columnist on civil liberties and U.S. national security issues for The Guardian. He is also a former constitutional lawyer. Greenwald first published Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA surveillance programs and continues to write extensively on the topic.
Chilean economist and Right Livelihood Award laureate.
Two months ago today, Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper published his first article revealing the existence of a secret court order for Verizon to hand over the telephone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency. Since then, The Guardian has published a trove of articles detailing the NSA’s vast surveillance powers based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Last week, Snowden was granted temporary asylum for one year in Russia. We talk to Glenn Greenwald. "I have spoken to him, and he’s doing very well. He’s obviously happy that his very strained situation of being in this kind of no-person’s land in the airport has been resolved," Greenwald says. "He now is able to be safe, or at least relatively safe, for the next year from persecution by the United States. And he is most interested, whenever I talk to him, in talking not about his own situation, but about the really extraordinary debate that he helped provoke, both in the United States and around the world, about privacy, surveillance and Internet freedom." We also speak with Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef about Snowden.
AMY GOODMAN: The Obama administration has announced it will keep 19 embassies in North Africa and the Middle East closed for up to a week, due to fears of a possible militant threat. A U.S. global travel alert is also in place. On Sunday, Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the embassies was based on information collected by the National Security Agency. He appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS: There’s been an awful lot of chatter out there. Chatter means conversation among terrorists about the planning that’s going on—very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11. We didn’t take heed on 9/11 in the way that we should, but here I think it’s very important that we do take the right kind of planning. As we come to the close of Ramadan, we know that’s always an interesting time for terrorists. We’re also, what, 38 days, 37 days away from the September 11 anniversary. So we’re paying very, very close attention to the chatter that’s going on. And I can tell you, David, this is the most serious threat that I’ve seen in the last several years.
AMY GOODMAN: The timing of the embassy closings comes at a time of heated debate in Washington over the powers of the National Security Agency. It was two months ago today when Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian newspaper published his first article revealing the existence of a secret court order for Verizon to hand over the telephone records of millions of Americans to the NSA.
Since then, The Guardian has published a trove of articles detailing the NSA’s vast surveillance powers based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Just last week, Greenwald exposed a secret program called XKeyscore that gives NSA analysts real-time access to, quote, "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet," including emails, chats and browsing history. In his latest article, Greenwald reports members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the NSA and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
To talk more about these developments, Glenn Greenwald joins us now from his home in Brazil.
Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Since we’ve spoken to you, Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia for a year. It’s not known where he is right now in Russia. Have you spoken to him? Do you know?
GLENN GREENWALD: I have, and he’s doing very well. He’s obviously happy that his very strange situation of being in this kind of no-person’s land in the airport has been resolved. He now is able to be safe, or at least relatively safe, for the next year from persecution by the United States. And he is most interested, whenever I talk to him, in talking not about his own situation, but about the really extraordinary debate that he helped provoke, both in the United States and around the world, about privacy, surveillance and Internet freedom.
AMY GOODMAN: What Russia has done, giving him temporary asylum, has infuriated the U.S. government, leading to questions about whether actually President Obama will be going on a planned trip to Russia next month. Your comments on the U.S.’s fury?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, it’s really kind of amazing if you try and count the number of countries at whom the United States has directed its fury and threatened over the last two months in connection with the Snowden affair. They began with the government of Hong Kong, followed that up with the government of China, then moved to Latin America and threatened countries including Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua over whether he would be granted asylum. They’ve threatened Cuba over giving him the right to refuel. So it seems like the list of countries that the United States is threatening and expressing their fury at, which now includes Russia, is almost getting to be longer than the list of countries at which they’re not. I mean, you can’t go around the world beating your chest and threatening everybody for very long without starting to appear rather ridiculous. And I think one of the things that the United States has done is really kind of showed the world what its character is in—over the last two months, through its really extreme and radical behavior. I mean, I can tell you here in Latin America what was really event-shifting was when they caused the plane Evo Morales to be downed in Austria by blocking airspace rights over their European allies.
You know, and I think the final point to note about this is, everyone in the world knows, probably except for Americans, that the United States routinely refuses to extradite all sorts of people accused of horrible crimes. I mean, in Bolivia, the ex-president, who’s accused of all sorts of war crimes and was protected and propped up by the CIA, is living comfortably in the United States, which refuses to turn him over. And that’s been true of other Latin Americans who have been accused of serious crimes of terrorism. So, I think when the United States pretends to be outraged that they don’t get what they want in extradition, everyone in the world knows that they frequently do the same thing in much more extreme cases.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, a few weeks ago, I was talking to the Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef, and I think this country, the United States, the media doesn’t cover very much the anger of especially Latin Americans, what has taken place. It was soon after the Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane was forced down in Austria because the U.S. had put pressure on France and Spain, what, Italy and Portugal not to let the plane go through the airspace. This is what Manfred Max-Neef, an economist, had to say about the situation of Ed Snowden, when he was still in the Russian airport.
MANFRED MAX-NEEF: Actually, here and in this meeting, we produced a declaration about this thing, about what happened to President Evo Morales, which we consider is an unbelievable and unacceptable abuse in terms of international law. And we also stated that we are appalled by the incredible cynicism of practically all the countries in the world vis-à-vis what this young man has done, sacrificing his life and his future for something in which he believed. If you analyze what Snowden did and then read the Declaration of Independence of the United States, and what that young did is exactly, exactly, exactly what Thomas Jefferson said that a American citizen should do if a government, you know, does the kind of things that have been discovered now.
I am appalled, you know, that nobody in the world is stretching their hands to this young man. Particularly, you realize, the European Union announced that they are furious with the United States, you know, for the things that the States has been doing—spying on them, you know, as in the days of the Cold War. They are furious against it. Why are they furious? Because of something that this young man revealed. But nobody stretches a hand to this young man. They use the information that he gave in order to be furious with the United States government, but they forget about the person, the human being who sacrificed himself to do it.
I am really—think that this is a Greek tragedy, no? Really a Greek tragedy. And I’m deeply disappointed, you know, even with my country, with my president, who opposed that the foreign ministers of Latin America should get together in order to discuss and take a decision about what happened to President Evo Morales. Chile and Colombia were against the initiative. And I am ashamed, you know, of my own government to have an attitude like that. So I am really sorry, and I would love to be able to give a hug to this brave young man.
AMY GOODMAN: That was economist Manfred Max-Neef of Chile. I was speaking to him, actually, in Bogotá, Colombia, where there was a gathering of Latin American Right Livelihood laureates, winners of the Right Livelihood Award, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel. Glenn Greenwald, your response? And what happens now? Of course, I spoke to him before temporary asylum was granted by Russia, but, of course, it is temporary. And what is Edward Snowden saying to you about what his plans are now? Is this the period where he’s continuing to push for asylum, or will he make his home in Russia?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, on that really interesting clip that you just played, Amy, you know, I can tell you, I mean, as you well know, there are really diverse factions in Latin America, even in the Latin American left, in terms of the proper approach to the United States, how the United States and the West generally ought to be viewed, economic policy and the like. Brazil tends to be sort of in the more centrist, kind of pro-U.S. camp than other states that are governed by left-wing governments. And I can just tell you that, you know, even in Brazil and throughout Latin America, where I’ve been over the last six weeks, not only is there extreme anger at the United States for the treatment that they’ve subjected him to and Evo Morales and the like, but he really is considered to be quite a hero. I mean, he’s a hero here. He’s a hero in Asia. He’s now a hero in Russia, by all accounts.
I think what you see is populations around the world really grateful to be able to have this information. And it is true that lots of governments, especially in Europe, where European governments give all new meaning to hypocrisy, feign anger to placate their population, even though they are perfectly as obedient as ever to the United States government because they participate in a lot of these spying programs and benefit from them. And the question will be, you know, what pressure will be applied from the populations to their government.
As far as Mr. Snowden’s spying plans are—asylum plans are concerned, what I can tell you is that, you know, I don’t spend a lot of time with him talking about his asylum plans, somewhat on purpose and because, as I said earlier, he really prefers to focus on the substance of the revelations. But from my understanding, he plans to spend time in Russia to get himself settled and to figure out what he wants to do next. Whether he intends to stay in Russia permanently or go back to his original plan, which was to go through Russia, which the United States blocked him from doing, and seeking asylum elsewhere, is something that I don’t know. I don’t think he knows, either, at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: The media reported last week that he had met Americans online who were in Moscow, who had reached out to him, and that was where he was going. Do you know anything about that?
GLENN GREENWALD: I know that there are—you know, every day I get literally dozens of offers of support, encouragement and assistance for him that people send to me, because they can’t reach him and ask me to pass that along to him. I know that there are Americans in Russia who view him very favorably and are eager to help and support him, as well. So while I don’t want to discuss the specifics, because his situation there is tenuous in terms of his security and keeping things confidential is vital to his security, it is the case that there are people all over the world, including Americans, who are very eager to help him.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn, I’m asking you to stay for just a minute. We have to break, but we want to come back and ask you about your latest article that is about what people in Congress know about NSA programs, and, of course, the big article that you have written about the latest program that most people knew nothing about in this country, that certainly involves them, because it involves spying on Americans. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.