"“As with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last,” Glenn Greenwald told GQ recently. “There's a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I'm saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues."
That finale involves the names of U.S. citizens targeted by NSA surveillance, according to an interview Greenwald gave to the Sunday Times. He told GQ that the last of the big stories based on the documents he received from Edward Snowden would be published this summer.
"One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, 'Who have been the NSA's specific targets?,'" Greenwald told The Sunday Times. "Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists? What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer."
if we would categorize them according to profession and reason and so on, you could say that it is useful and not harmful because it could be used to proof that the NSA was becoming a very dangerous institution for everyone who was involved in politics, journalism and protests (which are not the domains the NSA should have been involved in) while neglecting (because you can't do two things as good at the same time) terrorism, drugs and other criminal networks and corruption schemes or espionage
if he really is thinking about publishing the names that are in the 200.000 documents he has received out of 1.7 milllion documents than there is an immediate threat to any intelligence work the NSA or any other agency is undergoing and he is putting an enormous list of agents and operations and national security an sich into an immediate and big danger - in fact enough to be killed for it (even by natural causes)
not that I am saying that he should be killed for it or hoping that some-one will kill him but only that when you publish such threats publicly you shouldn't be surprised that some-one somewhere with but mostly without any official recognition will have the urge to get into action
except if he wants to use it as an insurance file and only wants to let it known that he has such a list and that the list will be published if something happens to him or his partner
another possibility is that in the end he will maybe not even publish this list because of acceptable reasons of national security and shows himself so in an international PR campaign to be responsable and acceptable (and free to travel to the US and UK and any other country that would like to prosecute or extradite him when he finally publishes this list and crosses every boundery of acceptable journalism, investigation or divulgation of information critical to the national security of the US)
another possibility is that he wants to use it as an bargaining chip to give Snowden the possbility to return to the US without facing the most harsh sentences as long as the file isn't published and he is out of his boring life in Russia (why would you otherwise say that you want to negotiate your return to the US or Germany ?)
the main effect may be that he will be forced to join Snowden in Russia (with his 200.000 documents) - if any country will let this plane cross its national airspace. It will be interesting to see where he will travel in de weeks or days before this publication - which could lead to a total travelban going into effect now.
another effect of this threat - because this is what it is - is that after Snowden Greenwald is now losing also totally his credibility. You can publish information about illegal operations by the security and intelligence community, you can publish information about global total surveillance and why it is dangerous - and we will applaud for doing this (because it means the press is playing its role and the oversight committees aren't) but it is a totally different thing publishing the names of the living targets of the NSA - whatever precautions you are taking
there is no excuse for doing so and no reason for doing publicly