Salon: There was a Quinnipiac poll that came out two days ago reporting that over half of Americans regarded Edward Snowden as a whistleblower rather than a traitor, despite the fact that we’ve heard tons of calls for him to be arrested and tried for leaking state secrets. What do you think? How do you reconcile these? Do you think something substantial has changed in terms of Americans’ opinions about the state’s tracking?
Glenn Greenwald: I do. What was most amazing to me about that poll was the idea that he’s more of a traitor rather than a whistleblower has become pretty much the consensus of the United States government, both political parties, the leadership of these parties and the D.C. press corps. So the message that has just been continuously churned out from those large institutions is that what he did was bad and wrong, that he shouldn’t be treated as a whistleblower and that he’s really a criminal. So to watch a large majority of Americans reject that consensus and reach their own conclusion, which is that what he has revealed is a good amount of wrongdoing, which is the definition of a whistleblower, is both surprising and gratifying. I think it’s really a testament to how powerful these revelations are that they have disturbed Americans so much that they have just disregarded the message they’ve been bombarded with for six straight weeks now.
Salon: It feels like the message coming from Congress is pretty much the same: This is a legal program; there was nothing unethical about it; we need to do this to fight the terrorists. What do you think? Is there a space to challenge Congress on this?
Greenwald: Well, Washington has proven, over and over, that they’re not bothered by the fact that what they’re doing and thinking is completely at odds with mass sentiments of the public that they pretend to represent. So the mere gap between public opinion and what they’re doing isn’t, in and of itself, enough to change their behavior. But what they do start to respond to is serious pressure on the part of the American public over some of the things that they’re doing, and you do see some movement in Congress already to start to institute reforms, to put checks on these surveillance abuses. But I think that ultimately the real issue is the top levels of the Obama administration repeatedly went to Congress and lied to the faces of Congress, which is a felony, over what these NSA programs were and weren’t. And ultimately, I think the first step is going to have to be, are we willing to tolerate having top-level Obama officials blatantly lie to our representatives in Congress and prevent them from exercising oversight about these spying programs? And that, I think, has to be the first scandal to show that there are actually consequences for this behavior. [Continue reading…]