Former Guardian reporter, NSA story breaker, and long-time civil liberties advocate Glenn Greenwald took time to discuss journalism, privacy, the NSA and the internet in a CNET report Friday.
“I think the principal problem with the establishment press, at least in terms of political journalism, has been excess deference to, and closeness with, the most powerful political factions,” Greenwald said. “The very precincts over which journalism is, at its best, supposed to exercise oversight and serve as a watchdog, and instead it serves as a kind of amplifying mechanism and as a servant to them.”
Greenwald, famous for publishing NSA surveillance stories leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, believes his new media venture (tentatively named NewCo) will help to change that.
“One of the things we tried to do in how we reported the NSA story was to kind of revitalize the idea of an adversarial relationship between government and journalists, tonally but also behaviorally,” Greenwald said. “And I think that one of the principle objectives of our new organization is to not just tolerate but encourage and foster journalists who think that way.”
Since the leaks earlier this summer Greenwald has exemplified whistle-blowers like WikiLeaks Julian Assange, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, and Snowden for advocating a private Internet, and pushing forward a global conversation about surveillance, transparency and civil liberties.
“That’s true in the general area of press freedoms, of transparency, of internet freedom — all these values the United States government constantly trumpets itself as supporting have been revealed as values that the United States simultaneously is sort of waging war against,” Greenwald said. “And I think that’s really going to eat into and undermine the ability of the US government to have this massive gap between the rhetoric they issue to other countries and the reality of their own behavior.”
Greenwald is among those that advocate and articulate the value of privacy and the threat the surveillance state imposes not just on civil liberties, but on creativity and non-conformity.
“But what’s important about a surveillance state is that it creates the recognition that your behavior is susceptible to being watched at any time,” Greenwald said. “What that does is radically alter your behavior, because if we can act without other people watching us, we can test all kinds of boundaries, we can explore all kinds of creativity, we can transgress pretty much every limit that we want because nobody’s going to know that we’re doing it. That’s why privacy is so vital to human freedom.”
The core sentiment shared by Greenwald and his sources is the positive influence of the Internet on personal evolution in the information age.
“I think what it does even more than that is it just expands your sense of possibility as a human being,” Greenwald said. “So that you realize just how many options you have in terms of the kind of person you want to create yourself as, the kind of thought systems you think are valid or to which you ultimately even subscribe. And this freedom that the internet affords is, I think, unprecedentedly valuable.”