The Corner

Glenn Greenwald . . . Sigh

A number of readers have pointed me to this rant from Salon’s habitual ranter Glenn Greenwald. I should ignore it, as I regularly ignore Greenwald’s work, because it’s too moronic to rate an answer. But as people are asking about it, I’ll just say that virtually everything he says in it is wrong:

I didn’t suggest that Bill Ayers is the author of one of Barack Obama’s biographies — I reported that someone else had made the suggestion and had made an interesting case, and that Obama was not helping matters by refusing to disclose any of his prior writings which might put any doubt to rest by demontrating his writing skills.

I didn’t “attack my own editors” over Sarah Palin’s “death panels” description of Obamacare. I disagreed with them — on the Right, we actually have internal debates from time to time. (On the Left, this is known as “attacking” or, as I was told by a Lefty on Sean Hannity’s show a couple of weeks ago, “hate speech.”) I thought, and still think, that Palin had the better of the argument, whether or not the words “death panels” appeared in the legislation. I don’t think I’m alone in that view.

I did not defend the “birther movement’s” claim that Obama was not born in Hawaii — I’ve stated that I believe he was born in Hawaii. What I’ve argued is that Obama was born a dual citizen (of Kenya and the U.S.), almost certainly became an Indonesian citizen, and has not been forthcoming about his past. What I said I don’t understand, and still don’t, is why people like Greenwald support the stonewalling and aren’t at least curious about why Obama wouldn’t want to release something as seemingly innocuous as the full-form birth certificate.

I do think Obama has aligned himself with the world’s tyrants. Greenwald says Rich “excoriated” me over this view (in fact, he was mainly criticizing a post by Michael Ledeen that I agreed with and still agree with). Readers can judge for themselves whether Greenwald’s description is accurate — Rich hasn’t left a pink slip in my inbox that I know of.

Finally, the point of all this ad hominem seems to be Greenwald’s insistence that the Classified Information Procedures Act is just dandy and solves any problems of sharing national defense secrets with jihadists in civilian trials. No one familiar with the Moussaoui case (where CIPA patently did not work) or the Oliver North case (where the judge had to rewrite CIPA to try to implement it) would make such a claim. But I just want to address Greenwald’s typically uninformed account of the list of unindicted coconspirators that was leaked in the Blind Sheikh case and ended up in the hands of Osama bin Laden in Sudan.

Greenwald says the fault here lies not with the secrecy laws but with my purported failure, or then-Judge Mukasey’s, for failing to use the protections of CIPA to keep the document secret. First of all, CIPA doesn’t prevent the defense from getting classified information; it prevents the defense from getting irrelevant classified information — if information is material to the preparation of the defense, the defense must get either the raw information or a substitute that puts the defense in the same position as it would be if it got the raw information. When a court tells the prosecutor to turn over material like a co-conspirator list for defense preparation, it is by definition material to the preparation of the defense, and no secrecy law can stop the defense from getting it.

Second, it has never been the practice of the Justice Department to classifiy materials that are generated for the purposes of trial (as opposed to intelligence information that exists independent of the trial and may be relevant to the trial). If you had to get each letter or communication between lawyers classified, a trial would take about a hundred years — and people on the Left would howl that there is too much secrecy in government and that the Justice Department was using classification procedures as a ploy to hide its crimes, corruption and incompetence.

Finally, the practice with trial-generated discovery materials is to disclose them with protective orders requiring that they be kept secret. That is, materials are turned over to defense counsel under the direction that that they are only being disclosed for trial preparation purposes and are not to be communicated to third parties. All discovery in the Blind Sheikh case was turned over to the defense with such orders in effect.

Here’s the late breaking news for Greenwald: People who are willing to blow up the courthouse aren’t terribly impressed by court orders. So, you’ll be shocked to learn, terrorists ignore them routinely and communicate what they learn to their confederates. 

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