Shaving With Occam's Razor

The Glenn Greenwald story has been all over the blogosphere today. I posted what I considered (and still consider) to be the most likely scenario given all the known (and unknown) facts of the story revealed to this point. Later Paul addressed one of the responses to my post here.

There’s been a significant development…

In a response to my post (and Glenn’s denial) at Ace Of Spaces I found a link to one of the many bloggers who went scurrying to their logs or comment listings to search for the IP address associated with Glenn’s residence in Brazil. One such blogger was Verum Serum, who noted the following:

Update 7/20: Don’t miss this scoop from Ace of Spades HQ. It appears Mr. Greenwald has been defending himself around the web using aliases. I wasn’t worthy of one of Mr. Greenwald’s “special defenders”, however I checked the logs and discovered that Mr. Greenwald did come by. He arrived 9 minutes after I published this post, looked at my “About” page, then went back to the post itself and exited. The referrer was Technorati “Glenn Greenwald blogs” a real time list of every blog mentioning Glenn. Apparently, he keeps a pretty close eye on anyone who might be using his name in vain.

That Verum Serum post was published 7/19, so the visit from “Glenn” occurred Wednesday around noon.

Unless Verizon has seriously expanded its coverage area, I’m pretty sure that Glenn Greenwald was in America when that visit was made. I know this because I got an e-mail from him this evening and checked the headers.

Of course it’s possible that Greenwald himself made that visit to Verum Serum, then packed his bags and headed off to the airport; caught a red-eye to arrive in New York this morning; situated himself at home then “conveniently” responded to an e-mail he imagined I would be sending. Or he could have disconnected from the cushy wireless network and made an incredibly expensive international call to dial-in to a slow dial-up connection and to respond to my e-mail, knowing that I would look at the headers and deduce that the message came from a US ISP…

Seems kind of far fetched, no?

On the other hand, someone at Glenn’s house, with a strong affection for him and his blogging persona, and oblivious to the timelines presented in the previous paragraph, may have been doing what they do every day – tracking mentions of their favorite blogger and checking out what’s being said about him.

An excellent case has been made that all comments in praise of Greenwald have come from the same source IP address. The case that has not been made is that they came from Glenn himself.

If it turns out (as appears likely) that he was not in Brazil when every single “sock puppet” comment was made then the increasingly convoluted theories being advanced to explain the story fall apart, because (at this point) the claims still seem to be that ALL the comments were made by Glenn.

Think back to the Rathergate story. Remember the straining on the left to prove that there was some device from the 1970’s that could have produced those memos? Machine by machine each new theory was shown to be improbably then impossible. In the end the simplest solution – that the documents were created in Microsoft Word – was shown to be not only the cleanest explanation, but also the only possible explanation.

That’s where this is headed…

Update: In the event that I’m wrong about Greenwald’s location this week, it in no way invalidates my contention that the only thing proven in this whole affair is that the comments in question come from a single IP address. The author of the comments has not been established, and I suspect they never will be. I’ll use a little example to illustrate.

Last night I was sitting in the living room with my my wife, who was on the other side of the room. We were both working on our own individual laptops. Since we have a $49 Linksys wireless router installed, to the outside world we are coming from the same IP address. I’ve got no idea what she was actually doing online, but if she was reading and commenting on blogs, A) I wouldn’t know, B) Someone might be able to piece together my association with her comments if I too had commented at a site she commented at, and C) The chances of her knowing about (B) are exactly 0%. You could say she made a comment or I made a comment, but you would never be able to prove which of the two of us left a comment.

Update 2: I was wrong about his location – seriously wrong. Prompted by a different kevin‘s comment below, I went back and re-examined the headers from the e-mail and found something I’d overlooked; an originating address that matches Glenn’s residence in Brazil. The Verizon address was an intermediary SMTP server. E-mail header reading is always a bit tricky, but it generally will give up the originating machine; the trick is to parse through all the extra junk and figure out the source.

We return you back to all the particular points we’ve made about the case to date.

The Least We Can Do
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  1. mantis July 21, 2006
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