It’s now been more than a week since Glenn Greenwald reported that the National Security Agency attained “direct access” to servers owned by the various tech giants, Google, Facebook, Apple and so forth. And it’s been almost a week since other sites, now including Mother Jones, The Nation and Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, began to notice significant issues with his reporting about PRISM.
I should underscore once again how consequential the “direct access” line happens to be. The implication of “direct access” is clearly that, unbeknownst to the public, the NSA and, apparently, low level IT subcontractors, enjoyed back door access to proprietary server data, horked it at will and, according to Greenwald, did so potentially without a warrant. Rick Perlstein, in a post for The Nation, quoted Mark Jaquith of WordPress who observed that the “direct access” line is “the difference between a bombshell and a yawn of a story.” (I’m sure Perlstein and Jaquith have been inundated with “Obamabot apologist!” accusations for daring to aim an incredulous post in Greenwald’s direction.)
And as I've said before, the "direct access" issue is where the largest discrepancy is...but it's far from the only one. There may be a much bigger problem with Snowden handing over top secret information to the Chinese and the scramble by Greenwald and company to justify that.
He handed over documents about American cyber warfare against China — to China. Specifically, Snowden gave the documents to a Hong Kong publication. Perhaps he was emboldened by all of the attention, hero worship and deification he received here. Who knows. Whatever drove him to do it, it was phenomenally irresponsible on a couple of fronts. Not only could he have exacerbated an already dubious international relationship, considering how there appears to be an escalating hacking war between the United States and China, but he also managed to turn numerous Americans against him — Americans who believe he crossed the line from whistleblower to traitor.
But this cuts more deeply than any healthy skepticism some of us might possess. Greenwald’s stubbornness and Snowden’s foolishness are actually self-destructive to what they’re attempting to achieve. As I’ve written from day one, credibility will make or break not only this story, but anyone who chooses to blindly latch their own credibility to it. If Greenwald was truly interested in the endurance of this story, he would’ve stowed his ego and done whatever was necessary to preserve its integrity as well as his own reputation; because as long as “direct access” continues to disintegrate, so goes the believability of everything else he’s reported. Instead, the widening holes in this story could indicate Peak Greenwald.
That credibility is rapidly disappearing. Now we find out from Reuters (via Bob Cesca) that Snowden may have misrepresented his education to his employers:
According to the sources, Snowden told employers he took computer classes at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, earned a certificate from the University of Maryland’s campus in Tokyo, and expected in 2013 to earn a master’s degree in computer security from the University of Liverpool in England.
A Johns Hopkins spokeswoman said she could not find a record of Snowden’s attendance but he may have taken correspondence courses for which records are not kept. A Maryland official confirmed Snowden attended at least one summer class. A Liverpool spokeswoman said Snowden registered for an online master’s degree in computer security in 2011, but did not complete it.
It's all starting to come apart now, a crackup at breakneck speeds and of epic proportions. Greenwald's ego and Snowden's delusions of being a master spy are blowing up in their respective faces, and if this keeps up, they're going to take down a lot of people who should have known better with them.