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Greenwald writes: "The very notion that Julian Assange would have masterminded this leak from the start, but then chose to remain demurely and shyly in the background so that others would receive credit for it, would prompt choking fits of laughter among anyone who knows him."

Glenn Greenwald. (photo: Salon)
Glenn Greenwald. (photo: Salon)

Glenn Greenwald's Letter to Walter Pincus

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

09 July 13


hat you decided to write an entire column grounded solely in baseless innuendo is between you and your editors. But your assertion of several factually false claims about me, Laura Poitras, and others is not:

(1) "On April 10, 2012, Greenwald wrote for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials."

I have no idea what you're talking about here, and neither do you. I never wrote anything "for the WikiLeaks Press's blog". How you decided to pull that fact out of thin air is a genuine mystery.

The April 10, 2012, article of mine you seem to be referencing - about the serial border harassment of the filmmaker Laura Poitras - was written for Salon, where I was a Contributing Writer and daily columnist. Neither it, nor anything else I've ever written, was written "for the WikiLeaks Press's blog".

(2) "In that same interview, Assange previewed the first Greenwald Guardian story based on Snowden documents that landed a week later."

This claim is not just obviously false, but deeply embarrassing for someone who claims even a passing familiarity with surveillance issues.

The sentence you quoted from Assange's May 29 interview about the collection of phone records was preceded by this: "The National Security Agency - and this has come out in one court case after another - was involved in a project called Stellar Wind to collect all the calling records of the United States."

Stellar Wind, as you rather amazingly do not know, is the code name for the 2001-2007 Bush NSA spying program. As part of that program, the NSA (as you also rather amazingly did not know) engaged in the bulk collection of Americans' phone records.

Back in April, 2012, NSA whistleblower William Binney went on Democracy Now and detailed how, under Stellar Wind, the NSA argued that the Patriot Act "gives them license to take all the commercially held data about us" and has thus "assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about U.S. citizens with other U.S. citizens."

When "Assange described how NSA had been collecting 'all the calling records of the United States, every record of everyone calling everyone over years'", he was not "preview[ing] the first Greenwald Guardian story based on Snowden documents that landed a week later" (a story that revealed for the first time that a radical interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act was being used by the FISA court and the Obama DOJ to justify the bulk collection of Americans' communications record and that this indiscriminate domestic surveillance program was active under the Obama administration).

Instead, Assange was describing - explicitly - a Bush program from 8 years earlier, one that was widely reported at the time and thus known to the entire world (except, apparently, to you and your editors).

(3) "He [Snowden] worked less than three months at Booz Allen, but by the time he reached Hong Kong in mid-May, Snowden had four computers with NSA documents."

Edward Snowden has worked more or less continuously at the NSA for various contractors since 2009 - not since March, 2013. See this July 4, 2013, New York Times article on Snowden's four-year history at the NSA as a sophisticated cyber-operative: "In 2010, while working for a National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden learned to be a hacker. . . .By 2010, he had switched agencies and moved to Japan to work for Dell as an N.S.A. contractor, and he led a project to modernize the backup computer infrastructure, he said on the résumé. That year also appears to have been pivotal in his shift toward more sophisticated cybersecurity."

By the time he contacted us, he had already been working at the NSA with extensive top secret authorization for almost four years. To conceal this vital fact from your readers - in order to leave them with the false impression that he only began working at the NSA after he spoke with me, Laura Poitras and your Washington Post colleague Bart Gellman - is deceitful and reckless.

(4) "Was he encouraged or directed by WikiLeaks personnel or others to take the job as part of a broader plan to expose NSA operations to selected journalists?"

Although you also conceal this from your readers, both Poitras and I have repeatedly, publicly and in great detail addressed all of these questions. I did so in a newspaper called "the Washington Post" ("It was only in May - and not before - that Snowden told [Greenwald] who he was, who he worked for (at that point he identified himself as affiliated with the NSA) and what sort of documents he had to share, Greenwald says. It wasn’t until June - when Greenwald visited Snowden in Hong Kong - that Snowden told him he worked specifically for Booz Allen"), as well as in the New York Times.

Poitras did so in an interview with Salon: "I didn’t know where he worked, I didn’t know he was NSA, I didn’t know how - nothing. There was no like, Oh do you think you …, no nudging. It’s like the crazy correlations that the NSA does. There’s no connection here. We were contacted, we didn’t know what he was up to, and at some point he came forward with documents".

You're free to disbelieve those answers in pursuit of your frenzied conspiracy theorizing. But you should not feel free to pretend those answers haven't been provided and thus hide them from your readers.

Apparently, some establishment journalists have decided that the way to save a discredited and dying industry is to fill articles and columns speculating about the news-gathering process on a significant story in which they had no involvement, and thus traffic in innuendo-laden "questions" designed to imply elaborate and nefarious conspiracy theories. So be it: I don't think that will work - I think what readers want are fact-based revelations about those in power - but feel free to try.

But making up facts along the way, as you've done, should still be deemed unacceptable. At the very least, they merit a prominent correction.

All of this is independent of the fact that the conspiracy theory you've concocted is just laughable on its own terms. The very notion that Julian Assange would have masterminded this leak from the start, but then chose to remain demurely and shyly in the background so that others would receive credit for it, would prompt choking fits of laughter among anyone who knows him. Your suggestion that Assange would refrain from having WikiLeaks publish these documents, and instead direct these news-breaking leaks to The Guardian of all places - with which he has a bitter, highly publicized and long-standing feud - is even more hilarious.

Our NSA stories have been published and discussed in countless countries around the world, where they have sparked shock, indignation and demands for investigation. So revealingly, it is only American journalists - and them alone - who have decided to focus their intrepid journalistic attention not on the extremist and legally dubious surveillance behavior of the US government and serial deceit by its top officials, but on those who revealed all of that to the world.

This is an important news story and journalists should be free to ask all sorts of questions about who was involved and how. That's why we've been so forthcoming - unusually so - about addressing all these questions. Read your Washington Post colleague Erik Wemple as he explains that to you: "In response to various questions going back to the days just after his first NSA stories, Greenwald has delivered a remarkable amount of disclosures about how he got the story, how he executed it and how he plans to continue pursuing it."

But when those questions are posed by fabricating events that never happened and ignoring the answers that have already been provided, it strongly suggests that something other than truth-seeking is the objective.

Glenn Greenwald your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+110 # beachboy 2013-07-09 12:11
Dear Glen, Love and power to you for this patient and excellent dressing down of another US gov. PR agent dressed up as a journalist. Pincus' name should be dirt in press circles from here on - outside the US that is.- You brought it out, muchas gracias, and Ed Snowden should feel good: Germany's people have a big reaction to the Big Brother stories this month, and the South American continent is equally pissed. To be cont'd...
+20 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-07-10 07:39
Great comment, beachboy. I could not agree more. And my kudos too, to dear Glen, the real McCoy, unfettered, brave and determined truth teller.
+14 # RLF 2013-07-10 08:04
There are no journalists left at the Murdock rag called the Washington post.
+30 # davidh7426 2013-07-09 12:16
Come on Glenn, don't mince words, tell us what you REALLY THINK...
+4 # Walter J Smith 2013-07-09 22:40
If you wanted to know what he really thinks, why not read his articles?
+46 # hillwright 2013-07-09 12:21
And, I understand that "The Guardian" has been blocked from all US military computers.
Whether this is true or not is beside the point since just reporting it carries the impression that "The Guardian" is so "bad", and so "dangerous and untrue" that in the national interest that publication must be censured as "enemy propaganda" and not allowed allowed to confuse and "brainwash" our troops.
+48 # Milarepa 2013-07-09 12:26
Glenn, you can expect a lot more of this, and worse. This is a war, with skirmishes and battles. And it will not stop until ... who knows!
+29 # RobertMStahl 2013-07-09 12:44
Greenwald is like the best meal I ever had, not that I wouldn't want another again...
+24 # Alternative 2013-07-09 12:49
In other words enough of the BS already why don't you guys start doing your job and earn your keep. Or has the fourth estate been bought up like our congress, our Supreme Court and our Presidency. is the experiment over? Is another revolution the only answer left?
+8 # Walter J Smith 2013-07-09 22:47
The commercial and industrial media has been the smoke screen for the Washington, D. C., - Wall Street Axis of Evil since 1973 - when that very same media hid from and denied that Watergate was a real scandal. They did it then so Nixon could win re-election.

They have made changes. Now they hardly even pretend to be doing news. They are purely propagandistic. Not even the WaPo or the NYTimes does more than a few token news articles & commentaries to maintain the pretense they are still news outlets.

They have abandoned that news culture and almost completely melded their operations with the Washington, D. C. - Wall Street Axis of Evil. Too bad they aren't as funny as the Daily Show.

Maybe we could have a naming contest for them.

The Money Grubber's News Scrubbers?
+5 # RLF 2013-07-10 08:06
Lies are the Murdock empire's stock in trade.
-11 # motamanx 2013-07-09 12:51
I thought Walter Pincus was a good guy. He was in the late 1960's, anyway. Rowland
+22 # dquandle 2013-07-09 13:56
John Kerry was also a "good guy" for a moment in the 70's. Now he's just a filthy rich thug and apologist for fascism. Time has a way of reducing such piles of excrement to their essences.
+8 # curmudgeon 2013-07-09 15:24
'WAS' is the pertinent description

methinks he became a 'Bush-Bama Borg'
+9 # georgemilton 2013-07-09 13:33
You expect American journalists to stand up to the DHS and Bush/Obama NSA/CIA machine? They would very quickly be sitting on unemployment with the rest of America wondering if Obama ever planned to make any jobs for the citizens
+26 # Romi 2013-07-09 14:02
As long as we can access Glenn Greenwald (on the Internet, if nowhere else), our country has not COMPLETELY succumbed to fascism. Way to go, Glenn!
+5 # JSRaleigh 2013-07-09 14:35
Ok, so if YOU were the casting director, would you consider Walter Pincus for the role of Winston Smith?

...or as O'brien?
+26 # anarchteacher 2013-07-09 15:08
So who is Walter Pincus? What is his background?

The disreputable Pincus has long been a regime apologist and disinformation tool of the National Security State as this classic YouTube clip demonstrates:

When someone asks who was the poster boy of the CIA's Operation Mockingbird, his oily countenance is the one who comes to mind.

In a rare candid revelation, on 31st July, 1996, The Washington Post claimed that "some in the agency refer to (Pincus) as the CIA's house reporter."

The intrepid Glenn Greenwald is only the latest to join Seymour Hersh, Gary Webb, and numerous other courageous investigative reporters as the object of Pincus' wrath and that of his masters.
+3 # RMDC 2013-07-12 05:14
Thanks. Great information. What Pincus did to Gary Webb in the pages of the WaPo should be a criminal act. Pincus has always been the CIA's house reporter at the WaPo. It has been pointed out since the 60s. That he still works there says a lot about the WaPo. This is best said in Deborah Davis' "Katherine the Great" -- a bio of Katherine Graham and history of the WaPo.
+27 # Johnny 2013-07-09 15:30
Pincus, along with all the totally government controlled media, is just throwing up a smokescreen. He is not stupid enought to believe his bullshit. But the people who pay him are smart enough to know that confusion and terrorism are their only real defenses against the truth.
+9 # Tayva 2013-07-09 15:41
I recently met Walter Pincus for almost two hours in the presence of 19 international dignitaries. He rambled. I failed to be impressed by the man whom I had admired for many years. Sad.
+14 # MsAnnaNOLA 2013-07-09 16:51
Walter Pincus...shill much?
+3 # jimbo 2013-07-09 22:02
I'm amazed anybody thinks our media except for a few is owned and manipulated not by the government but by people like the kochs and the other slime who seem to be trying to steal our democracy. Want further proof? fux, nbc, cbs, abc, espn, the golf channel, on and on, do their ignorant worst by forcing christianist religious horseshit on us as a price we have to pay to watch their garbage. So their lying like this clown did to Greenwald is just some of the same right wing crap that we can expect from these pos. Turn the mofos (the networks) off, they are only tools for the creeps, and since you never know when they are lying (actually you're better off assuming they are lying), there is no value is ever turning any of them on. And Glenn, thanks for the great work and the great service you do for this country. If we are to survive as a country you and other please keep on exposing these shithooks.
+1 # RHytonen 2013-07-12 16:17
Quoting jimbo:
I'm amazed anybody thinks our media except for a few is owned and manipulated not by the government but by people like the kochs and the other slime who seem to be trying to steal our democracy. .

They work through "the government" so taxpayer money augments and multiplies the power of their campaign bribes.
And so that the police and military will "serve and protect" (and help to collect) their profits against the individual citizen's reticence to be plundered. This is how Fascism works.
+2 # 2013-07-09 22:27
Glen is that dude still working today for that paper if so warn us so we can unsubscribe such trashy journalists and their rags.
+3 # Texan 4 Peace 2013-07-10 00:50
More and more, serious investigative journalists focusing on U.S. politics must work outside the US. It's been said often, but is truer than ever, that the MSM is like a dog -- you point at the moon and it looks at your finger.
+9 # Milarepa 2013-07-10 08:27
Glenn, I trust you don't underestimate the dangerous situation you're in. You're one of the people on the US/NSA list for elimination. Of course they'll be cautious with you but still get rid of you if they have a chance. I'm not sure the bulk of all who comment here have fully understood how serious this is. The US has become a huge, powerful criminal organization. The US empire is in decay. During this dissolution phase those who control it sense they are fighting for their own existence. That's how empires end. Some make it across, look at Putin, but most don't. So watch your back. Correction, watch your back, your front, up and down and all around. You're needed!
+4 # JimMichie 2013-07-10 10:11
The Washington Post's Walter Pincus obviously has joined the growing herd of corporate journalists who covet their "access" to the Evil Empire!
+2 # philip_andolina 2013-07-11 10:07
Behold the folly of “journalism” unencumbered by any real accountability and unmoved by a singularly important responsibility in any real democracy. Truth and accuracy are too necessary to leave in the hands of those who do not answer (except haphazardly) even to themselves. Instead, freedom of the press provides a platform for the machine of misinformation, bias, ratings and narcissism that exists in the US.

Left, right, or middle makes no difference. The “market” offers no effectively correcting mechanism – leaving a majority inconsistently successful in obtaining credible information supporting the conclusions they draw, the decisions they make, and positions we all take.

Wasted are the many tasked when necessary with giving their lives in defense of explicitly written constitutional freedoms for the relative few who profess to bear the torch of truth and integrity. Woefully under served are all the rest of us.

Regulate the truth.

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