File under: "Unclean! Unclean!"
Unless you are a completely humorless zealot, there is something inherently funny about someone turning around and getting socked in the face with the same fish with which they themselves had just self-righteously walloped someone else moments before.
Which is why this story made me laugh.
See, a few months ago, the Washington Post ran a piece about an NSA program called "MYSTIC" about which they felt the public had a right to know.
But as has often been the case since the dawn of time, the newspaper made a editorial judgement that the public did not have a right to know everything. In this case, the paper withheld the names of the countries which had been or might be targeted by this program based on a sit-down with the Evil Gummint where they were been presented with what they considered to be compelling safety and security reasons:
It’s been a couple of months since the Washington Post published a scoop on the extraordinary overseas eavesdropping capabilities of the U.S. government. Under the bylines of Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, the paper revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had amassed a system — known as “MYSTIC” — enabling it to “rewind and review” all of the telephone conversations of a foreign country....Details on the program came from documents supplied by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as well as from sources familiar with the program.A really juicy scoop, with one desiccating caveat: The Post withheld a detail critical to understanding the scope and capabilities of the program:At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.
To no one's surprise, this triggered Glenn Greenwald's Automated Indignation Generator, because when it comes making editorial decision like these, anyone who is not Glenn Greenwald is obviously a drooling jackbooted servant of Imperial power:
In a recent interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Greenwald riffed, “[t]he editors at The Washington Post are very much old-style, old-media, pro-government journalists, the kind who have essentially made journalism in the U.S. neutered and impotent and obsolete.”
Pages fly off the calendar.
People start to ask, OK Glenn, if (the still mysteriously unincarcerated) Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani sucked Evil Gummint hind teat on this story, where's your version of it?
Finally, Mr. Greenwald's MYSTIC story hits America's newsstands, and one major difference between the Post's story and The Intercept's story is, indeed, in the naming of names:
“Documents show that the NSA has been generating intelligence reports from MYSTIC surveillance in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines..."
Except...not...quite (emphasis added):
“...in the Bahamas, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines and one other country, which The Intercept is not naming in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence. The more expansive full-take recording capability has been deployed in both the Bahamas and the unnamed country.”
Purity Alert! Purity Alert!
And in 3...2...1...
And in 3...2...1...
After which The Intercept fires back:We condemn Firstlook for following the Washington Post into censoring the mass interception of an entire nation https://t.co/jTKVNCK5BJ
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014
@wikileaks that's a willfully stupid interpretation of the relationship between our story and the post's. but your condemnation is noted.
— John Cook (@johnjcook) May 19, 2014
And then it's Katy bar the door.
I'm sure there's a lesson in here somewhere.
I'm equally sure that those most in need it will be the same people most incapable of learning it.