Before Glenn Greenwald was the journalist who broke and defended the most important story of 2013, he was many other things: an underage South Florida politician, a lawyer at a high-powered corporate firm, Kips Bay’s most combative tenant, and even the legal arm of his business partner’s gay porn distribution company.
Greenwald is a man of superficial contradictions: Brazil’s best-known American blogger, and a high-profile beneficiary of Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling that will allow binational couples to live legally in the United States. He’s one of the internet’s prickliest characters, though by all accounts a man of great personal charm and warmth.
But at this moment, Glenn Greenwald is, first of all, a major supporting player in the new century’s definitive spy thriller, a kind of unfinished John Le Carre novel. A 29-year-old government contractor finds proof of invasive NSA spying programs. He abandons a comfortable life in Hawaii to expose them, fleeing to Hong Kong and teaming up with intrepid reporters he believes he can trust, including the Guardian’s Greenwald.
If Greenwald’s role in one of this decade’s signature international dramas is any guide, perhaps the most striking thing about the 46-year-old is his consistency. Greenwald is a rare man of inflexible principle in an online conversation dominated by flexible partisans. He’s a civil libertarian for whom LGBT equality, a Nazi’s right to free speech, and freedom from government surveillance are bound by a common thread; and he’s a brutal and tireless combatant with everyone from President Obama’s Twitter legions to George W. Bush.
For Greenwald, the Guardian’s Edward Snowden-sourced series is career-defining. It also represents a rare and pure vindication for a figure long viewed even by many on the left as a difficult eccentric. There may be an emerging consensus on out-of-control government power and secrecy. Greenwald was always there. And people who have known Greenwald for years say his defining characteristic may be that he has never changed.
“If Glenn feels he’s right about something, he doesn’t care if the entire world hates him,” said David Elbaum, who worked for Greenwald’s law firm a decade ago.
Before he helped Snowden publish the Obama administration’s surveillance skeletons — before he wrote on his blog about President Bush’s surveillance skeletons — Greenwald was a determined young lawyer. His career began in 1994 at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, known as perhaps the most lucrative and hardest-charging in New York’s brutal corporate legal world. He was still enrolled then at NYU’s School of Law, where he became known for leading a successful campaign to ban Colorado firms from recruiting on campus after voters in the state approved an amendment overturning anti-discrimination laws. He had a dozen job offers, but Greenwald — who came out around 1986, while he was a philosophy major at George Washington University — decided to accept a junior associate position at the high-powered Wachtell Lipton because it offered civil union benefits.
“It wasn’t the monetary value,” Greenwald said. “It was just the symbolism for me.” And so Greenwald spent the next 18 months representing investment bankers and Goldman Sachs.
How Hilary Clinton carefully negotiated blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng’s freedom, and proved herself to be a tenacious Secretary of State.
“By the time the American diplomats acknowledged what had happened and went back to cut a new deal for Chen, the Chinese were in no mood to talk. In the meantime, Clinton herself was pulled away by the hours of unrelated meetings that had brought her to Beijing in the first place. The two sides had used the dialogue to schedule an intensive series of small discussions with Clinton and Dai on the most pressing — and divisive — issues between the countries, from thorny nuclear talks with Iran and what to do about North Korea’s erratic new leader to the bloody crackdown in Syria and the mounting crisis between the Philippines, a major U.S. ally, and China over disputed waters in the South China Sea. It was quite a performance by both sides; no one mentioned Chen. ‘This was all taking place in the eye of the storm,’ said one Clinton aide.
In the 1940s, U.S. doctors led experiments that intentionally infected thousands of Guatemalans with venereal diseases. A closer look at how it happened, and who knew:
John Cutler, the young investigator who led the Guatemalan experiments, had the full backing of US health officials, including the surgeon general.
“Cutler thought that what he was doing was really important, and he wasn’t some lone gunman,” says Susan Reverby, a historian at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, whose discovery of Cutler’s unpublished reports on the experiments led to the public disclosure of the research.
Longtime Republicans have been satisfied enough to have their candidates run down activist government as a campaign tactic, even as they themselves retained a more nuanced view of the federal government’s role (which is why a Republican Congress, working with a Republican president, managed to pass a Medicaidprescription-drug bill in 2003). But when you talk to them now, these same Republicans seem positively baffled that anyone could have actually internalized, so literally, all the scorching resentment for government that has come to define the modern conservative campaign.
When she came back to her desk, half an hour later, she couldn’t log into Gmail at all. By that time, I was up and looking at e‑mail, and we both quickly saw what the real problem was. In my inbox I found a message purporting to be from her, followed by a quickly proliferating stream of concerned responses from friends and acquaintances, all about the fact that she had been “mugged in Madrid.” The account had seemed sluggish earlier that morning because my wife had tried to use it at just the moment a hacker was taking it over and changing its settings—including the password, so that she couldn’t log in again.
The dark force in Syria is not the Alawi religion. It’s not exactly the cult of Hafez Al Assad, either. Only the aged and the infirm refuse to acknowledge his death. But love for the sacred sanctuary he invented, the one protected by the blue-eyed family of pilots and horsemen, has not died. The dark force in Syria is excessive belief in this realm of unreality. All those people who served in its police force, killed on its behalf, and kept the silence while the killing was going on carry its banner. This species of belief is a non-denominational phenomenon. It is enforced by the Alawis but Sunnis—and Kurds and Christians—are most welcome. For the time being, it is holding fast.
“At Twitter, where anxiety and optimism are never far from one another, the leadership is surprisingly frank about these problems. To start with, the audience is alarmingly fickle. Nielsen estimated that user-retention rates were around 40 percent. Twitter was easy to use at an entry level, but after a while it was hard for some people to see the point. Twitter has claimed as many as 175 million registered users, but numbers leaked to the online news site Business Insider in March put the number of actual people using it closer to 50 million, correcting for dead and duplicate accounts, automated ‘bots’ and spam.”