Catherine Fitzpatrick is less than convinced of the importance of the seeming contradiction between Snowden’s early claim that he vetted every document, and his current claim that he has no control over the documents and has outsourced all of the decisions regarding what to release to Greenwald and Poitras. I get that there are ways to reconcile the statements, but they fail the Occam’s Razor test, IMO. The simplest explanation for the statements is that they are in contradiction with one another. Other scenarios are far more convoluted.
The fact that his June and October remarks are in stark contrast should at least prompt journalists to raise questions, and to demand that he reconcile the statements. You know, journalists like James Risen, who just basically transcribed Snowden’s remarks and did not ask a tough question. Or if he did, Snowden didn’t answer it, and Risen didn’t tell us that salient fact.
Catherine suggests that maybe Risen was unaware of Snowden’s previous remark. If so, all the worse for Risen. This interview-if it was really with Snowden, and if it was, whether Snowden was free to respond as he liked-is a major get. Any respectable journalist preparing for such an interview should conduct exhaustive research and familiarize himself with things the subject has said before in order to prepare questions and to be ready for any inconsistencies. I do expert witness work, and from that experience I know that every lawyer prepping a witness familiarizes him or herself with everything the witness has said or written on even tangentially related subjects: catching contradictions is the name of the game. And for crying out loud, Snowden has been virtually silent for months, so there’s not that much to read.
But the contradictions don’t end with Snowden’s Hong Kong and Russia statements. He and Greenwald also offer conflicting accounts of their collaboration. In the Risen interview, Snowden claimed “he did not control what the journalists who had the documents wrote about” in order to “divorce” his “own bias” from the “decision making of publication.”
But Greenwald told a Dutch audience that he collaborates with Snowden closely, and is communication with him every freaking day. (The same caveat of whether it’s really Snowden he’s communicating with holds here.):
But in an hour-long discussion on stage with a Dutch journalist, Greenwald suggested that his life was now immensely complicated. A New York lawyer before turning into a high-profile blogger in 2005, he revealed that he was in daily contact with Snowden—a fact that came as a surprise to most in the audience—in what is an active collaboration to sift through the mountain of documents Snowden carried out of the U.S. Snowden contacted Greenwald and U.S. filmmaker Laura Poitras after taking the information to Hong Kong.
Again, perhaps there is a way to square Greenwald’s description of a daily, active collaboration to sift through a “mountain of documents” with Snowden’s characterization of a relationship in which he has nothing to do with the documents, what Greenwald and Poitras write about, etc. But the most straightforward reading is that the two descriptions are in total conflict. Snowden describes his role as already washed his hands of both the documents and the decisions on how to use them. Greenwald says Snowden is very hands on. And how do they collaborate to “sift through a MOUNTAIN of documents” if Snowden doesn’t have them? Again, they might be sitting somewhere and Snowden can access them electronically, but that seems to be a highly risky method of operation. And it also would mean that Snowden’s statement that the journalists have the documents, and the related insinuation he doesn’t, is slippery at best.
Again. Would somebody ask them? Both of them?
Yes. I understand. Eddie is so hard to ask. And I repeat: why is that? Can’t do YouTube? Can’t meet journalists face-to-face in a secure setting? Can’t do Skype?
In other words, Eddie’s unavailability for questions is exactly what should be raising questions. Including questions about his veracity. And there are enough contradictions even in the existing thin record to make these questions very serious ones.
But nobody asks the principals, and indeed, virtually no one even raises the questions rhetorically in stories on Snowden. Most likely because journalists are largely invested in the Snowden narrative, and don’t want to pull on any threads that could make the whole thing unravel.