7 Answers You Need to Read From Glenn Greenwald's Reddit AMA


The Guardian U.S.’s Glenn Greenwald and editor-in-chief Janine Gibson were live on Reddit for AMA (Ask Me Anything, or AUA in this case) on October 1. They got thousands of questions and answered many, addressing the NSA leak, their source Edward Snowden, and today's journalism as a whole. And here are seven best answers worth reading.

See the original post on Reddit.

1. What's the single most shocking revelation from the NSA leak?

The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication - not just those of The Terrorists™ - is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored.

The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations. (GG)

2. So what? I follow the law, why should I be afraid?

It's a perfectly reasonable point of view. As journalists, we're OK with providing you with enough information that you can make an informed decision.

What I do find baffling is the "so what, we knew this already" response. It's inexplicable, given the number of administration voices all welcoming the debate and acknowledging it would not have happened without Edward Snowden. Have the debate. (JG)

3. Keeping your source out of the limelight — getting the real story told.

One of the most darkly hilarious things to watch is how government apologists and media servants are driven by total herd behavior: they all mindlessly adopt the same script and then just keep repeating it because they see others doing so and, like parrots, just mimic what they hear.

All whistleblowers are immediately demonized - they have to be "crazy" lest people think that there is something valid to their view that they saw injustices so fundamental that it was worth risking their liberty to expose.

The script used to do this to Snowden was that he was a "fame-seeking narcissist." There is almost no attack on him more patently invalid than this one. He could easily have been the most famous person in the world, on TV every day and night. But he chose not to, selflessly, so that he would not distract from the substance of the story. (GG)

This response was shortened. See original reply here.

4. More documents are to come, and they're secure.

We use highly advanced means of encryption.

Remember, the only ones whose op sec has proven horrible and who has lost control of huge numbers of documents is the NSA and GCHQ.

We have lost control of nothing. All of the documents we have remain secure. (GG)

Greenwald also responds to why "the leaks are piece fed" and that the process isn't being dragged out.

5. What Americans can do to limit the power and abuses of the NSA/surveillance state.

A major reason why those in power always try to use surveillance is because surveillance = power. The more you know about someone, the more you can control and manipulate them in all sorts of ways. That is one reason a Surveillance State is so menacing to basic political liberties.

But even the most seemingly insurmountable institutions can be weakened or uprooted when they become abusive enough. The tide is clearly turning against the US National Security State in general and the NSA in particular in terms of their ability to dictate terms and control the debate, and they know it.

What will ultimately determine the outcome here is how much pressure citizens continue to apply in defense of their privacy rights and against massive, ubiquitous, secret spying systems aimed at them. (GG)

This response was shortened. See original reply here.

6. Is journalistic freedom in danger?

This is a critical time for journalistic freedom and there are two major shifts which are threatening important work. One is the attempt to categorise "who is a journalist" which we are in danger, as an industry, of enabling. I feel profoundly uncomfortable about any line drawn around pay, employer, hours or volume of work which will define a "real" journalist. And then only the "real" journalists will be protected.

I don't think that's how the world works anymore, so that's problematic.

The second is the attempt to define journalism as outside the national interest and the Guardian has felt the impact of that in the UK, when the government demanded we destroy some of the material we were working on. That's much less problematic here in the US where we enjoy the protection of the first amendment. Let's hope we can all continue to use that protection to do good reporting. (JG)

7. Do you ever worry about your safety?

All good journalism entails risk, by definition, because all good journalism makes someone powerful angry. It's important to be rationally aware of those risks and take reasonable precautions, but not fixate on them or, under any circumstances, allow them to deter you in doing what you thin should be done. Fearlessness can be its own form of power. (GG)