Thank you so much everybody! Please feel free to send me messages with story ideas and anything else ... you can reach me here or by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Schwartzesque. My public key is here ... https://pgp.mit.edu/pks/lookup?op=get&search=0x63353B0DDF46FBFC ... and you can get in touch anonymously through the New Yorker's Strongbox system ... https://projects.newyorker.com/strongbox/

And you might be also be interested in this New Yorker Political Scene podcast, just posted, with me, staff writer Amy Davidson, and NewYorker.com executive editor Amelia Lester, talking about how all this Patriot Act stuff has played out over the two years. Here's a link -- http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/political-scene/the-freedom-act. Enjoy the weekend!

+++

Hello Everybody. I'm Mattathias Schwartz, a staff writer at the New Yorker and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. I wrote a long story about the efficacy of the N.S.A.'s Section 215 bulk metadata program in a case involving the Shabaab, which you can read on NewYorker.com here ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/whole-haystack. And here are a couple of more recent blog posts on the N.S.A. debate: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/who-needs-edward-snowden; http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/three-big-questions-about-the-n-s-a-s-patriot-act-powers

Let's see ... what else ... before turning my attention to the war on terror, I wrote a lot about the war on drugs, including this bungled DEA mission in Honduras ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/01/06/a-mission-gone-wrong ... and this military takeover of a Jamaican neighborhood ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/12/12/a-massacre-in-jamaica ... which won the Livingston Award for international reporting. And while back, I wrote what might be the first article about Weev, the notorious troll, for the New York Times Magazine ... http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. I'm glad to be here ... ask away!

http://www.newyorker.com/contributors/mattathias-schwartz https://twitter.com/Schwartzesque

Comments: 611 • Responses: 53  • Date: 

goatcoat266 karma

Do you worry about the future of well-funded investigative journalism now that we're living in the era of free internet news?

Schwartzesque293 karma

Yes! There is a lot to worry about here. Part of me thinks that Big Tech should be funding this stuff--they certainly make plenty of money on journalism that they don't pay for!--but that's a troubled notion if you look at how much money Big Tech spends to influence policy in Washington. Reporting is expensive and the number of institutions willing to put up the money to do it is shrinking--I am lucky to be working with the New Yorker, which is one of them. I can foresee three models under which this kind of work can continue. There's the opera model, which depends on patronage and a small, influential, highbrow audience. There's the model that the Swiss watch companies found after the invention of the Quartz watch, shifting away from mass-market utility and towards luxury, which isn't so different from the opera model, actually. And then you've got the Snowden model, where a private individual takes it upon themselves to speak out in those places where they feel that investigative journalists, and politicians, have failed to do so. There will always be people who want this information, and over time, supply will keep pace with demand, especially when you can cram so much supply onto a USB stick.

tylerpoppe3 karma

Do you think any of these business models would allow the reporter to do their job in a very detailed way and not worry about being fired for snooping in places their advertisers might not like?

Schwartzesque8 karma

If I'm reading you right, you think that editorial needs to be separate from advertising, and I totally agree. Technology seems to be making the wall between the two more porous. Can we have a new model that respects the independence of journalists? You need to have ownership that understands that publishing is more than just a business where "content" is the "product."

bdegroodt118 karma

Can speculate why there seems to be such apathy (after an initial and momentary outrage at the water cooler) by the American public regarding the erosion of our civil liberties? Case in point would be the NSA spying and data collection efforts to which change has essentially squeaked by with little continued pressure by the constituents since the revelations.

Schwartzesque90 karma

I think it's too soon to say whether there's been a sea change or not. It's all still in play. To see where it winds up, you'd have to track what happens with the PCLOB's ongoing inquiry into Executive Order 12333, and you'd have to see whether the Supreme Court decides to weigh in on Fourth Amendment / NSA / surveillance issues. It already started to with United States v. Jones and if I had to guess, I would say that there will be more action to come on that front.

Rommel7966 karma

I think it's because most of us don't feel that erosion yet. "Oh, the NSA is collecting my calls? Well, I'm not really doing anything." People need to start feeling the hurt before they really start to care about it.

Schwartzesque124 karma

Any devout Muslim who attends a mosque in a major US city, and/or travels by plane, is already "feeling the hurt" as you say.

twopointsisatrend33 karma

Yea, they need to feel empathy, that is, that "wow, this could happen to me" before they'll really care about an issue. I get so tired of that "Well, if you're not doing anything wrong, why do you care" attitude.

Law enforcement has a hard job, but I've never seen anything in the Bill of Rights that says it's OK to chip away at our rights, just to make LE's job easier.

brainphat8 karma

Yeah, that's called a police state and is a signpost on the road to tyranny. Those what-me-worry morons are the type who will (perhaps nervously) accept any outrage as long as it doesn't affect them directly.

Schwartzesque17 karma

Let me add a quote that I heard from someone with experience in the intelligence community. "No one is administratively pure." Meaning that if you look with enough scrutiny at anyone's affairs, you'll find some law that they've broken.

boltsnuts80 karma

Why are whistle blowers treated like criminals?

Schwartzesque148 karma

Well, if whistleblowers are come from within the US intelligence community (FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, DIA, etc.) they usually are criminals, under current federal laws against the release of classified information. A lot of recent protections that apply to whistleblowers do not apply to those who work within the intelligence community. The Washington Post did a good story on this, and how it applies to Snowden's case, here ... http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/03/12/edward-snowdens-claim-that-as-a-contractor-he-had-no-proper-channels-for-protection-as-a-whistleblower/ ... and my colleague Jane Mayer wrote about Thomas Drake, an NSA employee who attempted to blow the whistle, here ...http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/the-secret-sharer

Jux_45 karma

Is it right that Petraeus got a sweet plea deal to avoid jail while Stephen Kim gets over a year in jail?

Schwartzesque102 karma

People with high status and access to more resources generally do better under our current system of justice than those who do not. I think the Petraeus/Kim comparison is, in many ways, an unusually visible example of something that's been true of the US justice system for a long time.

stay_in_your_lane2 karma

Are you okay with this?

TheBigHairy22 karma

Do you really want reporters taking a moral stance on issues?

stay_in_your_lane15 karma

I appreciate objective reporting. My question was about his feelings and I am in no way suggesting he weave his feelings into his writing.

I would simply like to know his feelings as a person, not a reporter. I believe his perspective and knowledge to be unique and therefore am curious about how his experiences have shaped his opinion.

Schwartzesque18 karma

This is a really good question. You've tapped into the "objectivity" norm which basically says that you can have influence in journalism or an opinion, but not both, with a few exceptions. So yeah, let me answer as a person, then. I'm not an expert on either case but I'll say that on the face, it doesn't seem fair to me. Meaning the Petraeus/Kim outcomes don't seem fair, if you compare them, and the broader situation about access to justice doesn't seem fair either. If you go to the Supreme Court in DC you'll see the words "equal justice under law" engraved on the front. The US justice system is falling waaaaaaay short of that standard. If you want to know how short, you should read some of the pieces written by my colleague Sarah Stillman, who specializes in showing what the legal system is like for those who do not have much power ... including immigrants ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/27/where-are-the-children ... and people without much money who haven't paid traffic tickets and wind up in an almost feudal system of debt and peonage ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/06/23/get-out-of-jail-inc

invertedpencil2 karma

help me out, what did petraeus do besides bone a journalist? was it perjury or something? to my knowledge he was quite good at his job.

Jux_14 karma

Revealed classified information

invertedpencil2 karma

oh ok. thanks.

Schwartzesque18 karma

Yes you need to read about the knapsack full of notebooks.

06sharpshot14 karma

This seems like a major issue with our law. Shouldn't anyone be allowed to speak out against the government if they feel that government is being immoral?

Schwartzesque29 karma

Yeah that sounds a lot like "the right of the people...to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," as the First Amendment puts it. But what do I know? I'm a journalist, not a lawyer. :)

lupine295 karma

Can we have a lawyer explain why this isn't challenged or used as a defense by whistle blowers as a first amendment right?

Schwartzesque5 karma

Well, I'd say that governments should be allowed to keep some secrets, as long as those secrets are kept to a minimum, with sufficient oversight. So it would follow that you would have some classified information, with sanctions for revealing it, which is what Snowden has done. The issue is that the secrets haven't been kept to a minimum--read Dana Priest's "Top Secret America" for more on this--and that the oversight doesn't seem to be working. To me, these are compelling justifications for the actions that Snowden took, which are most certainly violations of the law. Some legal scholars have said that there are defense based around public interest and/or necessity that Snowden could use in court. Finally, it's important to remember that Snowden is not the only surveillance whistleblower. Several other insiders have tried to raise an alarm about post-9/11 surveillance, including J. Kirk Wiebe, Thomas Drake, William Binney, Diane Roark and Mark Klein. You can read about Drake's case here ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/the-secret-sharer

kerimontreal75 karma

In reporting about who controls access to a culture's sources of information, and the power held by the individuals who decide what gets/doesn't get reported to the public, how do you decide what to include in your articles? I feel like it must be an almost impossible task to separate yourself as a 'media person' from the stories you're writing about - does it ever feel weirdly recursive?

Schwartzesque81 karma

Awesome question. You are right of course--the media has a lot of power. What does and doesn't get published; what sources are deemed credible; which arguments are worth a hearing. We live in a culture where you can say almost anything, but the range of speech that will be given space and taken seriously is considerably narrower. Technology makes it easier to self-publish, which is arguably what Snowden did. His case demonstrates (among other things) that if you have hard, substantiated facts, and you put them out there in a considered way, the media will pay attention. In my own work, I try to have a high ratio of facts to judgements, and I try to listen to everybody I meet, though I'm not sure that fully addresses everything that you're alluding to here. Maybe ask me a follow-up question, if you like.

kerimontreal34 karma

You've addressed what feels like the most important issue to me: that the more sources of information we all have access to, the better it is for everyone. Credibility is key, too: how do you decide WHICH source to go with in the end?

Schwartzesque66 karma

A good source is concise, sincere, forceful-without-overstating-their-case, and speaks from firsthand experiences or expertise. I reeeeeeally want to go down the rabbit-hole of why journalists rely so much on sources that are anonymous and/or official, but it's a long one and I don't think there's time...

Valmond32 karma

What do you think will be the next big revelation from a whistleblower? Any favourites (edit: I mean like a wish list)?

Schwartzesque55 karma

Good question. But hard to answer, as you're asking me to predict the random behavior of strangers, and you're arguably asking me to commit a crime, the crime of soliciting classified information! (Google "James Rosen" for more on that.) Those caveats aside, I'd be interested to know what kinds of data are collected by about private companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, etc., and what they do with it. But ultimately I don't have too much control or input into what comes out. Whistle-blowing depends on someone on the inside making a decision to go public, for reasons of conscience or other reasons.

kfrydl31 karma

Matt I thought the Snowden op-ed in the NYT today was a little strange, but can't tell if it's my own cynicism. Seemed like a politician's intervention--lots of spin. What did you think?

Schwartzesque48 karma

Hi K, Yeah it is "spin" in the sense that he is obviously trying to influence the Beltway conversation, but I enjoyed the writing and I was glad to see ES speaking in his own voice finally, as opposed to speaking through his collaborators, or through documents. Looking at it from the outside, my sense is that he wants to come home. And I liked the bit about a "post-terror generation."

rugger6215 karma

Do you think he'll ever be able to come home without spending a long time in federal prison?

Schwartzesque40 karma

It's hard to predict the future but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a trial on some limited set of charges, which would give Snowden a public platform at the risk of a limited jail term, if he were found guilty. Snowden has already said that he's willing to come home if he can be guaranteed a fair trial. And I can't imagine that the US government would want a guy who knows so much staying in Russia for the long term.

fongaboo13 karma

do you think we'll see a post-terror generation in our lifetime?

Schwartzesque14 karma

Sure, why not?

reximhotep28 karma

how did america fall so easly into the omnipresent narrative that snowden was bad and a traitor? who do you believe was behind that information war and how does this reflect on the current state of investigative journalism in the US.

Schwartzesque75 karma

To me, Snowden himself is a bit of a distraction. It wouldn't have mattered if these disclosures had come from passenger pigeons. The documents are authentic and the important story is what they contain.

vox_clamantis30 karma

I think the return of an extinct species would have also provoked interest in the messengers rather than just the message.

Schwartzesque33 karma

Yeah good point. I would absolutely want to read an article about those pigeons.

ElevatedPancakes24 karma

How would you suggest getting into journalism like this, I'm love the idea of warning people. And helping them out. I'm in highschool right now. But any suggestions?

Schwartzesque32 karma

Self-publish, both in print and online, find an audience, start having a conversation with that audience.

smudg20 karma

John Oliver's interview with Snowden made a lot of points about general public knowledge about what the NSA does and why we should be concerned. Have you ever thought about writing articles that speak to the general public and not just to those who are interested and understand what's going on?

Schwartzesque26 karma

Well, why can't the general public also be interested and understand what's going on? You are right of course that it's very hard to write about surveillance in a compelling way, because there are so many unknowns, and the language is so dull, technical, and vague. All of which makes it interesting and challenging to me, as a writer.

the_intelligentsia19 karma

Do you believe America's intelligence community is nefarious?

I'm not asking whether they've exceeded their mandate; rather, I'd like to know if you're of the opinion that the United States' intelligence services (the NSA, CIA, military intelligence, etc...) seek to curtail the rights of Americans, further some particular political agenda, profit some specific group, and so on?

I know this is a remarkably general question, but do you believe our intelligence services seek to do "bad" or "good"?

Schwartzesque32 karma

I've met a few, including General Keith Alexander ... http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/were-at-greater-risk-q-a-with-general-keith-alexander ... they are generally good people who want to do their jobs and obey the law. But they also respond to the political climate, and to pressure from the White House. And from 9/11 on, the message has basically been, we're operating under a new set of rules, the gloves are off, do what you must to eliminate any possibility of a future terrorist attack. As long as that's the message coming down from the top, the IC will tend to push towards security and away from civil liberties. But there are always exceptions! Read up on James Comey (the current FBI director) and his hospital showdown with Alberto Gonzales. And I think this USA Freedom Act could be framed as another exception to the general historical trend.

Schwartzesque33 karma

Let me add one other thing ... when these well-intentioned IC members don't feel comfortable telling the truth in public, that's a sign that something is wrong. But unlike the Hoover/Kissinger era, it's more about institutions than about individuals.

spitefence18 karma

What's your take on the USA Freedom Act?

Schwartzesque28 karma

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/three-big-questions-about-the-n-s-a-s-patriot-act-powers. Short version: Seems like Congress is getting more interested in tapping the brakes on the intelligence community's post-9/11 powers. But by how much? Only the secret FISA court, and perhaps those members of Congress on the Select Intelligence Committees, will really know.

icameforthecookies11 karma

Will we ever get the amount of surveillance we really want, i.e. the warranted kind? What will it take to get that?

Schwartzesque24 karma

First we'd need to collectively answer the question "how much surveillance do we really want." Some in government have said that security and civil liberties are not competing values, and that we can have both. That's sort of true, to a point, but it also elides the extent to which those two values are in direct competition, and that we, as a society, have to make some difficult choices. The best thing I've read on this (recommended to me by a former IC member, actually) is this 2007 piece, by David Foster Wallace ... http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/11/just-asking/306288/

LonesomeJoey10 karma

The government seems pretty happy with the new law, but there's still a lot of issues with ir. What do you feel might be the best way to educate friends of mine who are still in the "well of they have all my information already, why fight it?" mentality?

Schwartzesque14 karma

I'd tell them to Google "Brandon Mayfield" and then read the IG's report here ... https://oig.justice.gov/special/s0601/PDF_list.htm.

BenjaminStanklin10 karma

Where do you think Journalism will be in 15 years in the wake of New Media? How and what do you think will change?

Subnote: Did you ever meet David Carr and if so, was he incredibly engaging?

Schwartzesque2 karma

I have no idea! And I'm grateful that I don't have to think about it too much, as I'm not on the business side. Like many long-form writers, a part of me continues to wish that I could snap my fingers and move us all back to paper. I did meet David Carr once. We were both waiting for the same elevator. It was an very short interaction but he seemed like a nice guy.

MasterGrok7 karma

Would there ever be a situation that you would reveal a leaker? What if an intelligence officer wanted to use you to leak something that you knew would put lots of Americans at risk such as nuclear launch codes or access?

Schwartzesque13 karma

There's no circumstance under which I wouldn't do everything in my power to protect a source. And there's no circumstance under which I would publish any nuclear launch codes.

FleshyDagger6 karma

What's your take on Philip Agee?

He made similiar revelations about the CIA in the 1970s, and there are strong allegations that he was managed by Soviet intelligence services. Does it not make you uncomfortable that Snowden is residing in Moscow, the capital of an authoritarian country with very powerful intelligence services who see the US as their main adversary? How do we know that the SVR is not simply exploiting Snowden?

A snippet from the Telegraph:

Agee's version was that it was his Roman Catholic conscience that had persuaded him to leave the CIA, and he certainly succeeded in presenting himself as a principled critic of US intelligence. In 1978 he and a small group of his supporters began publishing the Covert Action Information Bulletin, a platform for his campaign to "expose" the workings of the CIA. In 1978-79 Agee published two volumes of Dirty Work, which exposed more than 2,000 covert CIA agents in western Europe and Africa as well as details about their activities.

But in 1992 a high-ranking Cuban defector accused Agee of receiving up to $1 million in payments from the Cuban intelligence service; and in 1999 Vasili Mitrokhin, a former KGB librarian who had secretly copied thousands of files and then donated them to British intelligence, gave further details of his relationship with Communist agents in The Sword and the Shield, co-written with Christopher Andrew.

According to Mitrokhin, Agee had directly approached the KGB with information about the CIA's work. Soviet and Cuban intelligence not only provided material for Inside the Company, Mitrokhin alleged, but had persuaded the author (codenamed Pont) to excise "all references to CIA penetration of Latin American Communist parties". The KGB file on the book claimed that it had been "prepared by Service A, together with the Cubans".

Agee maintained that these charges were smears, pointing out that he could not have been a useful double agent because once he had left the agency he lost access to its secrets. But his value to the Soviets lay in his credibility with a large swathe of western opinion. Mitrokhin claimed that the Covert Action Information Bulletin was founded on the initiative of the KGB, which assembled a task force to keep the Bulletin supplied with material designed to compromise the CIA.

Schwartzesque12 karma

A good hard question. Thank you. I don't know the Agee case very well, so I can't evaluate the strength of this analogy. Yes, it does make me uncomfortable that Snowden is residing in Moscow. Do I think he's actively working with the Russians to undermine US interests? No, I don't. Can I prove that he isn't? No. Has he made himself into a diplomatic chit that factors into US/Russia relations? For sure. Given his motivations and his goals, did he have any other options? Not that I can see.

jessecakez5 karma

What other books have you written?

Schwartzesque13 karma

No books as of yet, though there is one Kindle Single about Guantánamo Bay, twenty-one issues of The Philadelphia Independent, and a zine. Watch this space..

woofwoofwoof5 karma

So much of NSA coverage seems focused specifically on these mass surveillance programs. Are they legal? If so, can the NSA effectively use them? Does the potential for abuse exist? And so on.

Are we missing the big question: do we even need the NSA? We're spending 10s of billions of dollars every year to find this agency and we can't even reliably measure it's effectiveness.

In "Legacy of Ashes" a NYT reporter recounted the history of the CIA and showed how the agency hasn't had much success over the years while at the same time hid and minimized it's failures.

tl;dr- Ignoring the specific mass surveillance programs, do you think we even need the NSA?

Schwartzesque19 karma

Yeah I think we do need the NSA. What's Putin planning on doing with his nuclear arsenal? Does Assad have chemical weapons? How close are Japan, Korea, and China to some kind of territorial conflict? I'm in favor of the US leadership having the best possible answers to these questions. That's what the NSA is supposed to do, and it's a good chunk of what it actually does. What we do need, I think, is more accountability, both in terms of where the NSA might be going too far, and in terms of what kind of value we are getting on our money. It's interesting that no one throughout this whole debate has been able to determine how much the Section 215 bulk metadata program, which did not prevent any violent terrorist attacks in the US, actually costs, both in terms of dollars and in terms of innocent people who have been wrongly suspected of an association with terrorism.

StuckInThought5 karma

Thank you for writing to spread public awareness of US surveillance policies! Has there been any negative reaction to your writing?

Schwartzesque13 karma

No, not as much as I'd expect, or (dare I say) even hope for, in a way...

TwoXmoarlikeThree5 karma

Have you seen any evidence of the US Gov backdooring hardware or firmware before consumers purchase it? We can all basically accept Windows and Mac OSX to be comprimised. Have they taken that next step and clipper chipped everything?

Schwartzesque10 karma

I've seen interesting reports of this online but haven't dug in far enough to ascertain their credibility. This is a good question and I wish I had better information to answer it with, but I don't.

holainternet5 karma

To a normal person: what kind of tools do you recommend to use for keeping your data safe?

Schwartzesque2 karma

I'm not an expert on this. I would say "encrypt your email using PGP" but I probably only use encryption for one or two percent of my own email. You should probably begin with the premise that none of your data is completely "safe," if by "safe" you mean that nobody can get access to it. My friend Alison Macrina is a librarian who advises people on exactly this question and there are some good resources on her website ... https://libraryfreedomproject.org/contact/

poonhounds4 karma

Is there evidence that Edward Snowden compromised U.S. security by revealing details of the NSA's surveillance program to the Chinese and Russian governments?

For example, the wall street Journal reported that Russia was able to evade eavesdropping during the annexation of Crimea because of Snowden's revelations, and the NY Post reported that Chinese hackers were enabled to steal secrets from American corporations.

Schwartzesque2 karma

I haven't read either of those stories. I'll try and do so soon. You might also want to take a look at Jason Leopold's recent piece about all this for Vice ... https://news.vice.com/article/exclusive-inside-washingtons-quest-to-bring-down-edward-snowden ... and Ken Auletta's reporting for the New Yorker on the Snowden deliberations that took place inside the Guardian ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/07/freedom-of-information

oksoithought4 karma

Ever work on any stories you were told to stop investigating and felt it was to protect the guilty as opposed to the innocent?

Schwartzesque3 karma

No, that's honestly never happened. But one thing that does happen to investigative reporters is "dry holes." As ProPublica puts it: "More than any other journalistic form, investigative journalism can require a great deal of time and labor to do well—and because the “prospecting” necessary for such stories inevitably yields a substantial number of “dry holes,” i.e. stories that seem promising at first, but ultimately prove either less interesting or important than first thought, or even simply untrue and thus unpublishable."

cp51844 karma

What were the big, new and different revelations that snowden "broke" that we didn't know about since the news about the NSA tapping directly into core internet fiber optic links in around 2006-2008?

What is the status of the metadata collection program right now? What will happen to it if the freedom act or whatever doesn't pass?

What are the other major programs other than the metadata program?

What are the biggest invasions of the privacy of americans? How do they effect people?

A lot of the "bigger" statements that snowden makes, like that the NSA is worse than the stasi, seem to depend on analysts abusing lax controls that basically give the analysts themselves oversight over themselves. So, the "watchers" watch themselves because the analysts have no layer that controls their access to a lot of the information, but there does seem to be accounting/tracking, and abuse has been caught in the past.

Schwartzesque5 karma

I tried to answer some of these questions in my long piece earlier this year on Section 215 and the metadata program. Here is a link ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/01/26/whole-haystack

SeeYouSpaceCorgi3 karma

Thank you for taking the time to do this AMA Mr. Schwartz.

I am not from America, however as you most likely know the US Government is considered an international power-player which has influence over other countries.

My question to you is what impact, if any, do you imagine the actions of the US Government will have on other countries in regards to the implementation of widespread internet and communications monitoring programs? Do you feel as if the actions of the US will influence other countries to take on these programs or do you not see this happening in other countries? If so, what countries do you see most likely to implement these programs?

Schwartzesque5 karma

China, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, and many other countries don't just monitor the Internet, they censor it. As far as monitoring goes, yes, I think Snowden's leaks could lead to a kind of international diffusion of norms where most every government feels justified in monitoring communications. And I think you are right that other countries are paying close attention to the US response.

ndphillips3 karma

Okay, I just have to ask a question about The New Yorker itself.

I love the magazine and have always wondered about its inner workings.

What's something interesting/unique you can tell us about how it operates?

Schwartzesque4 karma

Where to begin? One thing that impressed me from the beginning is the amount of attention, from many smart people, that is lavished on everything that the magazine publishes. Just before a story goes to press, four people (writer, editor, fact-checker, copy-editor) sit around a conference table and discuss every proposed change, which takes several hours, and is totally worth it. If you want to know more, I'd recommend "About Town" by Ben Yagoda, "Genius in Disguise" by Thomas Kunkel, and "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen" by Mary Norris, who copy-edited my NSA piece, and which is excerpted here ... http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/23/holy-writ

Eternally653 karma

Can you explain a bit about how the FISA court actually works, or does no one know?

There is a big difference in my mind between a court that routinely and says, "Sure, go ahead" to every NSA request, and one that says, "Wait, this isn't evidence or even credible suspicion."

Is there any way to find out?

Schwartzesque4 karma

You should read into this website ... http://icontherecord.tumblr.com/ ... also good to consider the number of warrant applications that the FISA court has historically approved (very high, in the thousands) and the number that they've turned down (in the single digits or maybe low double digits). The USA Freedom Act might change this as there will be a "friend of the court" who is supposed to be a kind of voice for civil liberties concerns within the FISA court. Hard to know how that will work in practice because the proceedings themselves will still be secret, although there will now be more made public about them through various reports and filings.

Prez_Material3 karma

What question do you want us to ask the most but don't think anyone will ask?

Schwartzesque3 karma

Are you ever going to do another issue of The Philadelphia Independent? Oh wait, someone asked that. Which is amazing.

alystair2 karma

Something a bit more general - Do you mainly contribute articles of this nature? What's the most polarizing article you've written (in your opinion).

Finally, what's the least bothering way for a person to approach a writer for a potential article?

Schwartzesque2 karma

RE your second question, send me a message, please!

Octro2 karma

Have any major media outlets been uncomfortable with publishing your work on Snowden / whistleblowers?

Schwartzesque6 karma

No, at least not yet.

IAmBAlexander2 karma

Because of the topics that you cover, do you ever fear for your life?

Schwartzesque5 karma

Nope. This isn't Honduras or Russia. Thank goodness for the First Amendment!

eardamage2 karma

As a journalist, do you have any advice for younger aspiring storytellers? How hard is it to balance staying true to the information you find to be most important vs. trying to make it in a competitive professional field? Have you had to make any compromises?

Also, pertaining to the topics you tend to cover, like security, typically how willing are people to talk to you and share their stories?

Schwartzesque2 karma

Regarding the first set of questions, I don't think you should ever balance or compromise when it comes to, in your words, "staying true to the information you find to be most important." That's a really good way of putting it. The more you're able to do that, the further you'll go.

nerco80800 karma

Have you have feared for your safety perhaps due to the unmarked car with tinted windows following you?

Schwartzesque1 karma

Nope, never. It's safer for journalists to report on these issues here in the US than it is almost anywhere else in the world, which is a credit to our system of governance. Although if you have great sources and get amazing inside stuff, you can run the risk of some short jail time--I'm thinking of James Risen here. But developing the kinds of sources that people like Risen have takes years and years, and I am still at the bottom of that mountain.

galapagos770 karma

Is the surveilance program shutting down?

Schwartzesque1 karma

No. There's just been a series of complicated revisions to the rulebook that is said to control one of the government's many surveillance programs.

HipsterMonk0 karma

what is the most memorable story you've ever written and why?

also, 1 horse size duck, or 50 duck size horses (to fight?)

Schwartzesque1 karma

50 duck sized horses, obv. I think most journalists would bet on the lilliputians against Gulliver.

MaxC1993-1 karma

Are you also the best online guitar teacher the web has to offer operating under the alias "Marty Schwartz" ? I think so Mattathias, I think so...

Schwartzesque1 karma

Haha no that's a different Schwartz. We are legion, you might say.

SuperImportantPerson-1 karma

You sound very much like a state apologist, justifying laws that are counter intuitive to a free society and all too eager to shriek "terrorism!" at all productive arguments. Why should anyone be concerned with operating within the confines of whitsleblower laws when they are by their very design intended to discourage and criminalize shinning the light on abuse of the public? More importantly, why are "journalists" not aggressively challenging these programs and laws instead of behaving like corporate/government lackeys? People stopped reading publications like yours a long time ago because it is simply a mouthpiece to spout misleading information and propoganda.

Schwartzesque1 karma

If everyone in journalism and government is a lackey, then what do you make of the New York Times collaborating with Snowden to publish some of his archive? And what do you make of the Senate torture report?