So he is "sleazy" because he was writing a book on the NSA and tried to get NSA employees to tell him secrets? I see that as a mark in his favor too.
I kept pressing for specifics.
So Schindler declares a widely respected author a sleazy fabricator. And pressed for evidence—because if there's a serious problem with the book that none of my sources mentioned, I want to know about it!—he declares, "I'm not your research assistant," as if I initiated the subject. No, Professor Schindler, you're not any journalist's research assistant. You're a college professor and a public intellectual making a public criticism of a widely respected author, and of a journalist who is revisiting that author's work. Backing up your claims with evidence is something you do for the sake of your own intellectual integrity and a productive public discourse.
With regard to the latter, it isn't anyone's "job" to help inform debates on Twitter. People do it because the Internet often permits us to be helpful and advance discourse with incredibly minimal effort. Being helpful is often as easy as being unhelpful. This is not the behavior of a U.S. Naval War College professor who is engaged in earnest attempts to increase the general public's understanding. The exchange was, rather, an attempt to discredit the NSA's critics without refuting them, and it earned predictable atta-boys from other NSA insiders who dislike Bamford.
Journalism has its flaws, but the profession is useful in part because practitioners don't initiate exchanges of this form:
- This is so.
- I disagree. What's you're evidence?
- You should already know! It isn't my job to tell you.
It is our job to increase public understanding as best as we can, and having institutions with that purpose is essential in a democracy because insiders have different interests. NSA insiders, in particular, believe that lots of true things should be obscured.
Next up was this gem:
You might conclude from the quotations marks that I'd called Bamford "the leading expert on the NSA." I did not. That did not stop his followers, including numerous veterans of the national-security state, from concluding I'd written so imprecisely. Of course, Schindler does not regard his own imprecision as disqualifying.
Cheap pedantry. And then there was this telling missive:
That really sums up the attitude on display throughout. I have a Ph.D. You don't have a credential, therefore you aren't worth debating, just trolling. I presume, based on the fact that Schindler is a teacher, that his real-life persona isn't the same as his Twitter persona. Some of his efforts are actually aimed at better informing the public, albeit within the constraints of our overzealous system of classification. I'd bet heavily that this exchange doesn't sum him up as a professional. And finally, after repeated requests, he offered up this specific critique:
The controversy he references doesn't happen to be about the book I am reading and reprising. Having looked up the controversy, I see that it pertains to an incident involving the Israeli military firing on an American naval vessel and whether it was an accident or intentional, not to Bamford's account of the NSA's history. And while I have no idea who is right about the naval incident in question, accusing Bamford of fabricating his source material is a significant leap. (All that said, I'm glad to know about this controversy, and if I write about the book in which it appears I'll be sure to link the inconclusive arguments on both sides. And if anyone has specific criticisms of Bamford's first book, let's hear 'em!)