My Glenn Greenwald Story

My Glenn Greenwald Story

I just opened twitter to learn that federal prosecutors in Brazil have charged Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes:

RIO DE JANEIRO — Federal prosecutors in Brazil on Tuesday charged the American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes for his role in the spreading of cellphone messages that have embarrassed prosecutors and tarnished the image of an anti-corruption task force.

In a criminal complaint made public on Tuesday, prosecutors in the capital, Brasília, accused Mr. Greenwald of being part of a “criminal organization” that hacked into the cellphones of several prosecutors and other public officials last year.

The Intercept Brazil, a news organization Mr. Greenwald co-founded, has published several stories based on a trove of leaked messages he received last year.

Mr. Greenwald could not immediately be reached for comment.

This is appalling and unacceptable — yet another black mark against Bolsanaro’s hideously corrupt and vicious government. I hope it goes without saying that whatever anyone thinks of Glenn, one of the most fearless and uncompromising advocacy journalists writing today, this kind of blatant attack on freedom of the press and freedom of expression cannot be tolerated.

I don’t think much more needs to be said about that. I just want to share a personal story about Glenn to give readers a sense of just how principled he is. He and I have never met, but we’ve known each other in the virtual world for a long time, ever since I started commenting on his various blogs as a young law professor. Glenn has been kind enough to cite me in a number of posts over the years — in Slate, in the Guardian, and elsewhere — which has been wonderful for expanding my readership. I owe him a great deal professionally.

That debt, however, pales in comparison to what I owe him for helping me while I was at the University of Auckland. As I recounted in this 2012 post, I returned home to find that Chevron had subpoenaed my Gmail account information — a heavy-handed response to my very critical blogging about the Chevron’s destruction of the Ecuadorian rainforest and subsequent dirty tricks to avoid having to pay damages for that destruction. I obviously did not want to give into Chevron’s attempt to intimidate me, but I had a significant problem: I had no idea what to do or whom to contact.

I did, however, know Glenn — if only virtually. I immediately wrote to him and asked for help. Glenn wrote back in little more than an hour to tell me that Ben Wizner, the Director of the ACLU’s fantastic Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, had agreed to represent me. Once the ACLU got involved, Chevron quickly retracted the subpoena. (You can read the 2012 post if you’re interested in the whole story.)

Glenn didn’t have to do that. He was already a huge name in journalism, writing then for the Guardian, and he no doubt had better things to do than help someone he had never actually met and really only knew through comments and emails. But he never hesitated to lend a hand, and I don’t know what would have happened without him. (Most likely, Google would have turned over nine years of my Gmail metadata to an evil energy company.)

Glenn and I have always had our political and legal disagreements, and those disagreements have only been magnified since Trump was elected. But no one should doubt Glenn’s integrity, not for a second — particularly not regarding his journalism. The idea that Glenn would part of a criminal hacking organization is simply ludicrous.

We must all stand up in Glenn’s defense — and we must continue to shout until the Brazilian government stops persecuting him.

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International Human Rights Law
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