Journalist, author and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald’s new book “No Place To Hide” was released this week and Glenn has been on the interview circuit discussing the book, Edward Snowden and the next set of revelations about the NSA spying. In an interview with GQ magazine, he talks about what a whirlwind this last year has been as the hottest story in the world has unfolded:
Glenn Greenwald is trying to lose fifteen pounds. “Um, it’s been a little crazy these past nine months,” he says. “And I will eat French fries or potato chips if they’re in front of me.” On his porch, perched on a jungle mountaintop in Rio, the morning is fresh. Greenwald, in board shorts and a collared short-sleeve shirt, has done his daily hour’s worth of yoga and attached himself to one of his five laptops as his dozen dogs yap and wag to begin the day’s circus in his monkey-and-macaw paradise.
To put it simply, Greenwald has had one hell of a dizzying run. The Bourne plotline is familiar now: In late 2012, a shady contact calling himself Cincinnatus reached out via e-mail with the urgent desire to reveal some top-secret documents. As a blogger, author, and relentless commentator on all things related to the NSA, Greenwald had been here before. He figured it was a setup, or nut job, and disregarded the message. The source then contacted Greenwald’s friend Laura Poitras, an Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, and sent along a sample of encrypted documents. Poitras got in touch with Greenwald immediately: Not only did this seem like a potential jackpot, she said, but Cincinnatus wouldn’t go ahead until Greenwald had been looped in.
Soon, per the source’s instructions, they were on a plane to Hong Kong. Greenwald and Poitras did exactly as they were told, showing up at the Mira hotel at 10:20 a.m. on June 3, in front of a giant plastic alligator, looking for a man holding a Rubik’s Cube. “I thought he would be a 60-year-old senior NSA guy,” says Greenwald. And then here’s this pale, stringbeany kid with glasses, “looking all of twentysomething.” This, of course, was the 29-year-old NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Once they retired to his hotel room, he turned over an estimated tens of thousands of documents, the vast majority of them classified “Top Secret,” comprising arguably the biggest leak of classified material in U.S. history. After days of intensive work with Greenwald and Poitras, Snowden fled-just minutes ahead of the press-only to reappear in Moscow.
This left Greenwald with the most exhilarating and daunting task of his career: to figure out how to curate and publish the vast Snowden archive in his Brazilian self-exile. Once he began, his work triggered an avalanche of articles that branded him a hero, a traitor, a collaborator. In one fell swoop, he had piqued and scandalized and provoked the world into a deeper debate about not just surveillance and privacy but power and truth. The odyssey eventually led him from The Guardian, where the first articles appeared revealing the NSA’s secret surveillance of Verizon records, to his central position in Pierre Omidyar’s $250 million muckraking gambit known as First Look Media and The Intercept, where Greenwald is figurehead, main attraction, and blogitor-in-chief.
The Guardian has a excerpt from the book describing the first hectic days following the first meeting with Mr.Snowden in Hong Kong:
On Thursday 6 June 2013, our fifth day in Hong Kong, I went to Edward Snowden’s hotel room and he immediately said he had news that was “a bit alarming”. An internet-connected security device at the home he shared with his longtime girlfriend in Hawaii had detected that two people from the NSA – a human-resources person and an NSA “police officer” – had come to their house searching for him.
Snowden was almost certain this meant that the NSA had identified him as the likely source of the leaks, but I was sceptical. “If they thought you did this, they’d send hordes of FBI agents with a search warrant and probably Swat teams, not a single NSA officer and a human-resources person.” I figured this was just an automatic and routine inquiry, triggered when an NSA employee goes absent for a few weeks without explanation. But Snowden suggested that perhaps they were being purposely low-key to avoid drawing media attention or setting off an effort to suppress evidence.
Whatever the news meant, it underscored the need for Laura Poitras – the film-maker who was collaborating with me on the story – and I to quickly prepare our article and video unveiling Snowden as the source of the disclosures. We were determined that the world would first hear about Snowden, his actions and his motives, from Snowden himself, not through a demonisation campaign spread by the US government while he was in hiding or in custody and unable to speak for himself.
Our plan was to publish two more articles on the NSA files in the Guardian and then release a long piece on Snowden himself, accompanied by a videotaped interview, and a printed Q&A with him.
Poitras had spent the previous 48 hours editing the footage from my first interview with Snowden, but she said it was too detailed, lengthy, and fragmented to use. She wanted to film a new interview right away; one that was more concise and focused, and wrote a list of 20 or so specific questions for me to ask him. I added several of my own as Poitras set up her camera and directed us where to sit.
Glenn joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman to discuss the book in the first part of a two day interview.
Transcript can be read here
Transcript can be read here