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Bob Woodward Doesn't Understand Why Whistleblowers Like Snowden Avoid Journalists Like Him
Critics of 'establishment journalism' now epitomized by veteran reporter are quick to explain
Septuagenarian Washington Post journalist of Watergate fame Bob Woodward thinks the responsible thing for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to have done would have been to entrust the classified documents detailing the agency's spy programs to him instead of journalists like Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian, and his own Post colleague Barton Gellman.
"I wish [Snowden] had come to me instead of others, particularly the Guardian,” Woodward said in an interview on Politicking with Larry King that aired Thursday night. "I would have said to him ‘let’s not reveal who you are. Let’s make you a protected source and give me time with this data and let’s sort it out and present it in a coherent way.'"
Other journalists and critics—including Greenwald and Gelman themselves—were quick to call Woodward out for the swipe, however, noting that since his days as the preeminent investigative journalist in the 1970's Woodward has come to epitomize, in many respects, the worst kind of "establishment journalism," relying heavily on official "leaks" of insider information while broadly surrendering his adversarial role or desire to place a strong check on power.
As David Carr, who reports on pop culture for the New York Times, tweeted in response:
Woodward: If only Snowden had come to me so I could have got to it in my own sweet time. Or not. http://t.co/EtaeWDbaZB— david carr (@carr2n) November 22, 2013
And Greenwald, not shy to defend himself, also took to Twitter to push back against Woodward:
Dear Bob Woodward: Maybe it's worth spending a few minutes thinking about why he didn't http://t.co/OQzorIekhR— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 20, 2013
Gee, with source-bashing views & behavior like this, it's a huge mystery why Snowden didn't go to Bob Woodward http://t.co/Dl3CsPTAOO— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 20, 2013
Woodward's definition RT @Pliny_theElder "present [the data] in a coherent way" complete w/anonymous quotes from White House & NSA officials— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) November 20, 2013
Additionally, Greenwald pointed his Twitter audience to Digby's Hullabaloo blog where she jibed: "Woodward is perfectly willing to publish classified information, he limits it to a very special kind --- the kind the government wants you to see."
But perhaps the strongest retort came from Gellman, who seemed confounded, if not angry, by Woodward's statements regarding both Snowden and the journalists who have worked so hard to bring the complex stories bound up in the NSA documents to the public's attention. In remarks sent to the Huffington Post, Gellman wrote:
"I can't explain why Bob would insult the source who brought us this extraordinary story or the exemplary work of his colleagues in pursuing it.
"The 'others' he dismissed include [The Washington Post's] Greg Miller, Julie Tate, Carol Leonnig, Ellen Nakashima, Craig Whitlock, Craig Timberg, Steven Rich and Ashkan Soltani -- all of whom are building on the Snowden archive with me to land scoop after scoop." [...]
"I won't get into why Snowden came to me or didn't come to Bob. But the idea of keeping Snowden anonymous, or of waiting for one 'coherent' story, suggests that Bob does not understand my source or the world he lived in."
And the Huffington Post continues:
It's one thing for Woodward to take a shot at The Guardian, which has extensively covered the surveillance story since June. They're a competitor. But Woodward’s remarks were striking considering that the Post has also aggressively reported on the NSA documents from the beginning, with Gellman one of the three journalists who communicated early on with Snowden. (Snowden also provided documents to Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, and filmmaker Laura Poitras).
Gellman, who won two Pulitzer Prizes with The Washington Post before leaving in 2010, returned on contract to work on the NSA stories. Gellman and Poitras first wrote on the agency's PRISM program, and the Post has published a number of deeply reported stories related to the Snowden documents, including one detailing the “black budget” that funds U.S. intelligence agencies.
"If Bob has any second thoughts about what he said, he hasn't told me so," Gellman added. "As far as I know he hasn't told anyone else."
Regarding the suggestion that Woodward would have protected Snowden as a source, Digby both concedes the point and elevates the implications, and perhaps the irony, of his comment by concluding:
[Woodward] does have a reputation for protecting his sources --- but then his sources are all very high level government officials who are leaking to him to advance an agenda. It's unsurprising that someone in Snowden's position might not think Bob Woodward (or one of the dozens of other journalists who specialize in publishing "authorized leaks") would be the best person to approach.