When I made the choice to report aggressively on top-secret NSA programs, I knew that I would inevitably be the target of all sorts of personal attacks and smears. You don't challenge the most powerful state on earth and expect to do so without being attacked. As a superb Guardian editorial noted today: "Those who leak official information will often be denounced, prosecuted or smeared. The more serious the leak, the fiercer the pursuit and the greater the punishment."
One of the greatest honors I've had in my years of writing about politics is the opportunity to work with and befriend my long-time political hero, Daniel Ellsberg. I never quite understood why the Nixon administration, in response to his release of the Pentagon Papers, would want to break into the office of Ellsberg's psychoanalyst and steal his files. That always seemed like a non sequitur to me: how would disclosing Ellsberg's most private thoughts and psychosexual assessments discredit the revelations of the Pentagon Papers?
When I asked Ellsberg about that several years ago, he explained that the state uses those tactics against anyone who dissents from or challenges it simply to distract from the revelations and personally smear the person with whatever they can find to make people uncomfortable with the disclosures.