Glenn Greenwald

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Glenn Greenwald
Greenwald in 2014
Greenwald in 2014
Born Glenn Edward Greenwald[1]
(1967-03-06) March 6, 1967 (age 51)
New York City, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater
Notable works
Spouse David Miranda[2]
Children 2

Glenn Edward Greenwald (born March 6, 1967) is an American lawyer, journalist, and author, best known for his role in a series of reports published by The Guardian newspaper beginning in June 2013, detailing the United States and British global surveillance programs, and based on classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden.[3][4] Greenwald and the team he worked with won both a George Polk Award and a Pulitzer Prize for those reports. He has written several best-selling books, including, No Place to Hide.

Greenwald's work on the Snowden story was featured in the documentary, Citizenfour, which won the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Greenwald appeared on-stage with director Laura Poitras and Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsey Mills, when the Oscar was given.[5] In the 2016 Oliver Stone feature film Snowden, Greenwald was played by actor Zachary Quinto.[6]

Before the Snowden file disclosures, Greenwald was considered one of the most influential opinion columnists in the United States.[7] After working as a constitutional attorney for ten years, he began blogging on national security issues before becoming a Salon contributor in 2007 and then moving to The Guardian in 2012. He currently writes for and co-edits The Intercept, which he founded in 2013 with Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

Early life and education[edit]

Greenwald was born in New York City to Arlene and Daniel Greenwald.[8] Greenwald's family moved to Lauderdale Lakes, Florida when he was an infant.[9][10][11] His parents are Jewish and they and his grandparents tried to introduce him to Judaism, but he grew up without practicing an organized religion, did not have a bar mitzvah, and has said his "moral precepts aren't informed in any way by religious doctrine".[12] He received a BA in Philosophy from George Washington University in 1990 and a JD from New York University School of Law in 1994.[9][11]


Litigation attorney[edit]

Greenwald practiced law in the Litigation Department at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz (1994–1995); in 1996 he co-founded his own litigation firm, called Greenwald Christoph & Holland (later renamed Greenwald Christoph PC), where he litigated cases concerning issues of U.S. constitutional law and civil rights.[9][10] One of his higher-profile cases was the representation of white supremacist Matthew F. Hale.[13]

About his work in First Amendment speech cases, Greenwald told Rolling Stone magazine in 2013, "to me, it's a heroic attribute to be so committed to a principle that you apply it not when it's easy...not when it supports your position, not when it protects people you like, but when it defends and protects people that you hate".[14]

Later, according to Greenwald, "I decided voluntarily to wind down my practice in 2005 because I could, and because, after ten years, I was bored with litigating full-time and wanted to do other things which I thought were more engaging and could make more of an impact, including political writing."[10]

Unclaimed Territory and Salon[edit]

In October 2005, he began his blog Unclaimed Territory focusing on the investigation pertaining to the Plame affair, the CIA leak grand jury investigation, the federal indictment of Scooter Libby and the NSA warrantless surveillance (2001–07) controversy. In April 2006, the blog received the 2005 Koufax Award for "Best New Blog".[9]

In February 2007, Greenwald became a contributing writer for the Salon website, and the new column and blog superseded Unclaimed Territory, although Salon prominently features hyperlinks to it in Greenwald's dedicated biographical section.[15][16]

Greenwald, Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman in April 2011

Among the frequent topics of his Salon articles were the investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks and the candidacy of former CIA official John O. Brennan for the jobs of either Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA) or the next Director of National Intelligence (DNI) after the election of Barack Obama. Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for the post after opposition centered in liberal blogs and led by Greenwald.[17][18][19][20][21][22] Brennan took up the leadership position at the CIA again, in March 2013.

The Guardian[edit]

Greenwald left Salon on August 20, 2012, for the American offshoot of Britain's The Guardian newspaper, citing "the opportunity to reach a new audience, to further internationalize my readership, and to be re-invigorated by a different environment" as reasons for the move.[23]

On June 5, 2013, Greenwald was first to report on the top-secret United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon to provide the National Security Agency with telephone metadata for all calls between the U.S. and abroad, as well as all domestic calls.[24][25][26] He was a columnist until October 2013.[27][28][29]

First Look Media and The Intercept[edit]

On October 15, 2013, Greenwald announced, and The Guardian confirmed, that he was leaving to pursue a "once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline".[29][30] Financial backing for the new venture was provided by Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder.[31][32] Omidyar told media critic Jay Rosen that the decision was fueled by his "rising concern about press freedoms in the United States and around the world". Greenwald, along with his colleagues Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, initially were working on creating a place online to support independent journalism, when they were approached by Omidyar who was looking to start his own media organization. That news organization, First Look Media, launched its first online publication, called, The Intercept, on February 10, 2014.[33] Greenwald serves as editor, alongside Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill. The organization is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable entity.[34][35]

Guest appearances[edit]

Greenwald has appeared as a round table guest on ABC's Sunday morning news show This Week, HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, NPR's All Things Considered, C-SPAN's Washington Journal; Pacifica Radio's syndicated series Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman;[36] on Public Radio International's To the Point; MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, Morning Joe, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Up with Chris Hayes, Dylan Ratigan's Morning Meeting; Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume,[37] Tucker Carlson Tonight, and the Chapo Trap House podcast.[38]

Greenwald has been a regular guest on the Hugh Hewitt Show and on PBS's Bill Moyers Journal.[39][40][41]

On September 15, 2014, he was a headline speaker at Kim Dotcom's Moment of Truth town hall meeting held in Auckland, New Zealand.[42]


Greenwald's first book, How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok was published by Working Assets in 2006. It was a New York Times bestseller,[43] and ranked #1 on, both before its publication (due to orders based on attention from 'UT' readers and other bloggers) and for several days after its release, ending its first week at #293.[44]

A Tragic Legacy , his next book, examines the presidency of George W. Bush. Published in hardback by Crown (a division of Random House) on June 26, 2007, and reprinted in a paperback edition by Three Rivers Press on April 8, 2008, it was a New York Times Best Seller. Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics, was also first published by Random House in April 2008.[45][46] With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful, was released by Metropolitan Books in October 2011 and No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, was released in May 2014.[47] The latter work spent six weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list,[48] and was named one of the ten Best Non-Fiction Books of 2014 by The Christian Science Monitor.[49]

Global surveillance disclosure[edit]

Contact with Edward Snowden[edit]

Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald were the recipients of the 2014 Carl von Ossietzky medal.

Greenwald was initially contacted anonymously by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, in late 2012[50] indicating his possession of "sensitive documents" that he wished to share.[51] Greenwald found the measures that the source asked him to take to secure their communications too annoying to employ.[50] Snowden then contacted documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras about a month later in January 2013.[52]

According to The Guardian, what originally attracted Snowden to both Greenwald and Poitras was a Salon article penned by Greenwald detailing how Poitras' controversial films had made her a "target of the government".[51][53] Greenwald began working with Snowden in either February[54] or in April, after Poitras asked Greenwald to meet her in New York City, at which point Snowden began providing documents to them both.[50]

As part of the global surveillance disclosure, the first of Snowden's documents were published on June 5, 2013, in The Guardian in an article by Greenwald. According to him, Snowden's documents exposed the "scale of domestic surveillance under Obama".[55]

The series on which Greenwald worked contributed to The Guardian (alongside The Washington Post) winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2014.[56][57]

Detention of David Miranda[edit]

Greenwald (right) and his partner David Miranda in 2013

In August 2013, the Metropolitan Police detained Greenwald's partner David Miranda at London's Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, after he had flown in from Berlin and was changing to a plane bound for home, in Rio de Janeiro.[58][59] His belongings were seized, including an external hard drive said to contain sensitive documents relevant to Greenwald's reporting, which was encrypted with TrueCrypt encryption software.[60]

Greenwald described his partner's detention as "clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ".[61] Miranda was detained for nine hours and his laptop and other items were seized. He has since attempted to sue the Metropolitan Police for misuse of their powers. According to The Guardian, the claim, "challenging controversial powers used under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, maintains that Miranda was not involved in terrorism and says his right to freedom of expression was curtailed".[62]

According to a later article in The Guardian, Miranda was found to have been carrying an external hard drive containing 58,000 highly classified UK intelligence documents, and his detention was ruled lawful by the UK High Court, which accepted that Miranda's detention and the seizure of computer material was "an indirect interference with press freedom", but said this was justified by legitimate and "very pressing" interests of national security.[63]

Members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) in the British Parliament said that allowing police to stop and search suspects at airports without suspicion was "not inherently incompatible" with human rights. MPs and peers said they agreed anti-terror officers should be able to "stop, question, request documentation and physically search persons and property" even when they did not have reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed, but urged the government to introduce new restrictions on powers such as strip-searches, detentions, and searches of the contents of electronic devices such as laptops and smart phones, and said that these "more intrusive" measures should take place only when officers had reasonable suspicion that someone was involved in terrorism.[64]

In December 2013, Greenwald and Miranda advocated for asylum in Brazil for Edward Snowden in exchange for the fugitive leaker's cooperation in investigating the NSA.[65] Brazil's government indicated it was not interested in investigating the NSA.[66]


National Congress of Brazil[edit]

In a statement delivered before the National Congress of Brazil in early August 2013, Greenwald testified that the U.S. government had used counter-terrorism as a pretext for clandestine surveillance in order to compete with other countries in the "business, industrial and economic fields".[67][68][69]

European Parliament[edit]

On December 18, 2013, Greenwald told the European Union's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs that "most governments around the world are not only turning their backs on Edward Snowden but also on their ethical responsibilities".[70] Speaking via a video link, Greenwald asserted that, "It is the UK through their interception of underwater fibre optic cables, that is a primary threat to the privacy of European citizens when it comes to their telephone and emails". According to a statement given to the European Parliament by Greenwald:

The ultimate goal of the NSA, along with its most loyal, one might say subservient junior partner the British agency GCHQ – when it comes to the reason why the system of suspicion of surveillance is being built and the objective of this system – is nothing less than the elimination of individual privacy worldwide

— Glenn Greenwald[71]

Political views[edit]

Miranda and Greenwald speak at the National Congress of Brazil in the wake of the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures.

Greenwald is critical of actions jointly supported by Democrats and Republicans, writing: "The worst and most tyrannical government actions in Washington are equally supported on a fully bipartisan basis."[72] In the preface to his first book, How Would a Patriot Act? (2006), Greenwald opens with some of his own personal political history describing his 'pre-political' self as neither liberal nor conservative as a whole, voting neither for George W. Bush nor for any of his rivals (indeed, not voting at all).[73]

Bush's election to the U.S. presidency "changed" Greenwald's previous uninvolved political attitude toward the electoral process "completely", and in 2006 he wrote:

Over the past five years, a creeping extremism has taken hold of our federal government, and it is threatening to radically alter our system of government and who we are as a nation. This extremism is neither conservative nor liberal in nature, but is instead driven by theories of unlimited presidential power that are wholly alien, and antithetical, to the core political values that have governed this country since its founding"; for, "the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American."[73]

Believing that "It is incumbent upon all Americans who believe in that system, bequeathed to us by the founders, to defend it when it is under assault and in jeopardy. And today it is", he said: "I did not arrive at these conclusions eagerly or because I was predisposed by any previous partisan viewpoint. Quite the contrary."[73]

Resistant to applying ideological labels to himself, he emphasized that he is a strong advocate for U.S. constitutional "balance of powers"[74] and for constitutionally-protected civil and political rights in his writings and public appearances.[9]

Greenwald frequently writes about the War on Drugs and criminal justice reform. He is a member of the advisory board of the Brazil chapter of Law Enforcement Action Partnership.[75][76] Greenwald was also the author of a 2009 white paper published by the Cato Institute entitled, Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies, exploring the role of drug policy of Portugal.[77]

He criticized the policies of the Bush administration and those who supported it, arguing that most of the American "Corporate News Media" excused Bush's policies and echoed the administration's positions rather than asking hard questions.[36][78]

Impeachment March, July 2, 2017. According to Greenwald, "...obsession with Russia conspiracy tales is poisoning all aspects of U.S. political discourse and weakening any chance for resisting Trump’s actual abuses and excesses."[79]

Regarding civil liberties during the Obama presidency, he elaborated on his conception of change when he said, "I think the only means of true political change will come from people working outside of that [two-party electoral] system to undermine it, and subvert it, and weaken it, and destroy it; not try to work within it to change it."[80] He did, however, raise money for Russ Feingold's 2010 Senate re-election bid,[81] Bill Halter's 2010 primary challenge to Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln,[82] as well as several Congressional candidates in 2012 described as "unique".[83]

Greenwald is critical of Israel's foreign policy and influence on U.S. politics, a stance for which he has in turn been the subject of criticism.

According to Greenwald, the emergence of ISIS is a direct consequence of the Iraq War and NATO-led military intervention in Libya.[84][85][86] Greenwald has criticized U.S. and UK involvement in Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[87] He wrote in October 2016: "The atrocities committed by the Saudis would have been impossible without their steadfast, aggressive support."[88]

Greenwald criticized the prison conditions in which U.S. Army Private Chelsea Manning, the convicted WikiLeaks whistleblower (then known as Bradley), was held after her arrest by military authorities.[89] As a supporter of Manning, Greenwald described her as "a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives" and "a national hero similar to Daniel Ellsberg."[90]

Greenwald has criticized many of the policies of the Trump administration.[91][92] He said: "I think the Trump White House lies more often. I think it lies more readily. I think it lies more blatantly."[92] Greenwald also criticized the Democrats' double standard, saying that "Democrats didn’t care when Obama hugged Saudi despots, and now they pretend to care when Trump embraces Saudi despots or Egyptian ones."[92] He has also accused mainstream U.S. media of "spreading patriotic state propaganda".[93] Greenwald said that choosing between Trump and "whatever you want to call it. Call it the deep state, call it the national security blob, call it the CIA and the Pentagon", is like choosing between "Bashar al-Assad or al-Qaida or ISIS [in Syria] once the ordinary people of the Syrian revolution got defeated."[92]

Greenwald has expressed skepticism of the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.[94] Regardless of the accuracy of the assessment, Greenwald has doubted its significance, stating "some Russians wanted to help Trump win the election, and certain people connected to the campaign were receptive to receiving that help. Who the fuck cares about that?"[94] He sees Democrats' rhetoric on Russia as a more serious problem, characterizing it as "unhinged". Greenwald has commented that due to his skepticism of the significance of Russian interference in the 2016 election, he has been "excommunicated from the liberal salons that celebrated him in the Snowden anybody who questions the Russia consensus, “becomes a blasphemer. Becomes a heretic.[94] Greenwald also wrote that the "East Coast newsmagazines" are "feeding Democrats the often xenophobic, hysterical Russophobia for which they have a seemingly insatiable craving."[95] In a July 2018 panel on "fake news" in Moscow moderated by RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, Greenwald argued that the Democrats' focus on Russian interference in the 2016 election is motivated by a need to rationalize Clinton's loss. [96][97]


Greenwald has been placed on numerous "top 50" and "top 25" lists of columnists in the United States.[98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106] In June 2012, Newsweek magazine named him one of America's Top Ten Opinionists, saying that "a righteous, controlled, and razor-sharp fury runs through a great deal" of his writing, and: "His independent persuasion can make him a danger or an asset to both sides of the aisle."[107]

Greenwald in Auckland, New Zealand, September 2014

According to Nate Anderson, writing in Ars Technica around 2010 or 2011, Aaron Barr of HBGary and Team Themis planned to damage Greenwald's career as a way to respond to a potential dump of Bank of America documents by WikiLeaks, saying that "Without the support of people like Glenn WikiLeaks would fold."[108]

Josh Voorhees, writing in, reported that in 2013 congressman Peter King (R-NY) suggested Greenwald should be arrested for his reporting on the NSA PRISM program and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.[109] Journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin said "I would arrest [Snowden] and now I'd almost arrest Glenn Greenwald",[110] but later made an apology for his statement, which Greenwald accepted.

Journalist David Gregory accused Greenwald of aiding and abetting Snowden, before asking, "Why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?"[111]

In a 2013 interview with Martha Raddatz of ABC News, Greenwald said that members of Congress are being "blocked" from getting "the most basic information about what NSA is doing... and what the FISA court has been doing....", and specifically referenced Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), who at the time was the ranking member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ("House Intelligence Committee")[112]. Ruppersberger, who was a guest on the show, responded, "We have rules as far as the committee and what you can have and what you cannot have. However, based on that, that statement I just made, is that since this incident occurred with Snowden, we've had three different hearings for members of our Democratic Caucus, and the Republican Caucus.... And we will continue to do that because what we're trying to do now is to get the American public to know more about what's going on." Rep. King, who was also a guest on This Week as a ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, stated: "[T]o me it's unprecedented to have all of these top people from an administration during this time of crisis still come in and answer question after question after question. So anyone who says that Congress is somehow being stonewalled is just wrong and [the question] is generally, I think, raised by people who are trying to make a name for themselves."[113]

In a February 2014 interview, Greenwald said he believed he risked detention if he reentered the U.S., but insisted that he would "force the issue" on principle, and return for the "many reasons" he had to visit, including if he won a prestigious award of which he was rumoured to be the winner.[114] Later that month, it was announced that he was, in fact, among the recipients of the 2013 Polk Awards, to be conferred April 11, 2014 in Manhattan.[115] In a subsequent interview, Greenwald stated he would attend the ceremony, and added: "I absolutely refuse to be exiled from my own country for the crime of doing journalism and I'm going to force the issue just on principle. And I think going back for a ceremony like the Polk Awards or other forms of journalistic awards would be a really good symbolic test of having to put the government in the position of having to arrest journalists who are coming back to the US to receive awards for the journalism they have done."[116] On April 11, Greenwald and Laura Poitras accepted the Polk Award in Manhattan. Although their entry into the United States was trouble-free, they traveled with an ACLU attorney and a German journalist "to document any unpleasant surprises". Accepting the award, Greenwald said he was "happy to see a table full of Guardian editors and journalists, whose role in this story is much more integral than the publicity generally recognizes".[117] On April 14, the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was awarded jointly to The Guardian and The Washington Post for revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the NSA. Greenwald, along with Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, had contributed to The Guardian′s reporting.[118]

In 2018, Greenwald was well-received at the International Cybersecurity Congress in Moscow at which Putin gave the keynote speech[119]. Speaking on the 6th of July 2018, Glen addressed several matters concerning "fake news". Panelists in attendance with Greenwald included Sergey Nalobin from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexei Venediktov and Giovanni Zagni. [120]

Personal life[edit]

Greenwald lives in Rio de Janeiro, the hometown of his husband, David Miranda.[121][122][123] Greenwald said in 2011 that his residence in Brazil was a result of the Defense of Marriage Act, an American law barring federal recognition of same-sex marriages that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court two years later. The law had prevented his partner from receiving a visa to reside with him in the United States.[124]

In 2017, Greenwald and Miranda announced that they had adopted two children, siblings, from Maceió, a city in Northeastern Brazil.[125] Greenwald and Miranda have 24 rescue dogs.[126] [127]

In 2016, Miranda was elected to the Rio de Janeiro City Council as part of the PSOL party.[128] Miranda is now running for Congress in Brazil's 2018 election.[121]

In March 2017, Greenwald announced plans to build a shelter with Miranda for stray pets in Brazil that would be staffed by homeless people.[129] As of March, 2018, Greenwald posted videos showing the shelter as operational with dozens of pets and "previously homeless employees." [130]

Greenwald and Miranda were close personal friends of Brazilian human rights advocate and councilwoman Marielle Franco, known for criticism of police tactics, who was fatally shot while in her car by unknown assailants.[131][132]

Greenwald comes from a Jewish background, albeit largely non-practicing, and was never Bar Mitzvahed, stating that "My parents tried to inculcate me a little bit into organized Judaism, but they weren't particularly devoted to that, and my grandparents were, but it just never took hold." He says that he does believe in "the spiritual and mystical part of the world", including practicing yoga, but his moral precepts "aren't informed in any way by religious doctrine or, like, organized religion or anything."[133] Greenwald has also been critical of the New Atheist movement, accusing Sam Harris and others within the movement of anti-Muslim animus.[134]


Greenwald received, together with Amy Goodman, the first Izzy Award for special achievement in independent media, in 2009,[135] and the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Best Commentary for his investigative work on the conditions of Chelsea Manning.[136]

His reporting on the National Security Agency (NSA) won numerous other awards around the world, including top investigative journalism prizes from the George Polk Award for National Security Reporting,[137] the 2013 Online Journalism Awards,[138] the Esso Award for Excellence in Reporting in Brazil for his articles in O Globo on NSA mass surveillance of Brazilians (becoming the first foreigner to win the award),[139] the 2013 Libertad de Expresion Internacional award from Argentinian magazine Perfil,[140] and the 2013 Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[141] The team that Greenwald led at The Guardian was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their reporting on the NSA.[142] Foreign Policy Magazine then named him one of the top 100 Global Thinkers of 2013.[143]

In 2014 Greenwald received the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis, an annual German literary award, for the German edition of No Place to Hide.[144] Greenwald was also named the 2014 recipient of the McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.[145]



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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]