Al Giordano had a run-in with Greenwald back in ‘08 when the Obama/FISA kerfuffle was in full swing.
Greenwald was most skeptical at Giordano’s insider knowledge that a whole range of countries (including Brazil, which I guess comes a bit close to home for Greenwald) routinely gathered and passed surveillance info to the US government:
Someone just sent me a link to this claim you made yesterday:
Yes, this is already going on but not illegally! Here’s how. All communications between the US and Mexico (and any other US ally) are being vacuumed up already by the Mexican-owned telecom companies and turned over to US agencies, with the full blessing of the Mexican state. The same goes for every other country in the hemisphere save Cuba and maybe Venezuela and/or Bolivia. Nothing illegal about it, because it’s done with the imprimatur of those governments that have jurisdiction.
What’s your basis for stating that every country in the hemisphere other than the three you mentioned turns over all communications involving a U.S. citizen to the U.S. Government?
The correspondence continued, with Greenwald basically calling Giordano a lying liar because he wouldn’t do his basic research for him. Anyway, Giordano schooled him for the blowhard dilettante he is:
My newspaper, Narco News, has reported for more than eight years now on the subjects of the drug war, social movements, money laundering, and other sensitive topics in the American hemisphere. In 2001, the New York Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling, after the National Bank of Mexico (now Citibank) sued us for what it termed defamation (libel) in eight of those reports. From the December, 5, 2001 court decision:
“Narco News, its website, and the writers who post information, are entitled to all the First Amendment protections accorded a newspaper-magazine or journalist… Furthermore, the nature of the articles printed on the website and Mr. Giordano’s statements at Columbia University constitute matters of public concern because the information disseminated relates to the drug trade and its affect on people living in this hemisphere…”
That ruling, by the way, protects you and your work, too.
In this work, we have cultivated many sources and whistleblowers inside US and foreign intelligence and police agencies. The reports of journalist Bill Conroy and I, among others, frequently consult with those sources, including in Homeland Security, ICE, DEA, FBI, and others, and including their counterparts in Mexico and other lands. If you’ve dealt much with security and intelligence agents, you’d be familiar with their smug disregard for the US Constitution and their enthusiasm for finding loopholes and ways around it when it comes to wiretapping and surveillance. They’re part of their own very special subculture that plays by its own rules.
In 1998, the Mexican daily El Universal reported on the existence of a telephone surveillance headquarters in Mexico City operated by the DEA with the permission of the Mexican government that did not solicit nor honor the concept of warranting their work with court orders and such. Since then, obviously, technological advances make all of this much easier for them to do on a wholesale level. In 2000 I asked some questions of the then-US ambassador to Mexico, in writing, about that and related matters:
I don’t recall Greenwald ever following that story up and running an exposé, but then I don’t exactly hang on his every word. Seems like he only has eyes for one particular administration when it comes to this sort of thing, and with Bush II in the White House, the government evidently deserved every benefit of the doubt .... One of his responses to Giordano is a gem of his petulant Obot-bashing oeuvre:
Can you point to anything published—rather than claims you now make about what secret sources tell you—to support your claim? Your claim wasn’t restricted to Mexico, but to all countries in the hemisphere—which includes Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and many others—which are turning over communications with U.S. citizens to the U.S. Government.
That is an extraordinary claim to make—in your desperate effort to defend Barack Obama in all that He does—and I simply asked for your basis for the claim. Given how you responded, it doesn’t surprise me that you would find a very simple, politely stated request of that kind to be offensive.
If you read the full post and comments, it ends up that Greenwald’s skepticism was severely misplaced because Giordano’s claims were amply backed up by mainstream media coverage over an extensive period, but it would take a journalist or somebody with access to Google to figure that out, rather than an ill-informed opportunist partisan (to The Party of Greenwald) faux-libertarian hack.
As for me, I know for a fact in the dim past I’ve had mail and phone calls intercepted—we have some pretty natty installations over here in the UK that feed into the NSA and CIA, and that’s been going on since at least the ‘60s. I’m almost certainly not a prime target nowadays, as my activist days are long done except for occasional eruptions when one or other of our governments does something truly outrageous on a global scale, but I’ve always assumed that nothing I say on the phone or via email is secret, and I’ve adjusted my behavior accordingly.