Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What's the real story behind the Snowden leak?

One of the things I've learned about Glenn Greenwald from following him over the last few years is that his most blatant lies are often the ones of omission. Its the information he doesn't provide that tends to change the whole tenor of the story from the one he tries to tell.

I'll give you an example. In April 2012 Greenwald wrote a story about the harassment filmmaker Laura Poitras was experiencing at border crossings coming into and out of the United States. Several times in that article he says that not only has the government not proven that Poitras has committed any crimes that would warrant that treatment, he says that she is not even suspected of any wrongdoing.

While I would never condone the treatment of Poitras, Greenwald's claim is simply not true. As you can read in the NYT portrait of her, there are reports that Poitras, while embedded with Sunni insurgents in Iraq, might have known ahead of time about an attack on U.S. forces but failed to warn anyone about it. Whether grounded or not, the government DID have suspicions about her activities. Beyond that, Poitras' story initially was that she wasn't present at the time filming the attack. But in the NYT article, she changed her story and admitted she was there. So she lied during the initial questioning about it.

In reading about this I am struck once again by the conflation of people involved in the Snowden leaks. And I have to wonder what other lies of omission are going on with this crew. For example, the NYT article says that Greenwald and Poitras have known each other since 2010 when she became interested in his work on Wikileaks - the tie that seems to bind all of these players.

But I was struck by the news - both in Greenwald's 2012 article about Poitras and the NYT article today - that she had started working on a film about NSA surveillance way back in 2011. We are led to believe that this is why Snowden contacted her. But given several serious discrepancies in how various people have reported that timeline, one has to wonder if its really true that this bombshell simply fell right into her lap totally unsolicited.
  • We all know that Snowden went to work for Booz Allen in March 2013 for the express purpose of gaining access to classified information he planned to leak.
  • Initially we were told that Greenwald and Poitras first met Snowden in May 2013 in Hong Kong.
  • Greenwald then tweeted that he and Poitras had been working with Snowden since February 2013.
  • The NYT article today says that Snowden first contacted Greenwald in November/December 2012 and Poitras in January 2013.
  • The NYT also says that Greenwald and Poitras didn't talk to each other about Snowden until April 2013.
All these stories can't be true. It seems clear to me that what we have here are some major omissions with people having trouble keeping their fabricated versions straight.

One blogger that is asking all the right questions about this is Catherine Fitzpatrick - who seems to be pretty familiar with the "hacker" world where these folks all connect.
An episode that sticks out for me in the story of how Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jacob Appelbaum came to get in touch with Edward Snowden, write about him, and spill his secrets is the furious response Greenwald has to Walter Pincus' articles containing his findings and questions on the connections between WikiLeaks and Snowden and Greenwald's role.

Pincus' article tracks with the sense a number of us have who have been following these radical activists long before the Snowden story broke that these people all knew each other long before, and collaborated much closer than they admit to bring about the Snowden defection to Russia...

Sure, my basis for these contentions is basically just a hunch based on tracking how these people behave over a long period of time, but it's based on repeated experience of seeing how they operate; how they edge-case and obfuscate and distract about their motives and actions...

Why is it important to show that these people in fact knew each other in the past, and collaborated on this story earlier than we knew and aren't telling us everything? Well, not only to show that if they lie about this thing, they could be lying about the entire NSA story...but we can see more clearly the deeper activist agenda they have and the larger plot involving WikiLeaks assault on America, with Russian help.
One of the people Fitzpatrick zeros in on is Jacob Applebaum - anarchist hacker, creator of Tor,  and Wikileaks volunteer. She points out that the technological skills Poitras used (and taught to Greenwald as documented in the NYT article) to evade surveillance, she learned from Applebaum. As was noted in Der Speigel, Applebaum and Poitras teamed up to interview Snowden via email in May 2013 prior to the time Greenwald and Snowden met him in Hong Kong. But perhaps most intriguing of all, apparently Applebaum travelled to Hawaii (where Snowden was living at the time) in both April of 2012 and 2013.

I'm not going to pretend to know what the real story is here. But as I said at the beginning and I've tried to document here, the lies of omission seem obvious and could change the tenor of the story. Rather than swallow the one Greenwald and Poitras told - as Maass did in the NYT - it would be great if an actual investigative reporter would start asking some hard questions.


  1. Excellent review asking key questions....

    Also, who the hell is paying for Snowdens' adventures at this point???

    1. Maybe we can start with the connection between Greenwald, The Cato Institute and the Koch Brothers. Wonder if there's a group like WikiLeaks that could expose that back story.

    2. Jane Hamsher and Glen Greenwald have a PAC… and we know Hamsher was fine working with Grover Norquist.

    3. Anonymous @ 2:54

      I don't see any connection at all to Cato and Koch. This is a whole different crowd - the anarchist hacker movement. The intriguing connection Fitzpatrick suggests is that these folks are working with the Russians.

  2. I remember hearing about the documentary rather early on in the whole mess and I've been wondering why no one has followed up on that. I began to think I'd dreamt it.

  3. If the NSA stories presented by Greenwald are fabrications - why has the NSA not debunked a single one of them?