The Surprising Reason Why Greenwald’s Grand Finale NSA Article Was Postponed

You may or may not have heard about Glenn Greenwald’s forthcoming “grand finale” article, to be pulled from his Snowden NSA files. Greenwald has been teasing it as being similar to the end of a fireworks display — the biggest bangs, the “wow-factor,” etc. What we know so far is that he intends to publish a list of people who are being targeted by NSA. We don’t know whether there are American citizens on the list or terrorist targets or a combination of both. But according to Greenwald, it’s supposed to knock our socks off, and just in time for actual fireworks this weekend.

The article was to have been published last night at midnight on The Intercept (its first news article since June 18), but it never appeared. This morning, Greenwald tweeted:

For someone who openly mocks journalists who work with the U.S. government to confirm scoops and to acquire sources, this is pretty remarkable. And it’s the responsible thing to do. It turns out that “adversarial journalists” often have to operate with the cooperation of the entity which they’re exposing and antagonizing. It also turns out that maybe Greenwald does, in fact, possess some albeit wafer-thin sensitivity when it comes to national security concerns.

That said, we don’t know whether this is purely Greenwald’s decision or if it’s the decision of The Intercept‘s editor John Cook, or even Pierre Omidyar. But this is roughly the third instance in which Greenwald apparently exercised some actual journalistic discretion. For a year now, he’s been badgered by Wikileaks supporters to dump all of the Snowden documents. Throughout it all, he refused. He also, at the request of NSA, refused to post the name of a country where NSA is allegedly eavesdropping on cellphone communications.

In the bigger picture, during a year in which Greenwald wrote his very first hard news articles ever, it’s obvious that he’s slowly learning how to operate as a legitimate reporter. He still has a long way to go, and he’ll likely never get there, but at least there’s a hint that he’s trying. So, credit where credit is due.