Glenn Greenwald, journalist, lawyer, academy award winner and author of No Place To Hide, spoke recently at a National Center for Policy Analysis luncheon I attended. His book chronicles the trip he made to Hong Kong in May of 2013 to meet with an anonymous source who claimed he had evidence of massive government spying.
The source turned out to be former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who addressed what he (Snowden) believed to be widespread, pervasive, intrusive government spying on average Americans. Snowden’s revelations have resulted in heated controversy over national security and information privacy. Snowden’s disclosures have branded him as a traitor to some, to others a hero and whistle blower.
I was struck by several comments Greenwald made such as, “The climate for whistleblowers has never been worse. More whistleblowers have been convicted in this century than ever before. Why do we put whistleblowers in jail?”
Or, I ask, why is the information they bring to the table ignored – information that the public needs to know about corporate or government wrongdoing – despite our attorney general’s claims that it is welcomed?
Ironically, Snowden and I share the same attorneys, the Government Accountability Project, who represent whistleblowers. While some brand Snowden as a traitor, they do not, nor does Greenwald. He says, “you can debate whether he did the right thing, you can debate whether he is a traitor, but he shines a light on the people with the greatest power so they are not concealing information they have no right to conceal.”
Good point. Many whistleblowers, me included, report – or attempt to report – on the unprecedented abuses of power we’ve witnessed. Unfortunately, too often, regardless of the U.S. Attorney Generals and others calls to action , the data is ignored, discarded, and maligned – along with the people, the whistleblowers, who bring it to light.
Greenwald ferociously takes on the establishment and the media, reviling their increasing avoidance of adversarial reporting on the government and their failure to serve the interest of the people. He claims, “media has converted from the role of watchdogs of government to being servants of government.”
Greenwald asks, “what does it mean both for individuals and for a nation’s political health when a government pries so invasively into the private lives of its citizens?”
I question what it means, as well, for the economic health of a country when the government “permits” corporate entities to write its laws as they – the organization – sees fit to their own best interest; as the big banks are doing, right at this moment.
His work is very controversial; he causes one to think. And question. And ask, what is the right thing?
Do we call it when we see the right thing abused? Or, do we play it safe. I didn’t.
Greenwald chose not to play it safe. It won him an Oscar.