Greenwald: Veritas, Rittenhouse, and Lack of Principles

grarpamp grarpamp at
Wed Nov 17 00:56:50 PST 2021

Kyle Rittenhouse, Project Veritas, And The Inability To Think In Terms
Of Principles

The FBI has executed a string of search warrants targeting the homes
and cell phones of Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe and several
others associated with that organization. It should require no effort
to understand why it is a cause for concern that a Democratic
administration is using the FBI to aggressively target an organization
devoted to obtaining and reporting incriminating information about
Democratic Party leaders and their liberal allies.
James O'Keefe meets with supporters during the Conservative Political
Action Conference 2020 (CPAC) hosted by the American Conservative
Union on February 28, 2020 in National Harbor, MD. (Photo by Samuel
Corum/Getty Images)

That does not mean the FBI investigation is inherently improper.
Journalists are no more entitled than any other citizen to commit
crimes. If there is reasonable cause to believe O'Keefe and his
associates committed federal crimes, then an FBI investigation is
warranted as it is for any other case. But there has been no evidence
presented that O'Keefe or Project Veritas employees have done anything
of the sort, nor any explanation provided to justify these invasive
searches. That we should want and need that is self-evident: if the
Trump-era FBI had executed search warrants inside the newsrooms of The
New York Times and NBC News, we would be demanding evidence to prove
it was legally justified. Yet virtually nothing has been provided to
justify the FBI's targeting of O'Keefe and his colleagues, and the
little that has been disclosed by way of justifying this makes no

The FBI investigation concerns the theft last year of the diary of Joe
Biden's daughter, Ashley, yet Project Veritas, while admitting they
received a copy from an anonymous source, chose not to publish that
diary because they were unable to verify it. Nobody and nothing thus
far suggests that Project Veritas played any role in its acquisition,
legal or otherwise. There is a cryptic reference in the search warrant
to transmitting stolen material across state lines, but it is not
illegal for journalists to receive and use material illegally acquired
by a source: the most mainstream organizations spent the last month
touting documents pilfered from Facebook by their heroic
"whistleblower” Frances Haugen.

On Monday night, we produced an in-depth video report examining the
FBI's targeting of O'Keefe and Project Veritas and the dangers it
presents (as we do for all of our Rumble videos, the transcript will
soon be made available to subscribers here; for now, you can watch the
video at the Rumble link or on the player below). One of the primary
topics of our report was the authoritarian tactic that is typically
used to justify governmental attacks on those who report news and
disseminate information: namely, to decree that the target is not a
real journalist and therefore has no entitlement to claim the First
Amendment guarantee of a free press.

This not-a-real-journalist tactic was and remains the primary theory
used by those who justify the ongoing attempt to imprison Julian
Assange. In demanding Assange's prosecution under the Espionage Act,
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote in The Wall Street Journal that
“Mr. Assange claims to be a journalist and would no doubt rely on the
First Amendment to defend his actions.” Yet the five-term Senator
insisted: "but he is no journalist: He is an agitator intent on
damaging our government, whose policies he happens to disagree with,
regardless of who gets hurt.”

This not-a-real-journalist slogan was also the one used by both the
CIA and the corporate media against myself and my colleagues in both
the Snowden reporting we did in 2013, as well as the failed attempt to
criminally prosecute me in 2020 for the year-long Brazil exposés we
did: punishing them is not an attack on press freedom because they are
not journalists and what they did is not journalism.

What is most striking about this weapon is that — like the campaign to
agitate for more censorship — it is led by journalists. It is the
corporate media that most aggressively insists that those who are
independent, those who are outsiders, those who do not submit to their
institutional structures are not real journalists the way they are,
and thus are not entitled to the protections of the First Amendment.
In order to create a framework to deny Project Veritas's status as
journalists, The New York Times claimed last week that anyone who uses
undercover investigations (as Veritas does) is automatically a
non-journalist because that entails lying — even though, just two
years earlier, the same paper heralded numerous news outlets such as
Al Jazeera and Mother Jones for using undercover investigations to
accomplish what they called "compelling” reporting.

I am very well-acquainted with this repressive tactic of trying to
decree who is and is not a real journalist for purposes of
constitutional protection. Many have forgotten — given the awards it
ultimately ended up winning — that the NSA/Snowden reporting we did in
2013 was originally maligned as quasi-criminal not just by Obama
national security officials such as James Clapper but also by The New
York Times (the first profile the Paper of Record published about me
the day after the reporting began referred to me in the headline as an
“Anti-Surveillance Activist” and then, once backlash ensued, it was
changed to “Blogger” (the original snide, disqualifying headline is
still visible in the URL).
The Guardian, Jan. 29, 2014

As the New York Times' own Public Editor at the time objected, by
purposely denying me the label "journalist,” the paper was knowingly
increasing the risks that I could be prosecuted for my reporting.
Indeed, recent reporting from Yahoo! News about CIA plots to kidnap or
murder Julian Assange reported that denying Assange the label
"journalist,” and then re-defining what I and my colleague Laura
Poitras were doing from "journalist” to “information broker,” would
enable the U.S. Government to spy on or even prosecute us without
having to worry about that inconvenient “free press” guarantee of the
First Amendment.

All of this demonstrates how dangerous it is to invoke this very same
not-a-real-journalist tactic against O'Keefe and Project Veritas. Yet,
if one warns of the dangers of the FBI's actions, that is precisely
what one hears from liberals, from Democrats and from their allies in
the media: the FBI's targeting of Project Veritas has nothing to do
with press freedoms since they're not real journalists. They are
invoking the authoritarian theory that maintains that the state (or,
in this case, the FBI) is vested with the power to decree who is a
"real journalist” — whatever that means — and who is not.

There are so many ironies to the use of this framework. So often,
employees of media corporations who have never broken a major story in
their lives (and never will) revel in accusing independent journalists
who have broken numerous major stories (such as Assange) of not being
real journalists. At the height of the Snowden reporting, I went on
Meet the Press in July, 2013, only for the host, David Gregory, to
suggest that I ought to be in prison alongside my source Edward
Snowden because I was not really a journalist the way David Gregory
was. At the time, Frank Rich, writing in New York Magazine, noted how
bizarre it was that the TV personality David Gregory assumed he was a
real journalist, whereas I was a non-journalist who belonged in prison
for my reporting, given that Gregory — like most employees of large
media corporations — had never broken any story in his life. Rich used
a Q&A format to make the point this way:

    On Sunday, Meet the Press host David Gregory all but accused the
Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald of aiding and abetting Edward Snowden’s
fugitive travels, asking, “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be
charged with a crime?” And, speaking to his larger point, do you see
Greenwald as a journalist or an activist in this episode? And does it

    Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one
piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction,
and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John
McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press
has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to
ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean
to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn)
but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his
charge is preposterous. As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s
leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist — and the fact that
he’s an “activist” journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me
and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. . .
. [I]t’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed
outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents’
Dinner and works for a news organization based in London. Presumably
if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused
the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel
Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald
demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to
try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”).

At the time — both in terms of that exchange with Gregory and my
overall reporting on the NSA — I had significant support from the
liberal-left (though it was far from universal, given that we were
exposing mass, indiscriminate, illegal spying by the Obama
administration). But few believed that I ought to be prosecuted on the
grounds that, somehow, I was not a real journalist.

So why are so many of them now willing to endorse this same exact
theory when it comes to O'Keefe and Project Veritas, or even to
justify the prosecution of Julian Assange? The answer is obvious. They
are unwilling and/or incapable of thinking in terms of principles,
ones that apply universally to everyone regardless of their ideology.
Their thought process never even arrives at that destination. When the
subject of the FBI's attacks on O'Keefe is raised, or the DOJ's
prosecution of Assange is discussed, they ask themselves one question
and only one question, and that ends the inquiry.

It is the exclusive and determinative factor: do I like James O'Keefe
and his politics? Do I like Julian Assange and his politics? This
primitive, principle-free, personality-driven prism is the only way
they are capable of understanding the world. Because they dislike
O'Keefe and/or Assange, they instantly side with whoever is targeting
them — the FBI, the DOJ, the security state services — and believe
that anyone who defends them is defending a right-wing extremist
rather than defending the non-ideological, universally applicable
principle of press freedoms. They think only in terms of
personalities, not principles.

The FBI's actions against Project Veritas and O'Keefe are so blatantly
alarming that press freedom groups such as the Committee to Project
Journalists and the Freedom of the Press Foundation (on whose Board I
sit) have expressed grave concerns about it, including on their social
media accounts for all to see. Even the ACLU — which these days is
loathe to speak out in favor of any person or group disliked by their
highly partisan liberal donor base — issued a very carefully hedged
statement that made clear how much they despise Project Veritas but
said: “Nevertheless, the precedent set in this case could have serious
consequences for press freedom” (at least thus far, the ACLU has just
quietly stuck this statement on its website and not uttered a word
about it on its social media accounts, where most of its liberal
donors track what they do, but the fact that they felt compelled to
say anything about this right-wing boogieman demonstrates how extreme
the FBI's actions are). The federal judge overseeing the warrants has
temporarily enjoined the FBI from extracting any more information from
the cell phones seized from O'Keefe and other Project Veritas
employees pending a determination of their legal justification.
Committee to Protect Journalists, Nov. 15, 2021

The reason this is such a grave press freedom attack is two-fold.
First, as indicated, any attempt to anoint oneself the arbiter of who
is and is not a "real journalist” for purposes of First Amendment
protection is inherently tyrannical. Which institutions are
sufficiently trustworthy and competent to decree who is a real
journalist meriting First Amendment protection and who falls outside
as something else?

But there is a much more significant problem with this framework:
namely, the question of who is and is not a real journalist is
completely irrelevant to the First Amendment. None of the rights in
the Constitution, including press freedom, were intended to apply only
to a small, cloistered, credentialed, privileged group of citizens.
The exact opposite was true: the only reason they are valuable as
rights is because they enjoy universal application, protecting all

Indeed, one of the most passionate grievances of the American
colonists was that nobody was permitted to use the press unless first
licensed by the British Crown. Conversely, the most celebrated
journalism of the time was undertaken by people like Thomas Paine —
who never worked for an established journalistic outlet in his life —
as he circulated the pamphlet Common Sense that railed against the
abuses of the King. What was protected by the First Amendment was not
a small, privileged caste bearing the special label "journalists,” but
rather the activity of a free press. The proof of this is clear and
ample, and is set forth in the video we produced on Monday night.

But none of this matters. If you express concern for the FBI's
targeting of O'Keefe, it will be instantly understood not as a concern
about any of these underlying principles but instead as an endorsement
of O'Keefe's politics, journalism, and O'Keefe himself. The same is
true for the discourse surrounding Kyle Rittenhouse. If you say that —
after having actually watched the trial — you believe the state failed
to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in light of his defense
of self-defense, many will disbelieve your sincerity, will insist that
your view is based not in some apolitical assessment of the evidence
or legal principles about what the state must do in order to imprison
a citizen, but rather that you must be a "supporter” of Rittenhouse
himself, his ideology (whatever it is assumed to be), and the
political movement with which he, in their minds, is associated.

On some level, this is pure projection: those who are incapable of
assessing political or legal conflicts through a prism of principles
rather than personalities assume that everyone is plagued by the same
deficiency. Since they decide whether to support or oppose the FBI's
actions toward O'Keefe based on their personal view of O'Keefe rather
than through reference to any principles, they assume that this is how
everyone is determining their views of that situation. Similarly,
since they base their views on whether Rittenhouse should be convicted
or acquitted based on how they personally feel about Rittenhouse and
his perceived politics rather than the evidence presented at the trial
(which most of them have not watched), they assume that anyone
advocating for an acquittal can be doing so only because they like
Rittenhouse's politics and believe that his actions were heroic.

In sum, those who view the world through a prism bereft of principles
— either due to lack of intellectual capacity or ethics or both —
assume everyone's world view is similarly craven. It is this same
stunted mindset that saddles our discourse with so much illogic and so
many twisted presumptions, such as the inability to distinguish
between defending someone's right to express a particular opinion and
agreement with that opinion. In a world in which ideology, partisan
loyalty, tribal affiliations, in-group identity and personality-driven
assessments predominate, there is no room for principles, universally
applicable rights, or basic reason.

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