remarkable part of the review is that Kinsley -– in the very newspaper that published Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers -- expressly argues that journalists should only publish that which the government permits them to, and that failure to obey these instructions should be a crime.

Intercept, The Bahamas Wants to Know Why the NSA is Recording Its Phone Calls, Ryan Devereaux, May 20, 2014. Government officials in the Bahamas want their U.S. counterparts to explain why the National Security Agency has been intercepting and recording every cell phone call taking place on the island nation. Responding to a report published by The Intercept on Monday, which revealed that the NSA has been targeting the Bahamas’ entire mobile network and storing the audio of every phone call traversing the network for up to 30 days, Bahamian officials told the Nassau Guardian that they had contacted the U.S. and vowed to release a statement regarding the revelations.

FireDogLake, The Price of Whistleblowing: Manning, Greenwald, Assange, Kiriakou and Snowden, Jane Hamsher (shown in Facebook photo), May 20, 2014. We were eating dinner last night around my kitchen table when the news of the dustup between Jane HamsherWikileaks and the Intercept came through the tubes. As I read the details to the people who came here to share food and conversation, everyone’s eyebrows raised. Wikileaks took the Intercept to task for its latest story, and failing to release the name of one of the countries in which the United States is spying on its citizens. The Intercept maintained they had been shown compelling evidence that led them to redact the name; Wikileaks maintained the citizens of the country have a right to know. The eyebrows at my kitchen table were somewhat unique as it relates to the story, however. They belong to members of a group we jokingly refer to as the Friends of the Enemies of the State, a regular gathering of people who have personal experience on the business end of the state’s relentless persecution of those who choose to expose its criminality. Many have lost everything — marriages, jobs, homes, relationships with friends and family, have risked jail (and in some cases gone to jail) — as a result of decisions they made to become whistleblowers. More than one of the regular attendees at the FES dinners has been charged with espionage. More than one has been to visit Julian Assange in England, and Edward Snowden in Russia. And they are all keenly aware that these are extremely difficult decisions that whistleblowers and journalists are increasingly having to face in the era of big data — and that the price of a mistake can be perilously high.

Guardian, Occupy activist Cecily McMillan sentenced to three months in jail, Jon Swaine, May 19, 2014. McMillan to also serve five years' probation for deliberately elbowing a New York police officer at a protest in 2012. Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was sentenced to three months in jail and five years of probation after she faced down a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for her conviction of assaulting a police officer. Her supporters feel the sentencing is excessive – especially given her testimony that the officer in question first grabbed her breast – but it's also clearer than ever that McMillan's conviction will have a chilling effect on the future of serious activism.

Huffington Post, Whistleblower Says Dean Baquet Had A 'Lame Excuse' For Killing NSA Story, Ryan Buxton, May 19, 2014. Days after Glenn Greenwald blasted Dean Baquet for being "subservient to the American national security state," a man who blew the whistle on AT&T told HuffPost Live about his own experience with what he described as Baquet's reluctance to publish damning information about the government. Back in 2006, former AT&T employee Mark Klein revealed information that proved the communications giant was allowing the NSA to monitor Internet traffic "without any regard for the Fourth Amendment." Klein initially brought the story to the Los Angeles Times, but it never made it to print under Baquet, who recently replaced the fired Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times. Klein told HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski that he gave 120 pages of AT&T documents to an LA Times reporter who "was promising a big front-page expose" on the story. But the reporter eventually told Klein there was a "hangup," and the story was abandoned.

Democracy Now! Glenn Greenwald: U.S. Corporate Media is "Neutered, Impotent and Obsolete,"  May 14, 2014. In the final part of our extended interview, Glenn Greenwald reflects on the Pulitzer Prize, adversarial journalism and the corporate media’s response to his reporting on Edward Snowden’s leaked National Security Agency documents. "We knew that once we started publishing not one or two stories, but dozens of stories … that not just the government, but even fellow journalists were going to start to look at what we were doing with increasing levels of hostility and to start to say, 'This doesn't actually seem like journalism anymore,’ because it’

HuffPost Live, Glenn Greenwald On Dean Baquet: A 'Disturbing History' Of Journalism 'Subservient' To National Security State, Alyona Minkovski, May 16, 2014. Glenn Greenwald weighed in on the turmoil at the New York Times this week and had some choice words for incoming executive editor Dean Baquet, who with the LA Times in 2006, was accused of killing a story about collaboration between AT&T and the NSA. HuffPost Live host Alyona Minkovski asked Greenwald what kind of leader Baquet will be for the New York Times. "I think of all the executive editors of the New York Times," Greenwald began, "at least in recent history, or I'll say in the last 10 years since I’ve paying extremely close attention to how the New York Times functions, Jill Abramson was probably the best advocate for an adversarial relationship between the government and the media. I don’t know if she’s always been that way but in her stewardship of the paper as editor in chief I think that was definitely the case." Greenwald did not have kind words for incoming executive editor Baquet. He said, "By contrast, her successor Dean Baquet does have a really disturbing history of practicing this form of journalism that is incredibly subservient to the American National security state, and if his past record and his past actions and statements are anything to go by, I think it signals that the New York Times is going to continue to descend downward into this sort of journalism that is very neutered and far too close to the very political factions that it's supposed to exercise oversight over."

GQ via Politico, Glenn Greenwald trashes Hillary Clinton as too hawkish, Katie Glueck, May 12, 2014. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped publish Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks, blasted Hillary Clinton in an expletive-laden interview as being too hawkish, offering a critique from the left of her approach to defense issues. In a conversation with GQ magazine, Greenwald charged that the former secretary of state and possible 2016 Democratic presidential contender is “banal, corrupted, drained of vibrancy and passion.” dismissing her circle as having “been around forever.” “She’s a f***ing hawk and like a neocon, practically,” he said. “She’s surrounded by all these sleazy money types who are just corrupting everything everywhere. But she’s going to be the first female president, and women in America are going to be completely invested in her candidacy.”

Washington Post, ‘No Place to Hide’ by Glenn Greenwald on the NSA’s sweeping efforts to ‘Know it All,’  David Cole, May 12, 2014. At a meeting with his British counterparts in 2008, Keith Alexander, then head of the National Security Agency, reportedly asked, “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?” The NSA has since sought to dismiss that remark as a quip taken out of context.

Just Security, Collect It All!: Newly Released NSA Documents Reveal Omnivorous Appetite for our Private Data, David Cole, May 13, 2014. David Cole is a professor in law and public policy at Georgetown University Law Center and is the legal affairs correspondent for the Nation. No Place to Hide, Glenn Greenwald’s inside account of the most significant leak of classified information in American history, is out today. I offer a mixed review of the book in the Washington Post. Greenwald’s book contains a fascinating account of the week in Hong Kong when Edward Snowden, with the assistance of Laura Poitras and Greenwald, first disclosed the documents; a revealing overview of what the NSA documents show about the scope of its surveillance efforts; a passionate defense of privacy in the modern era; and unfortunately, far too much hyperbole. Greenwald tends to see the world in black and white, with no shades of gray, and that mars the effectiveness of his otherwise important arguments.

Washington Post, Inside the battle for the soul of Reddit, Caitlin Dewey, May 16, 2014. Think of Reddit, the Internet’s self-proclaimed front page, as the plankton of the digital information ecosystem. The vast, labyrinthine network of forums, founded in 2005, is the site where all other sites go to feed: on memes, on news stories, on ideas or whiffs of them. But contrary the view from 10,000 feet, Reddit does not surface stories on the force of the crowd alone. Behind the Internet’s great trend-machine sits a complex, faceless hierarchy of volunteer moderators, called “mods.” Casual users never see them, and even avid Redditors — as the site’s denizens call themselves — have limited power to challenge them. That has provoked something of an existential struggle in the Internet’s largest news forum, though few have articulated it that way. Is “the front page of the Internet” a democracy that is crowdsourced by virtual millions? Or is it a series of allied feudal kingdoms, steeped in abstract politics? Two of the site’s most popular forums, r/news and r/worldnews, repeatedly deleted a major scoop about British intelligence by Glenn Greenwald. Less than three weeks later, a user in another major forum, r/technology, reported that mods systematically blocked terms like “NSA” and “net neutrality.” The incident exposed a more troubling and more systemic drawback of the site: When you hand such profound power to anonymous moderators, the Internet is essentially at their whim.

YouTube,

,” Gallagher was also a collaborator of Hale Boggs, a member of the Warren Commission, who sought to reopen the Kennedy Assassination investigation. Gallagher collaborated with Boggs to expose Hoover's wiretapping of Congress and other abuses, and fought to expose the networks behind the Kennedy assassinations. Gallagher's actions and his refusal to blackmail Bobby Kennedy under orders from Roy Cohn, put him on Hoover's target list, leading to his forced departure from the Congress under threat of scandal and legal targeting. Here was Gallagher's question:

“I've been following your reporting on the NSA with great interest, since the parallels with my experience with the Hoover FBI are so dramatic. As a Member of Congress from 1959 to 1973, I witnessed first-hand the FBI's use of methods similar to those of the NSA today, to develop compromising dossiers on Members of Congress to force their votes on key issues. I opposed the Hoover FBI, and lost my seat due to my stand. Your coverage of the NSA has included tapping the phones of world leaders, including, most famously, Angela Merkel. Additionally, Ron Wyden has asked pointed (and suggestive) questions in hearings about whether the NSA is spying on the other branches of government."

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FireDogLake, Former Top NSA Lawyer Says He Didn’t Want to Be Bothered by Tom Drake’s Concerns About Warrantless Wiretapping, Kevin Gosztola, May 14, 2014. Former National Security Agency deputy general counsel Vito Potenza asserted if an employee had come to him with concerns about the constitutionality of dragnet warrantless surveillance, which was intercepting the communications of Americans after 9/11, he would not have listened. In October 2001, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake spoke with one of the top lawyers in the NSA on the phone. He was concerned that Stellar Wind or “The Program,” which gathered the phone calls and Internet communications of millions of Americans, was illegal. Vito Potenza, who has previously declined to comment on this exchange, was interviewed for Frontline’s “The United States of Secrets.” He said if he even had such a conversation with Drake he would have basically ignored everything Drake said to him

Michael S. RogersPolitico, Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander seeks post-Snowden second act, Darren Samuelson and Joseph Markers, May 14, 2014. Former National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned. Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence — and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords. “He’s already out pushing hard,” said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. “He’s cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That’s part of his stock and trade.”  Alexander will lease office space from the global consulting firm Promontory Financial Group, which confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it plans to partner with him on cybersecurity matters. His retirement date was March 28, 2014, and his replacement was U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michael S. Rogers, shown in an official photo.

TomDispatch via Common Dreams, The Snowden Saga Begins: “I Have Been to the Darkest Corners of Government, and What They Fear Is Light,” Glenn Greenwald, May 13, 2014. This essay is a shortened and adapted version of Chapter 1 of Glenn Greenwald’s new book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Security State, and appears at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of Metropolitan Books. On December 1, 2012, I received my first communication from Edward Snowden (shown in one of his first public photos), although I had no idea at the time that it was from him. The contact came in the form of an email from someone calling himself Cincinnatus, a reference to Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, the Roman farmer who, in the fifth century BC, was appointed dictator of Rome to defend the city against attack. He is most remembered for what he did after vanquishing Rome’s enemies: he immediately and voluntarily gave up political power and returned to farming life. Hailed as a “model of civic virtue,” Cincinnatus has become a symbol of the use of political power in the public interest and the worth of limiting or even relinquishing individual power for the greater good. The email began: “The security of people’s communications is very important to me,” and its stated purpose was to urge me to begin using PGP encryption so that “Cincinnatus” could communicate things in which, he said, he was certain I would be interested. Invented in 1991, PGP stands for “pretty good privacy.” It has been developed into a sophisticated tool to shield email and other forms of online communications from surveillance and hacking.

In this email, “Cincinnatus” said he had searched everywhere for my PGP “public key,” a unique code set that allows people to receive encrypted email, but could not find it. From this, he concluded that I was not using the program and told me, “That puts anyone who communicates with you at risk. I’m not arguing that every communication you are involved in be encrypted, but you should at least provide communicants with that option.”

 

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Dag HammarskjoldWall Street Journal, U.N. Considers Reopening Probe into 1961 Crash that Killed Dag Hammarskjöld, Joe Lauria, May 18, 2014. New Evidence of Possible Foul Play Has Emerged. The United Nations is considering reopening its investigation into the mysterious 1961 plane crash that killed then-U.N. chief Dag Hammarskjöld after new evidence of possible foul play emerged. The U.N. General Assembly put the case back on its agenda in March at the recommendation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after more than half a century of speculation that the Swedish diplomat's plane was either sabotaged or shot down. Ban's recommendation came after a report by the independent Hammarskjöld commission, formed in 2012 with the participation of South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The report in September raised the possibility the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies have a tape-recorded radio communication by a mercenary pilot who allegedly carried out an aerial attack on the secretary-general's plane. Hammarskjöld, shown in a file photo, was on his way to Northern Rhodesia—now Zambia—when his Swedish DC-6 airliner plunged into a forest nine miles from the airport in the city of Ndola just past midnight on September 18, 1961.

Washington Post, Amazon said to play hardball in book contract talks with publishing house Hachette, Steven Mufson, May 16, 2014. Dispute between the online retailer and French publisher Hachette draws complaints from agents and authors. Hachette, which owns Little, Brown, Hyperion, and Grand Central, says that Amazon is deliberately slowing sales of Hachette’s books in an effort to pressure the French publisher into agreeing to new contract terms on book pricing. Hachette says there is no shortage of the books. The dispute takes place amid a long-running battle between ever more dominant book retailers and big publishing houses over control of the future shape of the $15 billion book industry. Agents, writers and publishing executives say that Amazon, which by some estimates accounts for half of all book sales, is playing hardball in a contract dispute about how big a discount Hachette will give the giant online retailer and how to set prices for e-books.

Politico, Hunter Biden named to Ukraine gas board, Lucy McCalmont, May 13, 2014. Hunter Biden, the younger son of Vice President Joe Biden, will be joining Ukraine’s largest private gas producer, the company announced in a statement. “The company’s strategy is aimed at the strongest concentration of professional staff and the introduction of best corporate practices, and we’re delighted that Mr. Biden is joining us to help us achieve these goals,” Alan Apter, Burisma Holdings’ chairman of the board of directors, said in a statement, which was reported by The Moscow Times on Tuesday. Biden, shown in a file photo, said the company will help strengthen Ukraine’s economy. Burisma’s track record of innovations and industry leadership in the field of natural gas means that it can be a strong driver of a strong economy in Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement.

Common Dreams, OWS Activist Found Guilty of 'Assaulting' Cop Who Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Her, Sarah Lazare, May 4, 2014. Cecily McMillan, who faces up to seven years in prison, was immediately handcuffed and 'whisked away,' Cecily McMillan, the 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street organizer who was allegedly sexually assaulted and brutalized by a police officer at Zuccotti Park, is facing up to seven years in prison after—in what her supporters say is a cruel twist—she was convicted Monday afternoon of "felony assault" of the very police officer she says is her perpetrator. "This threatens a chilling effect over protest movements going forward," said Stan Williams, media coordinator for Justice for Cecily, in an interview with Common Dreams. "I am so sad and raw right now." After four weeks of trial and just three hours of jury deliberation, the verdict was issued Monday afternoon, and Judge Ronald Zweibel immediately remanded McMillan into custody pending sentencing, rejecting her lawyer's requests for bail.

Washington Post, FCC approves plan to allow for paid priority on Internet, Cecilia Kang, May 15, 2014. The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a proposal that could dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers charging Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers. The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

Washington Post, Russian official’s vow to ban Twitter spurs fast backlash, Abigail Hauslohner, May 16, 2014. A top telecommunications regulator is criticized for suggesting the Kremlin was considering blocking social media. Comments by a top telecom official suggesting that Russia might soon block access to Twitter were swiftly condemned Friday — even by other government officials — providing a rare window into differences of opinion inside the Kremlin over how best to censor voices of dissent. In an interview with a local newspaper, Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of the government’s telecommunications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, called Twitter a “political” tool that undermines the state’s authority.