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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Greenwald/Snowden/Edmonds/Omidyar thing

I would like to expand upon a few points which I made in a comment on another site. The topic is the continuing Glenn Greenwald controversy.

His most prominent attacker right now is Sibel Edmonds, briefly an FBI translator and, later, a self-proclaimed whistleblower. In a recent blog post, she implies, without evidence, that still-unreleased Snowden documents point a damning finger at Pierre Omidyar, the PayPal billionaire who has hired Greenwald to be part of a well-funded new media venture.

Edmonds' unverified claim (how would she know?) should be seen in the light of her own history. For months -- years -- she kept promising to give us startling revelations about the covert world, revelations that would change everything. It was hinted that she knew the full, ghastly truth about 9/11.

And what, in the end, did she deliver?

I gave Sibel Edmonds a lot of positive coverage on my own humble blog — for a while. And then I decided that there was something decidedly odd about that woman. My former gf was a professional translator, and she knew people who worked for government agencies. (The translation business is a small world, and those who toil within it tend to socialize with each other.) Based on this background, I began to wonder whether Edmonds would have been given access to all of the material she claims she saw during the very short period she worked for the FBI.

In 2009, a few paranoids began to cast a suspicious eye toward Sibel Edmonds herself. According to one rumor, the group she founded functioned as a lint-trap for whistleblowers. According to another rumor, she had writer Luke Ryland (blogworld's leading Sibel-ologist) in an eldritch hypnotic thrall. Although I never believed these rumors, they deserve mention in order to make a larger point: In these mistrustful times, dark talk of hidden agendas will inevitably congeal around anyone who does what Edmonds did...

...or around anyone who does what Greenwald does.

I think that when Sibel Edmonds first became a public figure, her motives were good. But frankly, I grew tired of her constant hints that world-changing revelations were a-comin' any day now. As a cult of expectation formed around her, she began to remind me of Joanna Southcott or Melanie Calvet.

In the end, I decided that Sibel simply likes attention. So I decided never to write about her again, unless circumstances forced the issue, as they do now.

If anyone is guilty of squeezing out information in drips and drabs, it's Sibel Edmonds. If anyone is guilty of an unbecoming tendency toward self-aggrandizement, it's Sibel Edmonds. And if anyone is guilty of relentlessly pushing hard-core libertarianism (a charge unfairly leveled at Greenwald), God knows it's Sibel Edmonds: See here and here and...oh, hell, just see here.

Her motive for dissing Greenwald is obvious: Edmonds runs a whistleblower organization and Snowden bypassed it. She’s jealous.

Her argument — everyone's argument — against the way Greenwald is handling the Snowden material lacks one key factor: An outraged message from Ed Snowden.

My stance will change completely the moment Snowden says: “That bastard Greenwald — how DARE he?” Until that point, I presume everything is going according to a plan to which Snowden has agreed, or at least to which he has no overwhelming objection.

Snowden is in Russia, not another solar system. He can write. No-one has affixed concrete mittens to his hands. If he has something to say, he'll say it. He can read any website he pleases and publish anywhere he chooses.

You should also keep in mind one other factor: Greenwald is not the only writer handling the Snowden cache.

Greenwald appears to believe that a number of his suddenly-multitudinous critics are working for the national security state -- and frankly, I share that suspicion. Creating squabbles between perceived enemies is one of the things that spooks do. On some sites, you can see obvious signs of astroturfed hatred in the comments section. Those who defend Greenwald are dismissed as fanboys and acolytes; name-calling has taken the place of evidence.

Whenever the astroturf pushes the reader in one direction, I feel an urge to charge the opposite way.

We've seen this sort of thing before: Jim Garrison and Gary Webb come to mind. (I'm also thinking of the number they did on Richard Sprague via the easily-duped Henry Gonzalez. A few of my readers may recall that story.)

I am not a blinkered defender of Omidyar. At best, he remains an unknown quantity. Whatever PayPal's past record on Wikileaks, it is true that Omidyar has registered what appears to be genuine shock at the Snowden revelations. And yes, I am extremely impressed by what we read here.

Perhaps his public reaction to the Snowden documents was a feint -- but to what purpose? Call me naive, but I can accept the notion that a man who has already made billions might now think of matters beyond profit.

Maybe I'm wrong even to consider that possibility. Maybe the rich are genetically incapable of adopting a decent stance on any topic at any time. Maybe Omidyar is indeed the malefic 11-dimensional chess player many take him to be. Maybe those anti-NSA statements were simply part of an elaborate Xanatos gambit.

Maybe, when this whole thing shakes out, we will learn that Greenwald was beguiled by the dream that many journalists have dreamed -- that someone will fund a new media outlet for muckrakers and real news-gathering. I can understand this dream, and I cannot blame Greenwald for wanting to make it real. We all know that the American mainstream media has failed, and that the "alternative" press infrastructure has been largely commandeered by kooks who revere Breitbart and Alex Jones.

Should we blast Greenwald because he has not placed all of the Snowden documents before the public? Like it or not, a professional newsperson working for a major periodical cannot simply dump tons of unvetted national security data onto the internet. Even I, puckish rascal that I am, wouldn't do that.

Greenwald and Poitras -- and Gellman at the WP -- have already given us more good reporting on NSA than I ever expected to see. These revelations have changed the world.

You can't say similar words about anything we've heard from Sibel Edmonds.

Ultimately, Ed Snowden makes the call. As long as he remains cool with Greenwald, so do I.

By the way: Some people who once complained that Greenwald had irresponsibly unveiled the secrets of the NSA are now complaining that Greenwald has dawdled in revealing the rest of the documents. This shifting standard is very amusing. Brazen hypocrisy, free of self-reflection, is a sign of the shill.
Nearly everything on her site requires subscription monies and that's the first trigger I look for. Plenty of sites have books and sundry items to advertise. I'm a little old fashioned and remember shareware and free information. I share your skepticism, but even if there is some shadowy intangibles wrt Omidyar, it will soon be apparent at launch, Joseph.

Good points about Edmonds, opportunist.

"Whatever PayPal's past record on WikiLeaks,..."

PayPal's policy meant WikiLeaks couldn't raise money and become a big media player in its own right. Now PayPal's chairman is trying to be that media company. Also if you look at details of the trial, SEC filings by PayPal vs its later case against the PayPal protesters, you see some nasty work happening.

PO is worth several billion. A hundred or so million to the trendy cause that's popular with the government isn't a lot of money to him and it can be a tax write-off. Considerable PR value there. All it says to me is he's trying hard to look like a good guy, but it doesn't undo the fact of his company's cooperation with the feds against WikiLeaks.

You're points about Edmonds are valid, but she's not really relevant to the underlying problem people are having with Omidyar and Greenwald and their NewCo. She also muddies the water for those who wanted to hold PayPal and its chairman to account for bullshitting about what they did to WikiLeaks. In that sense, Edmonds can be seen as a diversion.

I wouldn't dismiss human trafficking as a "trendy" cause, and I wouldn't dismiss that kind of money. And the fact is, we've seen zero evidence that anything has been or will be squelched.
The Big Business of Anti-Sex Trafficking

"Combatting the scourge of human trafficking has become the sexy, trendy newest cause for privileged opportunists in need of their newest feel-good activism fix as they seek to profit by wrapping themselves in the cloak of social justice... "

What happened to WikiLeaks -- the way PP, MC and Visa ganged up to prevent donations from reaching WikiLeaks was despicable. The public was prevented from seriously crowd funding new media. People who protested found themselves at the wrong end of PayPal lawyers. It was ugly.

Guy at the helm of a company complicit most high profile corporate abuse of our 1st Amendment civil rights in recent memory wants to help publish Snowden and paymaster to so many of the best U.S. journalists. You've got to admit it's kinda weird.
People are dredging up crap and speculation about Greenwald and Omidyar for one simple reason: To9 distract attention.

Greenwald and Omidyar are So. Not. Relevant. What's relevant are the NSA documents. They speak for themselves. They are real. We know that because not one document has NSA ever disclaimed, disputed or denied. End of story.
sometimes I wonder if this is a Rep. admin. what Snowdon's haters reactions would be. I bet it would be different
"Some people who once complained that Greenwald had irresponsibly unveiled the secrets of the NSA are now complaining that Greenwald has dawdled in revealing the rest of the documents."

Please name these people.
Bill, I was thinking in particular of a blog that has always been on friendly terms with Cannonfire. I don't want to start an unnecessary bitch-fight with someone I usually like and admire, so I'm going to leave things vague. If that decision bothers you, sorry. You can always seek another website if you don't like the way I do things.
Here's what Sibel Edmonds was refering to: E-bay and Pay-pal operate hand-in-glove with law enforcement. Their business model relies on it. Hence a conflict of interest re: Omidyar and NSA secrets.


This past week, Wikileaks activist and close Snowden ally, Sarah Harrison, was quoted in the Guardian, asking “How can you take Pierre Omidyar seriously?”
From its earliest days, eBay has operated a vast trans-national private police force which has overseen thousands of arrests and convictions around the globe, has trained countless thousands of law enforcement officials in the US and abroad, and cooperates with police and intelligence agencies on every inhabitable continent.

Last year, eBay’s longtime Chief Internet Security Officer, David Culliname, told an audience of top private security executives that eBay’s global security operations led to the arrests of 3,000 people around the world over a period of three years — or roughly three people arrested per day, thanks to eBay’s work.
“‘By buying PayPal, eBay is merging the information about the goods trail with the money trail… Thus, in spite of the protective mechanisms of the law against disclosure of details on transactions, eBay is in a position to analyze the full set of data and ‘advise’ investigators when it might be ‘worthwhile’ for them to ask for a subpoena to disclose the details of a financial transaction. Essentially, this bypasses the rules on non-disclosure of details of financial transactions and the confidentiality of the banker-client relationship.’”

Others agree. In their book “Who Controls The Internet?” Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith and Columbia Law professor Tim Wu described eBay’s dystopian transformation from left coast anarcho-fantasy dream into a profit-making machine greased by big government coercion:

“Our peek below the surface of eBay’s self-governing facade revealed a far different story — a story of heavy reliance on the iron fist of coercive governmental power. Perpetually threatened by cheaters and fraudsters, eBay established an elaborate hand-in-glove relationship with the police and other governmental officials who can arrest, prosecute, incapacitate, and effectively deter these threats to its business model.”

This is going to get really interesting...
Dojo, I saw that piece this morning and it has been haunting me all day. I'm kind of glad that I didn't write about it today because my language might have been too intemperate.

Bottom line, I now think it very clear that Ames and Edmonds are dirty. Look at that piece closely -- it's obvious disinformation and character assassination. OF COURSE Pay Pal worked closely with law enforcement (starting well before Omidyar's involvement) -- for obvious reasons. There were lots of scams being run.

The outrageous hypocrisy of Ames becomes very clear when you look at how he tried to make Innocentive look like some filthy spy operation. That will wash only with those who don't bother to look up what that company actually does. It really IS Innocent. Meanwhile, try Googling the links between Peter Thiel (Ames' patron) and In-Q-Tel...! Now THAT'S a very different story!

Don't you think it odd that so few mainstreamers took Sibel seriously until she decided to become Yet Another Libertarian Propaganda Outlet? Suddenly -- now that she has been converted to the gospel according to Ayn -- she is considered quotable and reliable.
Well, your view of Edmonds is to be considered. I myself had to turn off her podcast because (A). She is hardly on it herself, and (B). She has Libertarian hosts doing her show.
That point is well taken. However, at this time there is no indication she is under anyone else's control, she appears to be a free agent. Perhaps one with a grudge.
Ames now, has gone out of his way to distance Theil form management of Pando, and I have read enough of Ames' other stuff to appreciate his journalism.

Perhaps we should revisit the Dave Emory theory that Snowdon is being run by someone, perhaps the CIA in an effort to destabilize the NSA if not the Obama administration itself. I think Edmonds was suggesting that herself when she said that elements in the government (CIA) was tacitly approving Greenwalds book deal.
I don't know. It's difficult to navigate these inter-squad scrabbles, but it might be healthy to see who is really who.
I don't trust Emory's judgment -- at least not on this.

And I don't trust the claim that Thiel is out of Pando. The Palantir/HBGary thing backfired on him, so I understand the need to try to keep Thiel under wraps. From the Wikipedia article on Palantir:

"In 2010 Hunton & Williams LLP allegedly asked Berico Technologies, Palantir, and HBGary Federal to draft a response plan to “the WikiLeaks Threat.” In early 2011 Anonymous publicly released HBGary-internal documents, including the plan. The plan proposed Palantir software would “serve as the foundation for all the data collection, integration, analysis, and production efforts.”[31] The plan also included slides, allegedly authored by HBGary CEO Aaron Barr, which suggested “[spreading] disinformation” and “disrupting” Glenn Greenwald’s support for WikiLeaks."

They later apologized. I'm sure they were very, very sorry. But Palantir continues to be "as one" with the intelligence community.

Also here:

Seriously, and Ames wants us to think that Innocentive is dirty? Are you fucking KIDDING me?

That is such obvious disinfo that I can only presume that Ames is continuing the disruption game mentioned above. If Ames says that he has nothing to do with Thiel -- well, Edward Epstein still wants people to believe that he was never Jim Angleton's hand puppet.

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