More bad news for the Intercept: The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple has done some digging into Glenn Greenwald’s claims of a campaign by the Justice Department to discredit his “grand finale” scoop on five Muslim Americans monitored by the Bush administration. Shockingly it turns out that, in a completely out of character move, Greenwald was… um.. overplaying his hand.
According to Greenwald:
[I]n the weeks before the story was published, The Intercept learned that officials from the department were reaching out to Muslim-American leaders across the country to warn them that the piece would contain errors and misrepresentations, even though it had not yet been written.
This seemed jarring to Wemple…
Knowing how careful and measured — and usually silent — highly placed government intelligence officials tend to be, the Erik Wemple Blog asked Greenwald for specifics on this allegation. He said that the remarks of the officials were “designed to poison our relationship with people in the Muslim community by bad-mouthing us and saying this story is inaccurate before it’s even written. They literally did it before we put pen to paper,” says Greenwald.
So, rather than repeating Greenwald’s claims as fact, Wemple did the unthinkable: He actually spoke to some of those Muslim American leaders to check Greenwald’s story. Here’s what he learned:
According to these community leaders and the Justice Department, there was indeed a July 1 gathering at the main Justice building, part of a regular series of quarterly meetings convened by Justice’s civil rights division that date back more than a decade. Though the get-together preceded publication of the Greenwald-Hussain story, Muslim American community leaders had heard about the goods that The Intercept had acquired. And so it was they, and not the Justice Department, who insisted on discussing the pending story.
And it gets worse. Wemple has got hold of a letter from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in which the group “specifically asked that the surveillance issue be placed on the meeting’s agenda.”
But, still, regardless of who instigated the discussion, it’s still pretty disgusting if representatives of the intelligence community are actively badmouthing the work of journalists before publication.
Or at least it would be if that had actually happened.
Here’s Wemple again:
Now to the alleged “errors and misrepresentations.” According to various participants, the government officials who spoke to the Muslim-surveillance issue — primarily National Security Agency General Counsel Raj De and FBI General Counsel James Baker — walked the attendees through an explanation of the legal structure designed to protect Americans from surveillance. One of the officials reportedly counseled the group, “Just don’t make assumptions. Please think about what you read based on what the legal structure is.”
ADC National President Samer Khalaf says of the message from government officials: “It wasn’t that they were saying it was false. They were saying they can’t respond to a story that wasn’t out yet.”
Wemple’s dismantling of Greenwald’s hype is particularly damning given that Wemple was, until recently at least, a supporter of the Intercept. So much so that I once mocked him here on Pando for his sycophancy.
It also comes at the end of a tough week for Greenwald and his boss Pierre Omidyar. On Wednesday, Julian Assange — an even more high profile former supporter — attacked the Intercept while chiding Greenwald for getting cozy with friend of the White House Omidyar…
First Look is not just Glenn. First Look is actually the big power. All the money and organization comes from Pierre Omidyar. And Pierre Omidyar is one of the founders—is the founder of eBay and owns PayPal and goes to the White House several times each year, has extensive connections with Soros, and can broadly be described as an extreme liberal centrist. So, he has quite a different view about what journalism entails.
And Greenwald, it turns out, has quite a different view about what “bad-mouthing” entails.