Glenn Greenwald: A Bank-Led Smear Campaign Against JournalistsFebruary 15, 2011
Glenn has found himself at the center of yet another emerging controversy, this time involving WikiLeaks, major internet security firms, the DOJ, well-connected D.C. law firms, the Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America.
We want to draw attention to the story as Glenn found himself involved not by any particular act or will of his own, but by virtue of the fact that he is one of the most powerful truth speakers in American journalism today. Apparently, that makes some in power quite nervous.
On a recommendation from the DOJ, large and established private security firms were brought in to pitch smear and intimidation campaigns against those who support transparency in information, including Glenn and others.
In summary, a number of these security firms pitched Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce a proposition in which they would smear the reputations and try to threaten the well-being of targeted private individuals, including journalists, activists and political groups. As Glenn puts it, “what made it such an important story is that the firms that were involved are serious legitimate players. These are not fly-by-night operations. These are big companies that do a lot of high level work for the government and for big corporations.”
Are Glenn or others involved considering taking action? He said to us that “My principal concern is finding out more about what happened about whether or not the extent to which these proposals were actually put into play and executed whether the Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce through their law firm ended up retaining these firms or whether the law firm retained them. So I think the first priority is to find out a lot more about what happened to bring more attention to it, and then I think vindicating legal rights is one of the first priorities because companies and entities like this for too long have been able to operate outside the law without the need for repercussions and that more than anything is what needs to stop,” says Glenn.
For the latest on this quickly-developing story, visit Glenn Greenwald’s section on Salon.com, and follow him on Twitter. There’s also an excellent account posted today at Wired by Nate Anderson of Ars Technica. He which focuses on the role executives at each of the firms have in the story. Glenn calls it “the definitive article” on the story, so check it out here.
DYLAN: Welcome to episode 30 of Radio Free Dylan. Today, we are joined by one of the people that I see as perhaps the most effective or one of the most effective truth tellers in American journalism today is Glenn Greenwald, writes for Salon.com. If you're not familiar, you should make yourself familiar by my opinion anyway.
Glenn, prior to his journalistic work was a constitutional law and civil rights litigator here in New York, author of three books at this point: "How Would a Patriot Act?" in '06, "A Tragic Legacy" in '07, and his most recent work, "Great American Hypocrites." Glenn himself has become part of the news recently as it was disclosed that a campaign to smear the journalists that were helping to advocate for the transparency of organizations like WikiLeaks had been pitched both to Bank of America and to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And we welcome Glenn back into this particular forum.
And if you don’t mind, Glenn, before we get into the analysis give us a little bit of just the broad-brush here. What's going on here?
GLENN: Well, what basically happened is there is an internet security firm called HB Gary that does a lot of work for the government and for large corporations. They do internet investigations and internet security. And about three months ago or so, there was a group of hackers around the world that called itself Anonymous. And what Anonymous did was they announced that any companies that targeted WikiLeaks for retribution would be targeted by these hackers, by Anonymous for retaliation. And so there were a variety of big companies like PayPal and MasterCard and Visa and Amazon that, in response to the U.S. government's pressure, terminated their services to WikiLeaks. They said, "We won't process credit card payments for WikiLeaks. We won't allow -- we won't post their website. We won't process payments to them."
And so Anonymous, this group of hackers, targeted those companies and unleashed cyber attacks on them that slowed down their websites, on a couple of cases, removed them from being online. So the head of this internet security firm, HB Gary, decided that he was going to investigate Anonymous, try and find out who they were, who was responsible for these cyber attacks, and he began publicly boasting that he had successfully infiltrated this group, that he had uncovered the identities of several of the key hackers. And unsurprisingly, after he ran around publicly boasting about his success in infiltrating this group of hackers, the group of hackers, Anonymous, targeted him and his company and they hacked into the e-mail system of HB Gary and downloaded roughly 50,000 e-mails from the company that they then published online about a week ago. Among the e-mails that were published, they just randomly published 50,000 of this company's e-mails. Among the e-mails that were published were a variety of proposals that HB Gary and other leading internet security firms had been pitching to the Bank of America and to the Chamber of Commerce.
In the case of Bank of America, they were proposing that various supporters of WikiLeaks, including myself, be targeted with smear campaigns, that our reputations be harmed and discredited and that we be threatened in some way that our careers would be over if we continue to advocate for WikiLeaks. And in the case of the Chamber of Commerce, they advocated that adversaries of the Chamber of Commerce like progressive groups and unions and activists who speak against the Chamber of Commerce also be similarly targeted and that their families should be monitored and that they discussed where the synagogues were, where the families went, really odious pernicious stuff probably in some cases illegal. And what made it such an important story is that the firms that were involved are serious legitimate players. I mean these are not fly-by-night operations. These are big companies that do a lot of high level work for the government and for big corporations.
They were pitching it to two of the biggest and most important commercial entities in the country, Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce. And the key, the coordinating party, the one soliciting these proposals and encouraging them was the law firm of Hunton & Williams which represents the Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America and is one of the most well-connected lobbyist and legal firms in Washington. And it turns out that the U.S. Government, the Justice Department had actually recommended that firm to Bank of America. They told Bank of America, "You should hire this firm in your war against WikiLeaks." So there are a lot of big players and important serious players involved in what are really disturbing and likely criminal proposals on behalf of really significant and well-funded corporations. That's why it caused so much news.
DYLAN: So I just want to stop. Let's stop here for a second just because even just what you just said is an immense amount of information. I just want to parrot a little bit of this back to you to make sure that I understand it correctly. Is that okay?
DYLAN: So if I was a headline writer, am I correct in understanding that substantial legitimate serious powerful private security firms were pitching Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce a campaign for which they would be paid money, in which they would assassinate the reputations and intimidate and threaten the well-being of targeted private individuals. Is that true?
GLENN: Yes, the journalists, activists, political groups, and the like.
DYLAN: Whoever it may be. And that the law firm that brought these private security firms in was recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice. So it's on a recommendation from the DOJ that private and substantial security firms are being brought in to pitch smear and intimidation campaigns against those who support transparency in information. Fair?
GLENN: Yes, exactly. I mean in their words what they said was they could force journalists, such as myself, and activists to cease advocating these ideas whether it's criticism in the Chamber of Commerce or advocacy for WikiLeaks by forcing people to choose between what they call preservation of career over cause, meaning they're going to put people's careers in jeopardy or threaten to do so if this advocacy continues. That was the explicit rationale of these proposals.
DYLAN: And based on their saying, "If you pay me money," this is HB Gary as one of the companies and I want to avoid some of the names because there are so many. I think it gets confusing, but these security companies -- and we'll put the names up on the internet. It's not that I'm trying to protect their identity. I just don’t want to confuse the conversation, believe me -- that they were saying, "You pay me money and those who are validating the efforts of WikiLeaks or the efforts of transparency, period, in the modern information world, we will threaten their careers such that they'll give up the cause if you pay us."
GLENN: Right. "We'll investigate them. We'll find out dirt on them. We will destroy their reputation using all kinds of schemes and techniques." But essentially what you said is exactly right, that "You pay us money and we will intimidate people from supporting Wiki -- out of supporting WikiLeaks any longer." What they said was, "These individuals are critical to maintaining public support for WikiLeaks, and if they stop defending WikiLeaks essentially public support will disappear."
DYLAN: And this came out through another leak which is the ironic twist in --
GLENN: Well, one ironic twist is that it came out through a leak and the other ironic twist is that these are internet security firms that held their expertise in providing internet security and yet their e-mail system was hacked.
DYLAN: Has there been any comment whatsoever at this point or of consequence from either Bank of America, Chamber of Commerce, the security firms, or the Department of Justice acknowledging or denying the now leaked e-mails that exposed the security firms, et cetera, for having pitched for money campaign to these companies to destroy the reputations and intimidate individuals like yourself?
GLENN: Nobody claims that the e-mails are fabricated or anything like that. In fact, several of the parties acknowledge their authenticity. The Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce both deny having been told about these proposals and they both denounced them as abhorrent and despicable and said they would never, of course, be involved in anything like this. The law firm that was actually soliciting these proposals and was involved of their construction on behalf of Bank of America and Chamber of Commerce simply refuses to comment. They won't return any reporter's phone calls. The New York Times wrote an article about this on Saturday. They refused to respond to anything that anyone has asked in terms of their involvement. The three internet firms whose logos were on these proposals, two of them are attempting to blame the third one, which is HB Gary, and two of them have the other --
DYLAN: So they are trying to say those three firms -- they're saying -- I'm sorry to interrupt you, but they're saying that this firm, HB Gary, they were the cowboys and we weren’t on for the cowboy technique?
GLENN: Right. And they're saying that they've -- the CEOs have -- the other two companies have said, "We terminated our contracts with them. We don’t want to have anything to do with the company like that." One of the CEOs of the company called me personally and said, "We want to apologize profusely. We would never have anything to do with anything like this."
But what happened was today Forbes -- this group Anonymous, published 25,000 additional e-mails that they got their hands on and a reporter for Forbes went through them and found that in fact these two other companies that had been denying all responsibility and claiming they would never be involved in anything like this, that they actually were part of the e-mail discussion creating the proposal to smear me and other supporters of WikiLeaks. And in response, one of them has now put on leave the executive that was responsible, and what it turns out is that in fact all three of these companies as well as this law firm, the partner of this law firm, were all extensively involved in these discussions and nobody ever once said anything like, "Wait a minute, we shouldn’t be doing something like this. This is crossing the line" or "it's violating the law." They were all perfectly fine with these ideas. It was just par for the course of what happens in this world.
DYLAN: Now, you just said, "This is par for the course for what happens in this world." We've spent a lot of time the past few weeks in this country I think a lot of people getting educated as to just how abusive and dictatorial and murderous Mubarak's regime was in Egypt. Mubarak, of course, one of the closest allies of America in the Middle East, a man bank rolled by the American taxpayer for the past 30 years, the tear gas that's used against the crowd supplied by the Americans, the guns supplied by the Americans that are pointed at the oppressors and the F-16s used to intimidate the protesters, of course, supplied by the U.S. military and bought with U.S. tax dollars. What you're describing to me sounds like the sort of thing that we would report here at NBC as the dastardly scheme of a Middle Eastern dictator to annihilate the reputations of journalists who disagreed with him. Is that too much of a leap on my part?
GLENN: I don’t think so. I mean one of the things, if you read the proposals, they're unbelievably disserving. And in part they talk about doing things like, for instance, one of the things they wanted to do to destroy WikiLeaks was they wanted to fabricate documents, create forged documents and then feed them to WikiLeaks pretending to be a source. So that when WikiLeaks publish them, they would then attack WikiLeaks and say, "Look, WikiLeaks just published fictitious documents, forged documents that you can no longer believe what they say." And they talked about infiltrating WikiLeaks' computer systems so they could learn the identities of the sources of the whistleblowers who gave documents to WikiLeaks. So what we're talking here is about computer trespassing, cyber crimes, fabricating documents, and when it comes to journalists you're talking about basically extortion, threatening the careers of people, and saying that, "Essentially, we can't expose dirt on you. We can harm in other ways unless you stop advocating for WikiLeaks." It's exactly the kind of thuggish behavior that tyrannies are known for and that we frequently condemn. And I do think that that’s why this behavior and what's so notable about it is that these are large entities that regularly do business with the U.S. Government, that have former government employees staffed throughout their company, and it's really a consortium of corporate and government power that is plotting to do this sort of things.
DYLAN: I stopped for just because what you're -- I'm somebody is fairly up to speed on a lot of this and certainly tries to keep his eyes open as to what is real as opposed to what I want to believe is real or what I'm told is real. But this is about as disturbing as anything that I've heard in this country in recent memory.
GLENN: Well, let me just make a point about that, what you just said. I would look at this a lot differently if what had happened here is that there is somebody inside one of these firms who found out what was being plotted and decided that it was just so extreme and so awful that they could not in good conscience allow it to remain concealed, and then decided they were going to blow the whistle on it, just some conscientious whistleblower. Then you might say, "Well, look, this is just a weird aberrational over the line proposal that even someone in this company, one of these companies decided it needed to be public." That isn’t what happened here. What happened here is that this was just a random hack of e-mails. I mean this group just basically took their hand and randomly and blindly stuck into the hat of these companies' e-mails and just pulled out as many as they could. And it just turned out that among these e-mails happened to be plans this incriminating and this pernicious.
And what is most striking to me about it is that -- what's amazing to me about it is the casual breezy kind of brazen tone in which these proposals are done. I mean it is definitely in the large part probably illegal, felonies what is being discussed, and yet not only do they feel comfortable proposing it and not only is there nobody in this law firm or this internet security firms saying, "Wait a minute, how can we do something like this?" They feel so brazen and free from risk of law that they were actually willing to put it down in writing and distribute it to multiple companies with the expectation that not only would Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce not object to it but that they would find it desirable, that they would approve of it, that it would make their hiring more likely. And that to me shows just how commonplace these kinds of schemes are, these kinds of smear campaigns are that these very experienced companies are perfectly comfortable putting it down in writing and believing that these perspective clients want this to be done and that nobody is objecting.
DYLAN: So let's move to the path or recourse. I'm going to get to the media and its responsibility in this in a second. But before we do, any response yet from the government, any chance of that law firm that was recommended by the Department of Justice that advocated this potential felony of strategies to smear and annihilate the reputations of individuals, to try to protect the corporate interest of Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce would be, for instance, disbarred?
GLENN: Well, I mean I actually have been thinking about that over the past week or so as you began by noting I, in prior life, was a lawyer for over 10 years. And so the fact that he person at the center of these, I think, illegal schemes is himself a partner in a law firm does bring a certain dimension to the possibility of consequences. I mean I can't envision the Department of Justice investigating companies this large especially a law firm that they recommended and a bank that it's very close to for targeting WikiLeaks and its supporters because nobody hates WikiLeaks and its supporters more than the U.S. Government does. And they would never apply the law equally so that groups that are targeting WikiLeaks and its supporters would be subjected to it but civil lawsuits and in the case of this lawyer, bar complaints, grievances with the Bar Association are absolutely possible.
DYLAN: Will you file a complaint?
GLENN: You know, I'm considering all possible options. I mean I want to know more about exactly what this lawyer did as part of these proposals. I want to see the new e-mails that have been posted. But based on what I know, I certainly am strongly considering getting together with the other people who have been targeted and filing some kind of a grievance with the District of Columbia Bar Association.
DYLAN: Depending on the information, obviously I would encourage and support you in whatever decision you make based on whatever is the most rational path, not because I'm an advocate or a fan of yours although I am but because I'm an advocate and a fan of anything that remotely resembles justice. And clearly this would fall into that category which brings me to the next portion of this conversation. We'll make a momentary break and come back and look at the media's complete abdication of its responsibility to defend its own self from being the subject of paid pitches to smear the reputations of journalists. Where is the mainstream media when the news breaks that private corporations are pitching Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce felony tactics against individuals on a recommendation from the Department of Justice? We're back with Glenn Greenwald on that right after this.
DYLAN: We're back with Glenn Greenwald. In brief, Glenn has found himself at the center of yet another emerging controversy not by any particular actor will of his own but by virtue of the fact that he is one of the most powerful truth speakers in American journalism today, and as a result is distinctly threatening to anybody who is benefiting, and there are so many of them, from the lack of understanding as to just how corrupt the nature of the relations are between our government and large business enterprises is in this country at this time. Specifically, again, a number of security firms pitching Bank of America, three security firms pitching Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce a proposition in which they would smear the reputations of individuals including Glenn but not just Glenn and in fact try to threaten the careers of individuals.
I'll read you an excerpt from one of the e-mails that has been leaked. They say, "One other thing, I think we need to highlight people like Glenn Greenwald. Glenn was critical in the Amazon to OVH its transition and helped WikiLeaks provide access to information during the transition. It is this level of support we need to attack. These are established professionals that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause, such is the mentality of most business professionals. Without the support of people like Glenn, WikiLeaks would fold." So connect the dots, Department of Justice recommends the law firm, law firm brings in private security firms, private security firms pitch B of A and the Chamber of Commerce potential felony level assaults on individuals including Glenn.
And my question of course, is where is America's mainstream media when it comes to defending its profession, period, from being the subject of Middle Eastern style tyrannical dictatorial government style backroom assaults on truth speakers because the truth is threatening to the power structure? Glenn is the not the theory behind free press in America going back to its founding to avoid the ability for private wealthy individuals to attack and assault truth speaking journalists, because they knew that the monarchy of Europe that this country was founded coming out of was in the business of suppressing speech in one way or another and that it was seen as critical that the truth was out there in a way that prevented any government from developing a level of corruption that allows it to basically steal vast sums of money and then all sorts of things that can be done and certainly wouldn’t want to have the ability to privately pitch assaults on journalists that the government or the government's allies disagree with. Is that a fair understanding of the concept of a free press?
GLENN: It is and, you know, this has been the most remarkable thing from the beginning about the whole WikiLeaks' controversy itself which is one of the things that WikiLeaks does, of course, is perform core journalistic functions. I mean it brings transparency to the world's most powerful faction, and it uncovers all sorts of government deceit and corruption, the things that journalists are supposed to do, and yet you saw virtually no establishment journalist. I mean there were a few. You certainly did. But the reason why I got targeted in this proposal was because I'm one of the few people out there really strongly advocating for WikiLeaks on the grounds of what they're doing is core journalistic functions, and yet you saw very few journalists defending them. In fact, most of them joined in with the government in declaring WikiLeaks to be an enemy. And even worse than that, once the government started talking about, as they're still doing, prosecuting WikiLeaks which would be one of the gravest threats to our free press, the idea that you can be turned into a criminal for writing about classified government secrets or exposing covert government actions, one of the gravest threats to the first amendment and to our free press. Even then very few journalists stood up for WikiLeaks and said to the government, "This is something that you cannot and should not do."
So what you see is most journalists, media stars instinctively siding with power and against those who are marginalized in the world of Washington. And, of course, the old adage of journalism is that you're supposed to afflict the powerful and comfort the powerless, and yet our media does exactly the opposite. They comfort the powerful. That's their instinct. And so when you have a conflict like this where the Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce and the Justice Department are on one side and for WikiLeaks, journalists who are not really in their world and people who are critical of business are on the other side, most journalists instinctively side with those in power which is the government and these large corporations, and therefore aren’t particularly offended by and probably are even supportive of the kinds of schemes that got revealed here even though these kinds of schemes are threatening in theory to what they do if they were ever to get around to doing real journalism.
DYLAN: And do you believe, and this is clearly just your opinion, but do you believe that the scenario you just described exists because of a conscious decision by the various hosts and stars, media stars of American modern journalism have chosen this path or are they just ignorant of what their actual responsibility is and it's fun to make a lot of money and go to cocktail parties, so who's going to ask questions?
GLENN: Well, I think one of the main things that have changed in journalistic culture over the last, say, five decades is that leading journalists were once fairly marginalized themselves. They didn’t make a great deal of money. They tended to be people who just instinctively and physiologically and just in terms of their constitution were people who were outside of and hostile to power. They tended to work only for media companies that were infused with this kind of media ethos.
I don’t want to idealize the past. You know, there were certainly exceptions, but in general it was much more of an outsider profession. The people came from generally low or middle class backgrounds, weren’t very well-paid. What you have now are the leading journalists of America working for the largest corporations. They're incredibly well-paid. They are essentially not really journalists but media stars or celebrities. They are admitted into the highest levels of powerful. They're part of it. Socioeconomically, they have much more in common with the powerful political people they're supposed to be covering. Then they do what the ordinary Americans for whom they are supposed to be speaking. And I think just the large corporate culture in general encourages people who generally thrive in corporations are generally people who learn how to accommodate power and empathize with it and identify what its goals and learn how to serve those goals rather than people who challenge power and authority and are hostile to it and want to undermine and subvert it. So I think this corporate culture has been a breeding ground for "journalists" who instinctively are geared toward doing exactly the opposite of what journalists are supposed to do which is to be adversarial to rather than subservient to those in power.
DYLAN: With that said, and I don’t disagree with your overall assessment, you offered a fairly complementary assessment of Anderson Cooper's coverage at CNN of what was going on in Egypt specifically relative to the lies that he was calling lies coming out of Mubarak. Ironically, Howard Kurtz, the "media critic" which is, in my opinion, insulting to everybody and particularly you, Glenn, who I think is probably the most effective and powerful media critic in the Western world right now. I obviously have been able to pierce the broadcasting veil with an effort every day that is driven around attempting to highlight the core corruption in the American government's relationship with business, period, particularly certain businesses, defense, and healthcare and banking come to mind specifically although there's plenty of others, energy, et cetera. How do you reconcile the sort of the complements that you offered somebody like Anderson Cooper with the overall culture that you just described?
GLENN: Well, there are always exceptions to all sorts of things and there are good journalists who work for large media outlets. You know, Dana Priest of the Washington Post was the one who uncovered the CIA black site network. She just spent about a year detailing the secret world of the United States National Security State and the private, public merger on which it's based. So there are good journalists. I mean Anderson Cooper did do a good job in terms of his commentary in explicitly calling the statements from the Mubarak regime lies, although as I noted in what I wrote, I have a hard time envisioning him doing the same thing with regard to American political leaders. I mean it's one thing to be able to say those things about a now reviled weakened dictator on his way out of power. It's a completely different thing to say that about leading American political officials. I don’t think that you could be at CNN and do that and I think if you did do it that way you would cause a huge journalist scandal. And you know, what you do is obviously quite surprising and subversive. And there are a few people here and there who go enter into the corporate structure and use the opportunities and the platforms it provides to work against the prevailing ethos.
But it's very much the exception to the rule. I think it's risky to one's career to do it. You have to be very passionate and convicted about the cause and if you're not, if you're somebody who is more interested in career advancement the path of least resistance is to serve those who are in power and to mimic conventional wisdom and keep advancing in the corporate chain that way. And that's what the overall and the majority of "journalists" do.
DYLAN: And I disagree with the last portion of your sentence a little bit, not that -- that's not what I do. Obviously, it's what gets done and obviously in the short-term I can see where people think that that's in their interests. I would argue though that it's more in your interest at this point in American history to be one of the leading lights on truth telling as you are, as I worked to be, as you mentioned Dana and a few others that exist because the appetite from the American people, the American people know what they're getting is flawed and corrupted information and their appetite for real information, I would argue, is bigger than it has ever been and the opportunity for you or for anybody else in an economic sense in being credible and authoritative as a truth teller I would argue could be very beneficial to your career.
GLENN: Yeah. I mean, look, I couldn’t agree more. I mean the reason why you are able to be on a network owned by NBC News and its owners is because what you say is resonating with people and people are watching and responding to what you're saying. You've tapped into something that most of your colleagues don’t tap into. The reason why I'm able to have an impact doing what I'm doing is because I have a very large and loyal readership who takes action based on the things that I write, who amplifies the things that I say, who supports the work that I do in all kinds of ways. And so I think you're absolutely right and I actually noted that that one of the interesting parts of this proposal that we were discussing, this scheme to smear people including me, was the idea that you could force somebody to choose between preservation of career over cause. And I think that there are a lot of people who could easily be made to choose preservation of career over cause but there are some people, and I include myself in this and I would absolutely include you in this and others as well, for whom in essence the cause becomes the career --
GLENN: -- and devoting yourself to the cause. That is what enables you to build a platform and to be successful. And there is no conflict between cause and career. They're one and the same.
DYLAN: What happens next? I don’t want to take too much more of your time, but what happens next in the smear -- going back to the smear campaign aspect and then what happens next, what the media will say for another day?
GLENN: Sure. I mean, you know, I think that there are definitely people who have been targeted by this proposal, by these proposals who are considering various options including, as I mentioned before, filing grievance complaints against the lawyer involved and certainly people are considering suing. There are probably good causes of actions that can be asserted. My principal concern is finding out more about what happened about whether or not the extent to which these proposals were actually put into play and executed whether the Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce through their law firm ended up retaining these firms or whether the law firm retained them. So I think the first priority is to find out a lot more about what happened to bring more attention to it, and then I think vindicating legal rights is one of the first priorities because companies and entities like this for too long have been able to operate outside the law without the need for repercussions and that more than anything is what needs to stop.
DYLAN: And then if that's finished on the biggest possible thought having borne witness to the consequences of oppression, crony capitalism, mafia capitalism, whatever you want to call it, and the ability to target descent using everything from intimidation to explicit violence, the risks to a society that indulges the character assassination let alone physical assassination of those with whom the wealthy private interest and the government disagree with. What's at risk here?
GLENN: Well, everything is at risk. I mean this is -- actually, I have a forthcoming book out in September which is about this exact concept which is the premise of the American founding was supposed to be that there would always be inequality in outcome. There would be some people who would be rich, most people would be poor, some would have power, most would be powerless. The only way that that circumstance, that that situation could be tolerable and just is if everybody was bound by the same set of rules and have those rules apply to them equally which we call the law. And what has happened instead is that the most powerful entities in our country have annexed the institutions of law and government. They essentially own them and control them for their own interest. And so we no longer have this equalizing force of law and government that keeps everything, the playing field even so that outcome inequalities are justifiable. What we have instead is the elimination of those forces and the annexation of them in service of the most powerful. And that means that they entrenched their power further, people who are outside of the power and the resources don’t have access to any of those things even if their merit dictates, and it renders all of the outcomes that we have completely illegitimate and unjust essentially of plutocracy and not anything that the founders envisioned we would be living under.
DYLAN: And beyond the betrayal of the vision, it doesn’t take a complex understanding of behavioral economics to understand how people respond to a system that is known to be corrupt and unfair.
GLENN: Well, at some point as we see in Egypt, the population gets to the point where they're so consumed with grievance and anger that they're willing to risk everything including their own lives in order to overthrow that order because they no longer believe that incremental reform is the answer and, of course, that's the mentality in which our country was born. And at some point the elites in this country are playing with fire because they are going to risk triggering that same thing. Now, our population is very complacent and they are very propagandized. They think that thing is like what caused the revolution in Egypt exists in Egypt but not so much over here. But I think as you suggested earlier, the American population is moving inexorably in the direction of concluding that our system is inherently legitimate, and when that happens the results are fairly predictable.
DYLAN: Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com. Check him out early. Check him out often. It's always a pleasure, Glenn, and thank you for not only your time but thank you for your incredibly well-articulated and particularly in your writing, particularly well-written truth telling. They say that the only way sometimes to get through to people when they're in an intense state of denial is to hit them directly between the eyes, and I do believe that you do that more effectively than any writer that I'm aware of in this country today. And it's a privilege to be able to talk with you.
GLENN: I really appreciate it, Dylan.
GLENN: I really appreciate your work as well. Thanks, pal.
DYLAN: We'll talk to you soon, okay? Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com. So what does this mean to you if you are concerned about your sense of fairness, the security of your own work, if you are concerned about the equality of the opportunities that exist for your siblings, your children, your family? All of us, in my opinion, have to continue on the path of being honest about the good things in this country of which there are many and the disturbing things and be aggressive in playing offense and developing the things that work for us and we can have more of, and equally aggressive in playing defense, in tackling and exposing schemes like that one that was recently revealed targeting American journalists in a corporate pitch to corporations that get vast amounts of American tax money; even worse, an assassination pitch from a law firm recommended by the Department of Justice. If that's not reason enough for vigilance, I'm not sure what is. So I'm going to leave it at that. I'm Dylan Ratigan and I'll talk to you next time.