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GLENN GREENWALD Printer Friendly Page
Glenn Greenwald: Raving Leftist
By Matthew Vadum
March 6, 2014
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  • Author, columnist, blogger
  • Organizer of the political action committee Blue America
  • Has denounced “corporate control over the content” of American media
  • Has spoken at several International Socialist Organization conferences
  • Says that Bradley Manning, who provided large amounts of illegally obtained, classified data about the U.S. government to Wikileaks, "deserves gratitude and a medal" for those activities
  • Often expresses animus toward the state of Israel and its supporters
  • Was the first to publish a series of reports detailing the secret activities of the National Security Agency -- based on information provided to him by former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden



Born on March 6, 1967 in New York City, Glenn Greenwald completed his undergraduate studies at George Washington University in 1990 and earned a J.D. from New York University Law School in 1994. He then took a job with the New York law firm of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz before establishing his own firm—Greenwald, Christoph and Holland—in 1996. Early in his legal career, Greenwald represented white supremacist Matthew Hale in a number of civil cases; Hale would later (in 2005) be found guilty of soliciting an undercover FBI informant to murder U.S. district court judge Joan Lefkow.

In 2005 Greenwald became active as a writer specializing in issues related to national security, terrorism, and individual liberty. In October of that year, he began writing a blog titled “Unclaimed Territory,” which at first focused heavily on the Justice Department's investigation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, but then shifted its attention (in 2006) chiefly to the controversy over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of international telephone calls. Vis à vis the latter issue, Greenwald (in a 2006 blog post) condemned as unconstitutional the Bush administration's policy of permitting the NSA to intercept (without a court warrant) international phone conversations involving U.S. residents—provided that at least one party to each call was situated overseas, and that the American was a known contact of a terrorist organization.

Greenwald’s coverage of this issue gained national attention, and he was often cited in news accounts about it. In March 2006, Russ Feingold quoted Greenwald from the floor of the U.S. Senate while introducing Resolution 398, a motion to censure President Bush for allegations of illegal wiretapping.

Greenwald continued to explore the NSA surveillance controversy in his first book, How Would A Patriot Act? Defending American Values From A President Run Amok, published in 2006 by Working Assets (a supporter of leftist groups and causes). In this book, Greenwald writes that during the Bush presidency “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”; that “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”; and that “this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically...."

In February 2007 Greenwald became a contributing writer at the liberal online magazine, Salon, where, in his columns and blogs, he continued to censure the Bush administration and complain about media bias.

Also in 2007, Greenwald published A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency. In this book, Greenwald depicts George W. Bush as an unintelligent man driven by a warped moral code. Consider, for example, the author's analysis of Bush's dealings with Iran:

The simplistic and moralistic Bush mind-set—by which even the most vexing problems and complex conflicts are reduced to a contest of 'strength' in the face of Evil—can perhaps be seen most clearly in the president's treatment of Iran.… Bush's perspective amounts to this: Iran is governed by Evil leaders. They are the moral and practical equivalent of Hitler's Nazis. They are intent on regional, perhaps even world, domination. They are so insane and so Evil that they will attack other countries with nuclear weapons even if it means that they would then be annihilated.”

In 2008, Greenwald, who frequently complains about “corporate control over the content” of American media, charged that U.S. news outlets were biased in favor of political conservatives—and that those outlets consequently failed to cover many news stories with the potential to cast conservatives and their policies in a negative light. In an interview with Harper’s magazine in February 2008, Greenwald said:

“The media should be an adversarial force to the political establishment, that’s basic journalism. But in the last few decades they have become dependent on the political establishment and assimilated into it, so the media is an arm of the political establishment as opposed to a watchdog over it. That dynamic has corrupted the process more than anything else, because there’s no tension between the media and political power. During recent years, the political establishment has been primarily Republican and the media gets fed mostly by Republican operatives—that’s where reporters get their access and their scoops and the feeling that they are insiders—and that’s where the loyalty of most of the establishment press therefore lies: with Republican power.”

In April 2008 Greenwald released his third book, Great American Hypocrites, which examined “the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press.” The “right-wing noise machine,” wrote Greenwald, uses tactics that “drown out both reality and consideration of actual issues, thus ensuring that elections are decided based on manipulative cultural, psychological, and gender-exploiting marketing imagery.”

In August 2008, Greenwald turned his attention to the case of Bruce Ivins, the biodefense researcher who committed suicide upon learning that charges were being filed against him for his alleged connection to the 2001 anthrax attacks. In a long series of blogs, Greenwald suggested that the U.S. government had been complicit in a plot to cover up the truth behind those events, and he called for “a full-scale Congressional hearing or even an external Commission of the type that investigated the 9/11 attacks—endowed with full subpoena power—to examine all of the unresolved issues …”

Also in 2008, Greenwald became an organizer for Blue America, a political action committee dedicated to campaigning against centrist, non-leftist Democrats. Chief among Blue America’s targets for ouster was Democratic Representative Chris Carney of Pennsylvania. Angered by Carney’s support of President Bush’s domestic-surveillance policies, Greenwald said: “Our goal is to attach a real price to the type of things Chris Carney is doing. If that means he ends up losing, then so be it. I would rather see a smaller [Democratic] majority but fewer Blue Dogs [centrist Democrats], than a big majority with the Blue Dogs in charge.”

That same year, Greenwald and liberal blogger/film producer Jane Hamsher co-founded the Accountability Now political action committee (PAC), which similarly aimed to show centrist Democrats that “there is a real price to pay for continuing to support the prevailing agenda of the rotting Beltway class.” This PAC grew out of a coalition of far-left and socialist groups, including MoveOn, the SEIU, the Daily Kos website, Democracy for America, and Color of Change. Although Accountability Now created what Greenwald appropriately called “the Strange Bedfellows coalition” and an “alliance of ideologically diverse factions,” the New York Times described the group as focused on moving the Democratic Party “further to the left.”

For approximately two years around this same time period, Greenwald did a considerable amount of work as a paid consultant for the American Civil Liberties Union.

In 2009, the Park Center for Independent Media presented both Greenwald and Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman with its first annual Izzy Awards, named after the journalist (and Soviet spy) I. F. Stone. These awards are intended to honor “special achievement in independent media,” particularly “contributions to our culture, politics, or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.”

In July 2011, Greenwald spoke for the first time at the annual Socialism Conference (in Chicago) of the International Socialist Organization, whose major publication, The Socialist Worker, proudly declares: “We stand in the Marxist tradition, founded by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and continued by V.I. Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky.” At this 2011 event, Greenwald gave a keynote address titled “Civil liberties under Obama,” wherein he:

  • stated that “Barack Obama has continued virtually all of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s once-controversial terrorism and civil liberties policies”;
  • asserted that “all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol and rhetoric,” rather than substance;
  • impugned Obama for having failed to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where “human beings can be caged for years without an opportunity to defend themselves or contest the validity of the charges against them”;
  • charged that “another policy that Obama has continued, and actually worsened, is the idea that habeas corpus, the most minimal right a prisoner can have, isn’t guaranteed under the [C]onstitution”;
  • execrated “the Bush presidency’s warped version of the state secrets privilege,” which “the Obama administration has continued … to the point that policies many condemn as blatantly criminal—like illegal eavesdropping and rendition and torture—are now, under this administration, declared such vital state secrets that they cannot even be subjected to judicial review”;
  • denounced the Obama administration for instituting “the idea that the president has the right and the power to target American citizens not just with warrantless eavesdropping, as Bush did, but with assassination” (as in the case of the late Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born American citizen/terrorist leader in Yemen); and
  • condemned the Obama administration's “war on whistle-blowers” as an assault on “investigative journalism.”

Also at the Socialism Conference, Greenwald castigated the Tea Party movement for having opposed the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare).

In October 2011, Greenwald released his fourth book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.

That same month, Greenwald offered his assessment of why the Occupy Wall Street movement had so quickly gained such widespread acclaim and influence. He noted, for instance, that “severe income and wealth inequality have long plagued the United States” and, in fact, had “worsened over the past several years” to the “highest level since the Great Depression.” He then deprecated former President Ronald Reagan's assertion that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” as merely an alternative way of saying that “it is in your interest when the rich get richer.” “Implicit in this [Reagan] framework,” wrote Greenwald, was “the core propagandistic premise” that “the rich were rich because they deserved to be”—as a result of their innovation, risk-taking, and job creation. Greenwald then addressed the psychological phenomenon that, in his view, had helped propel the Occupy movement to prominence:

“It’s not that Americans suddenly woke up one day and decided that substantial income and wealth inequality are themselves unfair or intolerable. What changed was the perception of how that wealth was gotten and so of the ensuing inequality as legitimate. Many Americans who once accepted or even cheered such inequality now see the gains of the richest as ill-gotten, as undeserved, as cheating.... That catches the mood of America in 2011. It may not explain the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it helps explain why it has spread like wildfire and why so many Americans seem instantly to accept and support it. As was not true in recent decades, the American relationship with wealth inequality is in a state of rapid transformation.”

Greenwald complains that “the wealthiest in our society are permitted to prosper without constraints,” and charges that when the rich get richer ”nothing trickles down,” and “inequality starts to explode.” He believes, moreover, that the wealthy use their considerable political influence “to ensure that the system doesn’t work to create equal opportunity, but works only to entrench and shield their own ill-gotten gains.”

By Greenwald's reckoning, poor people and average Americans rarely obtain justice in the courts. “The criminal justice system is now almost exclusively reserved for ordinary Americans, who are routinely subjected to harsh punishments even for the pettiest of offenses,” he writes. Describing the U.S. as “the world’s largest and most merciless prison state for its poorest and most powerless citizens,” Greenwald adds that America:

“has an entrenched two-tiered system of justice: the country’s most powerful political and financial elites are virtually immunized from the rule of law, empowered to commit felonies with fullscale impunity and to act without any constraints, while the politically powerless are imprisoned with greater ease and in far greater numbers than in any other country on the planet.”

The law itself is unjust, according to Greenwald, because it “perpetuates and even generates tremendous social inequality.”

In December 2011, Greenwald wrote a passionate defense of former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who would soon be tried for the role he had played in providing large amounts of illegally obtained, classified data about the U.S. government to Wikileaks. “Though it is Manning who is nominally on trial,” wrote Greenwald, “these [court] proceedings reveal the U.S. government's fixation with extreme secrecy, covering up its own crimes, and intimidating future whistleblowers.” Asserting, further, that “U.S. claims about the damage done [by the release of the Wikileaks cables] have been wildly exaggerated, even outright false,” Greenwald claimed that “the leaks Manning allegedly engineered have generated enormous benefits” by providing people with “the truth” they need in order to “make informed decisions as a public.” For example: “By exposing some of the worst atrocities committed by U.S. forces in Iraq, the documents prevented the Iraqi government from agreeing to ongoing legal immunity for U.S. forces, and thus helped bring about the end of the war.” “For what he is alleged to have given the world,” Greenwald summarized, “Manning deserves gratitude and a medal, not a life in prison.”

In the summer of 2012, Greenwald left Salon and became a columnist for the U.S. edition of The Guardian, the British-based newspaper and website.

Also in 2012, Greenwald spoke for a second time at an International Socialist Organization's annual conference in Chicago, where he stated that the word “terrorism” has been so frequently misused for “completely manipulative” purposes, that it now has “zero meaning.” “And so this concept of material support for terrorism,” Greenwald expanded, “meaning anything you do that helps terrorists, is even more subject to manipulation and abuse.” He then proceeded to note that:

“[W]e have organizations on the [official terrorism] list that are not even remotely a threat to the United States, such as Hezbollah and Hamas, which, whatever you think of them, are not in any way devoted to harming Americans. They are devoted to protecting their citizens against the state of Israel. And yet it is criminal in the United States to do anything that is deemed to be support for Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Over the years, Greenwald has expressed animus toward the state of Israel and its supporters many times.[1] For example:

  • “Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”—Feb. 3, 2007, Unclaimed Territory
  • “The dominant narrative among neocons and the media is that, deep down in his heart, [Obama] may be insufficiently devoted to Israel to be president of the United States. Has there ever been another country to which American politicians were required to pledge their uncritical, absolute loyalty the way they are, now, with Israel?”—May 13, 2008, Salon
  • “If you don’t…pledge your loyalty to our policies toward Israel and to Israel,… [y]ou’ll be demonized and have your career ended.”—Jan. 8, 2009, interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show
  • “Those [American Jews] who favor the [Israeli] attack on Gaza are certainly guilty … of such overwhelming emotional and cultural attachment to Israel and Israelis, that they long ago ceased viewing this conflict with any remnant of objectivity.”—Jan. 4, 2009, Salon
  • “So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been, that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations and has even devoted its resources to criminally prosecuting and imprisoning satellite providers merely for including Hezbollah’s Al Manar channel in their cable package. Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”—March 9, 2009, Salon
  • “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions.—March 11, 2009, Salon
  • “The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country.”—March 11, 2009, Salon
  • “Israeli aggression [against Gaza] is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does.”—November 17, 2012, The Guardian

Greenwald calls the U.S. “the country that has generated more violence and militarism [than any other] in the world over the last five or six decades.” He contends that America plays a significant role in the Middle East mainly “in order to have access to their oil and protect Israel.” And he asserts that the U.S. is hated because it has sent its “military for six straight decades into other countries to bomb them, kill their children and women and innocent men, [and] prop up dictators.”

Greenwald believes that claims about the inevitable bankruptcy of Medicare and Social Security are merely part of a hoax perpetrated by conservatives who seek to hurt the poor. In an October 2012 column about the most recent debate between vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, Greenwald wrote:

“This claim lies at the heart of the right-wing and neo-liberal quest to slash entitlement benefits for ordinary Americans. [Congressman Paul] Ryan predictably responded by saying: ‘Absolutely. Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.’  But the claim is baseless.”

According to Greenwald, the suggestion that the two entitlement programs are in deep trouble is a “demonstrable myth being used by the DC class—which largely does not need entitlements—to deceive ordinary Americans into believing that they must ‘sacrifice’ the pittances on which they are now living.”

During the last weekend in June 2013, Greenwald spoke at his third International Socialist Organization annual conference, where he stated, with “certainty,” that “no event assembles more passionate activism, genuine expertise, and provocative insights than the Socialism Conference.” Moreover, Greenwald marveled at “how invigorating and inspiring it is to be in the midst of such diverse and impressive activists.” Many of the sessions at the 2013 Conference promoted Marxism, disparaged capitalism, condemned American imperialism and racism, and accused Israel of abusing the Palestnian people. To view the titles of these sessions, click here.

Earlier that month (June 2013), Greenwald had received immense publicity after he published, in The Guardian, the first of a series of reports detailing the secret activities of American and British global surveillance programs. The information contained in those reports was based on classified documents that had recently been disclosed to Greenwald by computer specialist Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor.

On July 13, 2013, Greenwald reported that Snowden had innumerable documents about U.S. spy programs hidden away in different parts of the world, and that all of them would be highly damaging to the United States. Further, said Greenwald in a newspaper interview: “Snowden has enough [sic] information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had. The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”

Over the years, Greenwald has spoken numerous times at events held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its local chapters across the United States. In November 2013, for instance, Greenwald, via video transmission, addressed the 17th annual banquet of CAIR's Greater Los Angeles area office. In his remarks, he praised CAIR for having “stood really firm and steadfast in defense of our basic constitutional protections” in the post-9/11 era, “as they've been under continuous assault from numerous directions.” “There really is no group in the United States,” Greenwald emphasized, “that has been more steadfast and fearless, and whose work has been more important ... than CAIR” in combating “the kind of demonization that American Muslims are routinely subjected to.”

Greenwald is an endorser of RootsAction, a self-described “online initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness, equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection—and defunding endless wars.” RootsAction detests the “far-right Republican Party that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America,” and is also critical of the Democratic Party “whose leadership is enmeshed with corporate power.”

On October 15, 2013, Greenwald announced that he was leaving The Guardian in order to start “a very well-funded … very substantial new media outlet” of his own.

Greenwald, who is openly homosexual, lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the hometown of his partner, David Michael Miranda.


NOTE:

[1] Adam Levick, the managing editor of CiF Watch, compiled most of these Greenwald quotes regarding Israel.

 

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