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The Propaganda & Yellow Journalism Which Undermines Snowden's Whistleblowing

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When National Security Agency whistleblower provided his first set of documents to  Guardian  journalist Glenn Greenwald a note accompanied the set and read, "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions."

He insisted on not being in the media spotlight, according to a post including the interview where Snowden came forward to identify himself as the source behind stories on US secret surveillance. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing." He also wrote, "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."

United States government officials and those in the US media--in some instances in harmony with one another--have done exactly what Snowden predicted. They have engaged in a process of caricaturization and delegitimization that all whistleblowers experience.

CNN ran a segment Tuesday night during "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer that consisted of one hundred percent speculation from "former spies" that the Russians were "trying to get their hands" on "intelligence" Snowden had and the "Chinese may have already had their turn." They asked how the Russian might "try to extract the information they need."

Former CIA operative Bob Baer asserted, "The Russians are aggressive and there's no doubt in my mind they would not let this opportunity pass over." A former KGB officer Oleg Kalugin, who "supervised a ring of notorious British Cold War operatives who spied for the Soviets, was asked by CNN's Brian Todd, "How would they approach him? What would be their style? Would they flatter him?"

"Yes, they would probably say something nice about how nice that Americans understand the value of improving relations and better knowledge of each other," Kalugin answered.

Brian Todd brought in Mark Stout, former US intelligence officer "who spent 13 years in the intelligence community analyzing Russia and Russian intelligence." He's also with the International Spy Museum.

TODD: "Mark, how long would it take them to download everything from his laptop?

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MARK STOUT, FORMER CIA RUSSIA ANALYST: It'd just be a matter of minutes for them to be able to strip all the data off the hard drive of  Snowden's computer if they're able to get to it. And that doesn't actually require  Snowden's cooperation. Now, the files on that may be encrypted. But once they have copied that data, they can decrypt it at their leisure for however long it happens to take.

TODD (voice-over): Stout says  Snowden may be able to tell the Russians whether the Americans have been able to penetrate Russian computer security systems, maybe with a secret back door or a Trojan horse.

This is yellow journalism. No proof or facts are presented to substantiate the idea that Snowden has actually had the security of the files he is traveling with compromised on his computer. There is no proof or facts presented that the Russians or Chinese have copies of his secrets. It is, instead, purely sensational and intended to captivate viewers by getting them interested in the idea that Snowden committed espionage.

Both former CIA analyst Philip Mudd and CNN national security correspondent Fran Townsend, who once worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, appeared on CNN to add more after the segment:

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BLITZER: "Mr. Mudd, do you just assume that the Chinese, for example, have copied, have had access to everything on those laptops, those thumb drives that he had during his few days in Hong Kong?

PHILIP MUDD, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Absolutely. I don't know how you assume anything else. Let's reverse this. Let's say I'm sitting in a staff meeting in the intelligence community in the United States and someone walks in and says, "Well, to be polite, we're not going to mirror his hard drive." And let's say we had a Chinese intelligence officer. My answer would be, "Are you kidding me?"

The first thing you're going to do, by default, is say, "I want to talk to the guy, and I'm simply going to download everything he's got." I think you've not only got to assume that, I believe it's an almost factual statement.

BLITZER: Fran, do you agree?

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)

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Funny that anyone with half a brain would not thin... by Toby Seiler on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 7:53:16 AM
See complementary analyses, here. of the atta... by Jim Kavanagh on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 1:39:39 PM
Government stooges and corporate-media hand-puppet... by Blaine Kinsey on Friday, Jun 28, 2013 at 1:41:39 PM