NSA stories also reveal perilous state of mainstream journalism: Greenwald
'The surveillance state, by its necessity, by its very existence, breeds conformity,' he tells audience at international hacker convention.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald spoke via satellite over the weekend to an international audience gathered in Hamburg, Germany for the Chaos Computer Club meeting, an annual convention for the global hacker community.
In the nearly hour long keynote speech Greenwald confessed the importance of those committed to online freedom and the democratization of the internet. He spoke glowingly of his colleague and fellow journalist Laura Potrais—"without her, none of this would have happened"—and the whistleblower Edward Snowden who risked his life of freedom to reveal the scope of the surveillance network of the US National Security Agency.
"It is really hard to put into words what a profound effect his choice has had on me, and on Laura, and on the people with whom we've worked directly, and on people with whom we've indirectly worked, and then millions and millions of people around the world," Greenwald said of Snowden. "The courage and the principled act of conscience that he displayed will shape and inspire me for the rest of my life, and will inspire and convince millions and millions of people to take all sorts of acts that they might not have taken because they've seen what good for the world can be done by even a single individual."
He also took time to focus on the way the NSA revelations made possible by the leaked documents have helped expose the complacency of mainstream journalists too often willing to accept the government line as opposed to acting as an adversarial force against state and corporate power.
"It really is the central view of, certainly, American and British media stars," declared Greenwald, "that when, especially people with medals on their chests, who are called generals, but also high-ranking officials in the government, make claims, that those claims are presumptively treated as true without evidence, and that it's almost immoral to call them into question, or to question their veracity."
Video of the speech:
Greenwald's complete remarks, as transcribed at GitHub, follows:
Thank you everybody, for that warm welcome, and thank you as well to the Congress organizers for inviting me to speak.
My reaction, when I learned that I had been asked to deliver the keynote to this conference, was probably similar to the one some of you had, which was, "wait, what?"
And the reason is that my cryptographic and hacker skills are not exactly world-reknowned. You know, the story has been told many times of how I almost lost the biggest national security story in the last decade, at least because I found the installation of PGP to be insurmountably annoying and difficult.
There's another story, that's very similar, that illustrates the same point, that I actually don't think has been told before, which is: prior to my going to Hong Kong, I spent many hours with both Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden, trying to get up to speed on the basics of security technology that I would need in order to report on this story. They tried to tutor me in all sorts of programs, and finally concluded that the only one, at least at that time, for that moment, that I could handle, was TrueCrypt.
They taught me the basics of TrueCrypt, and when I went to Hong Kong, before I would go to sleep, I would play around with TrueCrypt. I kind of taught myself a couple of functions that they hadn't even taught me and really had this sort of confidence.
On the third or fourth day, I went over to meet both of them, and I was beaming with pride. I showed them all of the new things that I had taught myself how to do on TrueCrypt, and pronounced myself this Cryptographic Master. That I was really becoming advanced.
I looked at both of them, and I didn't see any return pride coming my way. Actually, what I saw was them trying, really hard, to avoid rolling their eyes out of their heads at me, to one another.
I said, "Why are you reacting that way? Why isn't that a great accomplishment?" They sort of let some moments go by. No one wanted to break it to me, until finally Snowden piped in and said, "TrueCrypt is really meant for your little kid brother to be able to master. It's not all that impressive."