Salon's Glenn Greenwald Writes to The Field

By Al Giordano


As my friend Bobby Hayes used to say at each daybreak as we filed into the mess hall at the Rockingham County Jail in New Hampshire, "what a beautiful day to wake up to a nice tall glass of Thorazine!"

All text guaranteed verbatim and unabridged!

From Glenn Greenwald (who I don't believe I've ever met or spoken with before, but who writes for, 7:11 a.m.:


Someone just sent me a link to this claim you made yesterday:

Yes, this is already going on but not illegally! Here's how. All communications between the US and Mexico (and any other US ally) are being vacuumed up already by the Mexican-owned telecom companies and turned over to US agencies, with the full blessing of the Mexican state. The same goes for every other country in the hemisphere save Cuba and maybe Venezuela and/or Bolivia. Nothing illegal about it, because it's done with the imprimatur of those governments that have jurisdiction.

What's your basis for stating that every country in the hemisphere other than the three you mentioned turns over all communications involving a U.S. citizen to the U.S. Government?

Glenn Greenwald

My response, 8:42 a.m.:



My newspaper, Narco News, has reported for more than eight years now on the subjects of the drug war, social movements, money laundering, and other sensitive topics in the American hemisphere. In 2001, the New York Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling, after the National Bank of Mexico (now Citibank) sued us for what it termed defamation (libel) in eight of those reports. From the December, 5, 2001 court decision:

"Narco News, its website, and the writers who post information, are entitled to all the First Amendment protections accorded a newspaper-magazine or journalist... Furthermore, the nature of the articles printed on the website and Mr. Giordano's statements at Columbia University constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its affect on people living in this hemisphere..."

That ruling, by the way, protects you and your work, too.

In this work, we have cultivated many sources and whistleblowers inside US and foreign intelligence and police agencies. The reports of journalist Bill Conroy and I, among others, frequently consult with those sources, including in Homeland Security, ICE, DEA, FBI, and others, and including their counterparts in Mexico and other lands. If you've dealt much with security and intelligence agents, you'd be familiar with their smug disregard for the US Constitution and their enthusiasm for finding loopholes and ways around it when it comes to wiretapping and surveillance. They're part of their own very special subculture that plays by its own rules.

In 1998, the Mexican daily El Universal reported on the existence of a telephone surveillance headquarters in Mexico City operated by the DEA with the permission of the Mexican government that did not solicit nor honor the concept of warranting their work with court orders and such. Since then, obviously, technological advances make all of this much easier for them to do on a wholesale level. In 2000 I asked some questions of the then-US ambassador to Mexico, in writing, about that and related matters:

Predictably, he chose not to answer. But it's not even a well-kept secret in those circles that whatever technologies are available for surveillance purposes are being used to their maximum potential in Mexico and elsewhere simply because they can. (The concepts of case law and court precedents are entirely different in Mexico and elsewhere; there's no available recourse or protection from this, and no law being broken when a foreign government or company turns over information gained by unwarranted surveillance to US agencies. It's a loophole big enough to drive a Mac truck - or a Macintosh - through it.)

To answer your question more succinctly: Multiple sources in US and foreign police and intelligence agencies say that all communications between the US and Mexico and any other ally are being vacuumed up by foreign telecom companies and turned over to US agencies. They've said it for years, by the way. (Consequentially, I never say anything via email or telephone that I wouldn't mind them hearing. I think that's the bare minimum that a journalist or dissident has to do in this day and age for our own protection.)

And I must tell you that the prosecutorial tone of your email - about a comment I made in the comments section of our newspaper - reminds of that of pioneers of the very surveillance and witch-hunt activities that got their start with HUAC and "true believer" crusaders like Roy Cohn (the kind of activity that one might wish to presume that opponents of the FISA legislation would find reprehensible). But I don't mind at all. If you want to bring me and my comments into your crusade regarding FISA, go right ahead. I love a good and public argument.


Al Giordano

From Glenn Greenwald, 8:55 a.m.:

Can you point to anything published -- rather than claims you now make about what secret sources tell you -- to support your claim?  Your claim wasn't restricted to Mexico, but to all countries in the hemisphere -- which includes Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and many others -- which are turning over communications with U.S. citizens to the U.S. Government.


That is an extraordinary claim to make -- in your desperate effort to defend Barack Obama in all that He does -- and I simply asked for your basis for the claim.  Given how you responded, it doesn't surprise me that you would find a very simple, politely stated request of that kind to be offensive.

Glenn Greenwald

My response, 9:04 a.m.:



You may think that accusatory equals "polite." Maybe you also think that throwing around new accusations of a somehow "desperate effort to defend Barack Obama in all that he does" is also "polite?" You're evidently on a witch-hunt, Glenn. I haven't even posted a single blog entry or story about the FISA debate. It's not my priority or interest. I do, from time to time, respond to reader questions or comments on it. I'm pleased that even a small comment of mine is considered somehow threatening to your orthodoxy to the extreme that makes you want to hunt it down and attack the messenger.

Let's stop the fake courtesy, Glenn, and do your own heavy lifting on the matters that concern you, and I'll do mine.


Al Giordano


From Glenn Greenwald, 9:15 a.m.:

In other words, you have no basis for your claim that all governments in the hemisphere other than a few turn over to the U.S. government all communications involving U.S. citizens.  You just made it up.


Looks like my Roy Cohn comparison was right on the money. The guy is on a crusade. Never mind that it's in the name of "civil liberties," that cause for which I've fought daily over the past thirty years and continue to fight. He's acting like a McCarthy committee staff counsel.

A reporter (that's me) wrote something in a comments section that he saw as inconvenient to his crusade. One would think that civil libertarians would be smarter about the reality that we live in a world of total surveillance already. But for the sake of the crusade, the crusader apparently has to make it seem like there is still such a thing as freedom guaranteed by law and that a piece of legislation will single-handedly end it.

I don't even mind his or other people's crusading on it. In fact, I don't like the FISA legislation, but I'm smart enough not to blame it on the new liberal "daddy figure" that a certain sector of infantile progressives project upon any Democratic nominee for president of the United States, this year being no exception. That hasn't been a topic (until now, thanks to Glenn's ham-handed approach to throwing his perceived weight around with another journalist) on this blog. At some point soon, Congress will vote one way or another, and life will continue, as will the struggle for freedom in a world where governments no longer guarantee it.

But because I won't sign up for duty in his crusade, he now feels he has to try to malign my work with accusations that I make shit up. Hey Glenn: being an accusatory asshole doesn't make you a better journalist. It's turning you - and some other coreligionists of your crusade - into the very kind of apparatchik that brought us the FISA bill to begin with.

(Not that this conversion process is anything new on the left or the right.)

Update: This thread is getting some commentary over on a recommended DKos diary's comments section.

Update II: Readers continue writing me with evidence that even the mainstream media has reported the same facts regarding US-sponsored telecom surveillance in Mexico. From the Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2007 (not that I need commercial media organizations to ratify anything for me, but it's interesting that my "made up" facts have also been reported by major news outlets, too):

Mexican authorities for years have been able to wiretap most telephone conversations and tap into e-mail, but the new $3-million Communications Intercept System being installed by Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency will expand their reach.

The system will allow authorities to track cellphone users as they travel, according to contract specifications. It includes extensive storage capacity and will allow authorities to identify callers by voice. The system, scheduled to begin operation this month, was paid for by the U.S. State Department and sold by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y., that specializes in electronic surveillance...

They suggest that Washington could have access to information derived from the surveillance. Officials of both governments declined to comment on that possibility.

It is a government of Mexico operation funded by the U.S.,” said Susan Pittman, of the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Queries should be directed to the Mexican government, she said.

Calderon’s office declined to comment.

It's mind-blowing that purported experts on the subject matter could be so willfully ignorant of facts on their beat that have been in the public domain for a long time now already.






More and more "mainstream" people are finding out:  Don't mess with Al!!

waterprise2 AKA Pam

Liberal with a Capital L!


Agree with me or else?????

Agree with me, or else, you can't call yourself a Progressive seems to be the theme I'm finding here.  I think we have a lot to thank Woodward & Bernstein for, but some of the next generations of journalists have been on an continuous ego romp trying to outdo the attention they justifiably received.

We used to call it mountains out of mole hills - but when the activity is to HURT the best chance we have at getting out of the hideous mess we are all in:

"That is an extraordinary claim to make -- in your desperate effort to defend Barack Obama in all that He does"

I get really, really angry.  Also, I never capitalize the pronoun when I refer to someone's name.

I never send a comment to

I never send a comment to blogs but this exchange is an important one. I'm surprised that Glenn is surprised that US government takes advantage of legal regimes outside the US to subvert the US constitution. This is not new. The essence of rendition is based on pursuing precisely this strategy. And unless I am mistaken the US has used rendition long before Bush 43 came to office. (I believe the Clinton administration made use of this strategy particularly for drug cases.) If the US government under both Democratic and Republican adminstrations would pursue rendition why would they not monitor communications outside American borders and circumvent the US constitution. They have been doing it for decades. Perhaps Al you hit a nerve because I believe Glenn lives and works in Latin American (Brazil?). Perhaps Glenn was shocked to realize his own work might have been monitored (legally).

I'm still voting for Obama

I'm still voting for Obama for President.

If he gets the center seat he can make changes in FISA (with the help of a Democratic Congress).

Obama gave his explanation; I'm not crazy about it, but I understand it.

Mc Cain won't do anything about FISA.

Did Greenwald actually capitalize "He?"

What a smug self-righteous asshole this Greenwald is!

"in your desperate effort to defend Barack Obama in all that He does"


Anyone who doesn't agree with me that Barack Obama is the biggest threat to our civil liberties (!) is clearly worshipping him as a messiah.

What a putz.

Oye Ol' Glenn going off the deep end!

Al you are right about the crusade. Glenn is following his buddy in rightousness Krugman over the deep end of the progressive pool. While I enjoy much of both their writings, lately it seems this "crusade-a rama" has been spreading like some sort of novo-virus around certain progressive blogs. They seem to feel it is their duty to go around and bash  with their truthiness , those who don't buy into their  judgement of "progressiveness". This was going on during the primaries too, but it has gotten worse. Glenn needs to take a deep breath and see that part of his crusade is rooted in his anger that La Clinton lost the nom. He won't admit it, but it shines thru his work these days. And he is accusng others of it...How Rovian!

"Can you point to anything

"Can you point to anything published -- rather than claims you now make about what secret sources tell you -- to support your claim" 

What is sad is that he is completely unaware how pathetic it is for a 'journalist' to write this.  Come on Al don't you know that the truth is the first thing to rise to the surface - no digging required - it is all coming in on the wires.

Isn't this the guy who started all the hand wringing

and OMG-ing all over the librul blogosphere over FISA ?

And then, of course kos and other purist trolls there blew it out of any meaningful perspective and handed over the RW talking point today.


Old news

It has been known for a long time that foreign countries can intercept traffic that our country can't.  Some of them have limits to what they can do inside their boundaries (like we are supposed to) and others don't. 

To think that these governments do not cooperate with our government for some return in kind would be the height of naivite.

All that being said, the question in hand is to what degree one feels threatened by this and who would you most trust to not take advantage of this.  Since we know that the Bush government approached telecoms before 9/11 (like in February of 2001) one really has to question their trustworthiness to only look for criminal activity in the information they receive.

I appreciate the efforts Greenwald is making to attempt to defend constitutional rights, but his current attack (and it is no hyperbole to call it that) on Al is uncalled for.  Al states specifically that he has received information from people who he can't very well quote.  Since he can't, Greenwald dismisses the claim as irrelevant.

What surprises me is that Al was not really trying to defend FISA, rather he was just saying that in the larger scheme of things it is somewhat of a lower magnitude of importance than other things that need to be dealt with and to attempt to derail Obama because he does not meet some perceived ideological purity standard which is arbitrarily applied is ridiculous.

In fact, the statement Al made was actually something that Greenwald could use to support his campaign, not to dismiss it.

Whatta piece of work!

I'll be kind in my understatement since Greenwald done such a nice job make a fool of himself on his own. 

Allan, you hit the nail right of the head with what this goofball was implying--"If you don't work yourself into a lather of this piece of legislation, then you are a Kool-Aid drinker!".  Obviously he doesn't know crap about Narco News and Al Giordano (and The Field, Google!) if he thinks there are any sacred cows or their worshippers among us mere mortals.

I, for one, cannot wait till the FISA vote is over so that at least these people can add a little variety to their hissy-fits.

Ay, Santa Madre, dame la paciencia!


"I hate quotations."--Ralph Waldo Emerson


This whole FISA debate is a nice little distraction, but as Al has pointed out, the wiretapping that everyone finds so objectionable will go on with or without FISA.

I'm somewhat troubled by Obama's stance on this issue, as I don't think corporations should be given retroactive immunity for conspiring with the government to break the law.  Personally, I don't think Obama should vote for the bill if it offers the telecoms immunity, but I also understand that if Obama is elected, he will be in a much better position to guard our civil liberties than if he remains a junior senator from Illinois.

The FISA/Immunity thing is a nice little pet cause for ideological puritans, but the reality is that there are far greater abuses of civil liberties that garner far less self-serving outrage.


By his standard of evidence, Bob Woodward had "no proof" that Watergate was connected to anyone in the White House. You'd think that another journalist would have some regard for the practice of confidential sourcing.


If Greenwald actually wanted to persuade you to research and provide some more direct sources, it seems like he would have used a bit more tact. Instead he seemed pretty clear he just wanted to snub out your view. And upon not receiving a source, it seems like he could have either dropped your statement as inconsequential to his investigations or investigate for himself elsewhere.


I'm a bit confused, though, and perhaps you can clear this up for me, Al. Obviously you did not want to become more intricately involved with the FISA argument and, considering his tone, it makes perfect sense for you to not run around doing Greenwald's dirty work. But it also seems like publishing this exchange also pushes you further into the FISA argument anyway. Can you perhaps explain the reasoning behind your choice to publish this?

Well, one good thing will come of this

 The Field will get more hits to it's site.

Ooh, I love a good boxing match. Al, you must have really hit a nerve with Glenn.

 Does he really live in Brazil?

I too will be glad when the FISA vote is over, but I do not think Glenn will let it go even then. This issue will probably drag on with these kinds of people for the rest of the summer.

Greenwald's Article Today

Also - I just noticed in Greenwald's salon post today, he is frothing quite profusly. He starts out by saying that Obama won't even show up to vote for the bill, despite Halperin reporting that Obama is on Capitol Hill right now, about to vote on FISA. Hmmmm.

Greenwald really, really needs to take a deep breath because he can be a good journalist and a good writer if he wants to. He's letting emotion get the best of him.

Journalistic Sloth

A reader, quite on his own, doing a simple Google Search, sent me various links to already-published information that shows the pattern of unwarranted surveillance in foreign lands upon US citizens and others. One of the stories was published right here at Narco News:

It notes:

"Sources within DEA contend Horn’s claims against the CIA and State Department are on target, adding that the Department of Justice went as far as to claim that no U.S. citizen is protected from eavesdropping by its government when overseas."

Here are some more:

Not that I think that Greenwald or any lazy reporter deserves to demand that I or any other journo do his heavy lifting for him, but I sent those links along to him so that the reader's initiative might not have been a total waste of time.

Look, here's how it works: Interest groups have staff that do research. They then cultivate reporters to which to spoon-feed that research, get it published, making the reporter look good, as if he's the one that did the digging. You have no idea how many Pulitzer Prizes came out of such spoon-fed Pablum.

That's all well and good. I've done some of that myself. But I've never let it turn me into one of those reporters that has become dependent on others doing my work for me.

More troubling than the smarmy prosecutorial sanctimony of our profession's Joe Camel look-a-like in sending those emails to me this morning was that he seemed to actually expect that I would do his work for him. (And give up sources that, for reasons that ought to be obvious to anyone with a capacity for reason, can't and shouldn't be outed.)

Yeah, that's how to win a crusade, eh?

Saludos del salvaje noreste

Saludos del salvaje noreste mexicano, al...

I cannot beleive how petulant and aggressive Greenwald comes across as.  Although, I understand he has also spent time living in Latinoamérica, so the issue must be close to him. If he is the kind of expat that is all too common in big cities across Mexico and Argentina and Brazil, he is scarcely aware of the imperial dimensions of US foreign policy in the region.  I have mentioned Plan Condor and El Mozote and Negropontes grim reign in Central America, and they just stare wide-eyed, incredulous that barrel fulls of cash and weapons through "aid" will have any effect on the rule of law in incipient and destabilized governments.  I link this in hope he reads these comments, and will probably mail it to him respectfully:

Foreign Internal Defense Tactics Techniques and Procedures for Special Forces (1994, 2004)

The leaked manual, which has been verified with military sources, is the official US Special Forces doctrine for Foreign Internal Defense or FID.

The manual directly advocates training paramilitaries, pervasive surveillance, censorship, press control and restrictions on labor unions & political parties. It directly advocates warrantless searches, detainment without charge and (under varying circumstances) the suspension of habeas corpus. It directly advocates employing terrorists or prosecuting individuals for terrorism who are not terrorists, running false flag operations and concealing human rights abuses from journalists. And it repeatedly advocates the use of subterfuge and "psychological operations" (propaganda) to make these and other "population & resource control" measures more palatable.

Facts are so annoying

Hit'em with the facts, let them get annoyed. I think Glenn is starting to by into his 'sphere" nickname "Glennzilla". As a musician I learned a Long time ago, don't believe those accolades, it gets in the way of the process, which is really what is interesting and important!


...someone goes after the self-anointed Patron Saint of the Progressive-Supremacist Movement. Thank you, Al! Greenwald has gotten way too much credit for way too little for far too long. He's a self-righteous dogmatist with delusions of grandeur. Glad to see him finally challenged.


Al this comment was HILARIOUS: 

..More troubling than the smarmy prosecutorial sanctimony of our profession's Joe Camel look-a-like... 


LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL--what would we all do without you AL???


Musician Field Hands!

Franco - What instrument do you play?

What a lazy clown...

The reason why Greenwald's in such a tiff is that he thinks that he's the leader of a pure crusade and Al's comment about the US using other countries to pull intel for them pulled the rug from underneath him and exposed the fact that he is standing on a foundation of sand.

EVERYBODY knows that the US strongarms other countries for their intel when they can.  They've been cozy with the Canadians forever on this - its public info in Canada - and why should it surprise anyone that this happens in South and Central America too?

The fact that Greenwald is ignorant of this and is shocked shocked! at Al's matter of fact statement of obvious (and easily verified fact) speaks unbelievably poorly of Greenwald as a journalist, which I suppose he isn't.  He is an opinion writer and not a journalist so facts may not be as important to him as the appearance of leading some sort of crusade. 

Al simply punctured his balloon of ego which is why he is upset. 

Maybe you can offer an update Al, with those links so that those who aren't reading the comments can see this info that proves your statements?    

@ Suzy @ 10:55 amIt is

@ Suzy @ 10:55 am

It is obvious that GG was trying to make the point that people think the O-man is "God" or at least the Messiah...that's why he capitalized "He"!!

waterprise2 AKA Pam

Liberal with a Capital L!


I'm beginning to think

I'm beginning to think Subcomandante Giordano.

Now you know that I make such a promotion with the utmost admiration, but you may want to delete this.


Greenwald has completely nuked the fridge on the FISA issue. Hell, I agree with his position, and I still want him to shut up and take a vacation. Sorry you got locked in his crosshairs Al, but nice work on handling that with maturity and good humor.

An Old Conversation

I lived in DC for a lot of years.  In the early eigthies, there were some attorneys from Justice in my social circle(career, not appointees).  At a dinner party, the guy nearest me turned out to be a senior analyst for NSA.  I prodded him for info on "how it worked" at NSA(remember this is still cold war era). He was adept at giving non-responsive answers all evening.  Later into our cups, we talked computers, and the leaps they were taking place.  He dropped this line that burned in my memory as much as anything else in my life: " the issue isn't getting information, it's sorting it out,  We have everything we need to know whatever we want.  It's figuring it out in a timely manner."  I asked " when you say everything you need, you mean knowing how to acquire it?"

"No, we have it now.  Everything we need, foreign and domestic."


In the context of todays FISA debates this conversation 25 years ago haunts me.

On second thought, Marcos

On second thought, Marcos did not support Lopez Obrador

Comments Section

Vik writes - "Maybe you can offer an update Al, with those links so that those who aren't reading the comments can see this info that proves your statements?"

Actually, Vik, the fact that those emails were provoked by something I wrote here in the comments section makes me wonder if this isn't really the place to stick something that I really want noticed out there!

Just a partial Devil's advocate, for a second

Let me first make it clear that 1) I'm not a great defender of Glenn Greenwald, although like others I occasionally admire his writing, and 2) I honestly don't know anything about this exchange and the claims that go with it, outside of this post.  BUT....

Al, your claim really was huge, and lends itself to skepticism from those who may not have deemed you credible in their own eyes.

Also, your statement was very forthright and sure in most respects (like saying that all the communications are vacuumed up), but then when listing the countries involved (again, all, with a few exceptions), your exceptions are qualified with "maybe, and/or."

On the other end of things, I think your examples regarding Mexican surveillance are excellent.

I can help out Glenn Greenwald

While everyone was worrying about the presidential blowjobs in the late 90s, investigative reporter Duncan Campbell was doing a spectacular job of reporting on Echelon, GCHQ, etc. [And any of us who talked about this were called conspiracy theorists.] Some links below to get you started, Glenn. Call John Young at in Manhattan. He's on the Upper West Side and has REAMS of actual docs, provided anonymously, going back years as proof.

I know this shit is true because I taught NSA guys how to use the American side of the system, back when it was just the NSA hanging off the national AT&T nodes. Now, Narus, an Israeli-based company (altho' they've tried to hide it) does the vacuuming as an intermediary, which it could only do as a result of 1994 CALEA, and it's what Weiss the whistleblower was talking about. These guys can suck up packets at a rate of terabytes per nanosecond (I can't remember the rate; it's in if not removed there. Narus was bragging at one point, and very specific.) Go to and search for the Fox News series on the left to put the connections in context.

HAVE FUN. These are starter docs. Work from here.


It's funny but the first time I read the FISA-related comments on the previous thread that started this whole brouhaha, Franklin's lengthy post immediately made me think that the comment was written by a writer/blogger who covers this issue -- someone like Greenwald. Just a hunch based on the content and writing style. That could be way paranoid, but if true it might explain why Greenwald had his knickers in such a bunch when he sent that email. (Franklin got schoolled.)

What a PR coup! Good job.

This is nice, if only my dreams would be fulfilled and I start hearing you debate this crap on Democracy Now!

This guy, Greenwald, has been riding high in the saddle, adored by the moderate wing of the Democrat Party for quite a while.  Next thing he knows, some slacker-slub (*who doesn't even wear a freak'n tie, dammit) with a web site called Narco News is calling his FISA campaign a waste of time--given that the US security state already gets the info they want through a variety of channels.

And Greenwald will act totally suprised and outraged when it comes out that the US government is focusing on leftists, stalwart environmentalists, indigenous rights activists, socialist, etc. instead of Islamic 'terrorists'.   A cursory review of US history in the past hundred years would inform anyone that the consistent target of the security state are democratically minded insurgents on the left of the spectrum.

I even take it as a given that they moniter this website on a regular basis.  Why would I expect anything different than this in a country where the plutocratic elites jealously guard their power?

Indeed, Al, I am sure that in six hours your could write up a pretty convincing essay giving creedence to your claims--but, as you point out, this is a relatively trivial issue compared with other issues on the plate for folks that view getting Obama and more moderate folk elected this coming November.

But, again, this PR can only bode well for Narco News and your stature as a journalist to watch at this juncture of US history.

Nice job, again.

PS: I am sending the money that Deb refunded back to me to your coffers today.



Well, no real surprises here

It's always been clear that Greenwald is a humorless egomaniac driven largely by his admiration of his own righteousness - this just confirms it.

The claim that he is trying to dispute seems like a perfectly plausible one, and fits pretty comfortably with what little I know of the subject.  It would be good to see some published work on the subject, to confirm it, and perhaps Greenwald has a bit of a point there.  But he's still an enormous douchebag, so I don't particularly mind.

So, in conclusion, Glenn Greenwald - enormous douchebag.

To be brutal about this:

To be brutal about this: Greenwald has a strong financial incentive to keep others off his little patch of Purity Turf. If he stops being "The Guardian of Righteousness for the Pure Progressive Jihad" then he loses readers, page views, and ultimately cash. No more book deals, no more little columns in Salon banging the same tedious drum. Not that Glenn will ever admit it - but he saw his chance to achieve financially rewarding "martyrdom" - and behold, the self-righteousness and self-pity flowed.  I look at his aggression and extremism and feel that this isn't exactly progressive politics - and certainly not politics that stands a chance of winning converts.  You don't get anywhere by kicking down the frontdoor as a prelude to a debate.

Heh - nevermind!

In one of my comments above, I was a bit curious why you decided to publish this conversation, as it ends up pouring more fuel on the FISA debate - something you've said you don't want to do.

I just realized that silencing or embarrassing you on the issue was the entire point of Greenwood's interaction, and for you to stay silent on it would have been a "win" for him.

And perhaps a little public scrutiny of his tactics is a nice way to say to him, "Sit down, take breath, and light up a Camel."

mountains and molehills

Al, maybe you might take a deep breath and step back just a little, and try to stay focused on the issue at hand, rather than jumping up a two bit journalist turf war.  Greenwald's been doing some good work, as have you.  There seems to be no need to get into a pissing match - regardless of who might be right.


Greenwald apparantly asked for two things to back up your claim:

1. your sources for your claim

2. other published records that might detail the charges you make.


This really doesn't seem to be too onerous.  If your source(s) are confidential, then say so.  If you don't feel like doing the leg work to point him at other published information, then at least say what city and in what year it was published.  


Without sourcing, corroboration and/or documentation, what you have is an allegation.  Greenwald is wrong to characterize it as 'making it up', but sound journalism is never on the basis of 'because I say so'.

Perhaps Greenwald will assist you in gaining these charges wider distribution, corroboration and action against widespread harvesting of electronic communications.  And this might be to the ultimate benefit of yourself and NarcoNews.

What is most important here?


Personally, having had my phone tapped and being under surveillance in the good old days, I've always assumed (like you) that all communications are at risk of surveillance and proceed accordingly.  

The wording of FISA (Greenwald's latest focus) makes it clear that any communication that happens outside of the US, or not entirely within the US, is liable to electronic harvesting without any need for warrants or judicial notice or approval.


With the internet your email flows through a roundabout path of least resistance to its ultimate destination.  Sending an order for a pizza delivery could easily go through twenty nods on three continents before arriving six blocks away - making it fair game for electronic harvesting.  This is no different than folks with warrants who fly and are arrested during a layover or when the plane is diverted into the US, though they might not leave the plane.


There's too much surveillance and a lot of bad legislation out there.  FISA is particularly egregious.  Sometimes you have to fight the battles you're faced with, win or lose.  Fighting FISA doesn't mean you approve of other erosions of privacy.


Al, you know as well as I do that we're stronger when we work together.  I think it's worth seeing if that's possible with Greenwald; give it a shot.

Didn't he also bash Olberman?

Is this the same guy that got into it with Olberman? This guy needs to tone down his attacks just a little. Isn't this a free country? In other words-we each have a right to form our own opinion by which to make our own judgements as to whether an issue is a make or break deal for us this election season-without being verbally assaulted. Why must Glenn attack those who try to see both sides of the FISA issue? Is that progressive-or regressive? Just wondering?

Facing The Truth

 I knew this was taking place but it is hard to read the links that the Mexican savage and Alexa posted. I guess for Glenn Greenwald ignorance was bliss.

Hey Glenn--1988, this was there:

Although it is impossible for analysts to listen to all but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls, and other signals which might contain "significant" information, a network of monitoring stations in Britain and elsewhere is able to tap all international and some domestic communications circuits, and sift out messages which sound interesting. Computers automatically analyse every telex message or data signal, and can also identify calls to, say, a target telephone number in London, no matter from which country they originate.

How do you nominate a website for the best place to be for the 2008 elections? This place deserves that award, and that still missing credential!


Steven Hunt writes - "a web site called Narco News is calling his FISA campaign a waste of time--given that the US security state already gets the info they want through a variety of channels."

Steven - I'm not saying, and never said, that campaigning against the FISA bill was "a waste of time." In fact I think it is a worthwhile activity.

Where I break with some of the folks that are doing it is in their poor tactical and strategic judgment. A vocal sector of them has made the error of thinking that, A. If only the Democratic nominee would filibuster or something the rest of the Senate Democrats will then fall in line (they won't), or, B. That the fact that one senator is running for president means that they have power to pressure him into doing what they want (in fact, they've inadvertently caused an inaccurate perception that he's unconcerned with civil liberties in a way that only puts substantial numbers of swing voters more at ease with him), or, C. That they can use this to play out their anger that their horse (Clinton, Edwards, Kucinich, Ron Paul, whatever) did not win a presidential nomination this year.

I think the center-column folks over at Daily Kos, for example, have been pretty darn responsible in their understanding that you can actively oppose the FISA bill without becoming so obsessive and single-issue about it that you lose sight of other goals that are equally or more important.

I've not criticized Greenwald (before he stepped into my saloon this morning) or any of the FISA activists by name. Just as I don't see the legislation as being as big a deal as they do, nor do I see their activities as that big a deal either. It's just one of those things among thousands spinning around the news cycle these days.

But I wanted to correct any impression you or others might have that I somehow consider activism around any legislation to be "a waste of time." It's time well spent. I just wish some folks could be as smart as others are being about it right now.

A couple of things...

I've long enjoyed Glenn's writing, and I do think he's gone off the deep end in the prosecutorial attitude, but I can understand it.  He is a lawyer.  And I don't mean that in a smarmy way...he is a lawyer in the good, old-fashioned, rule-of-law-loving am I.  When something that is core to your belief system is blatently attacked. as the FISA bill attacks the very notion of checks & balances and the rule of law, it can be easy to slip into the "professional litigator attack" mode.  I'm not saying he is right to do so here...far from it, but I can understand it.

This is the Constitution, damn it, and they are gutting it.  The President of the United States has committed a felony (over 30 actually) in authorizing warrantless searches, and the Congress of the United States is about to help him cover it up.  That is a crime in and of itself--misprision of a felony--and every member of Congress that votes for a bill with immunity in it is guilty.  It is a deep and searing pain to my soul to see it happen in my country to my Constitution.

Am I still going to vote for Obama?  Of course.  He is the best candidate, and a hell of a lot better than the alternatives.  I think he will be a wise, caring, and effective President.  I am disappointed he isn't going to go to the mat on this one, but I understand it.  He has his eyes on a bigger prize.

Al, you seem to look at it from a very practical and political viewpoint, and I respect that.  I am that way on a lot of things....politics is the art of the possible, and all that.  But on the core principles of our Constitutional protections, if we don't fight tooth and nail for them, they will disappear.  And I can't compromise on those.  It is true that they can grab my stuff using foreign government "partners," so it doesn't matter from a practical standpoint whether or not this bill passes.  But it does matter from the standpoint of doing our best to keep our government from violating the promises made when it was created.  Promises that many have died trying to defend.  Did that defense always work?  No, but at least they tried.  We should do the same.

Something Shawn @ 11:40 said struck me as both true and missing the point:

but I also understand that if Obama is elected, he will be in a much better position to guard our civil liberties than if he remains a junior senator from Illinois.

Yes he will be.  But our freedoms can't rest solely on the beneficence of the executive, because the executive changes with every election.  WE have to guard our own civil liberties.  We must use every tool available to force our elected representatives to honor their oaths of office.

the H

;)  Pam - I knew what he was intending - I meant my comment as a 'snark' - but I like Allan's word better - the guy is a PUTZ!

Response to Jon

Jon writes - "If you don't feel like doing the leg work to point him at other published information, then at least say what city and in what year it was published."

Jon - If you look at my first response to Greenwald this morning, that's exactly what I did:

"In 1998, the Mexican daily El Universal reported on the existence of a telephone surveillance headquarters in Mexico City operated by the DEA with the permission of the Mexican government that did not solicit nor honor the concept of warranting their work with court orders and such."

City! Year! Name of publication! It's all there.

What's clear is that Greenwald isn't interested in this very interesting set of facts about global surveillance because he obviously perceives it as inconvenient to the narrative he's been pushing of late. He's not likely to take up this cause or somehow help spread the word about it, even though doing so serves the same greater pro-freedom narrative that opposition to FISA ideally ought to be part of.

He got his undies into a bunch over a comment in a comments section of an online newspaper where nobody makes the kind of money he makes working for an institutional media company... and a comment that wasn't even about him or his work, but about a greater issue of public importance.

The "can't we all get along" approach to progressive writers or bloggers crashes on the rocks of that we have different levels and understandings about how change is effectively made. Even short term readers of this blog know I pick my battles and when I take them on I do so to win, and more often than not do win. That, I think, gains me the right to do things as I choose to do them, and not to let other bloggers or writers dictate what I should be reporting on.

I've said it before: I don't worry myself over what other bloggers or journalists do or think. If they worry about what I do or think, that's their problem.


(first time commenter) Al, thanks for posting this exchange! There's a lot here to think about. For one thing, I think it's a sure sign of intellectual bankruptcy or at least inadequacy that he failed to engage with the better part of what you were saying.

For another thing, this is just another symptom of the problem, the progressive-litmus-test as red-baiting, although I would also say that it parallels, in reverse, the post-9/11 heightened "dissent is unpatriotic" meme, or hell, even the mainstream Christian response to "heresy." I used to read Greenwald as well as OpenLeft, and ultimately I had to abandon them because they used the word "progressive" (or "transformative progressive") in the same way that people talk about doctrinal Christians vis-a-vis heretics, or what have you. Even when they were right on the substance, their intellectual methods (if you could call them that) were substantively of the right, as far as I see it.

Of course, it also strikes me that these folks are really just liberals who talk about how they won't back down on anything, yet have embraced a euphemism in the face of the right's entirely successful attempt to demonize the term! What does that tell you?


Al, I love ya, but was this really necessary?

Al, I'm not saying your point is wrong, but... maybe, pick your battles? Greenwald is not the enemy. He's on our side. Or if you prefer, "in the grand scheme of things" Greenwald is on our side. You didn't need to publish this exchange of private emails as a blog post. I love what you do and for many months have made a point every day of visiting your site (current and Ex) to get your take on things. You're a valuable part of my reading, and of the blogosphere at large.

But by publishing your exchange with Greenwald you took up a blog slot with internal infighting, that you might have used in some other way. Instead, we have here a Left Good Guys Circular Firing Squad post making a private squabble public, for no good reason that I can see.

Let it go. Greenwald has his style and you have yours. He's more into documenting every bit and twiddle (maybe it's his legal background) while you tend to be more oriented to big-picture conclusions and observations (and generally damn good ones). Both approaches are, I think, valuable. But fighting among ourselves doesn't serve us.

FWIW my own take is that you do have a valid point when you note that it's reasonable for you to publish your conclusions while protecting your sources who, especially in Latin America, have a lot to lose by being outed. And as you also note, there's already plenty out there to support your take on this. My suggestion would have been to just say that to him privately, acknowledge to Greenwald that in his world it might not be enough for him, note your different styles of blogging, and thank him for his interest. And let it go.

Al, I love your passion. Please don't lose that. All I'm saying here is, keep it pointed where it will do the most good. Our side needs all the help it can get, and I'd be sad if your invaluable contribution got lost to infighting and bickering. Pick your battles. Let it go.

Thanks for all that you do, and truly, all the best to you.


Al, I stand corrected, it

Al, I stand corrected, it was a careless phrase.  Of course fighting vociferously to protect civil liberties is incredibly important.  However, the attack on Obama is, in my view, as you have framed it.

Having seen 'the rule of law' crapped on with regularity in my life time, I tend to be pretty jaded, especially when I see myriad laws disreguarded with the illegal attack on Iraq, which lead to a massive refugee crisis and hundreds of thousands dead. Many of the public, self-appointed guardians of 'freedom' in the US were either complict or silent.  I place no faith these folk's advancing 'freedom', in the concrete or abstract sense of the ideal/concept.

In fact, most public intellectuals (as opposed to dissident intellectuals) have tended to be hypocrites that kiss up to the biggest thugs on the block for their share of the loot.

On another level--I don't like neck-ties, and I am inclined to not trust folks that wear them as a regular part of their attire.  Hey, there are exceptions, of course.

The Blogosphere as Jurassic Park

Some other George - My long experience working toward the same goals as many progressives, or liberals, or radicals, or even libertarians, depending on the specific matter, whether they be electoral, non-electoral, or anti-electoral (each is valid at its own moment) has found it to be a Jurassic Park of conflicting egos and agendas. And from time to time a Tyrannosaur looks down at this little Velociraptor and thinks, Oh goodie! Dinner!

Well, history shows what's happened in each of those cases, and this smaller but faster creature has taken a piece out of many that thought they could push him around. And you know what happens if you don't do that? They come around more frequently to try to interfere with your own hunting expeditions.

This creature has the advantage of being one that doesn't work alone. My protection from aspiring bullies is that there are others like me and we hunt in packs. Only by bringing this exchange out into the sunlight do the big lizards see that we little ones, united, are hardly defenseless or powerless, and, to the contrary, more lethal when it comes getting things done.

Some punk wants to first try and intimidate me from speaking a gigantic truth, then when that doesn't work tries to impugn my integrity by accusing that I make things up in my journalism? Well, he's off nursing his flesh wounds now and I'm flossing my teeth and shining my claws. Jebus, it's not like I killed the guy. He'll live to write again. Maybe he'll even be more careful about it. He certainly will the next time he thinks about trying to intimidate around this neck of the forest.

One thing I learned when I lived in the jungle: in the forest, there are not "two sides." Nature is much more complicated than that.

Al, for the record, I would

Al, for the record, I would expect you to publish these email exchanges as a blog topic.

You're not going to make this a vendetta--but this does point up the arrogance of many of the conventional media 'stars'--folks appointed by the corporate media gate-keepers to voice an opinion on matters of importance.

This was an interesting topic, and pertinent to some of the discussion that we have been having lately.

I wouldn't apologize to Greenwald, and point out the obvious: that you have a differnt 'style'.

Greenwald I would place in the 'public intellectual' catagory that I refered to above.

No, he is not an enemy, but the accusatory tactic certainly lacked tact and decorum.

The Circular Firing Squad

I disagree with George.


When it comes to the "Left Good Guys Circular Firing Squad," Greenwald is arguably a member of the vanguard (maybe the Forlorn Hope?). Al didn't ask for this exchange, and I don't think there's any common purpose that entitles Greenwald to have his petulance rewarded and/or corrected in private. He lives in a big old glass house when it comes to holding this form of "research" and "analysis" up to the light.


For me, the clincher is the final email that Al quotes. "You just made it up," is the conclusion of someone who doesn't want to know anything more or wants an easy escape from the burden of having to learn more by his own efforts. Even the opening email query is pretty telling as to how Greenwald approaches potential sources of information. I guess he assumes people are going to be so impressed by him that they'll ignore his officious tone?

way to call him out

Al: Way to go in slamming another self-righteous progressive who has his own obvious agenda.

A couple of months ago, I finally ditched because I couldn't take anymore from Glenn Greenwald and Sidney Blumenthal.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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