Glenn Greenwald hasn’t been back to the United States since he began publishing a seemingly never-ending string of Edward Snowden-fueled stories about the NSA and government surveillance last year. Greenwald is an American citizen but lives primarily in Brazil, so it’s not exactly a surprise that he’s opted to stay out of the country given the prosecution-themed rhetoric that’s been coming from the mouths of some U.S. lawmakers and government officials.
But while talk of prosecuting Greenwald for his role in the Snowden leaks has shown little sign of slowing down, the journalist is now suggesting that he may nonetheless return the United States in the not-to-distant future to force the issue. Here’s what he told Brian Beutler in an interview yesterday with Salon, where Greenwald used to work before departing for the Guardian (emphasis added):
“My parents are getting older, my nieces [live in the United States] — none of that is something I’m going to go home for now…. I had a foundation that wanted to sponsor and pay for and market aggressively a six-city speaking tour to talk about the NSA story and the revelations. I would have completely loved to have done it… on the assurance that nothing would happen. And because we couldn’t get it from the U.S. government, I had to cancel.”
When we last spoke in August, Greenwald was cognizant of the risks he’d face if he visited the United States, but he was also pointedly defiant. “I take more seriously the Constitution’s guarantee of a free press in the First Amendment,” he said at the time. “So I have every intention of entering the U.S. as soon as my schedule permits and there’s a reason to do so.” Today he remains defiant — “I’m going to go back to the U.S. for many reasons, but just the fucking principle is enough…. On principle I’m going to force the issue”...
This is the first I’ve heard Greenwald mention the aborted six-city speaking tour. Assuming the story is true, it’s not surprising: Greenwald has been something of a PR master at maximizing coverage of his NSA reporting (an understandable goal), and a U.S. tour would have garnered monster press both here and abroad. By the same token, it’s also no surprise that the U.S. government would have declined to give him the assurances he wanted—by keeping quiet on the issue they were able to slow Greenwald’s momentum without actually openly threatening him. (The semi-official DoJ position via Eric Holder last November: “[O]n the basis of what I know now, I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution of Greenwald.”)
So when might Greenwald make his U.S. return? One possibility would be the George Polk Awards ceremony this April. Greenwald and other journalists who’ve been all over the NSA story have been tapped as favorites to win one of the major awards handed out at the spring ceremony. Greenwald wouldn’t comment on that speculation but, according to Beutler, “he did say he would likely return to the United States to accept a prestigious journalism award, should he win one.”