8 November 2013 — The Real News Network
Chris Hedges says David Miranda’s detention represents an assault on journalism by the US and its allies (inc. transcript)
Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig , spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009), “I Don’t Believe in Atheists” (2008) and the best-selling “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” (2008). His book “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction.
Chris Hedges: The Detention of Greenwald’s Partner on Terrorism Charges Amounts to the JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
Last Friday it was reported that British officials detained David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, earlier this year at London’s Heathrow Airport for his alleged, quote, espionage and, quote, terrorism for transporting documents provided by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Now joining us to discuss this and other recent revelations about the NSA is Chris Hedges. Chris is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s a columnist for Truthdig, author of many books, including the best-selling Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.
Thank you so much for joining us, Chris.
CHRIS HEDGES, JOURNALIST, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE NATION INSTITUTE: Thank you.
NOOR: So, Chris, let’s start off by getting your response to the British government accusing David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who often collaborates with Greenwald, of, quote, espionage and terrorism and saying those were some of the reasons why they held him for hours on end at Heathrow without letting him speak to his lawyer or anyone else.
HEDGES: Well, they didn’t just told him. They seized all of his electronic equipment–his computer, his phone–because they were looking for some of the files that Greenwald has been using to publish his stories that were leaked by Edward Snowden. And this is just part of the criminalization of journalism which has taken place not only within the United States but within countries like Great Britain as well.
NOOR: Britain doesn’t have the same safeguards for journalists as places like the U.S. do. It was also reported earlier this year that the British authorities threatened to seize The Guardian’s hard drives containing a lot of this material. What are the bigger–what’s the bigger ramifications for journalism not only in Britain but the rest of the world?
HEDGES: Well, there aren’t any safeguards left within the United States as well. I mean, remember that the security and surveillance state seized all of the AP phone records. And let’s not forget that the security and surveillance state has the phone–all of the electronic communications of every journalist in this country. They’ve used the Espionage Act aggressively seven times, the last time being against Snowden, to make sure nobody does talk to the press to expose the inner workings of power.
So we once had, at least legally, more protection as journalists than were provided to journalists in Great Britain. But all of it’s gone up in smoke, both here and there. There is no protection left. Jim Risen at The New York Times is fighting back against government efforts to make him reveal his sources in the story on more or less wiretapping, and he said that he would be willing to go to jail rather than give up those sources. So this is kind of a global assault where we’re not at this point any more protected here than we are anywhere else. And what this really, I think, points to is the fact that the security and surveillance state is global and it serves, essentially, global power, which is corporate.
NOOR: Now, the NSA and its defenders, they cite 54 terrorist plots they have been able to supposedly thwart due to this massive spying. But a recent report by ProPublica found that the NSA was only able to provide evidence in four of those cases. Why do you think the NSA is not providing additional evidence for those remaining 50 cases?
HEDGES: Well, because they’re lying. And, you know, government officials like Clapper have been lying throughout this entire process. Barack Obama has lied. And that’s just part of, you know, the spin that they’re throwing out.
What’s interesting is that a lot of times when they lie, they get caught because of courageous whistleblowers like Snowden who expose their lives. And I was a victim of this in the–I was part of one of the plaintiffs in the Amnesty International v. Clapper lawsuit that went to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court threw out the case because they said I and the other plaintiffs did not have standing. And they made that judgment on the fact that the government said that if any of us were being watched or had government surveillance, we would be informed.
Well, we now know that the government lied, and we know the government lied because of the leaks by Snowden. So this is a government that, like most governments, has a very callous regard for the truth. And, you know, if you believe that they stopped 54 terrorism plots, then, you know, come see me. I’ll sell you land in Florida, the Brooklyn Bridge.
NOOR: Ed Snowden has continued to provide outlets like The New York Times, which released a front-page story Sunday about ongoing new information about NSA programs, yet backers and supporters of the NSA continue to push back. Some of the arguments include saying, if you have nothing to hide, there is nothing to worry about; this NSA spying shouldn’t concern you. Is there any historical precedent for citizens to be concerned about government surveillance? And how do you respond to arguments such as those?
HEDGES: Well, you don’t want to give this kind of power to the state, because–and I speak as a journalist–because it makes it absolutely impossible to carry out any serious investigation of power. No source is going to reach out to you, because they know full well that the government has all of the electronic footprints that you make in trying to contact a journalist. And I think one of the reasons that Snowden went public almost immediately is that he knew that the government had all of Greenwald’s communications and it he would very quickly trace it back to him. That’s the problem.
It’s not a matter of nothing to hide. That’s an inverted question. The government has a lot to hide. And this kind of mechanism is a kind of a failsafe device by which whatever the government wants to do, however criminal, however corrupt, however fraudulent, however anticonstitutional, it never gets found out. That’s the real issue.
NOOR: And in light of Snowden’s revelations about how the U.S. government is spying on the German government, including tapping Angela Merkel’s cell phone, over 50 public figures in Germany have called for the German government to grant Snowden asylum. What’s your response to this growing–both the growing backlash against what Snowden has revealed and growing support in places like Germany that he be protected?
HEDGES: Well, I hope he does get granted asylum. He’s only got a kind of temporary one-year asylum in Russia. And I hope some government steps in to give him the kind of safeguards that he should have within this country but is probably never going to get. You know.
I mean, the tapping of Merkel’s phone is a kind of window into how this pervasive intrusion of privacy and surveillance has nothing to do with terrorism. It has to do with iron control, even among people who are purported to be our allies. And it isn’t just Merkel–I mean, the millions of records that they swept up in Spain and France. And it is a absolutely staggering intrusion into the lives not only of Americans but of foreign citizens. And it has nothing to do with protecting those citizens, and it has everything to do with protecting a state, security and surveillance state, corporate state that has less and less legitimacy as these kind of revelations become more public. You know, it’s clear that we have undergone a kind of corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s global.
NOOR: Chris Hedges, thank you so much for joining us.
HEDGES: Thank you.
NOOR: You can follow The Real News @TheRealNews on Twitter, and you can follow me @JaisalNoor. Feel free to Tweet me questions, comments, or story suggestions.
Thank you so much for joining us.
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