The campaign to demonize Edward Snowden, whose revelations about the National Security Agency’s ubiquitous and ongoing spying on the American public has the Obama regimein furious disrray, has taken on a new dimension – now they’re going after Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter and columnist Snowden chose to tell his story. Glenn has already preempted some of this in his Guardian column, but there is sure to be more. What’s interesting about this effort is that it tells us far more about the smear-merchants – and who they serve – than it does about Greenwald.
There were a few preliminary fusillades coming from liberal bloggers when the NSA spying story broke – lame attempts to debunk Greenwald’s reporting, and vague insinuations directed at his objectivity as a reporter. However, as the Obama administration and its apologists flailed about, while Snowden – and Greenwald’s reporting – ran rings around them, the nasty stuff started. David Gregory, echoing Rep. Peter King (R-IRA), wondered aloud on national television why Greenwald shouldn’t be jailed forthwith – but that was just the beginning. A few days later, the dirt really started to fly with an article in the New York Daily News detailing Greenwald’s various personal, legal, and financial troubles, and I quote:
"The reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs has a little secret of his own.
"Before he was a reporter and commentator for The Guardian newspaper, Glenn Greenwald was a lawyer — and had a part-time job in the porn business."
Glenn – a porn star? Well, uh, no, not exactly, or even remotely. But that’s the Daily News for you, a tabloid modeled on those British rags with screaming headlines over photos of scantily clad "celebrities." After that lascivious opening – like a whore beckoning at the reader from a dark corner with promises of unimaginable carnal delights – the letdown is dizzying.
It turns out the "part time job in the porn business" was a business relationship with a friend and a third party producer involving video distribution rights. Yawn. And it’s downhill from there: Greenwald owes back taxes, Greenwald has been involved in some lawsuits (he’s a lawyer!), and – last, and certainly least – one of those lawsuits involved a dispute with the Manhattan co-op he was living in involving the size of his dog, deemed "too large" for the co-op board. To Guantanamo with him!
None of this is too interesting, except for its value as an object of near-universal derision: last [Wednesday] night and well into Thursday, Twitter users were riffing on a new hashtag, #ggscandals, mercilessly mocking the smear-mongers’ sheer lameness.
Far more interesting than the content of this misfired dirtball is the dirtbag who wrote it, one Dareh Gregorian. Aside from being a low-level gossip-monger for the low-rent NYDN, he also happens to be the son of Vartan Gregorian, head of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, one of the major dispensers of corporate cash to various philanthropies and nonprofit outfits throughout the country.
The connection matters because it was Dareh’s dad who lobbed $49.2 million in Barack Obama’s direction when the community organizer and future President headed up the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). Gregorian, as the Annenberg Foundation’s representative in the matter, was instrumental in securing the funding for a group led by Bill Ayers and Mike Klonsky, two sixties-era former radicals turned education reformers. Gregorian chose the Ayers-Klonsky-Obama proposal over competing bids from Mayor Daley, the Chicago Public School system, and the teacher’s union. Obama, CAC’s founding president, resigned in 1999 to run for Senate. When Obama took office, Vartan Gregorian was appointed to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, which "mentors" up-and-comers deemed worthy by the Regime.
I wonder who was mentoring young Dareh as he wrote up the contents of his Greenwald dossier – the source of which is not too hard to imagine. Because this isn’t the first time Greenwald has been the subject of a smear campaign: the last one involved a shady outfit known as "HBGary Federal," which did a deal with Bank of America to go after WikiLeaks and its supporters, including especially Greenwald. The banksters were mad about the WikiLeaks document dump that exposed BofA’s corporate malfeasance. Vartan Gregorian has had a very close relationship with BofA at least since his stint as President of the New York Public Library: Here he is appearing at BoA’s "Courage in Journalism" awards presentation.
Yes, that’s right: Courage in journalism – don’t these people just take the cake?
If there was such a thing as the Corruption in Journalism awards, Gregorian’s son – whose scummy career as a "reporter" is here succinctly summarized by the noted blogger Billmon – is surely first in line for the honor. C’mon, Dareh, didn’t Daddy put you up to it?
Indeed, there’s some evidence the father is a dominating influence in the son’s life. In one of those horribly self-regarding New Yawkerish Observer profiles, the kind that make you wish the isle of Manhattan would sink into the Atlantic (and take Brooklyn with it), we learn the trials and tribulations of being a Gregorian. The piece, describing the "Countdown to Bliss" preceding Gregorian’s wedding, cites his wife-to-be, Politico columnist Maggie Haberman, daughter of New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman:
"’We’re both very proud of our fathers,’ Ms. Haberman said over one of the two cell phones she owns. ‘But I’ve spent a lifetime being known as Clyde’s daughter, and Dareh has always been known as Vartan’s son, so it’s sort of nice that we can both understand how that is.’"
Yes, the progeny of the privileged surely do have a hard time of it: it’s sheer hell being at the intersection of money, media, and politics – because, after all, certain things are expected of you. One of them is sliming the family’s political enemies, especially one who is causing them as much trouble as Greenwald. As the Snowden affair began to badly embarrass the Obama administration in front of the whole world, exposing its hypocrisy and holding up its darkest secrets to the light of day, the Gregorian clan struck back: no doubt the dossier compiled by HBGary Federal was readily available from Daddy’s friends at BofA, and Dareh did the dirty deed.
That it wound up backfiring isn’t really the point. What’s important to understand is the utter scumminess of these Regimists, who will stop at nothing to divert attention away from the NSA spying story, and discourage any other whistle-blowers from stepping forward. They are out to destroy Greenwald, and, if they can’t arrest him and lock him up for a good long time, they’ll probably settle for sliming him just the way they did Julian Assange.
This kind of sleaziness is routine for these people, but it gets darker. Apparently Snowden’s encrypted files – apparently given to Greenwald and six other people in case something unpleasant should happen to Snowden – were supposed to have been sent by Greenwald to his partner, but he wound up not doing that. As Greenwald related to the Daily Beast:
"Two days later his laptop was stolen from our house and nothing else was taken. Nothing like that has happened before. I am not saying it’s connected to this, but obviously the possibility exists."
It looks like this developing scandal may resemble Watergate in more ways than one, not only in its impact on the current regime but also right down to the nasty little details.
The NSA Prism program, and the phone dragnet, are supposed to focus only on communications between an American and an individual overseas – that’s the "anti-terrorist" mask this universal surveillance program wears in order to justify its existence to the public. Greenwald, however, is an American living overseas, who by necessity communicates with people inside the US and all over the world. Which means the authorities have the technical "right" to not only vacuum up his every email and Skype session, but to examine it with a fine-tooth comb, teasing it out for anything remotely incriminating – and, given what we are discovering, who knows how far back their library of intercepts goes?
That library, which Snowden tells us is readily available to the NSA, has on its virtual shelves ready-made dossiers on this administration’s political enemies. Does anybody really think they are above using it? This massive database is a police state’s dream, because it makes outright repression unnecessary, for the most part: the mere knowledge that the government has a massive database detailing the private lives of countless Americans is enough to frighten many would-be government critics into silence.
Luckily for us, journalists of Greenwald’s caliber are unlikely to be intimidated: indeed, such tactics are going to have the exact opposite effect on them. Few, however, have Greenwald’s resolve, and this is especially true when it comes to "mainstream" American journalists, who see themselves as the fourth branch of government rather than its natural adversary. David Gregory epitomizes their stenographic approach to reporting, but he is far from alone: the media was deep in Obama’s pocket before he even took office, and that’s where they’ve stayed. We’ll get nothing in the way of investigative reporting on the NSA story from that crowd: the job is now left to the Guardian, and other overseas outlets, as well as a few American sources such as McClatchy news service and the alternative media. The mainstream media is this administration’s journalistic Praetorian Guard – an obstacle to getting out the story rather than a conduit for the truth.
This is what it is like to live in a police state – secretly compiled dossiers, "leaks," scurrilous hit pieces in regime-friendly media, and the ever-present threat of blackmail to deter dissenters. They want us to get used to it, but, as Snowden put it: "I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."
The Regimists have been dealt a tremendous blow by the Snowden-Greenwald revelations, but they have more than enough resources to fight back. By sliming – and trying to destroy – anyone who stands up to them, they hope they can cow the rest of the population into passive compliance. As they erect the "architecture of oppression" all around us, however, a few well-placed bombs – of a strictly journalistic nature, mind you – have the power to bring the whole structure down. Such saboteurs are to be applauded, and defended.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.