Monday, June 24, 2013

The Beltway Symbiosis

Now that Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong for Russia en route to Ecuador or Venezuela or Cuba or wherever, it’s fascinating — as well as embarrassing — to watch the coverage of him and the people who are connected with the story.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that it was like watching paparazzi waiting outside a rehab clinic for a shot at some celebrity being sprung.

The fact that there are national security issues moves it to the level of more than just the lead story on Entertainment Tonight.  But to give you an idea of how this has become a story less about the national security apparatus and more about a clash of personalities, the exchange between David Gregory and Glenn Greenwald on Meet the Press yesterday pretty much wraps it up.

Greenwald was on to discuss his source’s Sunday morning flight from Hong Kong to Moscow. (It is unclear where Snowden will ultimately land, though reports have suggested he is headed to Venezuela.) At the tail end of the conversation, Gregory suddenly asked Greenwald why the government shouldn’t be going after him.

“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” he asked.

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden.

Gregory replied that “the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,” but added that he was merely posing a question others have asked, and not “embracing anything.”

The idea that David Gregory — or any of the Sunday morning emcees — should sit in judgment on who is and who isn’t a journalist is ludicrous.  Going beyond that, I’m trying to remember if Mr. Gregory ever asked Dick Cheney or Paul Bremer or even Colin Powell if they should be charged with war crimes because of their conduct in getting us into a war?

Of course not.  Not because it would be a shock that they would even think to ask, but because if they did, they’d never work in that town again.  They need each other to survive.

3 barks and woofs on “The Beltway Symbiosis

  1. Another take on that interview and Gregory’s “stupid” question (Huffpost’s take) came in a conversation I listened to on the Diane Rehm program a little while ago. Nick Burns posed the very question of when does journalism merge into advocacy? And it does seem to me that Greenwald has been, although a skilled writer of journalism, he has always had powerful positions on government intrusion into the privacy of citizens. It’s a cause he’s flogged wherever he’s worked, his own blog, Salon and now The Guardian. And he’s been helpful to Snowden in this instance by offering ways to justify Snowden’s actions. David Gregory isn’t the best examply of journalistic bravery – he’s no Murrow – but the question he posed seems to be not stupid but fair and worthy of further discussion, not dismissal.

  2. As usual, I’m in agreement with Faithful. I haven’t followed this closely enough to know if Greenwald has “aided and abetted”, but I would be rather surprised if he hasn’t. And I’m still waiting for someone to answer the question of how, in God’s name, a high school dropout went, in four years, from security guard to $200K “analyst”, and how he managed to get his hands on a security clearance that only fourteen people in the White House have.

    • I can’t speak to the journalism front, but from what I’ve seen of metro DC, landing that job took at least two firing neurons and a background sufficiently blank to pass the checks. DC, particularly private-sector-consulting-to-the-feds DC, pays very well and seems to demand very little. It’s one of the reasons the Beltway is so out of touch: you can survive pretty well as a janitor here, never mind doing something more demanding, so the idea that hard work doesn’t pay is completely lost here (after all, the easy work pays well enough, and the hard work pays extremely well). Snowden, as an amateur hacker, was probably cheaper for Booz Allen than recruiting an analyst from outside: the salary is impressive, but not especially so.

      For comparison: moving here, I took a demotion, loss of projects, loss of staff, substantially smaller responsibilities – and received an 80% (yes, eighty percent) pay increase, not counting all my non-salary benefits (healthcare, pre-tax commute expenses, 401k with 100% company match, company-paid training, etc.) which FL didn’t offer. I’m on track to double my last FL salary in less than six months – and that salary was for a C-level spot, and here it’s just for basic engineering. It’s doubtful I’ll ever go for a security clearance (which seems to come with another 50% premium over uncleared work), but if I did I’d be eligible for similar compensation. FL employers – when they bothered to look at my resume – offered me very little, clearance or no; and outside NYC, Silicon Valley and (sometimes) metro Chicago, even FL numbers were at or (just) above median for compensation offered by the rest of the country.

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