The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald is no conservative, but he’s also not someone to give fellow liberals and progressives a pass over their actions that he feels threatens democracy and transparency in government. For starters, he found it interesting that liberals all of a sudden think that leaks are awesome since they’re making it harder for the Trump White House to govern.
Cortney wrote about this hypocrisy, where Greenwald said on CNN’s Reliable Sources how the Obama administration declared war on the press first, that more leakers were prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act under Obama than all previous administrations combined, and there was a strong consensus among Democrats that anyone who leaks classified information is a villain. Greenwald added that the Obama White House established the rhetorical and legal framework.
On the other hand, Greenwald supports the leaks. He finds it to be something of a safety valve that exposes surreptitious and at times, illegal dealings behind closed doors in the halls of government. You saw that when Greenwald, then writing for The Guardian, reported on Edward Snowden leaking surveillance and data-mining methods used at the National Security Agency, where Snowden formerly worked. In fact, that’s the basis for his publication The Intercept: a place where whistleblowers can disseminate sensitive material as safely as possible:
Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers) precisely because political officials want to hide evidence of their own wrongdoing, and want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection. That’s the same reason the rest of us should celebrate such illegal leaks and protect those who undertake them, often at great risk to their own interests, so that we can be informed about the real actions of those who wield the greatest power. That principle does not change based upon which political party controls the White House.
From the creation of The Intercept during the Obama presidency through to today under Trump, a central principle of The Intercept — a key reason it was created — was to enable whistleblowing and report on leaks in the public interest.
As our pinned article on our front page says: “If You See Something, Leak Something,” with instructions on how to do that as safely as possible.
At the same time, Greenwald also described the deep state’s actions concerning the leaks emanating from the Trump administration as dangerous. For days, there’s been heavy speculation that America’s intelligence network is purposefully leaking classified information to damage the Trump White House. Greenwald calls that a prescription for the destruction of democracy. There’s a difference between leaking something to expose government malfeasance and leaking information because your candidate lost an election. To make matters worse, Greenwald considers these actions by the intelligence community against the Trump administration to be akin to a soft coup. He’s not a fan of the CIA or the American intelligence community since he faults them for having a history of war crimes and atrocities, but leaving out that commentary and his antipathy for the president—he nails it on the head: unelected intelligence operatives are undermining a democratically elected president. Greenwald thinks both Trump and the intelligence community are dangerous, but he admits that the latter isn’t subject to democratic controls (i.e. the courts), which makes all the difference. He voiced these concerns on the far left online program Democracy Now with Amy Goodman last week [emphasis mine]:
Now, I happen to think that the Trump presidency is extremely dangerous. You just listed off in your news—in your newscast that led the show, many reasons. They want to dismantle the environment. They want to eliminate the safety net. They want to empower billionaires. They want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. And there are lots of really great ways to resist them, such as getting courts to restrain them, citizen activism and, most important of all, having the Democratic Party engage in self-critique to ask itself how it can be a more effective political force in the United States after it has collapsed on all levels. That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.
Taking out the partisan noise, what Greenwald is saying is not controversial. There are democratic ways to resist the Trump administration. The Democratic Party—once they’ve stopped whining about losing the 2016 election—should get moving on rebuilding for the next election because that’s where the ship maintains its course or rights itself. Let the Constitution work. I don’t think that being for the democratic process and saying that unelected spies are hamstringing Trump is abysmal isn’t all that unreasonable. While the discussions about leaking of classified information to keep government accountable is a multifaceted debate, can we at least agree that intelligence agencies shouldn’t be trying to undermine constitutional government?
The seriousness of the leaks came to a head when Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser for misleading the vice president over his discussion with the Russian ambassador about sanctions. Granted, Flynn’s misleading should have been cause to show him the exit, but the leaked transcripts, which are highly sensitive, were leaked to the press to expose the discrepancy. Guy wrote that former Obama officials might be behind the leaks to protect the Iran nuclear deal. Former CIA analyst Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer even named three top Obama officials who he says were directly involved in the leaks that sunk Flynn.