Reporter Glen Greenwald electrifies Chicago 'Socialism 2013' conference via Skype -- instead of in person -- because of U.S. attacks on his reporting in The Guardian

Reporter, author, and critic Glen Greenwald, who worked to bring the stories about PRISM and the massive NSA spying to the world thanks to the whistle blowing of Edward Snowden, spoke to the Socialism 2013 conference in Chicago on June 29, 2013. Greenwald electrified the crowd during his nearly one hour presentation. But because of the Obama administration's attacks on Snowden and those who brought out the NSA revelations, instead of being in Chicago for the conference, Greenwald spoke via Skype.

While a complete transcript of Greewald's remarks is not yet available, the URL for the 54-minute You Tube video is:

Glenn Greenwald.Substance will publish a complete transcript of the report as soon as it is available.

One report so far is up, published by Adam Horowitz at

"Courage is Contagious": Glenn Greenwald electrifies Chicago crowd speaking on Snowden, journalism and the NSA by Adam Horowitz on June 29, 2013

Friday night in Chicago Glenn Greenwald addressed the Socialism 2013 conference live via Skype and reflected for the first time on what the past month has been like for him in the wake of his interview with Edward Snowden, and subsequent disclosures regarding the National Security Agency's spying on American citizens.

Greenwald had been scheduled to address the conference live, but instead chose to appear via Skype out of fear of attempting to enter the United States following calls for his arrest. Greenwald appeared relaxed and gave the capacity crowd in attendance, in addition to countless viewers online, a rousing call to action in addition to revealing some soon to be published new leaks from the Snowden files.

The evening began with an impassioned introduction from journalist Jeremy Scahill who called Greenwald the "conscience of America" and took direct aim at Greenwald's attackers in the press. Most notably Schahill commented on recent smear jobs against Greenwald in the New York Daily News and on BuzzFeed. With the crowd cheering Scahill ended, "To the dingbat factory that's constantly attacking Glenn Greenwald -- I stand with Glenn Greenwald!"

Greenwald then took over with a surprising amount of humor and candor. The first part of his talk was a personal reflection on how he came to meet Edward Snowden and how the episode has changed him. The title of this post comes from a conclusion Greenwald repeated throughout his talk in several ways - courage is contagious, the acts of one whisleblower leads to similarly brave acts from others. Greenwald spoke of being inspired by Snowden's choice to come forward and his willingness to sacrfice whatever possibility he would have for a normal, secure life.

Greenwald also had a nugget to share with the rapt audience, a coming attraction of an upcoming report. He said that the NSA has new technology that enables it to redirect 1 billion cell phone calls a day into its database for collection and analysis. He promised there were many more disclosures to come.


Why Glenn Greenwald Drives The Media Crazy

Critics keep questioning Glenn Greenwald’s bona fides as a journalist because he is a polemicist with very strong views about the dangers of government power, and eager to engage and/or condemn any and all who disagree. David Gregory raised his doubts on Meet the Press and Andrew Ross Sorkin did it on CNBC’s Squawk Box (later retracting and apologizing), questioning whether Greenwald somehow helped NSA leaker Edward Snowden to break the law. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post wondered if he was acting as a journalist or something else.

In the Wall Street Journal, Edward Jay Epstein takes it a step further, suggesting Greenwald and Snowden may have had some sort of active collaboration to steal secrets:

This orchestration did not occur in a vacuum. Airfares, hotel bills and other expenses over this period had to be paid. A safe house had to be secured in Hong Kong. Lawyers had to be retained, and safe passage to Moscow—a trip on which Mr. Snowden was accompanied by WikiLeaks’ Sarah Harrison—had to be organized.

Felix Salmon argues that this type of inquiry is healthy: we need to ask questions about the legally murky relationship between confidential sources and journalists. I agree with the general point, but I don’t think that’s what this piece, or the more general skepticism about Greenwald, is really about.

Epstein isn’t asking questions about journalism, weighing a difficult issue. Basically, his piece is idle speculation. With no evidence (and apparently unaware that Greenwald had already rebutted some of his main points) he intimates Greenwald and documentary producer Laura Poitras committed crimes. (Jeff Jarvis had a nice Twitter colloquy on this.)

Curiously, the piece does not mention Bart Gellman, who also had Snowden as a source and broke the NSA stories in the Washington Post more or less simultaneously with Greenwald in the Guardian. (Poitras shared bylines in both publications.) Does this mean Epstein has examined Gellman’s actions and cleared him of wrongdoing somehow? I have no idea! But obviously Gellman is an old-school Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, not a “blogger” or a documentarian or an advocate. (Though last week the NSA’s former general counsel claimed he was practicing advocacy; Gellman said OK, sure: journalists are advocates for discussing secret government powers.)

So maybe Gellman gets a pass in Epstein’s book, and Greenwald and Poitras get indicted, not by virtue of what they wrote or did to write it, but because of what they are.

“Who is a journalist” is a question that won’t go away in a time when anybody can publish anything, and a site purporting to practice journalism can publish outright historical fantasies and other distortions. The New York Times, for example, has to figure out who to label a journalist, or not, in its news stories, and what the Times calls them matters, because it’s the Times.

But “who is a journalist” is, in my opinion, a tiresome question. Asking “is so-and-so really a journalist?” is often not a sincere inquiry but a way of intimating so-and-so isn’t one and a prelude to delegitimizing their work and what they have to say. It quickly devolves to tribalism.

If your main concern is that someone who may not meet your criteria for being journalist gets prosecuted for bringing new information to light, just what are you trying to accomplish? You can be a journalist who is an advocate and advances a political point of view. Or one who remains politically agnostic. Both are legitimate. But what really matters is the information that enters the public sphere, its validity, how it is presented, and any debate it provokes. Not who put it there in the first place, or even why they did it.


July 2, 2013 at 6:21 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Still perplexed by Snowden

After the watching Glenn Greenwald video I am even more perplexed by Snowden. Here is a guy who at the age of 19 joined the army in 2003 and became special forces because as he said to Greenwald: "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression."

Talk about naïve, I mean even your average ROTC college student understood the invasion of Iraq and the war at least had something to do with self interest and oil.

From there his bio is typical of a future CIA operative (see

I have no real idea what Snowden's motivation was in destroying his own life and Greenwald's explanation that Snowden wanted to make the US population aware of the extend of surveillance being carried out on the total population of the nation seems just crazy. Most of the people who even read the Guardian stories, or watched the Greenwald video already accept the fact that the US government operated a massive security state so there was little revelation there.

The vast majority of our population really doesn't give a good hoot whether or not the CIA has the capability of looking at their emails or listening in of cell phone calls. As long as they can't get people for normal things like tax evasion, drug dealing, and various white collar crimes they could really not care in the least about this access.

The media is concerned because of discussions they may have with various people off the record that may be formal violations of the Espionage Act. Many liberals concerned with civil rights are concerned too. But the bulk of the two million Chicagoans cheering the Blackhawk Stanley Cup win last week probably don't care much at all.

As Greenwald did say Snowden faces a pretty unpleasant future, almost anywhere he lands he will be monitored for years and years by that nation's security forces unless they double cross Snowden and turn his over to the CIA. Clearly if he moved out of Russia back to China he would be effectively a prisoner of the Peoples Liberation Army bureaucracy, if he goes to south American a drug cartel might take him out as a favor for the CIA. Anyway you look at it he faces a nightmare.

Rod Estvan

July 6, 2013 at 12:03 PM

By: Sean Ahern

Snowden and U.S. socialists

I too am perplexed by Snowden but I am more disturbed by the inordinate attention accorded his "revelations" at a conference of "socialists."

Is the existence of the surveillance state really news to anyone who walks down the street with cameras in full view, with "identity theft" as an everyday concern and with a host of blockbuster movies portraying good guys and bad guys hacking their way through any firewall or so called security system with impunity?

Much of the white 'left' in this country appears to have embraced the "Chicken Little Syndrome" and confounded effective agitation and propaganda with 'the sky is falling' revelations. This is not meant to cast aspersions on the outstanding efforts of investigative reporters such as Greenwald, Scahill, Gonzalez, Goodman, Parry, Scheer, Taibbi, Palast, the crew at Substance News, etc or the truly heroic whistle blowers such as PFC Bradley Manning.

Invoking the "Big Brother" bogeyman or alarms about global warming or hand wringing over the collapse of the "middle class" and the concentration of wealth in the 1% does not move us one inch closer to the constitution of a mass-based alternative to white male supremacist bourgeois domination in the USA today. At best such "revelations" provide us with important details that shit is bad, but of course most of America knows that already from looking at their paycheck, if they are lucky enough to have one.

The problem is of course what to do in a crumbling empire and here is where all manner of scapegoats, explanations and theories contend. It is here, in the what is to be done arena, that socialists must plant their flag, but the flag is nowhere to be seen from what I can tell. Yet while the socialists have their eyes up to the "cloud" proclaiming to all who listen that the 'sky is falling', in the here and now, right in our faces, down on the ground arriving contiguously with the Snowden revelations is the story of the "Klu Klux Kourt" (Palast) and their overturning of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

That ruling offers a far more trenchant revelation about the true direction of the US ruling elite pulling back the veil of the Obama presidency and all the blather about the "multicultural" and "diverse" global superpower. For socialists it would seem that denial of voting rights to a significant portion of the US working class would assume central and strategic importance in any effort by the laboring people to constitute themselves as a class for itself, politically independent from the oligarchical parties. Yet the focus on the truly immediate central task is lost at a socialist conference that has more in common with Loosy Goosey and Henny Penny than Nat Turner, Frederick Douglaws Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Hubert Harrison, Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Paul Robeson, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hammer and the host of other named and unnamed but not forgotten heroes of the class struggles waged in the past.

July 7, 2013 at 11:49 PM

By: David R. Stone

Why the leaks matter

This story of government surveillance is much more important than many people realize.

It’s not mainly about Snowden, although people who think the spying is justified would like to distract us with questions about the whistle-blower’s motivations and his possible punishment.

And it can’t be swept under the rug by saying “So what? We already knew the government was spying on us.”

The details of that spying are important:

(1) to wake up the large portion of the public that didn’t know or didn’t care about the extent of the spying, and

(2) so we can figure out how to bring the spy agencies and (all the branches of government that support them) under control.

An article in yesterday’s New York Times [July 6, 2013] shows how Snowden’s leaks prove that the secret FISA Court has replaced the U.S. Supreme Court in deciding crucial Constitutional decisions about spying. (See below.)

-David R. Stone


In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.


Published: July 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

Last month, a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, leaked a classified order from the FISA court, which authorized the collection of all phone-tracing data from Verizon business customers. But the court’s still-secret decisions go far beyond any single surveillance order, the officials said.

“We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”

While President Obama and his intelligence advisers have spoken of the surveillance programs leaked by Mr. Snowden mainly in terms of combating terrorism, the court has also interpreted the law in ways that extend into other national security concerns. In one recent case, for instance, intelligence officials were able to get access to an e-mail attachment sent within the United States because they said they were worried that the e-mail contained a schematic drawing or a diagram possibly connected to Iran’s nuclear program.

In the past, that probably would have required a court warrant because the suspicious e-mail involved American communications. In this case, however, a little-noticed provision in a 2008 law, expanding the definition of “foreign intelligence” to include “weapons of mass destruction,” was used to justify access to the message.

The court’s use of that language has allowed intelligence officials to get wider access to data and communications that they believe may be linked to nuclear proliferation, the officials said. They added that other secret findings had eased access to data on espionage, cyberattacks and other possible threats connected to foreign intelligence.

“The definition of ‘foreign intelligence’ is very broad,” another former intelligence official said in an interview. “An espionage target, a nuclear proliferation target, that all falls within FISA, and the court has signed off on that.”

The official, like a half-dozen other current and former national security officials, discussed the court’s rulings and the general trends they have established on the condition of anonymity because they are classified. Judges on the FISA court refused to comment on the scope and volume of their decisions.

Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public. A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

Created by Congress in 1978 as a check against wiretapping abuses by the government, the court meets in a secure, nondescript room in the federal courthouse in Washington. All of the current 11 judges, who serve seven-year terms, were appointed to the special court by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and 10 of them were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents. Most hail from districts outside the capital and come in rotating shifts to hear surveillance applications; a single judge signs most surveillance orders, which totaled nearly 1,800 last year. None of the requests from the intelligence agencies was denied, according to the court.

For the rest of the NY Times article, see:

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