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Monday, August 05, 2013

How to undermine your own credibility with a silly conspiracy theory: the Glenn Greenwald edition

Raw Story - Greenwald: Embassy closings looks like a conspiracy to silence NSA debate
Raw Story: Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald on Monday suggested that President Barack Obama had ordered 19 U.S. embassies in the Middle Easy closed not because of a legitimate terror threat, but to silence a debate on recently-revealed details of National Security Agency (NSA) data collection programs.

In a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said that the embassies had been temporarily closed after the NSA learned of a terrorist plot.
“Here we are in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly an administration that has spent two claiming that it has decimated Al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates throughout the world," Greenwald told Goodman. “And within literally an amount of hours, the likes of Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham join with the White House and Democrats in Congress — who, remember, are the leading defenders of the NSA at this point — to exploit that terrorist threat, and to insist that it shows that the NSA and these programs are necessary."

Except al Qaeda just staged a massive prison break in Iraq, which has increased their numbers in the middle east — including senior leadership who engage in planning the sort of thing the Obama administration say is going on. Besides, Greenwald wishes that “we are in the midst of one the most intense debates and sustain debates that we’ve had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance" — as do I — but the fact is that we’re not. While the continuing revelations about NSA snooping should be big, earthshaking news, they’re not — thanks in part to the people who broke the story in the first place.

Edward Snowden should never have come out as the whistleblower. When he did, he gave the media a chance to change a complex story about civil rights, privacy, government overreach, the rapid expansion of police powers following 9/11, and Constitutional law into a one-word headline: "MANHUNT!" Of course they took that opportunity, because the easier to understand story always gets more coverage. The Obama administration didn’t need to cook up some conspiracy to change the subject, Greenwald’s source already did that for them.

It’s still an important story and there’s still a chance to have the serious national conversation we so desperately need — but Glenn’s not helping by giving the press yet another simpleminded angle to distract from the story. Talk about the substance, not silly speculation that plays right to the media’s sensationalist tendencies.

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