Category Archives: Snowden Edward

Mr. Greenwald Promises Transparency But Delivers Opaqueness


Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.  Wikipedia

Some four years ago I had the occasion to visit the northern German city of Lübeck, home to Thomas Mann and setting of his Buddenbrooks, where  I joined a sightseeing groups of German-speaking tourists.  Our guide explained various periods of the city’s history.  For WWII, he found only one event worth mentioning:  what he described as the barbarity of bombings by the RAF.  Indeed, it occurred to me while listening, the people of Lübeck had suffered.  But I also recalled something the guide did not mention, i.e. the Holocaust that had occurred  some kilometers further east.

Fast forward four years.  Within the last three weeks Mr. Glenn Greenwald and his Omidyar-financed website Intercept have thundered against Israel and Israel’s various putative barbarities in Gaza.  I found not one word, not a single one, that could be construed as criticism or even reservation concerning the actions of Hamas.  (I have blogged about one of these recent Greenwald anti-Israel broadsides.)

So one of Glenn Greenwald’s offenses against intellectual integrity — and there are a number of these  is cherry picking, as defined in my quotation above.  But the problem with the Omidyar-Greenwald website is actually much more extreme because it is not just some ordinary  propagandistic one-sidedness  that  can be detected by the observant reader.  I would call it a higher cherry picking, consisting of the total suppression of any information  that does not fit into the author’s ideology.

It is no secret that Greenwald has obtained the vast trove of US government secrets that were stoled by Edward Snowden.  Now, more than a year later, Greenwald and his collaborators dip into this trove and other stolen government documents from time to time, pick from them whatever they want to pick,  and present the result as a truthful representation of what the world is all about.  Since nobody outside of the Greenwald organization has access to these materials there is no way for Greenwald’s readers to know whether a) the particular document now “revealed” actually comes from US government sources;  whether b) if indeed it does, it is presented in its entirety;  and finally whether c) if it is, there are other documents in the collection that limit or contradict it.  In other words, a reader must accept, on faith alone, that the document exists and that it means what Greenwald says it means.

A typical example of the Greenwald method is his posting, just three days ago, of an article “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance:  the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack.”  The piece purports to tell a story, using Snowden documents, of secret US military, financial, and intelligence support of “Israel’s military assaults — such as the one in Gaza.”

First of all, there are publicly available materials that US assistance of this kind is routinely given to Arab countries as well, something Greenwald does not mention.  We know, for instance, that the US has provided Qatar, the ally of Hamas, with such cooperation. Moreover, as Cliff Kincaid has reported,  ” [Greenwald’s] own reporting [inadvertently] discloses that the NSA and the Israeli signals intelligence unit (ISNU) have shared information with the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.”

So much for Greenwald’s cherry picking, which, indeed, can be detected by diligent googling.  But there is the more insidious “higher cherry picking,” which consists of citing wholly opaque sources (the Snowden papers), not accessible to anyone but Greenwald himself, and which Greenwald expects his readers to accept on his sole say-so.

So here is my question to all those who see some value in Greenwald’s journalism:  since there is no way of verifying his assertions, and since, moreover, his record for veracity has never been established, what possible grounds can there be for defending his work ? Mr. Greenwald says that he favors “transparency” of government, but what he practices is total opaqueness.


Who Loves Edward Snowden ?

“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”  Like all proverbs, this one has its limits, and is not, in any case, an infallible guide.  Who does not have, in his circle of friendly acquaintances, someone whose wisdom and/or probity is open to question ?

But with all that, the collection of Edward Snowden admirers is striking.  Snowden, it will be remembered, is a former employee of the US National Scurity Agency who stole US secret documents and took them to his current residence in Moscow, where he is a fugitive from US law enforcement.

I have previously reported on the politics of Glenn Greenwald, the London Guardian columnist who is largely responsible for much of  Snowden’s publicity in the West.  (And in the same place I reported on the mutual admiration between Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky.)  Today I wish to point primarily to the extraordinary approbation of Snowden by the neo-Nazis in Germany.

The most conspicuous German supporter of Snowden is not a neo-Nazi but the Green Party Bundestag deputy Christian Ströbele.  Ströbele travelled to Moscow to interview Snowden and praises him as one of his heroes.  Ströbele, in the far left wing of his party, is also known as the lawyer for the terrorist RAF Baader-Meinhof gang,  Visiting Israel in 1991, Ströbele declared in an interview that the Iraqi Scuds that were employed against Israel at the time were thoroughly justified in view of Israel’s repressive policies. And last year, Herr Ströbele demanded that the German prohibition against brother-sister marriage be revoked for the sake of much needed sexual freedom.

Snowden no doubt appreciates friends like Ströbele.  But does he also appreciate the admiration and friendship of Chairman Holger Apfel of the neo-Nazi National Democrat Party (NPD) ?

Last month Apfel created a disturbance in the legislature of Saxony in which he represents his party.  He interrupted proceedings by demanding that Germany give asylum to his hero, Edward Snowden, in line with the NPD position that the US, together with Israel, represents an absolute evil, and that, ergo, anything that hurts the US deserves his, Apfel’s, enthusiastic support.  When the chairman of the chamber pointed out that asylum is a federal and not a provincial matter, and that Apfel’s motion is therefore out of order in the provincial legislature, Apfel refused to yield the floor and had to be banned from the legislature for the session.  (He had previously been banned from the legislature on a number of occasions for making anti-Semitic statements on the house floor.) For those who understand German, here is a report with video of Apfel’s tantrum in the Saxon legislature.

As far as I know, neither Snowden nor Greenwald has commented on these efforts by their German supporters.  Nor has Mr. Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald’s billionaire sponsor.

When Comrade Glenn Greenwald Meets Mr. Pierre Omidyar

Crackpot + $8,5 Billion = Potential for Mischief

When Comrade Glenn Greenwald Meets Mr. Pierre Omidyar
Dramatis Personae
I  The Main Characters
Leon Trotsky
Pierre M. Omidyar
Glenn Greenwald 
Edward Snowden
Julian Assange
II The Supporting Characters
Laura Poitras
Jeremy Scahill
III Walk-Ons
Sherry Wolf
Chorus:  International Socialist Organization
“If it had not been for these things, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men [but now I am very important]” wrote the anarchist Bartolomeo Vanzetti (of Sacco and Vanzetti fame) after  what he considered his unjust conviction for murder in 1927.  Similar words could today be written  by the (London) Guardian’s columnist Glenn Greenwald.
Up to now, Greenwald’s message was hardly newsworthy.  It proclaims that Snowden, Assange, Noam Chomsky, and yes, Leon Trotsky are the great heroes of modern times.  And it holds that  America and Israel are the greatest villains ever.  Concerning Russia, China, Hamas, Hezbollah, Assad:  no complaints there.  In other words, cranky views hardly distinguishable from those of so many others in little fringe groups and fringe publications. Like Julian Assange of “Wikileaks,” Greenwald obtained a certain amount of notoriety for himself by retailing the leaks of secret US government documents that were provided by Edward Snowden and Private Bradley (now Chelsea Elizabeth) Manning.  Notoriety yes, but no real influence.
If it took a death sentence to propel Sacco and Vanzetti to popular attention, Greenwald’s leap from mere notoriety to a potentially major nuisance came as a result of an unexpected financial coup: the decision by the super-rich  Pierre Omidyar (net worth = $8.5 billion) to bankroll him.
Born of Iranian parents in France, educated in the US, founder of eBay, Mr. Omidyar has announced that he is committing about $250 million to a new online publication to be run by Greenwald and like-minded publicists Lauro Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.  Why would a multi-billionaire who owes so much to his adopted country bankroll a cranky malcontent who sees no greater evil than Uncle Sam ?  Search me.
The major newspapers have reported the plans for the Omidyar-Greenwald enterprise in some detail, and have also given some of the background of the two protagonists.  But with regard to Greenwald, the media have pulled their punches.  There is an under-reported story of Greenwald’s work in a pornographic enterprise, revealed by the Daily News but ignored everywhere else,  to which Greenwald has taken umbrage.  (Not all secrets should be revealed, it seems.)
And speaking of secrets that should not be revealed, it must be said that neither Greenwald nor Snowden nor Assange has ever broached the problem of Chinese or Russian, or, for that matter, Ecuadorian secret spying activities.  These fearless fact-revealers blow their whistles only against the United States (and, of course, Israel).
But back to what the papers have failed to tell us about Greenwald.  All the information that I am about to mention is freely available on the internet.  It does take a certain amount of willingness to dig.
For at least three years now Greenwald has been a featured speaker at the annual “Socialism” conference of the International Socialist Organization.  At these events he invariably stresses his solidarity with the ISO.  To understand the wellspring of Greenwald’s project we must look at this group.
The ISO is the most active and energetic of the remaining Trotskyist grouplets in the United States.  Its ideology follows one particular stream of the Trotskyist movement,  that initiated by Tony Cliff (Yigael Gluckstein) of Britain, which holds, contrary to its Trotskyist rivals, that the Soviet Union was not a “degenerated workers state” but rather a kind of “state capitalism.”  The dogmatists of the various Trotskyist grouplets still dispute one another on this and similar fine points.  (Of course all Trotskyists agree on the wonderful achievements of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, on the need for a revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, on the “imperialist” nature of American capitalism, and on other axioms of contemporary revolutionary Marxism.)  In any case, the American ISO holds an annual get-together to thrash out fine points;   such concerns are called “Marxist theory” and, the ISO tells us, “Marxism matters.”
But theory spinning is far from the only thing that happens.  These annual meetings are also occasions for hyperventilating in noisy chantings of what the group considers its most important slogans of the day.  Some of the recent slogans, chanted for amazingly long periods at the meeting, include “Intifada! Intifada!”, “Free Abortion on Demand !,” “Disarm the Police !,”  “Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea.”  I have included some materials on ISO agitation in a previous blog.
As I have said, Glenn Greenwald has addressed annual ISO meetings for at least three years.  These addresses are available on Youtube;  the last one, in 2013, is shown here.

It is quite a spectacle to watch.  There is the ISO agitator Sherry Wolf (described by Wikipedia as  “an American socialist, Jewish anti-Zionist, independent journalist and author …. openly lesbian …”) to introduce the proceedings.  Then Jeremy Scahill, The Nation writer and collaborator of Greenwald in the new Omidyar enterprise, introduces the featured speaker, Greenwald, who speaks to the conference by Skype from London.  Greenwald, as he has done at other Socialism conferences, stresses his complete solidarity with the ISO.  He shows, with the chorus of the ISO as backdrop, where he stands, what his mission is.  This stance — aiding all those who would subvert and overthrow democratic society — is not in any way hidden.  As I mentioned, it is there for anyone to discover on the internet. (For Greenwald’s use of anti-Semitic tropes, see this important article by Jeffrey Goldberg. For the ideological background of Greenwald’s antipathy toward Jews, see my article on Trotskyism and the Jews.)

Now what about Pierre Omidyar ? Why would he bankroll Greenwald ?  Omidyar has signed the “Giving Pledge” initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, a non-binding commitment by billionaires to give most of their fortunes to charity. But in the meantime he has committed a big chunk of his wealth to the cause of malice. Why would he do this ? Who can explain ?  Does he really wish to go down in history as the Henry Ford of the 21st century ?  As a bow to Ford’s  Dearborn Independent, will Omidyar’s new enterprise be dubbed the Honolulu Independent ?

Addendum 10/27/13

Greenwald on Chomsky and vice versa:  a mutual admiration society.  All you need to know about them is right here.


Addendum, February 2014
These documents reveal that
1) the group is smaller than I had assumed, apparently having no more than about 500 active members.
2) These five hundred comrades quarrel among themselves endlessly, rarely bothering with politeness.  Hence,
3) They do not seem to have realistic prospects of ever achieving much influence.
Hat tip:  Leslie Evans
Addendum, June 10, 2014
1)  As he has in years past, Greenwald will again address the Trotskyist International Socialist Organization this year.  Here is the ISO announcement.
2)  Greenwald’s No Place to Hide has received scathing criticisms in the press.  The one I recommend the most is by George Packer, and can be seen here.