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As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies at a Senate hearing on Russian cyberthreats ahead of a highly classified briefing today with President-elect Donald Trump, we speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has faced an onslaught of criticism for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the U.S. election. “Because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative,” Greenwald says. “And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative.”
AMY GOODMAN: President-elect Donald Trump is slated to meet with U.S. intelligence chiefs today for a highly classified briefing on the alleged Russian cyber-attack of the 2017 election—a claim Trump disputes. Thursday night, Trump tweeted, quote, “The Democratic National Committee would not allow the FBI to study or see its computer info after it was supposedly hacked by Russia…… So how and why are they so sure about hacking if they never even requested an examination of the computer servers? What is going on?” Trump tweeted.
President Obama received the same briefing on Thursday, along with a 50-page classified intelligence document that reportedly says U.S. spy agencies intercepted Russian communications in which top Russian officials were congratulating each other on Donald Trump’s presidential win. The New York Times wrote of Trump’s meeting today with the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, CIA Director John Brennan and others, quote, “In effect, they will be telling the president-elect that the spy agencies believe he won with an assist from [President] Vladimir V. Putin of Russia,” unquote. An unclassified version of the report is expected to be released to the public next week.
This comes as Clapper appeared Thursday before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyberthreats and said the intelligence community is resolute in its findings that Russians hacked the U.S. election. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain asked Clapper whether the alleged hacking would constitute an act of war.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Really, what we’re talking about is, if they were—if they succeeded in changing the results of an election, which none of us believe they were, that that would have to constitute an attack on the United States of America because of the effects, if they had succeeded. Would you agree with that?
JAMES CLAPPER: First, we cannot say—they did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort. And we have no—
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Yeah, I’m just talking about—yeah.
JAMES CLAPPER: We have no way of gauging the impact that—certainly, the intelligence community can’t gauge the impact it had on choices the electorate made. There’s no way for us to gauge that. Whether or not that constitutes an act of war, I think, is a very heavy policy call that I don’t believe the intelligence community should make. But it certainly would carry, in my view, great gravity.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s national intelligence head James Clapper being questioned by Senator John McCain.
Well, on Thursday, Democracy Now!‘s Nermeen Shaikh and I spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His latest piece is headlined “WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived.” This is Part 2 of our conversation. I asked Glenn Greenwald about this article, the onslaught of criticism he’s received for questioning the premise of Russian hacking of the election and how this compares to criticism he’s received in the past. Greenwald recently wrote, quote, “[I]n my 10-plus years of writing about politics on an endless number of polarizing issues—including the Snowden reporting—nothing remotely compares to the smear campaign that has been launched as a result of the work I’ve done questioning and challenging claims about Russian hacking and the threat posed by that country generally.” I asked him to talk further about this.
GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, so I’ve done some, you know, pretty controversial and polarizing reporting in the past decade when I’ve been writing about politics. And when you do that, you obviously get attacked in lots of different ways. It’s not just me; it’s everybody who engages. It’s just sort of the rough and tumble of politics and journalism. But I really haven’t experienced anything even remotely like the smear campaign that has been launched by Democrats in this really coordinated way ever since I began just expressing skepticism about the prevailing narrative over Russia and its role that it allegedly played in the election and, in particular, in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. I mean, not even the reporting I did based on the Edward Snowden archive, which was extremely controversial in multiple countries around the world, not even that compared to the attacks now.
And the reason is very, very obvious, which is that it has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election. And anyone who challenges or anyone who questions that instantly becomes not just their enemy, but now, according to their framework, someone who’s actually unpatriotic, that if you question the evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence to support this theory, that somehow your loyalties are suspect, that you’re not just a critic of the Democratic Party, you’re actually a stooge of or an agent of the Kremlin.
And obviously we’ve seen this rhetoric for decades during the Cold War, although back then it was the far right using it against Democrats for wanting to have better relations with Russia. We saw it in 2002, when people who questioned the sufficiency of the evidence about Saddam’s WMDs were accused of being apologists for Saddam or agents of Iraq. We’ve seen it repeatedly through the war on terror. Whenever anyone questions the policies of the U.S. government, you get accused of being pro-terrorist or on the side of al-Qaeda. These are the kinds of bullying smear tactics that have become very common.
But because Democrats are so desperate to put the blame on everybody but themselves for the complete collapse of their party, they’re particularly furious at anybody who vocally challenges this narrative. And since I’ve been one of the people most vocally doing so, the smear campaign has been like none that I have ever encountered. I have been accused of being a member of the alt-right, of being an admirer of Breitbart, of being supportive of Donald Trump, of helping him get elected and, of course, of being a Kremlin operative. And it’s just this constant flow, not from fringe accounts online, but from the Democratic operatives and pundits with the greatest influence. In fact, Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, went on Twitter three weeks ago and said, “I think it would be really interesting to find out whether The Intercept is receiving money from Russia or Iran”—something that he obviously has zero evidence or basis for suggesting, but this is what the Democratic Party has become.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, you mentioned Breitbart News, Glenn Greenwald. One of the pieces of evidence that people cite for your alleged sympathy with Breitbart is a part of an interview that you gave recently to Lee Stranahan last month in which you said, “Breitbart is actually a fascinating case. And I do think right-wing media has had a lot more success in pioneering ways to challenge establishment authority [than] left-wing media has.” You went on to say that it’s, quote, “very impressive in terms of the impact they’ve been able to have.” That is, Breitbart media has been able to have. And now, of course, the head of Breitbart media has been named by Trump as his chief strategist. So, could you respond to that and explain what you meant?
GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. That Breitbart has had a huge impact on American politics is something that no honest person could possibly dispute. Their traffic alone has quadrupled, or even more, just in the past six to nine months. They became the go-to place for the part of the Republican Party that ended up dominant, that ended up electing—nominating and then electing a candidate who the entire political establishment thought had no chance of ever winning. They gave voice to a huge part of the Republican Party that had been completely and systematically excluded from all of the Republican mainstream venues, like National Review and Weekly Standard. The impact that they have had is immense. And to deny that is just delusional.
But even worse is to suggest that acknowledging the impact that they have somehow makes you an admirer of them. In that very same interview, I told them directly to their face that the content that they’re producing is repellent. That was the word I used. I said that I have all kinds of terrible things to say about Breitbart reporters and about Breitbart’s content. All of the work I’ve done over the past decade—the sort of primary issue on which I’ve worked has been a defense of the civil liberties of Muslims—is completely antithetical to everything that Breitbart believes in. So, to take a comment that I made which is observably and undeniably true, which is that the impact that they’ve had on the political process is extraordinary and impressive, and convert that into me saying that I somehow like Breitbart or am a sympathizer with Breitbart or an admirer or supporter of Breitbart is just dishonesty in the extreme. And it’s obvious for anybody minimally literate that that’s the case.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald. When we come back, he talks about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s claim that the Obama administration is implicating Russia in the leaks to delegitimize Trump, and many other issues.