Thank you, thank you very much. And thank you to 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 that some of you had, which was: „Wait, what?“ And, you know the reason is that my crytographic and hacker skills are not exactly world renowned. The story has been told many times 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 is another story that's very similar that I actually don't think I have told before, which is: Prior to my going to Hongkong I spent many hours with both Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden trying to get up to speed on all kinds of security technology 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 I could reliably handle was TrueCrypt. And they taught me the basics of TrueCrypt and I went to Hongkong and before I would go to sleep at night I would play around with TrueCrypt and I kind of taught myself a couple of functions that they haven't even taught me and really had all this sort of confidence and on the third or fourth day I went over to meet both of them and I was beaming with pride and I showed them all the new things that I had taught myself how to do on TrueCrypt and I pronounced myself this cryptographic master that I was really becoming; and I looked at both of them and I didn't see any return pride coming my way. Actually what I saw was them trying very hard to avoid rolling their eyes out of their head to another. Snowden finally said „TrueCrypt is really meant for your little kid brother to be able to master it, it's not all that impressive.“ And I remember being very deflated and I kind of went back to the drawing board.
Verschlüsseln im Trend. Well, you know: That was six months ago. And in the interim the importance of security technology and privacy technology has become really central to everything it is that I do. I really have learned an enormous amount about both its importance and how it functions. And I'm far from the only one. I think one of the most significant outcomes of the last six months, but one of the most underdiscussed, is how many people now appreciate the importance of protecting their security of their communications. If you go and look at my inbox from July, probably 3 to 5 percent of the emails I receive were composed of PGP code. That percentage is definetly above 50 percent today.
When we talked about forming our new media company we barely spent any time on the question, it was simply assumed that we all are going to use the most sophisticated encryption that was available to communicate with one another and I think most encouragingly whenever contacted by anyone in jounalism or activism or any related fields, they either use encryption or are embarrassed and ashamed that they don't and apologize to me for the fact that they don't and promise that they are soon going to.
It's really a remarkable change even from the middle of last year when I talked to some of the leading national security journalists in the world who are working on the most sensitive information and virtually none of them even knew what PGP or OTR or any other of the leading privacy technologies were let alone how to use them. And it's really encouraging to see this technology spreading so pervasely. I think that this underscores an extremly important point and one that gives me great cause for optimism.
I'm often asked whether I think that the stories, that the story we've been learning over the last six months and the reporting and the debates that have arisen will actually impose any real limits on the US surveillance state and typically what people think the answer to that kind of question is yes, the thing that they state most commonly is typically the least significant: They think there is going to be some kind of debate and our representatives and democratic government are going to respond to our debate and they are going to impose limits with legislator reform, none of that is likely to happen.
They are not going to voluntarily restrict their own surveillance powers in any meaningful way. In fact the tactic of the US government that we see over and over again, that we've seen historically is to do the very opposite: Whenever something brings them disrepute and causes scandal and concern, they're very adept at pretending to reform themselves through symbolic gestures, while at the same time often increasing their own powers that created the scandal in the first place. We saw that in the mid 1970ies when there was serious concern over the US surveillance capabilities – at least as much as nowadays. What the US government did in response is that they said, we're going to safeguard these powers, create a special court where the government needs to got to if they want to create surveillance. That sounded great but they created the court in the worst way possible. They created a secret court where only the government gets to show up, where only the most pro-national judges are appointed – so this court gave the appearance of oversigth when it's the most grotesque form of rubber stamp that is known to the western world – they almost never disapprove of anything; but instead they give the impression of judicial oversight.
This process is now repeating itself: The president is now appointing some of his closest loyalists to that „independent White House-panel that issued a report that pretended to be very balanced and critical of the surveillance state but in reality introduced a variety of programs that at the very best would simply make those programs slightly more palatable for the public and in many instances intensify the powers of the surveillance state rather than reigning them in any meaningful way.
Die Rolle der Medien. I want to spend a little bit of time to a favourite topic of mine which is journalism. When I was in Hongkong with Laura and Edward I realised that we spent at least as much time talking about issues of journalism, of free press as we spent talking about surveillance policy. What we were about to do triggered so many debates over the proper role of journalism as about the importance of net freedom and privacy and the threat of the surveillance state. And we knew that one of our most formidable adversaries would not be the intelligence agencies on which we were reporting but also their most loyal servants which callthemselves the US and British media.
I gave an interview on the BBC program „Hard Talk“ and one of my unremarkable observations is that one of the reasons why we have a free press is that senior officials in national security routinely lie to the public. That's why journalists should routinely be adverserial to these officials and for example not believe they prevented a terrorist attack unless there was hard evidence for it. The interviewer interrupted me and said „I can not believe that you would insinuate senior officials are making false claims to the public!“
That is not abberational – it is mainstream. When certain British and American generals and officials make claims they are taken as true, even if there is no evidence – and it is almost considerd immoral to call them into question. Obviously we went to the Iraq war where those very same officials lied to the people to justify a war but we have seen that in the last six months as well.
Just one more point on that to understand how these American and British media functions. You can pretty much turn on the TV or open any news website to see very brave American journalists calling Edward Snowden a criminal and demand that he be extradited to the US, be prosecuted and brought into prison. They are very brave and standing up to people who are scorned and have no power in Washington and demanding that the rule of law must be applied faithfully. „He broke the law, so he must pay the consequences!“ Yet when the top national security officials of the United States went to the Senate and lied to their faces – which is at least as much a serious crime as everything Edward Snowden is accused of – you would be hard pressed to find a single one of those brave independent journalists asking or even to think about the director of National Intelligence being prosecuted and the rule of law applied here.
Das Ende der Kreativität. So I wanna close with one last point, which is the nature of the surveillance state that we've reported over the last six months. The one overarching point that all of these stories have revealed: Without the slightest heperbole or melodrama: It is literally true that the goal of the NSA is to eliminate privacy globally. To insure there is no communication that evades them, to make sure all forms of communications are stored and analyzed by them.
They are obsessed with searching out every little crevice on the planet where communication might take place without them being able to invade. That is their institutional mandate. Sometimes I get asked „Why would they want to spy on Sweden, or target this company here?“
The premise of this question is flawed: The premise is that they need a specific reason for surveillance – that's not how they think. They target every form of communication that they can possibly lay their hands on. When you think about what privacy does for us humans – that it lets us dissent without fear, lets us explore bounds and engage in creativity. When we think about someone being out to eliminate privacy we really talk about eliminating everything that makes it valuable to be a free individual.
ist ein US-amerikanischer Journalist und Rechtsanwalt. Er wurde bekannt, als er ihm von Edward Snowden übermittelte Dokumente zum streng geheimen NSA-Überwachungsprogramm Prism aufbereitete und Anfang Juni im britischen „Guardian“ veröffentlichte.
Mitte Oktober 2013 kündigte Greenwald an, gemeinsam mit eBay-Gründer, Pierre Omidyaran, ein neues Medienprojekt zu gründen.
("Die Presse", Print-Ausgabe, 29.12.2013)