The presumed tension between anti-secrecy activist Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, the arch-disseminator of NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden, erupted into the open yesterday on Twitter. The two sparred publicly over Greenwald's decision to redact a piece of information from a recent story.
The story released yesterday and written by Greenwald and two colleagues, alleges that the US is "secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas." The story, published on First Look Media's Intercept channel, also says that the US is harvesting cellphone metadata from four other countries and names three of them - Mexico, The Philippines and Kenya.
The fifth country? The article says "The Intercept is not naming (it) in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence."
Assange is generally assumed to write the Wikileaks Twitter feed (and has been watched doing so.) And he wasn't happy at Greenwald's decision to withhold information.
Greenwald then sought to persuade Assange that some redaction to save lives is reasonable. He wrote, among other things:
But Assange was unmoved and after some more back and forth, Assange's twitter account dropped this bombshell:
Is Assange telling the truth? If he is, that strongly implies a major leak in Greenwald's boat, which discredits his and Snowden's earlier claims that all documents taken by Snowden were being handled responsibly, and that there was no chance of their leaking to anyone.
Assange does have a track record of saying things that are provably false, for instance his claim that the trove of battlefield reports leaked by Chelsea Manning "was available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan." But he's now put himself on the spot by promising a specific detail in such a limited time-frame.
Does he have access to documents? Have collaborators of Greenwald's been feeding him information? Possibly, yes. This opens the door to the full Snowden trove being published without any review or redaction, as happened with the Manning documents provided to Wikileaks. Some of the anti-secrecy activists with whom Greenwald has collaborated in publishing Snowden's revelations, like Jacob Appelbaum, have close personal ties to Assange.
Which country is it and was the redaction necessary to protect lives? On the latter question, Greenwald has been more cavalier in this regard than most reporters, so the argument against publication is probably very convincing.
For his part, Assange doesn't seem to care.
The "72 hour" threat was made about 52 hours ago. Stay tuned.