May 31st, 2015
05:06 PM ET

Glenn Greenwald on Reliable Sources: "The whole world has changed when it comes to this debate [on the Patriot Act] as a result of the revelations from Edward Snowden"

Today on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Glenn Greenwald, co-founding Editor of The Intercept, joined senior media correspondent Brian Stelter to discuss Edward Snowden’s feelings on the Patriot Act debate and the role journalists play in providing anonymity to certain sources.

Reliable Sources airs Sundays, 11 a.m. to noon (ET).

Text highlights and a transcript from the show are available below.  Credit all usage to CNN’s “Reliable Sources”

TEXT HIGHLIGHTS:

On Edward Snowden and how he feels about the current debate in the Senate over the renewal of the Patriot Act (USA Freedom Act): “I mean, he feels, you know, very good about the fact that there's a real debate. He has serious qualms, like I think most privacy activists and advocates do, about the USA Freedom Act, which is the piece of legislation that the Obama White House and the intelligence community has gotten behind.  It's woefully inadequate, at best. But it's really good to see.”

Greenwald’s opinion on whether the cautions raised by proponents of the USA Freedom Act are valid: “Well, American media outlets should really be ashamed of themselves, the way they do that. If you turn on any major cable network, including the one we're on, unfortunately, or read any large newspaper, American newspaper, you constantly see reporters giving anonymity to the people they're supposedly serving as watchdogs over in order to scare the public. And that New York Times article that you referenced that gave anonymity to Obama officials to say nothing other than you’re playing Russian roulette with national security if you’re one of our critics on the Patriot Act was disgraceful.  It was the kind of reporting that got Judy Miller fired.  And yet they continue to do it.”

 

BRIAN STELTER, CNN HOST:  The final countdown is on for a vote to keep key provisions of the Patriot Act, a controversial law that, among many other things, allows the government to collect phone metadata on ordinary Americans.

The president says the U.S. needs this information to stop terrorist threats here at home.  One senior administration official, given anonymity, said that Congress was playing Russian roulette with national security by not passing the extension for this bill.

But there's a complication.  Rand Paul is vowing to make sure the bill does not pass.  And we will see what happens this afternoon.  It sure looks like it's in peril.

But no matter what happens, here's something to keep in mind.  None of this would be happening without Edward Snowden, without his release of top-secret documents, without "The Guardian" and "The Washington Post" newspapers agreeing to decipher the documents and tell the world about the NSA's programs, without journalists who stood up to the government.

Some people think those journalists did a terrible thing.  Some people think Snowden's a traitor.  But this is a case of journalist shining a light in the darkness and affecting the public debate.

Now, one of those journalists, Glenn Greenwald, is joining me now from Rio.  He was one of Snowden's original contacts and now a journalist for The Intercept.

Glenn, thanks for being here.

GLENN GREENWALD, THE INTERCEPT:  Good to be with you.

STELTER:  I just wanted to highlight this idea that, without Snowden, we wouldn't see Rand Paul necessarily on the floor of the Senate this afternoon trying to stop this bill.

Remind us where the debate was and where it was after Snowden.

GREENWALD:  Well, remember that when the Patriot Act was enacted, even in the weeks after 9/11, when the country was pretty much willing to do anything the government wanted, it was recognized it was an incredibly radical and extremist piece of legislation.

And the idea was, these powers we're giving the government should be temporary, not permanent, and so they're going to sunset every five years unless Congress renews them.  And yet, in 2005, the Bush administration demanded renewal.  And, overwhelmingly, Congress renewed it with no fight.

In 2011, President Obama demanded renewal, and Congress overwhelmingly renewed it without any debate.  And now you see not just Rand Paul, but dozens of House liberals and House conservatives and other people standing up together and saying, we're not going to just renew the Patriot Act without reform.  We're going to have serious reform.

And in some cases, a lot of people are saying we should just let these provisions lapse.  The whole world has changed when it comes to this debate as a result of the revelations from Edward Snowden.

STELTER:  Have you been in touch with Snowden recently?  How does he feel about what's about to happen in the Senate today?

GREENWALD:  I mean, he feels, you know, very good about the fact that there's a real debate.

He has serious qualms, like I think most privacy activists and advocates do, about the USA Freedom Act, which is the piece of legislation that the Obama White House and the intelligence community has gotten behind.  It's woefully inadequate, at best.

But it's really good to see.  This is going to be the first time - and this is extraordinary - since 9/11, 14 years ago, that the Congress is taking away powers from the federal government in the name of terrorism, rather than giving them new ones.  And so, hopefully, this can be built on.

STELTER:  When you hear news outlets, mostly citing anonymous sources, threatening about the risk to the country if this - these provisions do not remain, what do you hear?  Because I sometimes worry that we encourage people to be more afraid than they should be by repeating these talking points from administration officials.

GREENWALD:  Well, American media outlets should really be ashamed of themselves, the way they do that.

I mean, supposedly, the lesson that large American media outlets learned from their role in selling the Iraq War to the public was, oh, we're not going to allow government officials to propagandize the public any longer by giving them anonymity whenever they ask for it.  We're going to make them put their names on things and therefore be held accountable.

And yet this all turned out to be a complete scam.  If you turn on any major cable network, including the one we're on, unfortunately, or read any large newspaper, American newspaper, you constantly see reporters giving anonymity to the people they're supposedly serving as watchdogs over in order to scare the public.

And that "New York Times" article that you referenced that gave anonymity to Obama officials to say nothing other than you're playing Russian roulette with national security if you're one of our critics on the Patriot Act was disgraceful.  It was the kind of reporting that got Judy Miller fired.  And yet they continue to do it.

STELTER:  Well, and yet some officials have said it on the record.  Loretta Lynch, for example, has made very severe statements about what could happen without these provisions of the Patriot Act.  Are we not supposed to report what they say when they're on the record?

GREENWALD:  No.  Of course, on the record should absolutely be reported.  And then there should be reporting that goes along with it from people who dispute that or from facts that undermine it.  I mean, here's the thing, Brian.  You have these Obama officials who are saying...

STELTER:  So, your point is - your point is - one of the quotes from her was, we will be less safe.  That was one of her quotes.

I think what you're saying is, there should be follow-up when in fact something expires and the country's not less safe.

GREENWALD:  Right.

I mean, the Obama administration put together a panel to ask this panel of experts who had access to classified information All right, these metadata domestic spying programs keeping us safe?

And their own panel concluded that there has not been a single terrorist attack stopped by this program.  So, now to allow Obama officials to go around the country saying, you're going to die at the hands of ISIS and al Qaeda if we can't spy on you, without noting that all the evidence negates that, I think, is irresponsible.  It's stenography journalism.

STELTER:  Glenn, thank you for being here.  I appreciate your time.

GREENWALD:  Thank you, Brian.  Appreciate it.

END INTERVIEW


Topics: Brian Stelter • CNN • Reliable Sources
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