I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The lie of MP Julian Smith

Earlier today, I testified before the EU Parliament's Committee Inquiry on Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens. After my opening remarks, I was asked numerous questions by Committee members. One of them, British Tory MP Timothy Kirkhope, exploited the hearing to ask not about surveillance, but about the journalistic process in which I and the Guardian engaged when reporting on the Snowden documents. Kirkhope specifically tried to advance the ongoing Tory attack on the Guardian that the paper shipped sensitive GCHQ documents outside of the country and should thus be criminally prosecuted.

About this exchange, Kirkhope's Tory colleague in Parliament, Julian Smith, who has been repeatedly calling for criminal prosecution of the Guardianpublicly claimed that - in response to Kirkhope's questions - I "confirmed" that the Guardian had indeed given me files that I did not previously have:

This statement is a lie. It's the exact opposite of reality. Rather than "confirm" any of that, I expressly refused to answer Kirkhope's questions about those matters, explaining that journalistic freedom means that journalists do not have to answer to political officials about the sources of their reporting or their journalistic process. The EU Parliament has posted the full video of my testimony (embedded below); here is the relevant exchange proving that Smith lied (beginning at roughly 46:00):

MP Kirkhope: Good morning, Mr. Greenwald . . . I want to deal perhaps more with the processes than your general observations. I would like to know, really, whether in the receipt of information, whether you received a complete copy of the files originally from Mr. Snowden, or whether you got them from an intermediary - additional documents or copies -  from the Guardian newspaper? If not originals, did you get separately any other copies from any other source, or a mix of the two? . . . 
Also, you say on your Twitter account that it was the Guardian's decision to give the GCHQ files to the New York Times. I want to know whether you got hold of that information or those files later, or did you already have them? . . . .
Glenn Greenwald: Part of freedom of the press - an important part of freedom of the press that we've been talking about this morning - is that fortunately journalists don't have to answer to government officials about what their sources gave them, or how it is that they got their material. They're allowed to protect their sources and protect their journalistic materials from invasions by questions from the government like some of the ones you just asked. 
Mr. Snowden is the source for the reporting that we've done at the Guardian. Who specifically at the Guardian received the material and when they received it, I think, is not of anyone's concern. Mr. Snowden has been identified as the source because he wanted to be identified as the source, but beyond that I'm not going to answer questions about exactly when we got the documents, or who at the Guardian got the documents, or when we decided to share them with one another. Those are our internal matters as journalists and as a newspaper, and it's not for the government to intervene in that process.
When MP Smith stated that I "confirmed" to MP Kirkhope that the Guardian gave me files that I didn't originally have, he lied. The opposite is true: I expressly rejected the right of government functionaries to invade the journalistic process by demanding answers to those questions, and thus explicitly refused to address any of the speculation from Kirkhope which Smith falsely claimed I "confirmed".

I realize that expectations for the veracity and ethics of Tory MPs is exceedingly low, but this sort of lying - which he refused to acknowledge or apologize for once it was brought to his attention - descends well beneath even that low bar. An eagerness to see the Guardian criminally prosecuted for its journalism doesn't justify public fabrications of this sort from public officials.