"The Guardian newspaper's Glenn Greenwald," writes former NSA director Michael Hayden today in a CNN op-ed, is "more deserving of the Justice Department's characterization of a co-conspirator than Fox's James Rosen ever was." Hayden's smear came in a column in which he argues that Edward Snowden, whose story Greenwald has been telling in the Guardian, "will likely prove to be the most costly leaker of American secrets in the history of the Republic."
Those thuggish words are particularly disturbing coming from a figure who is, as CNN's editor's note at the top of the column explains, still tied to military and intelligence elites.
When powerful bullies like Hayden attempt to smear or criminalize journalists, it should stir anger, particularly among journalists. Though it should come as little surprise that an official who launched warrantless surveillance programs–in spite of the Fourth Amendment protections against them–also has a tenuous grasp on the First Amendment.
Hayden's sordid attack on Greenwald is just the latest in a string of NSA smears and lies emitting from current and former government officials. After the Snowden story broke in early June, and the official wagons began circling, I noted how officials including U.S. senators, the current NSA chief, the Director of National Intelligence, and the White House itself, were spreading falsehoods about NSA surveillance programs and their successes. With a couple of noted exceptions, those falsehoods went unchallenged by journalists.
As this latest propaganda in the campaign to burnish the NSA's reputation and tarnish those of its critics comes at the expense of a reporter, it might be a good time for journalists to ask hard questions about the smear artists, liars and constitutional scofflaws in charge of surveillance programs. Or as veteran journalist and media watcher Dan Froomkin tweeted about Hayden's attack on Greenwald: "Surprise: The people we're supposed to blindly trust with absolute surveillance power engage in smears & innuendo."
Speaking for himself, Glenn Greenwald responded to Hayden's smear this way:
I've long thought Michael Hayden belongs in prison for implementing illegal warrantless eavesdropping at Americans https://t.co/f3Haz3du1n
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 19, 2013