Greenwald: Military Blackout of NSA Stories is 'Prestigious' Award for Good Journalism

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Common Dreams

Greenwald: Military Blackout of NSA Stories is 'Prestigious' Award for Good Journalism

Military ban on spying scandal stories, broader than initially reported, declared 'flattering' by journalist who broke the story

by
Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(Photo: secretsofthefed.com)

The U.S. military blackout of NSA spying stories is a 'flattering' and 'prestigious' award for good journalism, says Glenn Greenwarld, the Guardian journalist who broke the NSA spying story.

The Department of Defense is blocking stories on NSA leaks to 'millions' of computers at military bases across the United States, the U.S. World and News Report revealed Friday.

The block is much broader than previously reported: instead of extending only to U.S. Army bases, as Common Dreams reported last week, it cuts across all military branches at bases around the world.

Furthermore, the ban shuts out any online reporting of information the Pentagon deems 'classified,' even if that information is already in the public domain. This affects more publications than previously reported: last week it was reported that the U.S. Army blackouts prohibited access to the Guardian newspaper only.

"If you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you are disclosing, you may be very good at your job but your job is not journalism." -Glenn Greenwald

However, Pentagon spokesman Damien Pickart told U.S. World and News Report:

Any website that runs information that the Department of Defense still considers classified [is affected]... is affected... If that particular website runs an article that our filters determine has classified information... the particular content on that website will remain inaccessible.

For his part, Greenwald declared in a speech at the Socialism Conference this Saturday that the U.S. Army blackout is a high honor. He told the crowd:

I would be remiss before I began if I didn’t acknowledge an extremely prestigious award that we at The Guardian received yesterday for the journalism that we’ve been doing in publishing the NSA stories. A lot of journalists and editors and the like have debates about what the most prestigious journalism award is—Is it a Polk Award? Or a Peabody? Or a Pulitzer? Those are definitely all prestigious awards, but I actually think the one we got yesterday is a significant level above them all. And I am very humbled and honored to have received this award.

The US Army announced yesterday that it was blocking access at all Army facilities across the world to the Guardian website in response to the NSA stories. And apparently the soldiers in the Army are old enough and mature enough to risk their lives to fight in wars but not mature enough to read news articles that the rest of the world is reading. But the reason I say that that’s flattering and I mean it. That is very flattering—is because I’ve long looked at journalism through this prism that defines the two polar opposites of what I consider journalism to be.

Greenwald clarified his point by contrasting two kinds of journalism: one typified by David Halberstam who exposed the harsh realities of the U.S.-led war in Vietnam, aggressively exposing the lies of U.S. generals to their faces. He compared this approach with that of Bill Keller—New York Times executive during the Bush years—who took great pains to avoid angering the U.S. government before publishing limited information leaked by Wikileaks. Greenwald explains:

The reason to me that seems like polar opposites is because David Halberstam viewed the measurement of good journalism as defined by how much you anger the people in power that you’re covering whereas Bill Keller defines good journalism—and I think most modern establishment journalists define it this way as well—by how much you please the people in power that you’re covering. And for me if you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you are disclosing, you may be very good at your job but your job is not journalism.

Greenwald went on to declare that he will laminate and frame a news article about the U.S. military's ban as a testament to his journalistic integrity.

With the more recent revelations exposing a DoD-wide ban on all NSA stories, Greenwald will have to buy additional frames.

This is not the first time the DoD has filtered access to news for service members. As Pickart acknowledges, in 2010 the DoD blocked access to Wikileaks documents and news websites that repeated their findings, including the New York Times. This blackout included threats to service members that, if they viewed news sites that contain information about the Wikileaks documents, they could face criminal charges.

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