Memo to Glenn Greenwald: Secrecy is not the root of all evil

AP and Al-Monitor concealed their knowledge of secret talks between the U.S. and Iran.

The mere fact that Glenn Greenwald regards this as Tweet-worthy seems to imply that he sees something nefarious in the Associated Press and Al-Monitor colluding with government officials by failing to disclose what they had learned at the time of discovery.

I guess for a transparency zealot this kind of collusion would have to be problematic, but let’s get real.

Wherein lies the greater public service: making all information public at the earliest opportunity even if that disclosure might sabotage diplomacy? Or, in recognizing that there are times when forging an agreement absolutely depends on confidentiality so that negotiations can proceed without interference from parties that oppose the existence of such negotiations?

All I can say is: thank goodness AP and Al-Monitor kept quiet. They did the right thing.

Moreover, let’s be honest. Greenwald himself has been sitting on stories for months for reasons that I doubt will ever be made public. The process through which the Snowden revelations have trickled out has not been a model of transparency.

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4 thoughts on “Memo to Glenn Greenwald: Secrecy is not the root of all evil

  1. Candide

    Discretion is not secrecy, and as such must be used when the need arises in these type of situations.
    Secrecy as used by spy agencies is a different kind of bird altogether and for totally evil ends better kept hidden.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Secret: “kept hidden from others : known to only a few people.” That describes the bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran. That’s why they have been reported as a “secret” back channel talks.

    Secrecy employed in diplomacy may simply be expedient and temporary, but it’s still secrecy — and as the current case illustrates, can be of great value. Thank goodness Glenn Greenwald didn’t get hold of this story at the same time that AP and Al-Monitor did. Otherwise, the outcome might have been entirely different and less promising.

  3. delia ruhe

    Read Greenwald’s tweet negatively, if you must. But I think he would agree that keeping the secret as long as possible in this case was a good idea, given Israel’s and Saudia’s determination to torpedo any negotiations between the US and Iran. Greenwald has never claimed a philosophy of absolutely no secrets.

    As for the scheme to release documents in an orderly fashion — rather than do a docudump, as Wikileaks did with the Manning materials — is a good idea. There are now several newspapers working on and releasing documents, and one revelation a week is about all I can absorb, and I’ve been following this story religiously since June — indeed, it’s more than I can handle, as the documents themselves are quite difficult reading (and I’ve got a doctorate in English and a BA in German!). Under the circumstances — i.e., a big propaganda campaign against the project by NSA and CGHQ — it pays for journalists to be careful and accurate in their reporting.

  4. Paul Woodward

    One would have imagined that Greenwald would agree that keeping the secret as long as possible in this case was a good idea, but his tweets reveal a different concern. He followed the tweet I cited with another: “Nothing matters when you just go and #UniteBlue – all troubles and concerns disappear into bliss. Just @UniteBlue”

    In other words what AP and Al-Monitor were doing, supposedly, were being good liberal media hacks obediently following the requests of a Democratic administration.

    Releasing documents in an orderly fashion is indeed preferable to a Wikileaks sytle docudump and that of course is why Snowden did not approach Wikileaks. What’s disturbing is the idea that Greenwald would have such a pivotal role in determining the order of document releases. He does not have impeccable judgement.

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