Thursday, June 13, 2013

NSA story demonstrates why the media is in trouble

Like many of you political junkies out there, I watched Chris Hayes interview Glenn Greenwald on his MSNBC show last night. I heard Greenwald continue to talk about a discrepancy between the government and the tech companies on how the PRISM program works.
Greenwald: Our story is that there is a discrepancy between the relationship that these, that the private sector and the government has, in terms of what the NSA claims and what the technology companies claim.
Greenwald says the slides he published demonstrate that the NSA has direct access to Facebook, Google, etc. company's servers and just goes in and grabs private data at will. The tech companies deny that happens. So we need to get to the bottom of who is lying.

Chris Hayes not only didn't challenge him, he ran with that characterization in other stories later in the show.

Trouble is - prior to that interview I had also been reading folks like Bob Cesca and Little Green Footballs. So not only did I know that the New York Times had debunked the whole idea that the NSA had "direct" or "backdoor" access to the servers of the tech companies, they:
...described a process whereby the various tech companies, after receiving a FISA court approved request from the NSA and vetting it through their legal departments, gather the information and post it in a virtual “mailbox” for the NSA to retrieve: “It is not sent automatically or in bulk, and the government does not have full access to company servers. Instead, they said, it is a more secure and efficient way to hand over the data.”
I also knew that even the Guardian - where Greenwald works - had walked back his claims about the NSA having direct access.

This is a great example of how the internet - despite all its issues with privacy - has broken down the hold commercial media has on what we know. As I watched Chris Hayes last night, I recognized that I knew more about this part of the story than he did. And that means his credibility is damaged.

The major networks have moved on from this story. They all had Greenwald on to make his outrageous claims and then got bored with the whole thing. Cable networks like Fox News and MSNBC are running with their spin on the story. But if you really want to inform yourself beyond the sensational headlines - the information is out there. And the more you get it - the less you trust what they're selling. That's one of the big reasons why they're in trouble.

15 comments:

  1. There is so much of this story - particularly with Greenwald - that smells like a major fish kill that it's not funny. That the Washington Post and others didn't do their job of "due diligence" is pathetic, and yes, it is coming back to bite them.

    A lot of this fits GG's mode of operation, though. He had "a story" which fit his agenda, and pushed it. The problem is that Snowden's claims had any number of holes in them right off the bat, but GG will never admit that he's wrong.

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    1. This is definitely kind of standard procedure for GG. Now after having inflamed with material misstatements in his original reporting, he'll very quietly start to walk things back, claim that he never really said that NSA has backdoor access, or that the most important part of the story was something else and that was just a minor detail, or generally engage in debates about trivia and semantics, or (as is happening now) distract with a story painting himself as the real victim in all this mess (re: Peter King's non-credible calls for GG's arrest). That's just what he does, it is what it is. Question is what is wrong with the more mainstream outlets in that knowing his history, they would take such an explosive story and run with it without full vetting.

      --gn

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  2. So the essence of Greenwald's story is that a power-point slide disagrees with the claims of what was actually implemented?

    Is Greenwald the only person in the Western world who doesn't know that power-point slides *never* agree with the final implementation?

    For all we know, that slide was a preliminary proposal that was subsequently rejected. Yet Greenwald considers the discrepancy to be evidence of something suspicious.

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    1. Exactly - that's what happens when you assume "people" lie.

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    2. So what? The "correct" story is that the NSA had indirect access to the servers. The salient fact remains unchallenged: the NSA had access to private material. The distinction between direct and indirect is sophistry of the higher order.

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  3. GG put his foot in his mouth. For a well educated lawyer - dudes sounds more and more like a nasally Alex Jones.

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    1. GG was not that good of an attorney. Which is why I don't understand why anybody listens to this guy?

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  4. As I watched Chris Hayes last night, I recognized that I knew more about this part of the story than he did.

    You likely know more about many subjects than Chris Hayes. I couldn't agree more with this piece. The state of the national media is an outright hazard at this point.

    Here's the timeline which seems to be emerging:

    **After having been in contact with various media for months, Snowden suddenly starts shopping around the PRISM presentation (from what I understand, PRISM isn't actually an NSA program---it's a user interface system---the reporting has been so horrendous that it's difficult to sort out)

    **Snowden gets WaPo to bite, tells WaPo he wants the slides published within 72 hours, and wants an encryption key published which will help him verify his identity to a friendly embassy

    **WaPo balks: 72 hrs is not enough time to vet the story

    **Snowden goes to GG (who has no such vetting standards or reservations when it comes to an explosive story which he thinks will prove his long-held assumption that Obama=Bush)

    **WaPo then falls in line, doesn't want to miss out on the scoop

    What has resulted is a clusterf- of misinformation as well as what looks to me to be a sideshow obscuring the fact that this guy publicized confidential (yet perfectly legal) details of US cyber operations against China. Just in time for the summit. And just in time for China to present a false equivalence, claiming to the world and especially to their people, that the US is just as bad as China (a regime notorious for spying, hacking, and censorship---in no sane mind is the US equivalent).

    Cherry on top: "Americans are using Google/Facebook/Twitter to read all of your emails; Google has given them access to everything, this is why we filter them, for your own good."---free censorship card for every despot on the planet trying to get their people off of Google and social media.

    The above is partly conjecture, but I have a feeling that we've only begun to unravel the gazillion ways in which GG's zeal to prove that PBO is enemy #1 facilitated an unbelievably malicious attack on US intelligence(and worldwide anti-censorship efforts), one which has NOTHING to do with protecting or informing the US public. Only saving grace is that I believe that Snowden is exaggerating about the extent and nature of the information which he was able to steal.

    --gn

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    1. MOST EXCELLENT comment! Thank you!

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    2. Source for my conjecture:

      "To effect his plan, Snowden asked for a guarantee that The Washington Post would publish — within 72 hours — the full text of a PowerPoint presentation describing PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program that gathered intelligence from Microsoft, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley companies. He also asked that The Post publish online a cryptographic key that he could use to prove to a foreign embassy that he was the document’s source.

      Gellman told him the Post would not make any guarantee about what the Post published or when. The Post broke the story two weeks later, on Thursday. The Post sought the views of government officials about the potential harm to national security prior to publication and decided to reproduce only four of the 41 slides, Gellman wrote in his story about their communications. [and as we can see, the rushed timeline resulted in the story not being fully vetted, and misinformation resulted]

      Snowden replied succinctly, 'I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.' Snowden also made contact with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper."

      AP article dated June 9:
      http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-09/world/39856635_1_washington-post-intelligence-barton-gellman

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  5. I've never watched Chris Hayes and now I'm certain that I never will. Giving a platform to Greenwald is bad enough. Giving credence to his discredited "reporting" is worse. He was already on my shitlist when he had the unmitigated gall to compare Edward Snowden to MLK, Jr. and Rosa Parks, see http://www.thepeoplesview.net/2013/06/letter-from-hong-kong-hotel-suite.html and continued to push that disgusting narrative even after being called out about it.

    Hopefully Chris Hayes will be gone soon. He certainly deserves to be.

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    1. Sorry the link isn't clickable (wordpress issue?) but it is worth copying and pasting into your browser's URL.

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    2. I also have The People's View linked on my blogroll over there ------>

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  6. This article is exactly why any left-leaning pundits on MSNBC who has aspirations of being a leftie Rush Limbaugh needs to get real. Sorry, but this is just not the way lefties roll. Even as we are nodding our heads in agreement, the wheels are still turning in our heads. We can't help it.

    And I'm glad the internet is around to counteract the BS we're getting from the MSM.

    As for Chris Hayes, nothing new here.

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