Glenn Greenwald leaves The Guardian: What next?
Picture credits: Twitter
I was surprised when Glenn Greenwald announced that he will be leaving the Guardian to kickstart an online news organisation funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Another surprise was Buzzfeed got the scoop — surely after the NSA Prism director — before any mainstream media outlet.
In a combined statement released by Greenwald and The Guardian, Greenwald said that "because this news LEAKED before we were prepared to announce it, I’m not yet able to provide any details of this momentous new venture, but it will be unveiled very shortly."
Ah, the irony! A journalist and a British newspaper dealing with sensitive leaked documents fell victim to a leak. Like a classic leftist, even the leaker chose to leak the information to a media source outside the circle of right-wing populated newspapers in England.
Greenwald also said
"My partnership with the Guardian has been extremely fruitful and fulfilling: I have high regard for the editors and journalists with whom I worked and am incredibly proud of what we achieved.
"The decision to leave was not an easy one, but I was presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline."
It is definitely a dream opportunity for any investigative journalist to be funded by millions of dollars to fight the good fight. But was it the only reason he chose to leave The Guardian?
The last few months have been chaotic at The Guardian. First David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, was detained at Heathrow, and then Alan Rusbridger had to destroy all the NSA documents they had in possession. After Miranda was released, Greenwald said: “I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents.
"I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England’s spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did.”
The promise of publishing more documents never materialised. The only major story that broke was about NSA weakening encryptions used in major software programs by installing backdoors. At the same time, Greenwald’s articles appeared in national newspapers of other countries. Indian newspaper, The Hindu, carried a story about India being the fifth-most spied on by the NSA. The Guardian published a similar story, when the revelations were first made public, with heat maps of countries around the globe that are targeted by the NSA. Greenwald regurgitated the story and sprinkled it with quotes from Indian bureaucrats. Yes, not everybody reads The Guardian in India, but this story would have definitely been picked up by the Indian media when it first broke out. To be fair to Greenwald, it could have been an arrangement between The Hindu and The Guardian, who previously teamed up to work on the Wikileaks files. Nonetheless, it wasn’t the kind of “aggressive reporting” I was expecting.
Were his hands tied by The Guardian, whose own hands might have been shackled by the GCHQ? After all, Guardian destroyed those files from the fear of being slapped with a super-injunction from the government. It also would have made Greenwald’s decision to leave much easier. There is no point in working for a newspaper gagged by the government. Besides, nowadays, The Guardian is devoting more column inches to fend off attacks from the right-wing press than embarrass the government with more stories of NSA/GCHQ spying. Hands down, The Guardian dealt a major blow to NSA and GCHQ with its coverage and, finally, set the ball rolling on the debate about spying that Edward Snowden wanted; but is this enough? Shouldn’t they finish what they have started?
Coming back to Greenwald, when he threatened England that he has more dirt on them and they will be “sorry” for what they did to Miranda, it almost felt like he sought vendetta against England. What was that saying about not to mix personal problems with the profession? I can understand what Miranda had been put through, but Greenwald should have maintained his composure. There is enough reason to doubt his judgement after that incident. Can he remain objective in his reporting and write without bias?
Another thing that I have learnt after his announcement yesterday is that he did not share every document with The Guardian. He might have his reasons, but it strikes me as a bit selfish from Greenwald. Guardian produced the Snowden leaks, brought in the experts to help Greenwald, paid for flight tickets, and sent their own lawyers to bail Miranda. Why did he not share everything with The Guardian? Only he can answer this question.
The Guardian took steps to ensure that the NSA will not catch a breath if The Guardian is persecuted by its government. They sent the leaked documents in a thumb drive to Politico, so that they can carry on publishing the stories from USA. They also partnered with New York Times because the American press is protected by the first amendment.
Greenwald, on the other hand, signed a book deal in July to spill fresh NSA secrets, and got a $250m investment to start an online news website that will also have Sport and Entertainment sections.
My only concern is that precious time is being wasted whilst the US and British governments are thinking of ways to stop the press from reporting on their spying programs.