Insurance File: Glenn Greenwald’s Anger Is of More Use to Vladimir Putin than Edward Snowden’s Freedom

Glenn Greenwald risks making his own anger more valuable to Vladimir Putin than Edward Snowden’s freedom.

When WikiLeaks helped Snowden flee Hong Kong eight years ago, both WikiLeaks and Snowden had the explicit goal of using Snowden’s successful flight from prosecution to entice more leakers.

In his book, Snowden described that Sarah Harrison and Julian Assange’s goal in helping him flee Hong Kong was to provide a counterexample to the draconian sentence of Chelsea Manning.

People have long ascribed selfish motives to Assange’s desire to give me aid, but I believe he was genuinely invested in one thing above all—helping me evade capture. That doing so involved tweaking the US government was just a bonus for him, an ancillary benefit, not the goal. It’s true that Assange can be self-interested and vain, moody, and even bullying—after a sharp disagreement just a month after our first, text-based conversation, I never communicated with him again—but he also sincerely conceives of himself as a fighter in a historic battle for the public’s right to know, a battle he will do anything to win. It’s for this reason that I regard it as too reductive to interpret his assistance as merely an instance of scheming or self-promotion. More important to him, I believe, was the opportunity to establish a counterexample to the case of the organization’s most famous source, US Army Private Chelsea Manning, whose thirty-five-year prison sentence was historically unprecedented and a monstrous deterrent to whistleblowers everywhere. Though I never was, and never would be, a source for Assange, my situation gave him a chance to right a wrong. There was nothing he could have done to save Manning, but he seemed, through Sarah, determined to do everything he could to save me. That said, I was initially wary of Sarah’s involvement. But Laura told me that she was serious, competent, and, most important, independent: one of the few at WikiLeaks who dared to openly disagree with Assange. Despite my caution, I was in a difficult position, and as Hemingway once wrote, the way to make people trustworthy is to trust them.


It was only once we’d entered Chinese airspace that I realized I wouldn’t be able to get any rest until I asked Sarah this question explicitly: “Why are you helping me?”

She flattened out her voice, as if trying to tamp down her passions, and told me that she wanted me to have a better outcome. She never said better than what outcome or whose, and I could only take that answer as a sign of her discretion and respect.

It’s not just Snowden’s impression, though, that WikiLeaks intended to make an example of him. The superseding indictment against Assange cites several times when Assange invoked WikiLeaks’ role in Snowden’s successful escape to encourage others (including CIA Systems Administrators like Joshua Schulte, who had a ticket to Mexico when the FBI first interviewed him and seized his passports) to go do what Snowden did. British Judge Vanessa Baraitser even included one of those speeches in paragraphs distinguishing what Assange is accused of from legal journalism. And as early as 2017, public reporting said that WikiLeaks’ assistance to Snowden was what changed how DOJ understood WikiLeaks and why it began to consider prosecuting Assange. It wasn’t Trump that led DOJ to stop treating Assange as a journalist, it was Snowden.

According to Snowden’s own words, he shared WikiLeaks’ goal of setting an example to inspire others. In an email that Snowden must have sent Bart Gellman weeks before the exchange between him and Harrison above, Snowden described steps he took to give other leakers (this may be Gellman’s paraphrase), “hope for a happy ending.”

In the Saturday night email, Snowden spelled it out. He had chosen to risk his freedom, he wrote, but he was not resigned to life in prison or worse. He preferred to set an example for “an entire class of potential whistleblowers” who might follow his lead. Ordinary citizens would not take impossible risks. They had to have some hope for a happy ending.

To effect this, I intend to apply for asylum (preferably somewhere with strong internet and press freedoms, e.g. Iceland, though the strength of the reaction will determine how choosy I can be). Given how tightly the U.S. surveils diplomatic outposts (I should know, I used to work in our U.N. spying shop), I cannot risk this until you have already gone to press, as it would immediately tip our hand. It would also be futile without proof of my claims—they’d have me committed—and I have no desire to provide raw source material to a foreign government. Post publication, the source document and cryptographic signature will allow me to immediately substantiate both the truth of my claim and the danger I am in without having to give anything up. . . . Give me the bottom line: when do you expect to go to print?

Citizenfour also quotes Snowden describing how he hoped that proof that his “methods work[]” would encourage others to leak.

If all ends well, perhaps the demonstration that our methods worked will embolden more to come forward.

Snowden’s “methods” don’t work — they certainly haven’t for Daniel Hale, Reality Winner, or Joshua Schulte. But for each, Snowden played at least some role (there is ambiguity about how Schulte really felt about Snowden) in inspiring them to ruin their lives with magical thinking and inadequate operational security.

One of Snowden’s “methods” appears to entail quitting an existing job and then picking another at an Intelligence Community contractor with the intent of obtaining documents to leak. Snowden did this at Booz Allen Hamilton, and his book at least suggests the possibility he did that with his earlier job in Hawaii.

The government justified the draconian sentence that it had negotiated with Winner’s lawyers, in part, by claiming that she premeditated her leak.

Around the same time the defendant took a job with Pluribus requiring a security clearance in February 2017, she was expressing contempt for the United States, mocking compromises of our national security, and making preparations to leak intelligence information

Along with evidence Winner researched The Intercept’s SecureDrop before starting at her new job, the government supported this claim by pointing to three references Winner made to Snowden as or shortly after she started at Pluribus, including texts in which Winner told her sister she was on Assange and Snowden’s side the day the Vault 7 leak was revealed. That was still two months before she took the files she would send to The Intercept.

Had Hale gone to trial, the government would have shown that Hale discussed serving as a source for Jeremy Scahill by May 30, 2013, the day before he left NSA, and discussed Snowden — and hanging out with the journalists reporting on him — the day Snowden came forward on June 9. Then, on July 25, Hale sent Scahill a resume showing he was looking for counterterrorism or counterintelligence jobs. In December, Hale started the the job at Leidos where he would print out the files he sent to The Intercept.

You can think these leaks were valuable and ethical without thinking it a good idea to leave a months-long trail of evidence showing premeditation on unencrypted texts and social media.

Similarly, one of Snowden’s “methods” was to claim he had expressed concerns internally, but was ignored, a wannabe whistleblower stymied by America’s admittedly failed support for whistleblowers, especially those at contractors.

In the weeks before Snowden left NSA, he made a stink about some legal issues and NSA’s training programs (about how FISA Section 702 interacted with EO 12333) that he subsequently pointed to as his basis for claiming to be a whistleblower. The complaint was legit, and one NSA department actually did take notice, but it was not a formal complaint; indeed, it was more a complaint about US law. But his complaint had nothing to do with the vast majority of the documents that have been published based off his files, to say nothing of the far greater set of documents he took. And he made the complaint long after having prepared for months to steal vast amounts of files.

Similarly, Joshua Schulte wrote two emails documenting purported concerns about CIA security, one to a colleague less than a month before he left, which he didn’t send, and then, on his final day, one to CIA’s Inspector General that he falsely claimed was unclassified, a copy of which he was seen taking with him when he packed up. In the first search warrant for Schulte’s house obtained on March 13, 2017, less than a week after the initial Vault 7 release, the FBI had already found those emails and deemed Schulte’s treatment of them as suspect. And when they found a copy of the classified letter to the IG stashed in his headboard, it gave them cause to seize Schulte’s passports on threat of arrest. Snowden’s “methods” didn’t deliver Schulte a “happy ending;” they made Schulte’s apprehension easier.

To the extent Schulte could be shown to be following Snowden’s “methods” (again, that question was not resolved at his first trial) it would be a fairly damning indictment of those methods, since this effort to create a paper trail as a whistleblower was such an obvious attempt to retroactively invent cover for leaks for which there was abundant evidence Schulte’s motivation was spite and revenge. Maybe that’s why someone close to Assange explicitly asked me to stop covering Schulte’s case.

Had Daniel Hale gone to trial, the government undoubtedly would have used the exhibits showing that Hale had never made any whistleblower claims in any of the series of government jobs where he had clearance as a way to push back on his claim of being a whistleblower, though Hale was outspoken about his criticisms of the drone program before he took most of the files he shared with The Intercept. Indeed, given the success of Hale’s earlier anti-drone activism, his case raises real questions about whether leaking was more effective than Hale’s frank, overt witness to the problems of the drone program.

Worse still, Snowden’s boasts about his “methods” appear to have made prosecutions more likely. An early, mostly-sealed filing in Hale’s case, reveals that the government set out to investigate whether Hale was The Intercept’s source because they were trying to figure out whom Snowden had “inspired” to leak.

Specifically, the FBI repeatedly characterized its investigation in this case as an attempt to identify leakers who had been “inspired” by a specific individual – one whose activity was designed to criticize the government by shedding light on perceived illegalities on the part of the Intelligence Community.

That explains why the government required Hale to allocute to being the author of an essay in a collection of Hale’s leaked documents involving Snowden: by doing so, they obtained sworn proof that Hale is the person Snowden and Glenn Greenwald were discussing, while the two were sitting in Moscow, in the closing sequence of Citizenfour. In the scene, Glenn flamboyantly wrote for Snowden how this new leaker and The Intercept’s journalist were communicating, what appears to be J-A-B-B-E-R. That stunt for the camera would have tipped the government off, in cinema release just two months after they had raided Hale’s home, to look for and reconstruct Hale’s Jabber communications with Jeremy Scahill, which they partly succeeded in doing.

Rather than being means to a “happy ending,” then, prosecutors have found Snowden’s “methods” useful to pursuing increasingly draconian prosecutions of people inspired by him.

And now, after Snowden and Greenwald failed to persuade Trump to pardon Snowden, Assange — and in a secondary effort — The Intercept’s sources (perhaps, like Assange, they find the association with Schulte counterproductive, because they didn’t even try to get him pardoned, even though Trump himself almost bolloxed that prosecution), Snowden is left demanding pardons on Twitter for the people he set out to convince leaking could have a “happy ending.”

By associating these leaks with someone being protected by Russia so that — in Snowden’s own words — he could encourage more leaks, Snowden only puts a target on these people’s back, making a justifiable commutation of Winner’s sentence less likely (Winner is due to get out on November 23, two days before the most likely time for Joe Biden to even consider commuting her sentence).

I’m grateful for Snowden’s sacrifices to release the NSA files, but his efforts to lead others to believe that leaking would be easy was bound to, and has, ended badly.

If Vladimir Putin agreed to protect Snowden in hopes that he would inspire more leakers to release files that help Russia evade US spying (as Schulte’s leak did, at a time when the US was trying to understand the full scope of what Russia had done in 2016), the US prosecutorial focus on Snowden-related leakers undermines his value to Putin, probably by design. As that happens, Snowden might reach the moment that observers of his case have long been dreading, the moment when Putin’s utilitarian protection of Snowden will give way to some other equally utilitarian goal.

This is all happening as Putin adjusts to dealing with Joe Biden rather than someone he could manipulate by (at the very least) feeding his narcissism, Donald Trump. It is happening in the wake of new sanctions on Russia, in response to which Putin put US Ambassador John Sullivan on a plane to deliver some message, in person, to Biden. It is happening as Biden’s response to the Colonial Pipeline attack, in which ransomware criminals harbored by Putin shut down US critical infrastructure for fun and profit, includes noting that he and Putin will meet in person soon, followed by the unexplained disabling of the perpetrators in the wake of the attack.

Meanwhile, even as Snowden is of less and less use to Putin, Glenn Greenwald’s utility continues to grow. Snowden, for example, continues to speak out about topics inconvenient to Putin, like privacy. The presence in Russia of someone like Snowden with his own platform and international credibility may become increasingly risky for Putin given the success of protests around Alexei Navalny.

Greenwald, by contrast, seems to have dropped all interest in surveillance and has instead turned many of his grievances — even his complaint that former NSA lawyer Susan Hennessey will get a job in DOJ’s National Security Division, against whom one can make a strong case on privacy grounds — into a defense of Russia. Greenwald spends most of his time arguing that a caricature that he labels “liberals” and another caricature that he labels “the [American] Deep State,” followed closely by another caricature he calls “the  [non-right wing propaganda] Media,” are the most malignant forces in American life. In his rush to attack “liberals,” “the Deep State,” and “the Media,” Greenwald has coddled the political forces that Putin has found useful, including outright racists and other right wing extremists. By the end of the Trump presidency, Greenwald was excusing virtually everything Trump did, up to and including his attempted coup based on the utter denigration of democratic processes. In short, Greenwald has become a loud and important voice in support of the illiberalism Putin favors, to say nothing of Greenwald’s use of a rhetoric unbound by facts.

That Greenwald spends most of his days deliberately inciting Twitter mobs is just an added benefit, to those who want to weaken America, to Greenwald’s defense of fascists.

Most of us who used to know Greenwald attribute his Russian denialism and his apologies for Trump at least partly to his desire to free Snowden from exile. Yet Greenwald’s tantrums, because of their value to Putin, may have the opposite effect.

Stoking Greenwald’s irrational furor over what he calls “liberals” and “the Deep State” and “the Media” would actually be a huge incentive for Putin to deal Snowden to the US, in maximally symbolic fashion. There is nothing that could light up Greenwald’s fury like Putin bringing Snowden to a summit with Biden, wrapped up like a present, to send back on Air Force One. (That’s an exaggerated scenario, but you get my point.)

Plus, if Putin played it right, such a ceremonial delivery of Snowden might just achieve the completion of the Snowden operation, the public release of all of the files Snowden stole, not just those that one or another journalist found to have news value.

The Intelligence Community has, over the years, said a bunch of things about Snowden that were outright bullshit or, at least, for which they did not yet have evidence. But one true thing they’ve said is that Snowden took a great many files that had no imaginable privacy value. Even from a brief period working in the full archive aiming to answer three very discrete questions about FISA, I believe that to be true. While some (including Assange) pressured Snowden and others to release all these files, Snowden instead ensured that journalists would serve a vetting role, and after some initial fumbling, The Intercept did a laudable job of keeping those files safe. So up to now, the fact that Snowden took far more files than any privacy concern — even privacy concerns divorced from all question of nationality — could justify may not have mattered.

But as far as I know there are still full copies out there and Russia would love to spin up Glenn Greenwald’s fury so much he would attempt to burn down his caricature of “The Deep State” in retaliation — much like Schulte succeeded in badly damaging the CIA — by releasing his set.

I believe Russia has been trying to do this since at least 2016.

To be very clear, I’m not claiming that Greenwald is taking money from or is any way controlled by Russia. I am very much not claiming that, in part because it wouldn’t be necessary. Why pay Greenwald for what you can get him to do for free?

And while I assume Greenwald would respect Snowden’s stated wishes and protect the files, like Trump, Greenwald’s narcissism and resentment are very, very easy buttons to push. Greenwald has been heading in this direction without pushing. It would be child’s play to have people friendly to Russia’s illiberal goals (people like Steve Bannon or Tucker Carlson) exacerbate Greenwald’s anger at “the Deep State” to turn it into the frenzy it has become.

Meanwhile, custody of Edward Snowden would be a very enticing dangle for Putin to offer Biden as a way to reset Russia’s relationship with the US. One cannot negotiate with Putin, one can only adjust the points of leverage over each other and hope to come to some stable place, and Snowden has always been at risk of becoming a bargaining chip in such a relationship. By turning Snowden over to the US to be martyred in a high profile trial, Putin might wring the last bit of value out of Snowden. All the better, from Putin’s standpoint, if Greenwald were to respond by releasing the full Snowden set.

For the past four years, Greenwald seems to have believed that if he sucked up to Putin and Trump, he’d win Snowden’s freedom, as if either man would ever deal in good faith. Instead, I think, that process has had the effect of making Greenwald more useful to Russia than Snowden is anymore. And at this point, Greenwald seems to have lost sight of the likelihood that his belligerent rants may well make Snowden less safe, not more.

Update: According to the government sentencing memo for Hale, they didn’t write up the statement of offense, Hale did.

Hale pled guilty without any plea agreement, and submitted his own Statement of Facts. Def.’s Statement of Facts, Dkt. 197 (“SOF”).

105 replies
  1. Fraud Guy says:

    Even early Glenn would have issues accepting this on point critique, so I’m glad I just bought some popcorn.

    • Chris says:

      I cannot imagine Glenn going so far as to release the full set, if he even held onto it. He is feisty, not stupid. But I am also a terrible judge of character, so what do I know?

      I do tend to think, though, that Glenn was profoundly impacted by the temporary detention of his partner, and that this greatly magnified his fears going forward.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      His technique seems to be to respond in fora he controls, or which sell the same exaggerated views he holds about the American “left” (almost an oxymoron), its supposed media, and his version of the Deep State. (Like Trump, he holds a perverted and manipulative version of a real phenomenon.)

      Also like Trump, he prefers to attack using overwhelming force against less able, experieced, and resourced opponents (including unpaid interns). Exaggeratedly using one’s power against the weak is a cheap thrill that avoids the risks of using it against the powerful – a more natural target for journalistic inquiry. All beach muscle that would be useless in the surf. Once an opponent of the likes of Bolsonaro and Putin, he seems to be gravitating toward the ranks of their courtiers.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Where Matt Gaetz lives, the easiest way to find the kids’ beach is probably by following his tire tracks. Where I go, I look up the best coffee and taco surf shops.

      • Dysnomia says:

        Greenwald still thinks journalists should stand up against the powerful, which is why he spends so much time criticising journalists who “punch down.” This also partly explains his animosity against the “intelligence community.” The IC is a manifestation and a tool of concentrated power.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Narcissism and self-awareness rarely go hand in hand. When GG “punches down,” it’s usually to piss on someone much less powerful than he is.

        • emptywheel says:

          There are few people who punch down more often than Glenn. He literally started a Twitter mob against an intern.

          And when you speak of the intelligence community, are you speaking of all spooks, or only American ones. Because he has zero animosity against the Russian IC.

          • Dysnomia says:

            He thinks that the targets of his criticism themselves punched down, going after ordinary people as opposed to public figures, and he criticises that.

            And I don’t think it’s fair to hold somebody responsible for harassment committed by somebody else. If that’s the standard, then legitimate criticism is impossible (a point Greenwald himself has made). If somebody without much of a moral compass decided to harass or threaten Greenwald and his family after reading your criticisms of him, it wouldn’t be fair to hold you responsible for that.

            You have a good point about his lack of (at least publicly aired) animosity against the Russian IC. But he’s been personally victimized by American/allied intelligence. The American IC is a much bigger threat to him personally.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Yes, in his shrill unmodulated way, Mr. Greenwald tries to make legitimate criticism of him impossible. In foreign policy, his lack of proportionality would be an offense.

              None of your arguments explain, for example, Greenwald’s use of Faux Noise. His argument seems to be that the MSM avoids him because he’s too left wing – an argument that would apply equally to Ms. Potty Mouth – and so he uses the tools available. If that were true – and his use of the Intercept, substack, and other outlets suggests it’s not – FN wouldn’t give him one either, which means the explanation lies elsewhere.

              • Kenster says:

                Many things about Glenn Greenwald bother me, but the one that bothers me the most is his obsession with making criticism of him impossible and playing the martyr at every opportunity. I’m embarrassed for him even if he will not be embarrassed for himself.

              • Dysnomia says:

                I’m surprised you didn’t mention Tucker Carlson, who most of his appearances on Fox have been with, and who’s quite repugnant.

                And I think that Greenwald being “too far left” isn’t quite it. You can be quite far to the left in some ways and still be allowed a mainstream platform. But his positions on certain issues are outside the Overton window.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  Now you’re just trolling. I made my point without mentioning FN’s lead commentators, who do not deserve any more prominence. Greenwald is not too far left, except in his imagination. He is just idiosyncratic in his concerns, and has no tolerance for those who share them but do not follow his lead.

                  AOC, for example, is leftist here, but would be regarded as at best a moderate by any leftist party in Europe. Today’s Republicans, on the other hand, would be seen for what they are: an anti-democratic party for wealth and of the hard right.

          • Duke says:

            GG reminds me of priests who protest too much about younger generations. Punching down is the only way some creatures extend a hand. Wonder if he has a souvenir collection which someone uses as leverage.

    • Melkor says:

      I don’t know why people seem resistant to the notion the Greenwald has white supremacist tendencies and soft-pedalled Trump because he genuinely believes in white identity populism. Awhile back I read an essay that deeply examined the politics of Assange, Snowden and Greenwald. All three are Ron Paul-style libertarians – that includes distrust of the state, an emphasis on individual freedom, and at best a willingness to accept racist and sometimes fascist ideas and allies.

      I don’t believe GG is a grifter or an agent. He’s too emotional and borderline self-destructive for that. I believe he’s a true believer in an emerging left/right white identity populist movement. This is very dangerous.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I believe that, like most narcissists, Glenn confuses what’s good for him with what benefits a larger community, and shows little restraint in advocating for it. Similarly, Ron and Rand Paul “libertarianism” envisions a personal liberty unconstrained by the conflicting wishes of other, similarly “free” individuals. That is, their views are fundamentally adolescent. Neither seems to value those who do not uniformly follow the leader.

      • Dysnomia says:

        I don’t know about Assange, but Greenwald is very far from Ron Paul. I think Greenwald is broadly speaking a left-libertarian, even a libertarian socialist (though not an anarchist). He’s no supporter of capitalism, while American-style “libertarians” are capitalists first and last.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          GG might consider himself a left libertarian, but his views seem to have plenty of room for anarchism, and his leftism is malleable enough to support authoritarians who support him.

          • Kenster says:

            For a left libertarian he sure makes a lot of excuses for a Machiavellian authoritarian.

          • Dysnomia says:

            Good point, but I think horseshoe theory is only useful on a case by case basis. Stalin and Hitler might have a lot of similarities, but Bakunin and Rothbard don’t (even though they used the same self-assigned label).

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          No supporter of capitalism? Anyone who props up Trumpism is supporting capitalism, especially when they do it on Fox opinion shows. Greenwald’s arguments have served mainly to comfort the comfortable as he’s turned himself into a lapdog. He does spend most of his time punching down, finding new platforms like Substack that allow him to monetize his attempts to silence and disempower former allies.

          • Dysnomia says:

            Only if the enemy of my enemy’s enemies is also my enemy. Greenwald is a supporter of Trumpism only if opposing the enemies of Trump necessarily means supporting Trump. Greenwald is a populist, anti-elitist, anti-establishmentarian, but he’s no Trumpist.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Your exception seems to swallow your rule. Opposing Trump’s opponents supports Trump, as every supporter of Trump would agree.

              Greenwald’s version of being anti-establishment leans heavily into anarchy, and a pox on your both your houses mentality. As for him still being anti-elitist, not many of those have law degrees from NYU and complain about making only half a million a year.

            • emptywheel says:

              The guy who made close to $500K a year is anti-elitist?

              I’m sorry you’ve been taken for a rube.

        • Melkor says:

          GG was literally a Ron Paul supporter. He favoured him over Obama. In fact, many of his stances he has on the Democratic Party today, he was making during the Obama years in favour of Ron Paul.

  2. Peterr says:

    Meanwhile, custody of Edward Snowden would be a very enticing dangle for Putin to offer Biden as a way to reset Russia’s relationship with the US. One cannot negotiate with Putin, one can only adjust the points of leverage over each other and hope to come to some stable place, and Snowden has always been at risk of becoming a bargaining chip in such a relationship. By turning Snowden over to the US to be martyred in a high profile trial, Putin might wring the last bit of value out of Snowden. All the better, from Putin’s standpoint, if Greenwald were to respond by releasing the full Snowden set.

    Putin is clearly angling for a reset. Back in April, Putin announced that US missions in Russia would be prohibited from hiring any non-US nationals. (Hiring locals like this is a common practice at many nations’ embassies and missions around the world for non-sensitive positions). This was to take effect on May 12, but now the effective date has been pushed back to July 16, perhaps to set the stage for a reset.

    That said, I don’t see him getting what he wants. While trading Snowden for a policy/relationship reset with the US would be good for Putin, I can’t see Biden/the US accepting it. With the recent buildup of Russia troops along the Ukraine border, the Colonial Pipeline hack by folks harbored by Russia, and other provocative moves, a simple “we give you Snowden and you let the rest of this stuff slide” is far from something I think NSC/DIA/CIA analysts would think is a good idea.

    Most of all, though, Biden is not Trump, and getting what looks like a quick win for a fast headline (“I nabbed Snowden!”) is not just not his style, but is not his approach to foreign policy. With decades spent honing his chops at the Senate Foreign Relations committee and 8 years of more hands-on foreign policy experience as Obama’s VP, I think Biden will see this for what is it: Putin’s attempt to get the last little bit of value out of Snowden, rather than any kind of change of heart by Putin that would actually signal a change in Russia’s posture toward the US and Europe.

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think Snowden would be enough, nor do I think it all that’s going on. But I do know they badly badly badly want Snowden for trial.

      • Peterr says:

        Is it simply a desire to lock him away via the legal system and a trial, or is there an IC reason why they want to get him back — e.g., to question him and learn more about how he did it, who he talked to in Russia, etc.?

        The former smacks of revenge, which is rarely a good idea from a foreign policy perspective. The latter, OTOH, could make a lot more sense.

        • emptywheel says:

          I fear a lot of it is revenge, which is why I wrote this. That said, I’m not sure how much of even this they would put into an indictment w/o extradition, so I think they’d like him, also, so they can tell what they actually know about him.

          • Peterr says:

            If Putin dangles him in a deal and Biden refuses it, I don’t think it will go well for Snowden in Russia. The reaction of a snubbed Putin is not a pleasant thought. “Ok Joe, if you won’t take the deal to get him back, I hope he doesn’t suffer a sudden but slow and painful death, forcing me to have to reluctantly make it known to the world that you could have prevented it by taking the deal. . .”

          • earthworm says:

            i’d like to think that someone is thinking and working hard to get Snowden to Iceland —

    • Kenster says:

      I think you have it exactly correct. I would fully expect Putin to dangle Snowden to the US as part of the reset, but I also agree that I don’t think Biden will take him up on it, at least right now. I, for one, hope that at some point in his Presidency, when the situation with Russia is more neutral, that he does take him up on it. I want Snowden in the US and on trial.

  3. Ken Haylock says:

    I wonder what would be enough for a reset. I suspect that the US might demand a mea-culpa & full accounting of what he did with Trump. Putin can present it as ‘Sometimes when an intelligence operation is far _too_ successful, it can damage international relations far more than intended.’

    I suspect that Russia really doesn’t want a highly volatile post-democracy US with enough nukes to end life on earth multiple times, because there are ways that can go wrong that cause human extinction fairly abruptly…

    Also, Putin handing over the pee tape at a Kremlin press conference would be newsworthy…

  4. BobCon says:

    “To be very clear, I’m not claiming that Greenwald is taking money from or is any way controlled by Russia. I am very much not claiming that, in part because it wouldn’t be necessary. Why pay Greenwald for what you can get him to do for free?”

    I’m glad to see this, because I have a running problem with the way a lot of people jump to the explanation of Putin Kompromat for the behavior of the GOP and their collaborators.

    There is no question that Russia runs extensive dirty tricks operations. But it is nowhere near the scale to explain the depravity of the right. The Murdochs alone have ten times the influence of Putin, and Putin doesn’t own the Murdochs.

    And on a more abstract level, I think a subset of the left feels like drawing a Putin connection is a useful attack, but I think that’s mistaken on a couple of levels. One is that you can’t shame the shameless, and even if Ron Johnson was caught in bed with Putin and his lover, he wouldn’t change.

    But also, it actually minimizes what these people are doing. Greenwald or Ted Cruz or Clarence Thomas being coerced into attacking democracy means they have a level of insulation and humanity that all evidence suggests is lacking. They’re not victims in any way, they’re coconspirators out of pure curdled personal motives.

    I think when money or compromise is involved, it is almost always to channel an existing flow of evil, rather than create it.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think Ron Johnson got demonstrably worse after his Russia trip, but agree he was plenty awful all by himself. That said, he’s all about the $$ that’s funding him and so he’s easy to buy.

      I also think Glenn is a unique or at least fairly unique case to the degree that Snowden’s asylum in Russia has tied Glenn’s entire career to Russia in a way that he’ll never move beyond.

    • Reader 21 says:

      You raise good points, as does Marcy in responding—and certainly with the likes of those you point out. I’d add only, if one substitutes transnational organized crime for Russia—and the concurrent coercive threats all that entails—there’s perhaps more a connection than some are yet willing to draw. Trafficking in human misery, as the former NATO accused Putin intentionally of doing, in creating mass refugee situations (and the resulting multitudes of vulnerable women and children). We also need to ask more questions, as the fabulous former mob prosecutor Dan Goldman writes, about all those threatened to remain silent.

  5. greengenes says:

    Isn’t Snowden running to Russia a little suspect, in the context of Assange’s connection to Russia and Snowden? It is one thing to whistleblow in the US, for which laws exist to protect whistleblowers, but then another thing to seek protection from, adhere to, and/or comfort Russia thereafter. Kind of a throw shit at democratic enemies, hope it sticks, and then run to your conservative cabal approach, not unlike Assange fleeing to England, even if to a foreign embassy. Similarly, it is one thing to want to get to the truth, and another thing for Assange to aid, comfort, and/or adhere to Russia and/or Russian agents to “engineer” a 2016 elections win for Trump, who (Trump) along with Trump’s orbit (which includes the UK) had extensive connections to Russia (who allegedly engineered a win for both Trump and the UK’s Brexit). Isn’t it more likely that Snowden, Assange, and Trump were agents of Russia and/or the UK intent on harming US democracy in the hundred years old (if not 600 years old) global fascist/conservative versus antifa/liberation fight? Paraphrasing Elizabeth Warren, it’s not a fight against the left or the right, but the top against the bottom, and not just here, everywhere. Thoughts on all the same?

    • bmaz says:

      Russia was not the original destination. Secondly, no, there are no “whistleblower protections” for this type of activity. Public service defense is not even permitted.

    • John Lehman says:

      “…. it’s not a fight against the left or the right, but the top against the bottom, and not just here, everywhere. Thoughts on all the same?”

      —To paraphrase Krishna’s dialogue with Arjunas:

      “As a matter of fact, life itself is an endless battle”… Krishna’s answers to Arjunas questions are no doubt as relevant to us as they were to the young prince.

      • John Lehman says:

        The ultimate battle is how we each, in our own little milieu, can contribute to the battle of civilization’s advancing.

        • gmoke says:

          Nearly 40 years of martial arts practice has convinced me to avoid war metaphors. Incidentally, I happen to be reading the Bhagavad-Gita now in both Sanskrit and English.

          • John Lehman says:

            The horror of war is more than enough to temper the indiscriminate use of war metaphors but the vision of a march to justice in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is always moving.

            Only had four years of martial arts Gojyu-Ryu Japanese (Okinawan)….did learn enough to know the most important thing is to avoid violence.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Ah, the real Mr. Miyagi’s creation. I’m afraid the rule I learned – since repeated in film to the point of parody – is that there are no rules. It helps avoid surprise. But it requires a restraint – and a contradiction – that seems foreign to Mr. Greenwald.

              • John Lehman says:

                Oh yea, Pat Marita as Mr. Miyagi “wax on wax off” conning the poor karate kid to wax and polish his car.

                The real Miyagi:
                A man of a different time an earlier generation.

                Greenwald…what happened to him?

    • Dysnomia says:

      I think it’s true that this is a fight of the top against the bottom, and people like Assange, Snowden, Manning and Hale are involved in that fight, but not in the side that you think they are.

      The “intelligence community” does what it does to protect the interests of a particular set of very wealthy capitalists and their backers in the U.S. state, as opposed to other sets of somewhat less wealthy capitalists and their backers in the Russian and Chinese states. It’s not about “protecting our way of life,” baseball and apple pie. It’s about ensuring that neoliberalism proceeds full steam ahead, under U.S. hegemony.

      In the contest between Assange, Snowden et al, against the U.S. government, the “leakers” like Snowden and publishers like Assange are on the morally right side (even though Assange might be an asshole). It’s the government that’s in the wrong, morally speaking.

      It shouldn’t have to be said that this is not a defense of the Russian dictator, who is not a good person and who wants only to himself be the hegemon. But anyone who desires liberation for ordinary people (however they conceive that) has to see the “intelligence community” and their equivalents in other countries as enemies. Like Assange and Snowden (and Glenn Greenwald) do, whatever their flaws.

      • Rayne says:

        I’ll be sure to look for this: “The “intelligence community” does what it does to protect the interests of a particular set of very wealthy capitalists and their backers in the U.S. state, as opposed to other sets of somewhat less wealthy capitalists and their backers in the Russian and Chinese states” in the job description for intelligence community postings.

        ~eye roll~ Nobody joining intelligence signs on for this.

        It’s not that the U.S. has an intelligence apparatus; it’s that the people of the “government of, by, and for the people” have failed to do more than the minimum required to keep this republic, allowing its co-option by entities which can afford to engage in regulatory capture.

        • Dysnomia says:

          “Nobody joining intelligence signs on for this.”

          And yet that’s what they do. Just like nobody enlisting in the military signs on to serve as a tool of U.S. hegemony and imperialism abroad, and yet that’s what they do.

          These institutions have a particular function, and they serve that function even if very few within the institution are cognizant of it. Just like the function of the state, broadly speaking, is to protect the interests, property and privilege of the capitalist class against the working class. Fundamentally that’s why the police, military and other coercive state institutions exist (all other functions are secondary), even though almost no police officers would conceive of their role in society in that way.

          • Rayne says:

            What are you doing about the manner in which the state — a government of, by, and for the people — wields its monopoly on force besides bitching at the community here? Are you doing outreach to educate and organize voters? Because that’s the root cause of the problem: Americans for too long have confused consumerism with civics and failed to do their part to keep a republic. Are you doing anything to promote anti-racism? Because that’s another factor in why enough Americans don’t turn out to vote to change the direction of the state.

            Most of the people who join the military do so for two reasons, in the absence of a draft: for financial reasons and/or a sense of patriotic duty. There will be fewer joining the military you dislike so much if elected officials didn’t starve public institutions and safety nets. But that requires engagement of people who do more than fucking bitch at those who are doing their own bit to keep a republic.

            Go find something constructive to do.

            • Dysnomia says:

              I think you’re putting too much hope in the prospect of electing the right people. If only we could elect a couple hundred more AOCs to congress, we could finally take the government back and force the state machine to operate for and under the people instead of against and over them. I don’t think that’s true.

              I think part of the problem is representative democracy itself, a perversion of democracy where the participation of ordinary people is limited to choosing a slate of leaders every couple years, delegating all power to them, then sitting back and letting the leaders handle things. This is a recipe for the masses always being at the mercy of others, who will never have our best interests at heart because power is inherently corrupting.

              AOC is an example. She said a lot of the right things when she ran for Congress, and she was quite possibly totally sincere. But once she finds herself in Congress, her perspective changes – she’s no longer an ordinary working class American but is herself now a member of the elite – and her actions less and less correspond to the rhetoric she used to get elected.

              This happens all the time, and it’s inevitable. If Bernie Sanders had been elected president, the left (or the “left” since there really isn’t much of a left in this country) would already be outraged that he had backtracked on so many promises, tacked to the right and acted in office to maintain the system he railed against as a candidate, a la Obama. And people would be saying oh, we just have to elect someone better next time.

              We will never liberate ourselves by electioneering, only by relying on ourselves and each other, acting directly, for ourselves, individually and collectively. To paraphrase Rage Against the Machine, don’t just raise your fist and march around, but take what you need. The “looting and riots” after George Floyd was murdered had a better chance of changing this country than any progressive candidate for Congress.

              • bmaz says:

                Don’t go lecturing Marcy or Rayne. About anything. Or spamming our threads.

                To paraphrase, well, you, “I think you’re putting too much hope in the prospect” that anybody here cares about much of that.

              • Rayne says:

                she’s no longer an ordinary working class American but is herself now a member of the elite” — wow, you do not get how a “government, of, by, and for the people” is supposed to work. It’s almost as if you weren’t educated in American public schools.

                This bit:

                “We will never liberate ourselves by electioneering, only by relying on ourselves and each other, acting directly, for ourselves, individually and collectively. To paraphrase Rage Against the Machine, don’t just raise your fist and march around, but take what you need. The “looting and riots” after George Floyd was murdered had a better chance of changing this country than any progressive candidate for Congress.”

                bears little difference from the rhetoric of the seditionists and insurrectionists who attempted to overthrow the election’s results. No white persons in this country has a legitimate reason for looting or rioting when the system is built by and for them.

                You’re walking a fine line now; advocate for violence and you’re done here.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Now you’re cherry picking legitimate criticism, superficially and without context. You’re just word trolling, without understanding or advocating for how we might get “there” from here. But it helps me understand your allegiance to the narcissistic Greenwald, who shares your dismissal of process and possibility, preferring a chaos where his is the only voice of reason.

                Cromwell comes to mind: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.”

      • Arundel says:

        ” It’s not about “protecting our way of life,” baseball and apple pie. It’s about ensuring that neoliberalism proceeds full steam ahead, under U.S. hegemony.”

        Every interview with people in the intelligence services I’ve read over my long life includes some expression that they joined out of strong patriotic feeling, that they truly do love the United States and wanted to protect it as a career. This is not an uncommon sentiment, it’s widespread in the many millions of Americans who voluntarily join the armed forces over the decades.

        I have no basis for doubting this feeling of patriotism, however naive or risible you might find it, is untrue. Is sincere patriotism really such a foreign concept to you that you ascribe the absolutely worst cynical motivations to these people? Because silly me, I grew up a first generation American where affection for this country was deeply felt and strong. I find it easier to believe that millions joined the intelligence services over decades due to an actual patriotism, especially during the Cold War, than your imagined army of zombies motivated by “MUST BE MINDLESS DRONE FOR NEOLIBERAL CAPITALIST HEGEMONIC EMPIRE beep beep.”

        Where do you get your mind-reading skills , or the idea that the US hasn’t had powerful enemies with intelligence agencies of their own fighting to undermine it for the past 80 years or more? It’s a cliché of every spy movie and cop TV show that youthful idealism fades into jaded world-weariness. But actual human beings don’t actually behave like the robots you describe, or within your own clichéd parameters of hegemonicneoliberalcapitalistdeepstateEmpire. Most of them actually do love their country, I know it’s an alien notion to you.

        • Rayne says:

          Thank you for that. I bit my tongue responding to Dysnomia’s comment, held back that family members have worked in military in intelligence functions. They didn’t do it because they were supporters of the neoliberal oligarchy but because it was their duty to the nation. They also served at a time when our country and its military was pointedly anti-fascist as policy.

          • Dysnomia says:

            I have no doubt that your family members were motivated by a sincerely felt patriotism, and that they believed they were doing the right thing for the American people. My point isn’t that your family members and people like them are bad people with bad motives. My point is that they were lied to.

            And that’s not quite right. The people doing the “lying” themselves almost certainly sincerely believed the lies. “Deceived” is a better word.

            • Rayne says:

              Uh-huh. Let me ask the guy who served in the Korean War whether he realizes he was lied to by his government. ~smdh~

              • P J Evans says:

                I could ask my mother’s cousin who was a Navy officer for more than 30 years, starting with Korea, and spending a year in Vietnam after 1968. Or my uncle who was in for 10 years, mostly in submarines.

      • emptywheel says:

        So you would argue Glenn’s favorite source–Russian intelligence–is part of the problem?

        • Dysnomia says:

          Putting aside the “Glenn’s favorite source” bit, yes. No one who cares about freedom can have any love for Vladimir Putin or the Russian government. They’re worse than many others, and I’d rather live here than there.

          But they’re not unique. The U.S. also interferes in the elections of other countries, conducts aggressive offensive cyber operations, props up brutal dictators, and assassinates its enemies. This isn’t to justify it when Russia does it, but we don’t have the moral high ground, despite the protestations of the American IC and security state that unlike the Russians we’re doing it for a good cause. (And we’re not, global hegemony is no better a cause for us than for them.)

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Putting aside the elephant in the room, that is.

            Your description of nefarious intelligence activities conducted by both sides may be reasonable. But it does not explain or justify Greenwald’s behavior, or make it consistent with his claim of being a left liberal advocate for free speech.

            More probable explanations lie elsewhere, and are not as pretty. Commentators who share your allegiance are more easily found at nakedcapitalism. They still think that Glenn and Taibbi walk on water, like Master Chiun.

          • Rayne says:

            I seriously doubt you live *here* if by that you mean the U.S.; in your ~15 comments to date as “Dysnomia” you’ve left ample clues to suggest otherwise. When you use the word “we” as in “we don’t have the moral high ground,” I question the identity of “we.”

          • bmaz says:

            Dysnomia, you are in the wrong place. And, no, nobody here has time for that trolling garbage. So sorry, Uncle Albert.

            • Rayne says:

              When they fail to recognize a key concept from one of America’s most important pieces of rhetoric, going to far as to minimize its relevance, it’s a troll. Tsk-tsk.

  6. tvor_22 says:

    It always puzzled me to hear people make outrageous claims about Greenwald being in the knowing pay of the Kremlin. Completely unnecessary and for someone like Glenn, probably counterproductive (might make him think too much). Like most of these characters, you can literally send them a spy to interview (or to use as a source) and they will tie themselves into knots supporting their cover story, attacking their victims, and going out of their way to ignore any troubling circumstances.

  7. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Thanks for consistently calling this out, it’s disgusting to see GG bullying relatively unknown, usually female, journalists who don’t have a powerful governor for a brother or star power in their newsroom.

    Could the US try Snowden in absentia if they wanted to?

    • Dysnomia says:

      What’s the difference between bullying and criticism? Is it possible to criticise journalists and their work without endangering them? Greenwald makes a good point in bringing up these questions.

      And Greenwald has gone after Chris Cuomo, especially when Andrew used his official position to benefit Chris, and Chris used his public platform to prop up Andrew and help him propagandize on-air.

        • Rayne says:

          You’d think within 707 total words over the course of 24 hours a point would have surfaced, but perhaps that’s the point itself: DDoSing a comment thread with a flurry of words.

  8. Eureka says:

    Who’s paying for all the Substack subscriptions?

    In witnessing any given of Greenwald’s twitter spells, I cannot help but think that he’s saving Putin’s chef a lot of money. Or is he? And further wondering in follow-up, but how many cents on the dollar is he saving? A lot, probably.*

    Note this is a more nuanced set of questions than would lead to a notion like “Putin Pays Greenwald.”

    If like-minded personalities, backbenchers especially, can comfortably pay their basic bills on such payment models and retain ample free time to destroy America from within, why not some boosts to the their kitties by our enemies? Plus small investments in subscriber numbers for some of those folks could boost a forward-feeding sunshine effect, where the popular become more popular.

    *Besides the free top-line labors of love (the tweets themselves), this ilk elevate through passive hosting — I don’t own this! I read, cultivate, and engage in my replies solely for pugilistic gain — a variety pack of disinfo (of late, lots of anti-Asian/ anti-gov/anti-public health racist pseudoscience wrt COVID) atop the replies of their ‘viral’ screeds. There are hooks for everyone, new rhythms of expertise in bullshit to pick up.

  9. may says:

    John Lehman at 2:25….
    there has always been a problem with this kind of “we have all the answers” stuff for me.
    constant furiosity cos god said.
    the poor man didn’t want to kill his cousins.
    but he had too.

    ah, family values.

    • John Lehman says:

      Mostly agree,
      It wasn’t the messengers (Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ, Mohammad) but the fanatic, self righteous followers falsely claiming their way was only way that caused so many horrors in the name of God and religion.

      If religion causes hate, it is best not to have it.

  10. Reader 21 says:

    Thank you Marcy, another awesome post—gee I wonder who it could’ve been, to call and berate you over writing the truth. Thanks for calling out Greenwald, who invariably punches down, especially those fighting the rising tide of illiberalism. The next time Glenn defends a Putin critic, will be the first time. All these brave Russian reporters, who’ve seen colleagues investigating the Moscow apartment bombings and Chechnya gunned down in their flat, jailed and their families threatened—has Glenn ever uttered a single word of defense? Or against the madman, mob-owned dictator behind it all? Where’s our great free speech libertarian defender now? The Russian military intelligence and security services attack our allies, infrastructure and democracy, bombs hospitals (Syria) invades neighbors and assassinates whistleblowers (Litvenenko). Where’s Glenn?

    • Dysnomia says:

      Russia bombs hospitals in Syria, the U.S. bombs hospitals in Afghanistan, and Israel bombs hospitals in Gaza. All three have important similarities.

      • Reader 21 says:

        I must’ve missed Glenn’s criticism of Russia’s Syria hospital bombings—along with all his other criticisms of Russia’s propping up of Assad generally.

  11. JR says:

    Interesting article but I’ve always felt we’ve given GG, Assange, and Snowden way too much press. They come off more as needy, narcissistic sociopaths he’ll bent on destructive methods, half-truths, and anti U.S. sentiments and little more who unfortunately captured the imagination of the gullible. He was a Sy’s admin, not a spy, for example, but the narrative built him up. He made his gf write nice things about him every day he was so insecure – the kind of controlling behavior indicative of pathology. Something really wrong about all of them.

  12. Grayson Reim says:

    Aside from the narcissism and rage, I find Glenn’s lack there of coverage of China security relations to be interesting. For one, the “China Threat”, something Christopher Wray said would take a “whole of society approach”, seems to be the new bipartisan justification for anything getting done in Washington. This is something an anti-establishment person like Glenn is often critical of, or at least finds suspicious. He is silent on the matter, though, as far as I can tell; weird for someone who seems to have an opinion about everything on Twitter. The only article he produced about China, at least that I can tell, is a wildly speculative article about how China has influence over Biden, something I imagine his Substack subscribers don’t mind hearing.

    To be fair, I don’t think Glenn is alone here: many journalist don’t have much to say about the issue. He may well feel it’s going out of his area of expertise and has accordingly written little. Or, alternatively, the particular narratives about American-Russian power relations, given their long history, are closer at hand, so he confuses convenience for relevance.

    Anyhow, I know this is largely an aside. My point, I guess, would be: in the broader National Security coverage about civil liberties, there seems to be a big glaring China hole.

    • emptywheel says:

      I used to write a lot about it–it is not covered enough, especially when you consider the most common targets of FISA these days are almost certainly Chinese-Americans.

      • Grayson Reim says:

        Yeah, it’s just been bizarre to watch them rail on the Covid Leak Theory stuff while simultaneously talking about how it’s good to pursue better relations with Russia. Their analysis doesn’t seem to be consistent, but maybe I’m missing something.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A smart observation by a former colleague of Greenwald’s at the Intercept, an organization he co-founded but now can’t stop shitting on. (Greenwald always uses character assassination mode when responding to critics. It’s as if he’s afraid they know too much.) Paul Farhi quotes it in his WaPo article, which sticks to the useless horse race framing his colleagues use to cover politics: only position and speed matter, never facts, substance, or policy.

    Intercept editor @betsyreed2: “I feel like Glenn has lost his moral compass and his grip on reality. He’s done a good job of torching his journalistic reputation. He’s a huge bully.”

    EW kneecaps Farhi’s horse race coverage: “This article would be far more effective if it didn’t pretend it had no way to litigate the truth claims here. This is not a both-sides issue: Glenn is making shit up.”

    • Rayne says:

      This is good news for once. On the other hand CNN’s Jeff Zucker is a big reason why we ended up with Trump — is Zucker’s machine prepping for their preferred 2024 candidate who apparently isn’t Santorum?

  14. Tom Shea says:

    Isn’t Greenwald’s heel turn at least in some measure due to the fact that the Obama administration detained his husband over Snowden? I’ve always assumed that was a catalyst in his desire to go all Michael Koolhaas against ‘the liberals.”

    • bmaz says:

      Um, no, that is complete revisionist garbage. And completely so. Thanks for dropping by. Don’t underestimate the ability of people here to sort through the garbage.

      • emptywheel says:

        Why is that revisionist garbage?

        Glenn got more and more furious about the [American] Deep State. The detention of David was one of the things that led him to believe the entire Deep State was against him for what he viewed as speech.

        • bmaz says:

          He, himself, sent David. Who was “detained” for a whole nine hours. The seizures were more important than the brief detention. Was that a disturbing message to Glenn? Absolutely.

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