Thursday, May 30, 2013

Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald is one of those people who must be truly brave. As far as I can tell, he doesn't try to come down on a particular side of the issues he writes about. He appears to have an unerring sense of what's right.

Photo of Glenn Greenwald
That could be dangerous, I suppose, but since he's never in the mainstream, there's no possibility of him becoming a totalitarian zealot.

I just caught his interview with Bill Moyers from a few weeks ago. They talked about government secrecy and state suppression post-9/11, and particularly about drones and the Boston bombings.

On drones:

the more we react by saying, "Well, we now need to go bomb further with drones, we need to infiltrate and surveil more, we need to put Muslims under more of a microscope and be more aggressive in how we attack them when we think they're a threat," I think the worse this problem becomes. I think that's the problem, is that the policies justified in the name of stopping terrorism have actually done more to exacerbate that threat and to render us unsafe than any other single cause.
On whistleblowers:
Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of government power. If people are able to operate in the dark, it is not likely or probable, but inevitable that they will abuse their power. It's just human nature. And that's been understood for as long as politics has existed. That transparency is really the only guarantee that we have for checking those who exercise power.

And that's the reason why the government has progressively destroyed one institution after the next designed to bring transparency, whether it's the media that they turned into the supine creatures or the Congress that does more to empower government secrecy than any other, or the courts that have been incredibly subservient towards sources of government secrecy. One of the only avenues we have left for learning what people in power do are whistleblowers. People who essentially step out and risk their individual liberty, and that's why there's such a war being waged against them....

There have been more prosecutions of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, which is a 1917 statute under world -- enacted in World War I, designed to enable Woodrow Wilson to punish people who were opposed to the United States involvement in that war. More prosecution of whistleblowers under that statute, under the Obama administration, than all previous administrations combined.
 On government monitoring of private citizens, and lack of government transparency:
the surveillance state doesn't really do much in terms of giving us lots of security. But what it does do, is it destroys the notion of privacy, which is the area in which human creativity and dissent and challenges to orthodoxy all reside. The way things are supposed to work is we're supposed to know everything that the government does with rare exception, that's why they're called the public sector.

And they're supposed to know almost nothing about us, which is why we're private individuals, unless there's evidence that we've committed a crime. This has been completely reversed, so that we know almost nothing about what the government does.

It operates behind this impenetrable wall of secrecy, while they know everything about what it is we're doing, with whom we're speaking and communicating, what we're reading. And this imbalance, this reversal of transparency and secrecy and the way things are supposed to work, has really altered the relationship between the citizenry and the government in very profound ways. [emphasis added]
That point about privacy being essential to human creativity is the part of the interview that has stuck with me the most.

One whistleblower, John Kiriakou, exposed the CIA's use of torture and is now serving 30 months in a federal prison. A letter he wrote about his experiences there is infuriating and moving.

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