Glenn Greenwald is at it again. His latest releases of classified documents provided by Edward Snowden reveal various spy tradecraft, a litany of “dirty tricks,” that agencies might use to get at an intelligence target. These latest revelations only show how far the un-caped crusaders have drifted from their messianic mission of uncovering “wrongdoing” by those who are supposed to be protecting us from wrongdoing.
In part, Greenwald panders to our dark desire to peer into the ugly side of intelligence work. The staring into the seamy side of spy-craft was a cultural fixture of the Cold War, enshrined in iconic films like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Released in 1965 when the Cold War was at its coldest, the movie told the story of a British secret agent sent to Communist East Germany to discredit a powerful enemy intelligence officer. With the assistance of an unwitting idealistic, pro-communist girlfriend he engineers a disinformation campaign against the East German operative.
The film was based on a 1963 book by the novelist John le Carre. The author’s real name was David John Moore Cornwell, who worked in British spy agencies in the 1950s and 1960s. There was more than a little real-life tradecraft laced throughout his books.