David Gregory tries to read Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian out of the journalism club

That's my interpretation. But watch the clip and see what you think.

24 Jun 2013 2:11 am 84 Comments

On Meet the Press Sunday, host David Gregory said the question, “who is a journalist?” was raised by Glenn Greenwald’s dealings with Edward Snowden, the 30 year-old American who is currently on the run from the government after leaking classified information. Gregory asked:

To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movement, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald be charged with a crime?

Greenwald objected to this: during the show, after the show on Twitter, and on other shows the same day. On Meet the Press (transcript) he said:

I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in anyway… [snip] If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal.

On Twitter he said: “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?” Gregory replied to that tweet on the same NBC program Greenwald had just left, a ricochet that tells us something is at stake here.

This is the problem, for somebody who claims that he’s a journalist, who would object to a journalist raising questions, which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. And that’s part of the tactics of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him. There’s a question about his role in this, The Guardian’s role in all of this. It is actually part of the debate, rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues.

Gregory told us he had no view of the matter to advance (“I’m not embracing anything…”) he was just doing his job: asking hard questions, some of which get uncomfortable for the guest. Chuck Todd of NBC agreed that Greenwald should explain how “involved” he was with the leaker, Edward Snowden. “Did he have a role beyond being a receiver for this information?”

Greenwald continued the exchange on CNN’s Reliable Sources with Howard Kurtz:

KURTZ: My time is short. I have to ask you whether you’re concerned, if public opinion and the media environment turns against Ed Snowden, whether you as somebody who’s worked closely with him will be tarred almost as a kind of co-conspirator.

GREENWALD: Well, the Obama administration has flirted with that theory with other reporters, David Gregory all but endorsed it when I gave him an interview with him earlier on “Meet the Press.”

So, sure, it’s an issue. But it’s not going to constrain me or deter me in any way. I believe in the First Amendment and the freedom of the press guarantee in it.

I have some notes and comments on what happened here, which I will update as debate on the episode continues. But first, watch this clip of the June 23rd Meet the Press interview (via Crooks and Liars.) If you want to know what I think, meet me on the other side…

1. Whether Glenn Greenwald will and should be charged with a crime is fair game to ask anyone, including Greenwald. The approach other interviewers have used most often is to ask Greenwald if he’s worried about prosecution. There are other ways to do it. I see nothing wrong with the question. But Gregory went beyond that, as I will try to show.

2. That certain steps the government might take to prevent the escape of its secrets would criminalize normal practice in journalism is also worth asking about. On air and on Twitter, Greenwald tried to insert as context McClatchy’s latest report:

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions…

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

3. Gregory decided to push the premise of a possible prosecution of Glenn Greenwald. Leaving behind “are you worried that the government will come after you?” he also passed over:

Snowdon knows he committed a crime by releasing classified material. He says he did it to alert the public to an abuse of power.You’re trying to alert the public to what you see as an abuse of power. Are you also defying the law to make it happen?

The point is: there are ways to challenge Greenwald and ask him about the law that do not involve…

4. David Gregory’s phrase: To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden… renders the situation in a threatening way. His premise packs a punch. For the criminalization of journalism is most likely to happen when normal relationships with sources get called “aiding and abetting” by the state. That’s why so many journalists flipped out when similar language was used in a government affidavit about James Rosen, the Fox News reporter who was investigated in a separate leak case.

5. “He seeded his question with a veiled accusation of federal criminal wrongdoing, very much in the tradition of ‘how long have you been beating your wife.'” That’s how Erik Wemple of the Washington Post put it in his assessment of the same incident. “Mr. Gregory may have thought he was just being provocative, but if you tease apart his inquiry, it suggests there might be something criminal in reporting out important information from a controversial source,” wrote David Carr in the New York Times.

6. Gregory’s attempts to separate Greenwald from normal practice matter. Greenwald is “somebody who claims that he’s a journalist,” Gregory said. (Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t.) What we know is that Glenn is a polemicist, prosecutor for a point of view. “The question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,” he told Greenwald. “What is journalism?” is involved here, he said to Republican political consultant and NBC contributor Mike Murphy. (Murphy agreed.) Why did Gregory turn his table on Meet the Press into a “who’s a journalist” seminar if he wasn’t trying to place Greenwald outside the club?

7. And that is why I wrote my June 13 post, Politics: some / Politics: none. Two ways to excel in political journalism. Neither dominates. Whether journalists with a source inside the government have a clear POV or claim “no-POV, just the news,” whether they are called columnists or reporters by their employers, whether they are doing a documentary to rouse public opinion or a news story for a wire service– these are considerations irrelevant to any claim on membership in the press and its protections.

8. Former general counsel to the NSA and Bush Admninistration official Stewart Baker has a blog, at which he wonders whether Barton Gellman of the Washington Post – Snowden also went to him – “has slipped from journalist to advocate.” In prosecuting leaks the government is supposed to take special precautions around a journalist. But an advocate? Maybe not so much. You see it matters what you call these people. It matters when you try to divide them from “real” journalism. I’m not sure David Gregory understands that.

9. From what I can tell (and we cannot see fully into this from the outside) in interacting with Edward Snowden, the Guardian have handled their source in a way that is fundamentally similar to the Washington Post’s handling of Snowden. And on “activity protected by the First Amendment” grounds, I see no difference between Greenwald’s Snowden-derived journalism and Gellman’s Snowden-derived journalism. David Gregory didn’t present any evidence for such a difference. In fact he said nothing about Gellman and the Post “aiding and abetting.” Why?

10. David Gregory does not know it, but journalism with a point of view, journalism in the style that calls for viewlessness, and advocacy journalism can all deliver good work in the imperfect art of source-driven reportage and commentary. They can all be criticized, too: for hyping the story, falling in love with their sources or failing to apply doubt where needed– Greenwald and Gellman and their colleagues included. This is normal debate. “To the extent that you have aided and abetted…” is not. It suggests transgression against professional norms. But on what grounds? Gregory didn’t try to establish any. That’s one thing that made his intervention so odd.

11. Barton Gellman made an important point in defending himself against Stewart Baker’s criticism. In a sense I am an advocate, he said. But… “What @stewartbaker overlooks is that my advocacy is for open debate of secret powers. That’s what journalists do.” This is not the View from Nowhere. This is acknowledging that journalists are actors too.

12. “There’s a question about his role in this, The Guardian’s role in all of this…” is David Gregory gesturing toward an argument he apparently wants to make for why Greenwald and The Guardian are beyond the pale. But we never find out what they have done to deserve this placement. Because that’s not how he sees himself: as a man mounting arguments on Meet the Press. Instead he just asks the questions that have become necessary to ask because people are asking them. The more he relies on tautologies like this, the weaker he sounds.

13. I agree with Ben Smith of Buzzfeed: You don’t have to like Edward Snowden– or Glenn Greenwald, for that matter. While it’s natural to focus on the moral standing of the source, the story stands or falls on other grounds:

Snowden’s personal story is interesting only because the new details he revealed are so much more interesting. We know substantially more about domestic surveillance than we did, thanks largely to stories and documents printed by The Guardian. They would have been just as revelatory without Snowden’s name on them. The shakeout has produced more revelatory reporting, notably this new McClatchy piece on the way in which President Obama’s obsession with leaks has manifested itself in the bureaucracy with a new “Insider Threat Program.”

14. True: we know substantially more than we did about the surveillance state. Also true: the public debate we did not have in 2010 after the Washington Post’s massive reporting project, Top Secret America, we are having now. This is the main reason I support what The Guardian and the Washington Post are doing, although I recognize that their actions (and Snowden’s) are going to generate a lot of pushback.

15. Glenn Greenwald is going to face more and more questions about his motives and methods as the Snowden story divides the country and the press. He might as well prepare for it, and try to accept these encounters with good humor when he can.

16. As statements like this one indicate, I don’t think Greenwald cares whether he is invited back on Meet the Press. There’s something to be said for that in a talk show guest.

17. Andrew Sullivan starts the critique of Gregory’s performance farther back.

Notice that Gregory calls Greenwald a “polemicist” – not a journalist. The difference, I presume, is that polemicists actually make people in power uncomfortable. Journalists simply do their best to get chummy with them in order to get exclusive tidbits that the powerful want you to know.

Second: ask yourself if David Gregory ever asked a similar question of people in government with real power, e.g. Dick Cheney et al. Did he ever ask them why they shouldn’t go to jail for committing documented war crimes under the Geneva Conventions? Nah.

Sullivan concludes: “At some point the entire career structure of Washington journalism – the kind of thing that makes David Gregory this prominent – needs to be scrapped and started over. And then you realize that it already has.”

18. “Does David Gregory think he should be charged with a crime for talking to sources, asking questions about classified information, and then reporting what he learned?” Because he’s done exactly that, by his own account. See Trevor Trimm’s analysis at Freedom of the Press Foundation blog. (Greenwald is a co-founder of the foundation.)

June 25-29, 2013.

19. “From behind the veil of impartiality, Gregory and his colleagues went to bat for those in power, hiding a dangerous case for tightening the journalistic circle.” That’s from Benjamin Wheeler’s column in the Los Angeles Times. It mentions, absorbs and extends my analysis in this post. “Lately, large institutions of viewless journalism have been throwing around their weight to discredit point-of-view journalists with subversive positions. And, in the tradition of viewless journalism, they’ve been doing it without announcing their stance.” I have almost never seen that point made in the mainstream press.

20. Erik Wemple of the Washington Post returns with a deep dive: What would it take to nail Glenn Greenwald under the Espionage Act? His conclusion:

Reading through the opinions and scholarly work on the Espionage Act reveals how carefully this country’s finest legal minds have sought to protect press freedoms vis-a-vis our precious national security interests. Stunning to behold how carelessly some commentators would trample it all.

Exactly. Stunning.

21. Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times and CNBC had to apologize for his carelessness in saying on TV that he would “almost” like to arrest Greenwald for what he’s done. (Video here.) Sorkin’s contrition is real and clearly expressed. Good for him. One thing he did not explain is what he actually meant, if he didn’t really mean that Glenn should be arrested. On Twitter he told Greenwald: “my point was about the role of advocacy journalism & some misimpressions re: prism program as result of reports.” It’s pretty easy to see what “misimpressions re: prism” refers to: this critique. But look at the other phrase: the “role of advocacy journalism.” It sure sounds like he was trading in the dangerous idea that a journalist with a point of view loses the protections that a viewless journalist has. That is dead wrong about the law, and insidious for other reasons. Which is why I asked him to clarify on Twitter.

You’d “almost arrest” him for what reason? Does advocacy journalism turn an almost into a legitimate arrest?

No reply yet.

22. Frank Rich says it’s time for NBC to move David Gregory to The Today Show, “where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.”

23. It’s worth recalling that David Gregory is a loud and proud denialist about the biggest and David_Gregorymost consequential screw-up in American journalism during his watch: the failure to uncover a faulty case for war in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In 2008 he said on MSNBC: “I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us in the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that.” In 2009 he said on the Colbert Report that there was no fall down, people just say that because they’re ideological hacks.

I actually do think that the right questions were asked, and I think — this criticism is certainly out there of the press corps, and I tried to be thoughtful about it, reflective about it, but I do think the right questions were asked, and I think people view our job through their own ideological prism, and they’ve made some judgments along those lines.

David Gregory’s denialism on Iraq coverage was a warning to NBC News that they failed to heed. They knew about it before they gave him Tim Russert’s chair on Meet the Press. It indicated an inability to learn from criticism and get outside one’s clubby world of press room pals.

24. So far this week, after three days of getting ripped by his peers for what he did on Meet the Press, Gregory has made no public statement or even indicated that he’s listening. This does not meet the standard any longer, even for media stars. In the New York Times newsroom there’s no bigger star than Andrew Ross Sorkin, and he apologized the next day for some dumb things he said about arresting Greenwald. For someone like Jake Tapper of CNN, not responding to such a wave of criticism would be unthinkable. This is another reason David Gregory belongs on the Today Show, grilling salmon with some celebrity chef.

25. I somehow missed this first time around: Paul Farhi in the Washington Post: On NSA disclosures, has Glenn Greenwald become something other than a reporter? It appeared on the same morning as David Gregory’s interview with Greenwald, and it tracks closely with his questioning. This is speculation, but I wonder if Farhi gave Gregory a misplaced confidence that the consensus view in the press was rapidly becoming “Greenwald: not a journalist.” It’s possible. Gregory has a deeply conventional mind, to which Farhi’s “he’s not one of us” frame would appeal. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has a good time mocking Farhi and ripping into Andrew Sorkin. Taibbi’s take on the journalism issues is similar to mine in Politics: some / Politics: none. But he’s far more entertaining and blunt.

26. Jonathan Chait of New York magazine spells out some of what David Gregory may have been feeling about Greenwald: He’s really a lot like Ralph Nader. The implication is that he argues like a lawyer in an adversarial proceeding, not a journalist trying to be informative. “You take a side, assume the other side is lying, and prosecute your side full tilt. It’s not your job to account for evidence that undermines your case — it’s your adversary’s job to point that out,” Chait writes. Also: “Nader and Greenwald believe their analysis not only completely correct, but so obviously correct that the only motivation one could have to disagree is corruption.”

27. Greenwald is a strong defender of whistleblowers and a strong opponent of the secrecy regime in the surveillance state. Under Chait’s analysis, we would expect him to be dismissive in scorched earth fashion of anyone who doubts that whistleblowers do good. But at around 44:05 in this video, he says he can understand why ordinary Americans have ambivalence about whistleblowers. “Some people think that security is more important, or that secrecy should be decided by democratically-elected officials and not by individual whistleblowers.” I get that, he says. What he does not get is professional journalists who identify with the secret-keepers more than the whistleblowers. For them, it’s the scorched earth Greenwald. Doesn’t this indicate the facility to make distinctions and see good-faith arguments on the other side that Chait says are completely absent in Greenwald’s style?

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Wendell Bell says:

Can we also, simultaneously, have a debate about whether David Gregory is a journalist? With this, his credentials as a courtier and a toady are established irrefutably. But is he still anything more?

Paul Heberton says:

David Gregory is a TV-Performer, not a journalist. He has some celebrity, but no credibility.

He’s in the same general category as Leno/Letterman and a zillion other TV talk-show hosts… who chat about news & politics primarily for entertainment — but often seriously, though with a strongly biased viewpoint.

“Meet the Press” is in no way about journalism — it has a contrived aura of gravitas… but is actually a rather light weight chat show for political insiders, and a superficial, political, general audience.

It’s worth noting that this was not always so. The transformation was largely complete by the mid 80s (see Fallows’ Breaking the News) and it has gotten decidedly worse in the second millenium, but there was a time when there was actual substance.

The most famous of these is probably the Martin Luther King episode.

Well, that kind of clarifies the question: Is someone a “journalist” because he calls himself a journalist? Why is Greenwald a journalist and Mike Murphy not a journalist? Mr. Murphy is, as he will tell you, a political operative. And is James Rosen a journalist, when his motive for receiving secrets, in his own words, to “expose” NK policy in order to “change it” to his own liking?

I’ve never considered Greenwald a journalist (and I doubt he ever did either before this month) nor are infotainers at Fox journalists. (Don’t say that to the White House Press Corps, who will get all puffy and irate if you denigrate their beloved Fox colleagues.) How does one go about getting accepted into the ranks of journalism as a journalist?

Maybe it’s the product that is or isn’t a piece of journalism, as the Guardian’s and Greenwald’s pieces most definitely are. But that leaves out the Fox crew.

I suppose you could say that because Glenn has, up until now, always refused to be edited is evidence that he doesn’t regard himself as a journalist. And (running through the MTP appearance in my head) I think you will probably find he didn’t ever expressly say he is a journalist.

Other investigative bloggers, like Marcy Wheeler or David Dayen or Dave Neiwart DO regard themselves as journalists. Better journalists, perhaps, than many of the journalists with newspaper bylines but journalists nonetheless.

Glenn has always been sui generis; it’s tricky to ask the “what is a journalist?” question wrt him. Finding a definition that excludes him and includes Dancin’ Dave would be interesting….

I have no regard whatsoever for Dancin’ Dave and the kind of journalism he practices, but I doubt you’d find a coherent argument that he isn’t a journalist. Which is why I brought Mike Murphy up. He’s a political strategist, but he sits there at the journalist table giving his opinion, he writes stuff in Time Magazine, and so on. Like Greenwald, except more rational and coherent, but on the other side of the aisle. No one calls Murphy a journalist, nor does he claim to be. And which is why I brought up Rosen, who is clearly considered a journalist, but has the same kind of agenda in the neocon arena as Greenwald, and the same kind of — what I shall call — motivation. (Which is, to change policy in their area of interest.)

I would argue that “make no law respecting the freedom of the press” encompasses an inherent prohibition on the government applying a narrow definition of press, one that allows prosecution or other suppression of actions outside that narrow definition. I would argue that it is in all of our interest, and constitutionally sound, to define “the press” as broadly as possible. I don’t like David Gregory, but his right to spew his elite-serving bull***t is just as constitutionally guaranteed as Glenn Greenwald’s right to pursue his work.

That’s not in question, Gabos. The question is whether there is special journalism speech that gets super protection. It’s odd that it comes up in this context because as James notes, Glenn’s writing mostly wasn’t what you would call journalism*, until this series of articles….

…which are clearly works that can be labeled nothing but investigative journalism. I bring up the editor role as being crucial because this is not Glenn’s opinion–it’s news published, and backed, by the Guardian, that has been reported by Glenn.

When Dancin’ Dave tries to disqualify this work of journalism by saying “consider the source. He’s a polemicist” he’s trying to disqualify Glenn because he does not follow the voice from nowhere standard. But that doesn’t make this journalistic enterprise inadmissible–and the Guardian, as I said, stands behind it.

Yeah, I wasn’t arguing that point, exactly. The constitution clearly believes there is a special protection for journalism; I don’t know why any “super protection” would be required. I would argue, and I think Greenwald might agree, that what he does most of the time is journalism, and deserves protection. In addition, that the current story, as Glenn has said, would have deserved protection whether he did it through the Guardian, or on his own blog, as an individual. I would just say “err on the side of assuming it’s journalism,” because the government’s interest is always in assuming it’s not.

Susan Greenberg says:

As a person who thinks about editing a lot, I find that very interesting. Has Greenwald said something specific about editing and refusing to be edited? I would love to track down the reference

Peter Robinson says:


I recall it being frequently mentioned during his Salon days that he – unlike other writers – had the ability to upload posts independently of editors and had an agreement in place in advance to preclude any editors from revising this work. I could not find any of those with a quick google but recalled him referencing it in his post announcing his move to the Guardian. It is more oblique here where he states:

“When I first discussed the possibility of moving here back in February, 2007, my only nonnegotiable demand was that I enjoy full editorial independence. They have completely adhered to that arrangement — not with passive tolerance, but active support and encouragement.”


He also makes reference to maintaining “full editorial independence” at the Guardian.

Not quite the explicit “no editors touch my copy” pull quote I was looking for but an indication of the priority that this has had for him.

As a note, I think it could be very difficult for an editor to work with Greenwald’s copy. The combination of the length and frequency of his posts (moreso in the Salon days) the specifc legal knowledge, his rather … circular… style and a probable editorial tendency to try to reduce the inflammatory bits could cause issues that would detract from one or more of the core elements of Greenwald’s style: Detail, frequency, legal scholarship, advocacy and invective.


He began his blog Unclaimed Territory in 2005 after the news of warrantless surveillance under the Bush administration. When his blog was picked up by Salon, said Kerry Lauerman, the magazine’s departing editor in chief, Salon agreed that Mr. Greenwald would have direct access to their computer system so that he could publish his blog posts himself without an editor seeing them first if he so chose.

“It basically is unheard of, but I never lost a moment of sleep over it,” Mr. Lauerman said. “He is incredibly scrupulous in the way a lawyer would be — really, really careful.”

The same independence has carried over at The Guardian, though Mr. Greenwald said that for an article like the one about the N.S.A. letter he agreed that the paper should be able to edit it. Because he has often argued in defense of Bradley Manning, the army private who was charged as the WikiLeaks source, he said he considered publishing the story on his own, and not for The Guardian, to assert that the protections owed a journalist should not require the imprimatur of an established publisher.

I think your post salient point is the seeming difference between how Gregory treated The Guardian versus The Washington Post. Gregory would argue that he only asked about The Guardian because that’s the guest he had on at the moment. However, I can’t imagine a US-based journalist of Gregory’s stature asking whether a Washington Post journalist should considered “aiding and abetting the enemy” or whether a reporter for that news outlet should even be considered a journalist. Greenwald’s treatment reflects his British citizenship — a fact likely being touted by the US national security sources whispering in Gregory’s ear.

Greenwald is an American Citizen.

Oh, right. Thanks.

John C. Calhoun says:

Here’s a problem I have with Greenwald’s response to Gregory’s question about whether or not he should be charged: Greenwald doesn’t actually answer it. He only said the equivalent of “If the government can charge investigative journalists with aiding and abetting criminals, it makes investigative journalism more difficult, and why are you against your fellow journalist?” Tellingly, what Greenwald and nobody else I’ve read has been willing to out and out say is: journalists are a different class and deserve special protections from prosecution under the First Amendment. I sense that journalists are, by and large, treating that point of view as self-evident instead of making it explicit whenever they talk about this issue. Tell me why they’re unwilling to argue the point, or point me to people who actually are saying it outright, because it seems super-simple, and yet I’m not seeing it.

This …

“… journalists are a different class and deserve special protections from prosecution under the First Amendment.”

… is exactly the issue the Beltway media don’t want to debate. They would much rather that remain an unchallenged, tacit premise in their outrage about government investigations of classified leaks. Debating that point would open the deeper question of whether journalists – and journalists alone – should decide whether and what information should be withheld from public scrutiny.

We might even start to ask whether it’s hypocritical to assert a journalistic privilege to expose any and every detail about a government program or a “newsworthy” individual’s life … while asserting a privilege to keep their own sources and methods secret.

That’s why journalists don’t openly declare the point you make. It would invite too many questions that many journalists would rather not have to answer.

Greenwald didn’t argue that point to Gregory, but he argues it on his blog all the time, in two directions: one, that adversarial journalism is critical, and government attacks on investigative journalism clearly violate the special constitutional protection afforded the press; two, that lap-dog power-serving stenographic journalism is an insult to the reason the press is afforded constitutional protection in the first place, and an abrogation of the press’s civic responsibility. He’s pretty explicit about it.

John C. Calhoun says:


[…] revelation. Howard Kurtz asked Greenwald the same question two hours later on Reliable Sources. PressThink / Jay Rosen Gregory does not know it, but journalism with a point of view, journalism in the style that calls […]

Re item 15, in one of my discussions with Glenn at Virtually Speaking, he recounted a story of appearing on one of the cable channels, and being warned by a fellow “liberal” guest that he had to back off if he wanted to be invited back.

I think that may be Glenn’s superhero power–he really doesn’t care whether the kleig lights ever come on again.

Glenn Greenwald is not and never has been a “liberal.” He is and has always been an avowed libertarian. He appeared “liberal” during the Bush administration because he opposed their surveillance policies. But he was also a Cato Institute fellow.

That’s why I put the scare quotes there. The best description of his position on the political spectrum is his own–he’s a “bill of rights extremist.”

But for the purposes of booking him onto teevee shows, he is chosen to sit on the left side of the table.

Oddly enough, yesterday was the two year anniversary of his appearing with me and Daniel Ellsberg on my Thursday webcast: http://bit.ly/11AN4Tl

He is and has always been an avowed libertarian.

That’s not true (the “avowed” part at least). He avoids labels. Though he’s probably Left-Libertarian if anything.


I realize in the link he debunks the claim that he’s a “right-wing libertarian” but earlier this week, someone called him a “libertarian” on twitter and he responded “where did I ever say that,” or something like that.

Greenwald is NOT and has NEVER been a Cato fellow. He has spoken at Cato events, when invited.

Allow Me To Clarify says:

If you are advocating for the government then you may claim to be a journalist. If you are otherwise, then you are an advocate.

Ah, it’s all so much clearer now…

>>: the public debate we did not have in 2010 after the Washington Post’s massive reporting project, Top Secret America, we are having now. This is the main reason I support what The Guardian and the Washington Post are doing,>>

I have a problem with this argument, because it basically says the end justifies the means. The thing is, we need an HONEST debate on these issues. Saying, as Greenwald has repeatedly done, that America’s goal is to “destroy privacy” and “spy on everyone in the world” is the kind of hyperbolic, unproven comment that leads, to well, hyperbolic and ill-informed debate. That’s like saying that Sarah Palin’s comments on “death panels” led to a debate on Obamacare. It did, but it was a terrible debate.

I remember after the NSA story broke, all these wits on Twitter and Facebook saying, “Hey, NSA. Can you give me back my hard drive?” Whatever you want to say, pro or con, about the NSA, it has not been proven that it has your hard drive, and judging from the follow-up stories in The Guardian and WaPo, it likely doesn’t have it. But the initial stories certainly gave that impression.

I also have a problem with Greenwald’s rather reductive argument, which he has made several times, that if you are against leaks, you are not a journalist. Not all leaks are good, and it is okay to debate if something is a “good” or “bad” leak. If someone leaks, say, naked pictures of someone, that is not a good leak. If a court says that certain transcripts are under seal, and an attorney in the case leaks them anyway to sway public opinion, that is clearly illegal. When Richard Armitage leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA status, he seemed to be skirting the law (and Greenwald at the time said so).

I think Greenwald views David Gregory’s ineptly-phrased question the way, say, Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern or the hosts on Fox News or other shock-jock types react when someone prominent bashes them. It gives them grist for the mill, and a new villain to aim their ire at. As much as Greenwald says this isn’t about me and Snowden, a heavy percentage of his Twitter traffic is one of those two topics, and you better believe that Gregory’s (and King’s) comments will give him several columns full of material.

You know, when you attribute quotations to people, especially hyperbolic quotations, it’s really helpful to provide links.

(And, just so you know, when people tell jokes like “can I get my hard drive back, NSA?” they don’t really believe the NSA has their hard drives.)

Fair enough:

“the same people who are building a ubiquitous surveillance system to spy on everyone in the world, including their own citizens”


The U.S. wants to “destroy privacy.”


And, yes, there are people out there who really do believe that the NSA has their hard drives. Quotations like the above deliberately further that impression. And I don’t really think hyperbole is okay just because it “furthers the debate.”

Thanks. I agree that hyperbole doesn’t further the debate; it distorts rather than clarifies.

I’m not sure if I follow. Doesn’t the claim “The U.S. wants to “destroy privacy,”” further the debate?

It requires the government to refute that claim, right? And given the high-level cooperation between GCHQ and the NSA, can you credibly claim that such statement is false, let alone hyperbole?

Is such statement any more false or hyperbolic than President Obama’s claim that the US government doesn’t listen to American communications without a warrant.

Because, if you look, the strong allegations by the Guardian/Greenwald, led to Obama claiming that the NSA doesn’t listen to American communications without a warrant. And then the very next day, they dropped the boom: The FISC procedures which clearly shows how Americans communications (content included) are preserved and analyzed, all without a warrant.

So as for the claim that the US wants to destroy privacy: I’d like to be convinced that they’re not. Increased transparency would get me there. Public hearings. But I’m not ready to call it hyperbole . . .

Well, making big accusations that most likely are not true just to have them refuted does not, at least in my view, further the debate. It trivializes it.

Saying “I think there are problems with NSA minimization procedures on warrantless wiretaps” is boring and doesn’t get you on cable. Asserting “Obama wants to destroy privacy” does, and GG has been on cable quite a bit lately (and, as you can see, Politico). If that is your end, mission accomplished. It is a very old game he is playing. But that is not much different from the Palins of the world.

>>Is such statement any more false or hyperbolic than President Obama’s claim that the US government doesn’t listen to American communications without a warrant.>>

So you’re saying that it’s okay for GG to make hyperbolic statements because Obama does?

I think the fact that there are minimization procedures gives the lie to the idea that the NSA is trying to “destroy privacy.” Now you can argue whether those procedures are sufficient. But at least acknowledge they exist. GG didn’t until two weeks after he published his initial story, even though he had those documents.

>>So as for the claim that the US wants to destroy privacy: I’d like to be convinced that they’re not.>>

See that’s the point. There is no evidence that “destroying privacy” is the end goal, or even a consideration along the way. If GG has some, let him provide it. But all other evidence indicates the opposite, that there are procedures governing how this information is handled. Hopefully, in the next few weeks we will learn more about those procedures, and we can judge for ourselves how adequate they are. But how about proof for the initial charge, instead of having the government just prove a negative?

[…] the great, ever-thoughtful Jay Rosen of NYU looks at this in detail in a post: David Gregory tries to read Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian out of the journalism […]

It’s awfully convenient of Greenwald to be throwing bombs from the comfort of Brazil. The view must be great from the cheap seats.

Nothing new from Glennzilla, though.

It’s awfully convenient of Greenwald to be throwing bombs from the comfort of Brazil. The view must be great from the cheap seats.

But isn’t your criticism of his choice of residence a cheap shot, given the reason he lives there? Land of the free (except if your spouse is of the same sex)?

Oh, and here I thought his choice of residence was because he likes partying in Rio, or that he found common cause with war criminals?

Gregory raised a question that many non-journalists often ask, so I think it was fair to broach it. In any case, it worked out perfectly because it gave Greenwald the chance to destroy the accusation, which he emphatically and eloquently did.

Although he didn’t answer. He’s good at evading questions.

John Cohn says:

Two interesting FYI’s on topic: On NSA disclosures, has Glenn Greenwald become something other than a reporter? http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/on-nsa-disclosures-has-glenn-greenwald-become-something-other-than-a-reporter/2013/06/23/c6e65be4-dc47-11e2-9218-bc2ac7cd44e2_story.html

Updated: Another Unsupported Attack on Obama by Greenwald http://pleasecutthecrap.com/another-unsupported-attack-on-obama-by-greenwald/

1st Article:

So you’re saying Greenwald isn’t a reporter? Then why did I see his byline in the Guardian Newspaper? How is it possible that he’s broken more scoops in 2 weeks, then in all of David Gregory’s life, if he wasn’t a reporter? I mean, he reported that the NSA has these secret programs that are subject to nominal oversight.

2. I don’t understand your debunking? Unless a sizable number of those other 150 espionage cases were aimed at leakers, instead of actual spies, then you’ve made Greenwald’s point for him: Obama is unprecedented in the degree to which he’s using espionage laws to target governmental leakers. The only error is that the NYT article says “government officials,” and you don’t consider Snowden to be a government official. But he’s still a government leaker and falls under that same rubric as those other 6; and not the other 150, who, presumptively, were actually spies.

By the way, I think David Carr was describing you in this piece, from this morning, titled: The Other Snowden Drama: Impugning the Messenger, but even he says 7. You going to write 2,000 words over Semantics on him too?

If you add up the pulling of news organization phone records (The Associated Press), the tracking of individual reporters (Fox News), and the effort by the current administration to go after sources (seven instances and counting in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media), suggesting that there is a war on the press is less hyperbole than simple math.

Jay: It seems we are too easily glossing over something here. The reality is that under the law in many jurisdictions, being a journalist affords protections that non-journalists do not have to protect sources. That is vital to news-gathering, and if those distinctions did not exist, you can bet no one would be protected. So as messy as it is to define “journalist” these days, the answer can’t be that it doesn’t matter.

Brian Perkins says:

Federally, that is not the case. At the federal level, the law does not distinguish between one type of publisher (or producer depending on the medium).

It seems that means that the better answer is that it should not matter. If we leave it up to courts or prosecutors to determine who is and is not a journalist, it seems too easy to decide that anything counter to the government’s liking could be found in some way to not be journalism.

I would venture to imagine that the founding fathers had no intention to reserve certain parts of the First Amendment to those who had a press credential and those who did not.

That may have been true for the Founders, but not when it comes to shield laws all across the country that are vital for news gathering and investigative reporting. And there is no way that jurisdictions would simply extend those protections to all. What will happen is that no one will have them. An inconvenient truth.

Didn’t say it didn’t matter. Clearly it does matter how we decide what gets included under press protections. Notice I said: what.

I think we’re far better off trying to identify what is (and is not) a journalistic , inform-the-public act. Not the who so much, but the what. In the degree that we remain stuck on “who is a journalist?” we will be involved in status wars that cannot be won.

Agree in theory. In practice, I’m not sure you can create a credible and durable legal standard of protection that way. And I think we are perilously close here to the baby getting thrown out with everything else.

Jack Mitchell says:

Any debate about who is or is not or might be or shouldn’t be called a journalist is unbelievably boring to non-journalists.

A journalist is someone who writes in a journal.

Enough meta.

Sadly, many boring things are nonetheless important.

Jack Mitchell says:

About as important as priests excommunicating each other.

<blockquote cite="President Obama’s obsession with leaks has manifested itself"…

Of five “whistleblowers” who have been prosecuted by the Obama administration, including Snowden, three are still pending trial or are under appeal. Two (public servants) have been sentenced to a total of 50 months of prison + 1 year of probation and community service.

Plus Bradley Manning: not a public servant. His incarceration and trial are in military custody and court.

Most of the faux outrage over the “Obama obsession” seems to imply the prosecution is of many MANY more poor-them victimized whistleblowers.

Most of the faux outrage over the “Obama obsession” seems to imply the prosecution is of many MANY more poor-them victimized whistleblowers.

Isn’t one [poor-them victimized whistleblower/leaker] too many? And how is it faux outrage? Your own link shows that under Obama, he’s prosecuted more than all prior presidents combined, including clear good-faith (public interest) whistle blowers, such as Thomas Drake (whose case was continued by the Obama DoJ).

Plus Bradley Manning: not a public servant. His incarceration and trial are in military custody and court.

Whose treatment was considered cruel and degrading by the UN Rappateour on torture and in which such treatment was cited as evidence in Snowden’s letter seeking asylum, that he is unlikely to receive a fair trial.

I don’t understand how, with this set of facts, you can claim faux outrage and “nothing to see here,” as if this is standard operating procedure. John Kirakou, is serving more time for exposing torture, then the actual torturers. And you say, that doesn’t warrant outrage? I am outraged. Why shouldn’t I be outraged that we’re using espionage laws to prosecute whistleblowers instead of the actual committing the crimes revealed by such whistleblowers, including war crimes such as torture, in which we have a positive obligation to prosecute such torture under the Geneva Conventions (signed by Reagan).

So your big objection is to the tone of the question? It seems to me that journos demand the right to ask tough, even offensive, and often leading questions of guests — and give each other high fives afterwards — but get seriously offended when interrogated in a similar manner. Gregory offended journo’s sense of privilege.


If you read the transcript, GG answered the question on the merits as well as point out the policy implications of criminalizing his alleged acts (cooperating with sources revealing classified information). And to wit, on that very program, David Gregory disseminated confidential information (what his source told him), but I don’t think we’ll expect an investigation into that leak. As well as listing, accurately, that the theory Gregory embraced has led to a chilling environment for investigative journalist (and then he quoted, accurately, other investigative journalists speaking of the fear their sources have). Don’t call me a Greenwald fan boy but I thought he gave the perfect answer.

Gregory offended journo’s sense of privilege.

Isn’t it Greenwald who has offended journo’s sense of privilege, since he doesn’t play by the Beltways rules? Which is why the Beltway media opine as to whether he’s really a journalist . . . ?

[…] Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian has helped to highlight as he pursues the NSA story: namely, that denying someone the status of “journalist” has potentially serious implications when espionage and other charges are being waved […]

Steve S. says:

Greenwald was listed as co-author on several of the Guardian journalistic pieces, was he not? How many does he have to write before he gets to be a journalist? How come a nudist gets to be called a nudist even if they are only nude a small percentage of the time? This whole debate puzzles me.

[…] David Gregory tries to read Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian out of the journalism club by Jay Rosen’s […]

[…] a Monday post, NYU highbrow Jay Rosen wrote that Gregory had attempted to brag Greenwald “out of a broadcasting club.” Rosen forked out that The Guardian has seemed to “have rubbed their source in a approach that is […]

rollotomasi says:

This piece by Michael Calderone at HuffPost is the best yet on the encounter, and includes several excellent comments by Glenn Greenwald. I thought Greenwald responded appropriately yesterday, and I’m very glad to see he is not following Jay’s advice in Note 15, which would only help to reinforce the status quo of the establishment media as gatekeepers of what is acceptable journalistic behavior and decorum.

And, like Andrew Sullivan in Note 17, where I go back to Gregory’s previous question where he made sure to first label Greenwald a “polemicist,” a term that is a whole lot closer to “crackpot” or “zealot” in terms of what it implies than, say, “advocate.” Gregory was clearly setting up the whole “Greenwald as interloper” thing before his accusation posing as a question.

caphillprof says:

The U.S. Constitution, Amendment ONE, does not speak in terms of journalism or journalists. Rather, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of … the press ….”

There can be no question that The Guardian and Glenn Greenwald qualify for its protections.

The debate over who is and who is not a journalist misses a key point: We are all journalists from time to time, and some are journalists more of the time than others.

It’s okay for Greenwald to have opinions daily and then commit an act or two of journalism. Each should be judged on its own merits.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with journalism that comes from or reflects a political point of view. The question is not, “Is it journalism?” The question is, “Is the journalism factual and correct?”

I’m sure David Gregory thinks of himself as a journalist but hosting an insider chat show is not, in and of itself, an act of journalism.

Factual and correct is nice; so is fairness and balance, especially when the issue being written about involves political opinions that conflict 173 degrees with your own; as far as I could tell during my 35 years in newspapers as an openly libertarian journalist, the print journalism establishment is always trying to keep its membership down with self-serving rules and guidelines about what is “real” news and what is or is not opinion or puffery. Little has changed in the Digital Age. The democratization of journalism, a good thing, is not sitting well with those oldtimers/elitists who think print has some special claim on real journalism, or objective journalism, which any honest journalist will admit does not exist (and never did).

[…] I think we can be charitable and presume it was a devil’s advocate sort of question, a way to introduce the subject of whether or not reporter Glenn Greenwald ought to be in jail without actually mentioning the kind of deeply crooked people that ascribe to that theory, people like Rep. Peter King (R-Actual Terrorist Supporter) and Bush wordsmith (yes, that was a thing) Marc Thiessen, two people who themselves ought to be familiar with the notion of people skirting jail time for doing terrible things. Rep. Peter King, as perhaps most prominent supporter of this theory, is a particularly well-known village idiot whose opinions on things regularly boil down to what is good or not good for Peter King. Gregory dug in afterwards, however, criticizing Greenwald for being irritated with the question: […]

Mr. Greenwald has done a service to mankind yet people like Gregory want to change the story from massive spying to who is a journalist. Mr. Gergory knows that he is not a journalist. Any real journalist would recognize the form of the question is fraught with problems. It has a hidden premise, it is accusatory, it has no basis.

It is unfortunate that our media personalities are dominated by people of questionable caliber who are simply hired guns. More unfortunate that we have the members of our civil society so disengaged and misinformed about the most elementary aspects of their freedom.

Mr. Gergory, to the extent that you have been engaged in defrauding and deceiving the public, are you concerned that you could become a target of a citizen’s arrest or prosecution?!

[…] react to controversial questions David Gregory asked Glenn Greenwald Pressthink: David Gregory tries to read Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian out of the journalism club The Washington Post: David Gregory whiffs on Greenwald question The Weekly Standard: Gregory Mocks […]

Anyone who thinks 9/11 isn’t fiction has failed an important intelligence test. Don’t mistake your education for smarts.

The snoop state remains until the 9/11 cadaver is dug up and exposed.

captain*arizona says:

who is a journalist? who is a christian? if you say you are you are. read the first amendment for qualifications nuff said!

[…] he would do exactly as Snowden has done. One of the formulations is now that Greenwald has "slipped from journalist to advocate," a charge that you may recall in connection with Sharyl Attkisson, whose computer was compromised by […]

Wahoo Lon says:

How great would meet the press be if Greenwald were the host? Instead of repeating whispers from private connections he would make politicians defend their actions relative to a Constitution and to a democracy.

[…] The idea that Greenwald should be prosecuted was originally put forward by lawmaker Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, who falsely told Fox News that Greenwald was threatening to disclose the identities of CIA officers. And as The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple points out, Gregory’s question was a loaded one, “very much in the tradition of ‘how long have you been beating your wife.’” Journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen agrees: […]

[…] In a climate of WikiLeaks, demonized whistle-blowers and journalists who are profiled as collaborators,  if you want to continue muckraking than you will be under surveillance, your work will be […]

[…] Greenwald addresses attempts to smear his reputation and attack his work. David Carr and Jay Rosen both came to his aid earlier this […]

SkepticalPartisan says:

I am curious how David Gregory thinks Glenn Greenwald should have handled the story. How would Gregory have handled the story had he been approached by Snowden? Contrast how much the public would know now comparing the putative Gregory presentation to that of Greenwald.

Steve S. says:

May I repeat myself from above? Greenwald’s NSA pieces were all co-written with “real” journalists. They all appear to have been edited by “real” editors. Is there some other secret ritual that has to be performed before it becomes journalism? Why is this even an argument?

[…] or credibility (or legal protection) than a journalist would be. Journalism professor Jay Rosen mentioned the same thing in a recent post, arguing that critics like “Meet The Press” host David Gregory have been trying to […]

“Doesn’t this indicate the facility to make distinctions and see good-faith arguments on the other side that Chait says are completely absent in Greenwald’s style?”


So one comment in one video that is 44 minutes in versus how many hundreds of words Greenwald has written accusing critics of bad faith?

As Charles Pierce recently wrote:

“If you’re reduced to implying that Rick Fking Perlstein is overly solicitous of this administration, it’s time to lose all the fanboys and come back to the pack a little.”

Those fanboys include NYU professors, sadly.

Do you really think that Glenn treats his critics fairly? Maybe you should write a post devoted to that topic. That is one of the main criticisms of his writing people have.

By the way, if Greenwald is only interested in the truth, why did he hide the fact that Snowden took the NSA job just to steal documents? And in fact, he dismissed it as a “moronic conspiracy theory.”


So here he was, dismissing a critic of indulging in a “moronic conspiracy theories,” – which it turns out, was completely true, he just didn’t want that info to get out. Doesn’t that prove the larger point, of him besmirching people who disagree with his point of view?

It’s bad enough that Greenwald is basically acting as Snowden’s defense attorney and PR spokesman. (As well as Assange’s and Manning’s). Now Jay is acting as Greenwald’s. I really hoped you were better than that.

That should be Booz-Allen instead of NSA, by the way …

[…] ha contattato proprio in quanto ‘sensibile’ ai temi dei diritti e della sorveglianza. Secondo Jay Rosen, per esempio, insinuazioni come quelle di Gregory assomiglierebbero molto da vicino a un modo per […]

[…] of the source who contacted him for his ‘sensitivity’ to human rights and surveillance. According to Jay Rosen, for example, insinuations such as those of Gregory would look very closely like a way to distance […]

[…] che lo ha contattato proprio in quanto ‘sensibile’ ai temi dei diritti e della sorveglianza. Secondo Jay Rosen, per esempio, insinuazioni come quelle di Gregory assomiglierebbero molto da vicino a un modo per […]

[…] rispetto a un giornalista. Il docente di giornalismo Jay Rosen ha parlato dello stesso argomento in un post recente, sostenendo che le critiche come quelle mosse da David Gregory hanno cercato di escludere Greenwald […]

[…] protezione giuridica) di quanto lo sarebbe un giornalista. Il professore di giornalismo Jay Rosen ha segnalato la medesima cosa in un suo recente articolo, sostenendo che alcuni, come l’ ospite di “Meet the Press” David Gregory, hanno […]

[…] de investigación está quizás aun más castigado en España que en EEUU. Increíblemente, tenemos periodistas analizando si deben o no detener a Glen Greenwald por redactar artículos con la información de Edward […]

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