Glenn Greenwald thinks I’m a bad person because I work as a defense contractor.
Then we have the Good Citizens who are furious that WikiLeaks has shown them what their Government is doing and, conversely, prevented the Government from keeping things from them. Joshua Foust — who says “he’s spent the vast majority of his adult life doing defense and intelligence consulting for the U.S. government” — has a private Twitter feed for various intelligence officials and reporters, behind which he’s been bravely railing against WikiLeaks defenders (including me) and hysterically blaming WikiLeaks disclosures for everything from Chinese cyber warfare to the next terrorist attack. Plenty of other people are reciting anti-WikiLeaks condemnations from the same script.
It’s hardly surprising that people like Foust who work for the Government and depend upon staying in its good graces are screeching all sorts of fear-mongering claims. That’s what the Government, its enablers and royal court hangers-on do: you wind them up and they insist that any restraints on, or exposure of, the U.S. Government will help the Terrorists get us, and subject us to other scary dangers. But what’s extraordinary is that these strident claims continue even after the U.S. Government’s prior “blood-on-their-hands” warnings have been exposed as wildly exaggerated. As the pro-Obama, pro-National Security State New York Times Editorial Page put it today with great understatement: “The claim by  Clinton that the leaks threaten national security seems exaggerated.”
I redacted the part where he posts speculation about the nature of my employment because it isn’t relevant. On general principle, anyone who reads my work and thinks I am a “royal court hanger-on” for the government is writing from the deepest darkest depths of ignorance.
There is, of course, context to be had. Greenwald posted to his blog 6:31 am EST. Because I don’t read him—evidently I brought his wrath down upon my head when I described his writing as “a long shriek into the ether” (which still doesn’t seem inaccurate) because he accused Adrian Lamo of faking Asperger’s to get out of prison—I didn’t know he had written this post. He sent me an email at 9:23 am to ask if I would confirm his speculation about my employment. That’s bad form: from the start, Glenn was playing dirty and breaking normative rules that usually govern professional writers. In a response, I demurred, and pointed to several instances where I have written, in public, that I work as a defense contractor (this is just a small subset of these instances).
This summer, during the first release of Wikileaked secret documents, I flat out said, “I work for a DOD contractor, but they neither review nor censor what I say here.” Earlier this year, in a piece for the New York Times discussing the failed campaign to “win” Marjah, Helmand, I wrote, “I work as an analyst for a military contractor, but these views are my own.” And on this blog, in the “About” section, I say quite explicitly, “Nothing Joshua writes here in any way reflects upon his current, past, or future employers or their clients, nor is it in any way indicative of their views, policies, or ideas.”
In Greenwaldistan, that is evidence of improper disclosure and misleading my followers on Twitter.
That the rest of Greenwald’s argument is nonsensical—appealing to an New York Times editorial to claim there are no national security interests at stake is especially rich—is almost beside the point. He thinks the good luck that no one was murdered immediately after the first two leaks is evidence that there is no danger in leaking more—the equivalent of saying you shouldn’t wear a seat belt if you’ve never been in an accident.
Just so we’re clear: biggest difference between me and Glenn Greenwald on the issue of Wikileaks is not our views on classification, the military’s overreach, the perils of an imperial presidency, or the annoyances of a subservient media. I’m sure it would surprise him to know we agree on those things—and a few minutes of research would have told him that, as I’ve written about these very topics for The Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy, PBS, and the New York Times.
No, what distinguishes me and Glenn on the Wikileaks crisis is that I understand the value of classified information, and he does not. Glenn waves away concerns that “impeding diplomacy makes war more likely.” Rather than noting the abhorrence of such a thing, Glenn instead says that he thinks secrecy is a bigger threat than the breakdown of international diplomatic norms. To rephrase: Glenn Greenwald would rather make war more likely than suffer the U.S. government hold onto a few secret cables sent between embassies and DC.
I’m at a loss to explain how backward this is. Had Glenn ever developed a detailed understanding of the instruments of foreign policy—say, how ambassadors and embassies work, why things are classified, and so on—he could have guessed that the immediate reaction of the State Department to Wikileaks would be to make its data more classified, not less. Glenn’s (and Wikileaks!) love of transparency at all costs is making the problem of overclassification worse. By behaving so childishly and supporting such reckless endeavors, he is making the very problem he claims to hate significantly worse, maybe permanently. Glenn even admits, later on, that there is a proper place for classified material… but because he never took the time to figure out what that actually is, his very dismissive discussion of it lacks substance, evidence, and foundation.
It didn’t end there. My friends on Twitter leapt to my defense, and I’m grateful to them for that. But that’s where it gets weird. On Glenn Greenwald’s twitter feed, he first accused me of not disclosing my work as a defense contractor, then, when challenged, said he did no such thing. Soon, the issue wasn’t about how my ties to the defense industry make me an unthinking slave to promoting the megacorporations that run the intelligence industry, but rather that I have the temerity to make my Twitter feed private. Then, he admitted something I just don’t understand (warning, his link is VERY NSFW):
In case you were tempted to click on that link: do not. It is a gay pornography blogpost, written in 2006, about things I had written on my old blog while I was a junior in college. It is, by any definition, completely random, the result of typing into Google “Joshua Foust is a little shit” (which that blogger calls me in the post) and excerpting from the first website that comes up. To rephrase: Glenn Greenwald thinks a blog whose author brags about how awesome it was to mainline chrystal meth while having unprotected anal sex (VERY NSFW) is a reliable indicator of how I think, what I know, and what I write about.
But really, Glenn’s entire concept of who I am, what I believe, what I write about, and how my job affects all of that is based on a bloggingheads I did with Spencer Ackerman a few months ago and a gay pornographer.
Now that I think about it, that’s probably as accurate a summary of Greenwald’s entire mode of operating, “research,” and advocacy as you could ever get. And with that, I declare my absolute boredom with the whole affair. It made for an amusing afternoon, but I’m really not interested in the morning after.