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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Glenn Greenwald and the NSA on book tour

Do you think the NSA will buy any copies of Glenn Greenwald's new book, No Place to Hide?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Glenn Greenwald whose newspaper, the Guardian shared Pulitzer Prize honors last month with the Washington Post based on Mr. Greenwald's scoop about government spying, was in town last week at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue promoting his newest book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

At the ticketed event all 800 seats were taken and all copies of the book sold out, according to bookstore Politics and Prose.

When he was a contractor for the U.S. government, Edward Snowden downloaded NSA documents he found so disturbing he wanted to share them and educate the public about just exactly what it is the NSA does, Mr. Greenwald said.  Mr. Snowden could have sold the documents and made millions.  Instead, he chose public awareness and transparency.
He "unleashed profound change," said Mr. Greenwald.  The NSA motto is "collect it all," and the agency has billions of pieces of information about Americans, Mr. Greenwald said.

When he first met Mr. Snowden, 29 years old at the time, Mr. Greenwald was taken aback since he expected someone much older, in his 60s or 70s. Mr. Snowden came across online as "a little cynical, very sophisticated, a deep thinker."

"It took me about the entire day to recover" after they met a year ago in Hong Kong, and Mr. Greenwald remained skeptical of Mr. Snowden's motives for a while. Why would someone possibly give up his life for prison? Mr. Greenwald wondered.

For Mr. Snowden, the possibility of "the pain of prison" was better than "the pain of doing nothing."

Now Edward Snowden lives in Moscow where he fled to avoid the the U.S. government which has tirelessly tried to capture him. Mr. Greenwald said he could not picture any scenario that would bring Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. since he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life "in a cage" like another well known whistleblower, Chelsea Manning, whom the U.S. has "turned into a martyr."

The U.S. government is sending a loud and clear message that Chelsea Manning's punishment is a model for anybody else who may be thinking about revealing government secrets, Mr. Greenwald said.

Glenn Greenwald at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A persistent critic of the mainstream press, Mr. Greenwald said the press never fails to ask him one question as if it were the most important one: "What about Snowden's girlfriend?"

He talked about 30 minutes and gave lengthy answers to questions posed by the mostly male, mostly under age 40 (80%, according to an unofficial tally) audience, some who lined up six deep at two microphones to query Mr. Greenwald.  No one asked any hostile or negative questions.

Mr. Greenwald quoted one of his childhood heroes, Daniel Ellsberg, who says "they" are saying the same things about Mr.Snowden that "they" said about Mr. Ellsberg and Ms. Manning.  Nothing new.

The audience interrupted the author several times with applause, and some intermittently stood and clapped.

Mr. Snowden's "strategic sense has been remarkably vindicated," Mr. Greenwald said. He said there is a document which supersedes the Justice Department: "It is called the Constitution."

Greenwald is prepared. He has done his homework.   He ain't no slouch, and he makes no apologies for selling and making money on his books: It's the American way. He is a graduate of George Washington University where he majored in philosophy, and he earned a law degree from New York University. He lives in Brazil with his partner, David Michael Miranda, since the U.S. won't give Mr. Miranda a visa to live here.

Mr. Greenwald is working on something much bigger than the NSA story which will come out in due time, he said.

Movie rights to No Place to Hide have been sold to Sony Pictures, and producers will be Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli who produced the James Bond series.

Mr. Greenwald mentioned James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, who lied to the U.S. Congress in testimony about government spying, committing at least a felony, he said.

No one responsible for the destruction of Iraq, a nation with 26 million people, or the wounding and deaths of thousands of Iraq citizens and American troops has ever been held accountable, he noted.  I suppose it depends upon whom you know.


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