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Weissman writes: "If hard cases make bad law, as legal scholars like to say, tough stories teach us what good journalism should be. The investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has just shown this in an intensely human way."

Glenn Greenwald. (photo: AP)
Glenn Greenwald. (photo: AP)

Glenn Greenwald and the Vengeance of "Objective Journalism"

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

22 August 13


f hard cases make bad law, as legal scholars like to say, tough stories teach us what good journalism should be. The investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald has just shown this in an intensely human way.

Leading The Guardian's coverage of whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks about the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its bulk collection of everyone's electronic communications, Greenwald has sorted through thousands of legal and technical details and made them comprehensible to millions of people who need to know just what the greatly enhanced surveillance state means to them and the diminishing possibility of democratic government. If he doesn't win a Pulitzer prize for his work, the award will lose all meaning.

The story has now turned extremely personal. As the world knows, his Brazilian partner David Miranda was flying from Berlin to Rio by way of London's Heathrow Airport, when British authorities detained him for nearly nine hours under Schedule 7 of Britain's sweeping Terrorism Act 2000. They also searched his carry-on bags and confiscated his mobile phone, laptop, memory sticks, smart-watch, DVDs, and games consoles.

Miranda was reportedly carrying material from film-maker Laura Poitras to Greenwald, but no one has made the slightest suggestion that any of the three have anything to do with terrorists or terrorism. Such laws give governments the legal right to do most anything they want, which is why we need to trash most of them.

To my mind, Greenwald's response was perfect, though I know it will trouble many people who think of themselves as liberals. He immediately saw the detention for what it was, an attempt to intimidate him and curb his use of Snowden's documents and investigation of the surveillance state. Instead, he said, he planned "to write more aggressively than before" about government snooping.

"I'm going to publish many more things about England as well," he said. "I have many documents about the system of espionage of England, and now my focus will be there, too. I think they'll [come to] regret what they've done."

For those who have swallowed whole the anodyne fantasy of "objective journalism," the idea of a reporter threatening to tell certain stories might seem out of place. But, in truth, most investigative journalists - and here I speak from first-hand experience in print, radio, and television - are motivated by a desire to get the bastards, whichever bastards they happen to be. As journalists rather than conspiracy theorists or propagandists, we tell the reader where we're coming from, try to stick to the evidence, and report any evidence that would disprove our hypotheses.

It's not just that everyone has their own prejudices and that nobody, even at The New York Times, can be truly objective. It's that investigative journalists like Glenn Greenwald - and websites like Reader Supported News - care about the stories we pursue, and that's what drives us to work as hard as we do.

"This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism," said Greenwald. "It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples."

"If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded," he said. "If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further."

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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