Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

June 7, 2014

WHAT GREENWALD GETS WRONG

(Continued)

Alas, anybody who's experienced Greenwald's dogged ad hominem argumentative style can identify. I'm rarely mistaken myself, but I do try not to impute evil motives to everybody who disagrees with me.

However, contrary to the army of syntactically challenged Greenwald fans who turned his essay into an Internet cause celebre, Kinsley never said the man should be jailed. He wrote that being invited to explain why not on "Meet the Press" hardly constitutes evidence of government oppression.

Indeed, also contrary to the Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, Kinsley nowhere "expressed a belief that many journalists find appalling: that news organizations should simply defer to the government" in deciding what secrets to reveal. He wrote that "the process of decision-making -- whatever it turns out to be -- should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay."

Call me old-fashioned, but I do think the newspaper's public editor should be more capable of fair paraphrase -- an important journalistic skill.

However, what Kinsley's provocative essay did very effectively was to question how seriously the author (and Edward Snowden) had thought through the logic of their position that when it comes to government secrets, every man is his own director of National Security.

And the answer seems to be, not too seriously at all. But then my view is that the Greenwald-Snowden revelations about NSA "metadata" hoarding made for exciting headlines and a Pulitzer Prize but little or no practical difference to people's actual lives.

So that when Greenwald writes that "by ordering illegal eavesdropping, the president had committed crimes and should be held accountable," I'm inclined to ask if he knows the meaning of "eavesdropping."

It doesn't mean storing phone and Internet records in a giant database; it means listening in on conversations or searching people's hard drives, and to date there's no evidence of that being done without court-ordered search warrants. I'd add that if Americans feel politically intimidated, they've got awfully noisy ways of showing it -- especially those jerks swaggering around with assault rifles daring the Feds to make something of it.

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