My creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be …

I hate to do this but I feel obligated to share, as the story unfolds, my creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be, and that the motivations involved in the story may be more complex than they appear to be. This is in no way to detract from the great courage of Glenn Greenwald in reporting the story, and the gutsiness of the Guardian in showcasing this kind of reporting, which is a service to America that US media is not performing at all. It is just to raise some cautions as the story unfolds, and to raise some questions about how it is unfolding, based on my experience with high-level political messaging.

Some of Snowden’s emphases seem to serve an intelligence/police state objective, rather than to challenge them. 

a) He is super-organized, for a whistleblower,  in terms of what candidates, the White House, the State Dept. et al call ‘message discipline.’ He insisted on publishing  a power point in the newspapers that ran his initial revelations. I gather that he arranged for a talented filmmaker to shoot the Greenwald interview. These two steps — which are evidence of great media training, really ‘PR 101″ — are virtually never done (to my great distress) by other whistleblowers, or by progressive activists involved in breaking news, or by real courageous people who are under stress and getting the word out. They are always done, though, by high-level political surrogates. 

b) In the Greenwald video interview, I was concerned about the way Snowden conveys his message. He is not struggling for words, or thinking hard, as even bright, articulate whistleblowers under stress will do. Rather he appears to be transmitting whole paragraphs smoothly, without stumbling. To me this reads as someone who has learned his talking points — again the way that political campaigns train surrogates to transmit talking points. 

c) He keeps saying things like, “If you are a journalist and they think you are the transmission point of this info, they will certainly kill you.” Or: “I fully expect to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.” He also keeps stressing what he will lose: his $200,000 salary, his girlfriend, his house in Hawaii. These are the kinds of messages that the police state would LIKE journalists to take away; a real whistleblower also does not put out potential legal penalties as options, and almost always by this point has a lawyer by his/her side who would PROHIBIT him/her from saying, ‘come get me under the Espionage Act.” Finally in my experience, real whistleblowers are completely focused on their act of public service and trying to manage the jeopardy to themselves and their loved ones; they don’t tend ever to call attention to their own self-sacrifice. That is why they are heroes, among other reasons. But a police state would like us all to think about everything we would lose by standing up against it. 

d) It is actually in the Police State’s interest to let everyone know that everything you write or say everywhere is being surveilled, and that awful things happen to people who challenge this. Which is why I am not surprised that now he is on UK no-fly lists – I assume the end of this story is that we will all have a lesson in terrible things that happen to whistleblowers. That could be because he is a real guy who gets in trouble; but it would be as useful to the police state if he is a fake guy who gets in ‘trouble.’ 

e) In stories that intelligence services are advancing (I would call the prostitutes-with-the-secret-service such a story), there are great sexy or sex-related mediagenic visuals that keep being dropped in, to keep media focus on the issue. That very pretty pole-dancing Facebooking girlfriend who appeared for, well, no reason in the media coverage…and who keeps leaking commentary, so her picture can be recycled in the press…really, she happens to pole-dance? Dan Ellsberg’s wife was and is very beautiful and doubtless a good dancer but somehow she took a statelier role as his news story unfolded…

f) Snowden is in Hong Kong, which has close ties to the UK, which has done the US’s bidding with other famous leakers such as Assange. So really there are MANY other countries that he would be less likely to be handed over from…

g) Media reports said he had vanished at one point to ‘an undisclosed location’ or ‘a safe house.’ Come on. There is no such thing. Unless you are with the one organization that can still get off the surveillance grid, because that org created it. 

h) I was at dinner last night to celebrate the brave and heroic Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Several of Assange’s also brave and talented legal team were there, and I remembered them from when I had met with Assange. These attorneys are present at every moment when Assange meets the press — when I met with him off the record last Fall in the Ecuadoran embassy, his counsel was present the whole time, listening and stepping in when necessary. 

Seeing these diligent attentive free-speech attorneys for another whisleblower reinforced my growing anxiety: WHERE IS SNOWDEN’S LAWYER as the world’s media meet with him? A whistleblower talking to media has his/her counsel advising him/her at all times, if not actually being present at the interview, because anything he/she says can affect the legal danger the whistleblower may be in . It is very, very odd to me that a lawyer has not appeared, to my knowledge, to stand at Snowden’s side and keep him from further jeopardy in interviews. 

Again I hate to cast any skepticism on what seems to be a great story of a brave spy coming in from the cold in the service of American freedom. And I would never raise such questions in public if I had not been told by a very senior official in the intelligence world that indeed, there are some news stories that they create and drive — even in America (where propagandizing Americans is now legal). But do consider that in Eastern Germany, for instance, it was the fear of a machine of surveillance that people believed watched them at all times — rather than the machine itself — that drove compliance and passivity. From the standpoint of the police state and its interests — why have a giant Big Brother apparatus spying on us at all times — unless we know about it?

Naomi

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30 Responses to “My creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be …”

  1. avatar DJBALL says:

    Panapticon 101 .

  2. avatar um says:

    where’s your proof naomi? this is an awfully serious charge to raise publicly without any hard evidence…

    • avatar DJBALL says:

      i too have been a fan of Wolf’s writings but to prematurely air out her “creepy concerns” with no evidence on potentially one of the greatest whistleblowers in our time is very suspect in itself.

    • avatar Ricky Ross says:

      She explained her “proof”…it is in the article >>> COMMON SENSE! Didn’t you realize on about the 3rd day of the media coverage that this has drawn, that the same media “reporting” all of this Snowden story, is the same media that has been in bed with the US government for the last 50+ years? Why would the government’s favorite bed partner, the presstitute media, out their favorite partner? You know, the same media that has covered up and glossed over so much of the governments crime and tyranny! Also, think real slowly about this one…how can we the people, get reports on Snowden’s every move via the media, in seemingly “real time” (where he flying too etc…) yet, being the “most wanted” man in the world, the U.S. government can’t catch him? That’s almost as ludicrous as the idea that on 9/11/01, 19 men with box cutters, defeated all of the safe guards/technology put in place to protect the United States most protected building on earth…the Pentagon!

      WAKE UP! If the media is reporting anything to do with the US Government, you had better question it and assume the opposite of what they are saying, until the opposite can be verified!

    • avatar ummmmmmm says:

      Did you bother to even read the article?

      Notice how the title says “My creeping concern…”, and not “My factual conclusion…”?

      She’s throwing around ideas. She’s asking questions. She’s listing observations. These are some of the first steps in investigation & inquiry.

      And here you come, looking like a fool, asking “where’s your proof?!”. Please – close your mouth, and open your eyes & ears. It’s OK to have discussion and toss around ideas without providing “proof” to impatient fools like you.

  3. avatar A reader says:

    Are you serious…no more playing with tinfoil for you!

    a) Greenwald obviously arranged the meeting and media. Poitras is a professional documenary filmmaker, so of course it looks good. This is to their credit.

    b) Snowden is extremely articulate, but that’s just how some very intelligent people talk I presume. He also spent two weeks in the hotel room before the interview, pleny of time to think.

    c) If they would like “us” to think that, why not just have Obama say it? You might argue that “Big Brother” would like you to believe all those things — but it certainly does not follow that they therefore are behind it.

    d) This point is, excuse me, so muddled that I don’t even know what to reply.

    e) The fact that this 29-year olds girlfriend is printed in the media by our creed of ridicilous journalists, is if anything, less than what they manage to spew out in their gutterpresses elsewhere.

    f) Which countries are those? What Snowden is gambling on is global activism and status as a political refugee, not criminal charges.

    g) This is a repeat of point c.

    If anything, I’d say you’ve been a usefool for the “very senior official in the intelligence world” who said “that indeed, there are some news stories that they create and drive.” This ridicilous drivel is one of them, although “they” created this one indirectly.

  4. avatar Mark Graham says:

    Hi Naomi,

    When I tried to comment on your message about this on FB there was an error message saying that the post has been removed and it is not possible to comment on it.

    Very suspicious. They do not want your message to be seen.

    Mark Graham
    Mark@freewayblogging.com

  5. avatar John "Doe" says:

    Yes Mark, that is very suspicious! It could be Snowden that’s doing it, since he has full access from his four laptops. That would be so easy for him to do. They’re OBVIOUSLY trying to hide something!!!

  6. avatar Chris Kapilla says:

    Naomi, I respect your work immensely but I really don’t see the point of this — if your long series of “what if’s” are true, it will become obvious soon enough. If they aren’t true, that will also be obvious soon enough.

  7. avatar Mark Graham says:

    Dear Naomi,

    I loved your book The End of America and have a TON of respect for you and your work. But I disagree on this, at least until there is proof or further reason to doubt Snowden.

    a) Glenn Greenwald could have arranged the film maker or videographer. If Snowden is a computer whiz and very smart he could have also arranged the ppt. The court order was dated April 25, 2013. We do not know when he got it but it’s possible he had the whole month of May plus a few days in April and June to figure out how he wanted to break this story and to arrange it.

    b) Could be but this is not conclusive.

    c) and d) For you to be right Snowden would have to actually get nailed by the feds, something like Bradley Manning. Otherwise (if he does not get nailed by the feds) it disproves your argument here, with all due respect.

    About referring to the Espionage Act, the feds do not need any help in figuring out what Act(s) to use to prosecute him. They are far far ahead of him in that. In other words his mention of the Espionage Act would be of no practical value to the prosecutors (u.s. attorney). He could have also mentioned the USA Patriot Act.

    e) I have no idea about “stories that intelligence services are advancing.”

    f) That is a good argument.

    g) Don’t believe the “media reports”. As far as I am concerned he could be in any country. Just because he says he is in Hong Kong does not mean he really is.

    h) You could be right about this, but the best way for him to avoid legal trouble would have been to remain anonymous.

    Also, what could his lawyer make him say or not say that would cover his ass? I am not an attorney but it seems the #1 thing his lawyer could have told him is, “Do not go public. Remain anonymous.” Once he leaked the court order and talked to Greenwald and made that video and identified himself, what difference would it make what he said to the press in terms of his legal situation down the road? Not much in my opinion.

    Do you doubt the authenticity of the court order that Snowden leaked?
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2013/jun/06/verizon-telephone-data-court-order

    Keep up your excellent work and hopefully facebook will not censor your next post so quickly.

    Mark Graham

  8. avatar John says:

    Trolls much?

  9. avatar Dale says:

    How has everyone forgotten that this “whistleblowing” happened a week after Obama suggested that we end the endless war, and with it the reasons for having an unfettered surveillance state? Snowden clearly is not who he says he is, and he doesn’t even make $200,000 a year like he said, he really makes $122,000, and was only renting the house in Hawaii. And he’s a high school dropout. My bs meter was pegged from the start of this, but my ever optimistic theory is that Obama put him up to it to make it easier to dismantle the apparatus of the Patriot Act. Can you think of a better way to get that started and get the people behind it?

  10. avatar Chip says:

    Dales on the money!! Its OBama whos behind it, the only good guy!! thank god big brother is so cool or wed be SOOO FUCKED!! I voted FOR BIG BRO TWICE!! Finally he’s gonna save us all – tho he’d better hurry, only cpl years left of his term! Shit only fxing the first 6 years is gonna take a while!! but he CAN do it and make CHANGE!! YEAH!

  11. avatar TKO says:

    I have had these same misgivings. The objections raised in the comments here taste a bit of “whistling past the graveyard.”

  12. avatar Snertly says:

    I feel certain that should Mr Snowden have the opportunity, he will apologize for not living up to your expectations of what constitutes proper whistleblowing.

  13. avatar TMS says:

    Could be, but this laundry list is pretty weak. In order:

    a and b) William Binney, another NSA whistleblower, is similarly well-organized and similarly able to speak coherently with little to no apparent struggle for words. The filmmaker who shot the interview is well-known for her work on exactly these issues; having appeared, for example, on Democracy Now! with Binney.

    c) How many people, particularly within Secret America, are unclear on the dangers of going against the system? He’s hardly proving or demonstrating anything even remotely in dispute – something already well-demonstrated by the detention, torture and prosecution of Bradley Manning.

    d) Similarly, it is already widely suspected that most to all digital communication is surveilled.

    e) kind of a dumb point. again, maybe, but pole dancing is much, much, more acceptable and common today than during the war in Vietnam.

    f) so why not go to one of those countries? what point does going to Hong Kong serve to advance the interests of the Police State?

    g) certainly seems at least possible for a single person to temporarily disappear in a city of 7 million.

    h) the man is on the run and you’re asking why he doesn’t have a lawyer with him?

    this echoes the idea that there’s something weird about Snowden saying that he’ll be prosecuted, as if that wasn’t an obvious consequence that anyone would have foreseen.

    In sum, maybe Snowden is playing out a script, but the questions you raise are all pretty weak.

  14. avatar ME says:

    It’s a fact that the govt uses anonymous leakers to pivot public opinion; isn’t it inevitable that they would try to float a publicly know “whistleblower” to better control the would-be opposition? I’d be shocked if they didn’t. And particularly when the opposition is on the left is it important to make the “whistleblower” sympathetic to the left; even when he is in fact a libertarian (#thetrueHOOHA). Snowden is a media creation; no coverage for Binney, Tice, et al; which is itself suspect. Thank you Naomi for acting on your common sense!

  15. avatar ME says:

    Also: it might be that Greenwald is the ultimate target of this Snowden operation. He’s innocent!

  16. avatar Lourdes says:

    Nam, what happened to my comment? I was the first post and now it has disappeared. What’s cooking? Please, tell me it was NOT you who deleted my comment.

  17. […] My creeping concern that the NSA leaker is not who he purports to be … […]

  18. avatar dave says:

    The old saw is truer now than ever: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Such articles present extraordinary claims. Yet they don’t bring forward evidence, never mind the required extraordinary evidence.

    Conclusion: Yet more of the conspiracy theory claptrap that is so gumming up rational thinking and discourse in our world. I suggest the author re-read Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style of American Politics” as her statements are in the same vein as,

    “How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.”

    Does the author really want to take over from Joe McCarthy? Really?

  19. Anybody interested in the further development of the Edward Snowden Hoax should follow

    http://twitter.com/MediterrNewsNet

    And – if you understand German – here is a new book about the manipulations of the mass media:

    http://openpr.de/news/725754/Harry-R-Wilkens-Die-illusionaere-Welt-in-der-wir-leben.html

  20. avatar gold price says:

    A police whistleblower is suing the state government over allegations he was intimidated and bullied for nearly a year after reporting instances of corruption, fraud and misconduct inside Victoria Police.

  21. avatar Mata Hari says:

    Or maybe..the NSA convinced a celebrity blogger to publish a conspiracy theory in an attempt to discredit him.

  22. Speculation and some facts can confuse anyone.. Also holding back secrets that could be used as a bargaining chip is something only a whistleblower wanting to live would consider.. I think jumping to conclusions one way or another is premature.. But if anyone gets a benefit from my doubt, it would be someone taking the actions of Edward Snowden, exposing facts of US world surveillance. Wolf’s statement that the NWO would want us to know this.. or other countries being spied on.. is a bit weak to jump the gun on this one.. in my opinion.. well, she said creeping..

  23. avatar john cato says:

    Good to see someone use their intuition intelligently.

  24. avatar Sandra says:

    With all due respect to all opinions, my intuition from the start said, ” Something is off. Something doesn’t make sense.” It didn’t make sense to conduct security operations by collecting untold billions of computer data. And I knew personally that my moves while I researched in the Internet were monitered years ago when I stumbled across a highly unethical medical experiment. Before I could print it the computer shut down and when I was able to log back on and searched the exact same words, I could not go back to that article. No one could believe what I saw and I don’t remember as its been so long but it was heinous. So there is nothing new in his revelations, just details. I wonder, too was this put out there to start a conversation, to expose the system?

  25. avatar Paul Denton says:

    I don’t know what to think here. Everything the S dog says about surveillance is like a conspiracy theory, but everything the delicious and smoking hot feminist Naomi Wolf says is also a conspiracy theory, so it’s a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory…conspiraception?

    Maybe Snowden is a double agent working against the triple agent Naomi Wolf and I’m the quadruple agent pretending to be a commenter but actually installing doubt in your minds that she’s actually raising valid concerns about a double agent operation!!! Oh man this is too much, I better call Tracer Tong…

  26. avatar Veritas Cupitor says:

    I hate to break it to everyone, but Glen Greenwald, Edward Snowden (not real name), Jeremy Shahill, Pierre Omidyar, the Guardian, and anyone associated with these people/organization are government agents. This whole thing has been a psy-ops to manufacture consent and squash dissidence through the slow and steady release of “information”. If their information was so imperative for the World to know, why don’t they release all of the documents in their possession?? Why did Greenwald consult with FBI before releasing docs?? Not very heroic if you ask me… Wake up people – they’re all duping you!

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