What Would Glenn Greenwald Do?


“My copy came with CONFIDENTIAL stamped on every page and a nondisclosure agreement that expires today.” Thus arrived the new book by Glenn Greenwald, the most unrelenting man on the planet, on the doorsteps of reviewers.

The book, No Place to Hide, does a few things: It recounts how Greenwald and Laura Poitras met Edward Snowden in Hong Kong to begin the process of exposing the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs; it provides mix of familiar and fresh details — to the public, anyway, having been squirreled away by Greenwald for nearly a year — about those programs; and it excoriates “the establishment media” for their complicity with those in power. As one might expect, Greenwald takes every revelation, every slight, and “tends to deliver them as if they were all equally scandalous.” (Also as one might also expect, the reviews in the Times and the Post are equally unforgiving in their response to Greenwald’s criticism of establishment media.)

The most consequential thing to know about No Place to Hide, perhaps, is that it is not the climax of Greenwald’s year-long series of NSA reports, but a pre-denouement of sorts. He recently told GQ:

“We published the first article [about the NSA collecting Verizon phone records] while I was in Hong Kong last June and won’t stop until we’re done. I think we will end the big stories in about three months or so [June or July 2014]. I like to think of it as a fireworks show: You want to save your best for last. There’s a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I’m saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues. This will be the finale, a big missing piece. Snowden knows about it and is excited about it.”

Greenwald’s strategy of slowly releasing the Snowden documents over the last year, ensuring a long, rolling boil, rather than an explosive flash fry, has been sound. But his decision to withhold
the “biggest story,” “a big missing piece,” for an entire year, even in the pursuit of maximum impact, is surely impeachable, particularly if its meaning is as dramatic as Greenwald implies. Put another way: What would Glenn Greenwald say if he knew that the New York Times sat on a similar story for a year, simply because it wanted the right timing for the sky to be “covered in spectacular multicolored hues”?

I will say this though: the tease is effective! Now I really want to know, and I sort of hope the truth is completely bananas, like the NSA has been tracking us all with like butt chips since we were babies.

Photo by Agencia Senado