Understanding the Enemy

The latest Snowden leak story is in the Huffington Post.  It says that NSA thought about exposing the hypocrisy of Islamic extremist recruiters by revealing their financial greed or predatory sexual habits.  I’m quoted in support of considering such tactics, but the backstory of the interview may be more interesting.

When one of the authors, Ryan Grim, called me for comment, he said that while Glenn Greenwald was transitioning to his new Omidyar-funded venture he was temporarily publishing his Snowden leaks with HuffPo. So when he asked for my take on the NSA story, pretty much the first words out of my mouth were, “Why wouldn’t we consider doing to Islamic extremists what Glenn Greenwald does routinely to Republicans?”  The story quotes practically everything I said to Grim except that remark, even though I returned to the point a couple of times and emphasized that it summed up my view.

I don’t think HuffPo cut the quote because they ran out of electrons.  The article itself is so tediously long that I defy anyone to read every word in a single go.

Nor because my remark was inaccurate.  It turns out that Glenn Greenwald has written an entire book devoted to exposing the contradiction between Republicans’ ideology and their private lives.  In Greenwald’s words,  “While the right wing endlessly exploits claims of moral superiority … virtually its entire top leadership have lives characterized by the most decadent, hedonistic, and morally unrestrained behavior imaginable …[including] a string of shattered marriages, active out-of-wedlock sex lives, and highly ‘untraditional’ and ‘un-Christian’ personal lives [endless detail omitted].” His book certainly makes the NSA memo sound restrained and cautious, but both are motivated by the same idea.

Grim and Greenwald very likely cut the quote because it would have undermined the narrative of the piece, which combines solicitude for the poor Islamists whose sexual and financial hypocrisy might be exposed with outrage at the NSA for even considering such a tactic.  The quote would have made them look like, well, hypocrites.

The incident makes me wonder what else Greenwald leaves out of his stories. And why we should continue to trust snippets of documents selected by someone who thinks that the difference between Islamist extremists and Republicans is that one is an enemy that deserves no quarter and the other is sort of like Martin Luther King, except for the part about wanting to kill us.

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