In an age when many journalists are corporate-owned or are reduced by various pressures into stenographers for the powerful, it’s encouraging to hear of new journalistic ventures that promise to be critical of those in power. Glenn Greenwald, who’s established a reputation for outspoken journalism at Salon.com and The Guardian, and Jeremy Scahill, an investigative reporter and bestselling author of Blackwater as well as Dirty Wars, have established a new online magazine known as The Intercept. (It’s available at https://firstlook.org/theintercept/.)
Greenwald and Scahill, together with other skilled contributors such as the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, promise to do more than a little bit of rug lifting on the surveillance state in which we live. They are to be commended for true watchdog journalism.
Greenwald and Poitras, of course, are associated with Edward Snowden, whose revelations of NSA spying activities have infuriated much of the world (including close American allies such as Germany). Current and former members of the U.S. government have called for the imprisonment, even the execution, of Snowden as a traitor to America.
But who is the real traitor: the one who seeks to tell the American people what is being done in their name, or the ones who seek to deny the same knowledge to their fellow Americans?
Surely what we need in America is more accountability, not less. Consider this story from yesterday’s New York Times. Congress (i.e. the elected representatives of the American people) is unable to exercise oversight of the CIA’s drone program. Why? Ostensibly because the program is too secret to be entrusted to Congress.
The Obama Administration and the CIA (and the NSA) are telling the American people to trust but not to verify. Recall the words of Ronald Reagan here: When it comes to authority, without verification, there can be no trust.
A government that operates in secret with virtually no oversight by the people is better suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.
In these authoritarian times, we need journalistic watchdogs, not lapdogs. The Intercept promises to have real bite–good news indeed for a democracy in peril.
Update (2/21): Matt Taibbi, the distinguished investigative journalist from Rolling Stone, is also joining The Intercept team. Taibbi’s decision to join Scahill, Greenwald, et al. is a MAJOR move by Intercept to put together a full fledged alternative news team of seasoned, investigative journalists. These are some of today’s top reporters on major financial crimes and abuses, war crimes, and governmental abuses of power. We applaud their dedication to critical journalism and a free press — the true servant and preserver of democracy.