Something big is brewing in NSA Revelation Land—a scoop from columnist and reporter Glenn Greenwald that was supposed to be published at midnight last night. But now Glenn Greenwald and fellow Intercept reporter Murtaza Hussein have delayed their story, pending new government information, and the internet is freaking out.
Greenwald, whose work with NSA leaker Edward Snowden exposed the extent of the NSA's data collection on Americans and foreigners, hinted late yesterday that another huge revelation was coming that evening:
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 30, 2014
That hint sent the webs atwitter, especially since the NSA-centric Intercept—a fledgling media startup that's published in fits and starts—hasn't put out a new story since June 18.
New Glenn Greenwald joint dropping at midnight. haven't been this excited about a Tuesday since "Ultraviolence" came out.
— Adrian Chen (@AdrianChen) June 30, 2014
Tinfoil hatters—both pro- and anti-Greenwald—let loose.
Glenn greenwald is making huge leak tonight 12am EST russia is preparing for US nuclear attack (live at http://t.co/3EwGBiOjN2)
— Revolution Now! (@RisePDX) July 1, 2014
Microsoft Journalist Simulator 2005 pic.twitter.com/98GPSIgQk2
— Gus (@Gus_802) July 1, 2014
But then, something strange happened: Greenwald put the brakes on the story, ostensibly because some new reporting was necessary:
After 3 months working on our story, USG today suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 1, 2014
— The Sparrow Project (@sparrowmedia) July 1, 2014
What new claims was the government making? How did they affect the story? And what was the story, anyway? Greenwaldologists quickly went to work, trying to figure out what could be up. The Daily Dot insisted he was about to name names—specific people targeted by NSA surveillance:
Greenwald, author of the critically acclaimed No Place to Hide, a first-hand account of his experiences with National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, was set to publish what's likely to be his most shocking U.S. intelligence revelations yet: a list of individuals actively targeted by the U.S. government for surveillance.
"One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, 'Who have been the NSA's specific targets?'" Greenwald told the Sunday Times. "Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we'd regard as terrorists? What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer."
The evidence offered was that Sunday Times interview, which dates from late May—about the same time Greenwald told GQ that, "as with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicoloured hues." Greenwald also alludes to the naming-names story in the MSNBC interview above, from late June.
But it's unclear whether that's the story that was supposed to come last night, and it's also unclear what government claims might have required further investigation. Those claims may have been made directly to the Intercept, since the only government response to Snowden's activities in recent days have been a deflection of new surveillance details released by the Washington Post and rumors about Snowden's cloak-and-dagger activities before hooking up with Greenwald and fellow journalist Laura Poitras in Hong Kong last year.
Intercept editor John Cook, who formerly edited Gawker dot com, didn't respond to an emailed request for comment today (he's on vacation), and we won't speculate too wildly about the possibly upcoming story or its intrigues. But anti-government-secrecy website Cryptome has picked up where the Intercept left off, claiming on Twitter and in email that it will facilitate the release of millions of Snowden's captured secrets:
— Cryptome (@Cryptomeorg) June 29, 2014
Can't wait till the Infowars folks get hold of—oh, never mind.
— The Mass Deception (@MassDeception1) July 1, 2014
Update: John Cook, editor in chief of the Intercept, has responded to Gawker with an official comment by email. That comment is included in its entirety below: