February 20, 2014

Glenn Greenwald - Lawyer, blogger, partisan journalist

Glenn Greenwald said in an interview with the FT: 
"The way I entered the public discourse was a fairly untraditional route. I did not get my own column in the New York Times, I created my own blog on Blogspot. In order to break through and be heard and force media figures to respond, there had to be a lot of aggression. I have a bigger platform now than I did several years ago, so I probably should have adjusted my tactics a little bit more. I don’t need to be so acrimonious and aggressive but you do not always realise that your position has changed. I still think of myself as an outsider who is not at The New York Times or Washington Post, so I need to speak loudly and sometimes harshly. Part of it is personality: I enjoy the clash of ideas. I am not looking to be liked by them [Washington journalists] so the acrimony comes a little more easily for me."
Andrew Sullivan wrote of Greenwald and his new venture The Intercept:
"From this launch, I’d say the rationale for a super-blog like the Intercept is solid. It’s particularly smart to revive Glenn’s blog. I miss it [his blog] – even though he really can go on at times – because it bristles with his energy, fanaticism, mastery of the hyper-link, and gob-smacking attention to detail. Starting a general site without that critical personal touch would not have had the same alchemy – and I suspect Glenn is best suited to pursuing his passion than in managing a newsroom. Poitras, Scahill and Wheeler are also, to my mind, all superb at what they do, whatever your view of their respective politics."
As I wrote here, Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) is a key player in the new breed of digital-native journalists and bloggers. A leading figure alongside the likes of Nate Silver, Ezra Klein and Andrew Sullivan. A trailblazer who has broken the rules and who is reinventing the very concept of how we receive news and ingest information. He started blogging in 2005, went with Salon, then the Guardian and has now started his own site for fearless and adversarial journalism, The Intercept (@the_intercept).

Glenn Greenwald was born and spent his childhood in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. He's known as the blogger and journalist working in tandem with Andrew Snowden on the NSA surveillance files. However he's spent most of his life as a lawyer and fierce litigator. Jessica Testa explained his lawyerly pedigree on Buzzfeed here:
"Before [Glenn Greenwald] helped Snowden publish the Obama administration’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... 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.
Then in 1995:
"At age 28, he left Wachtell Lipton to start his own firm."
The firm was called Greenwald Christoph & Holland (later renamed Greenwald Christoph PC). Greenwald the litigator fought cases concerning issues of US constitutional law and civil rights. Jessica Testa continued:
"It was reckless, he admitted; he had no idea what he was doing. There were times when he thought about going back. One of his first solo cases — “shitty cases,” as he calls them — was representing a Wachtell Lipton partner’s secretary who was fighting with a neighbor who had accused the secretary of having an affair with her husband. Greenwald represented the secretary and sued the neighbor for defamation, and the case settled."
Things got better for Greenwald:
"The cases got less “shitty” and more fulfilling. Greenwald helped win a $1.8 million settlement for Wendy Norville, a nurse at Staten Island University Hospital who, at age 54, injured her back while trying to keep a patient from falling off his bed. Norville, a Caribbean immigrant who put herself through nursing school, was fired from the hospital after nearly two decades for “incompetency”."
One of his leading cases was the pro-bono representation of white supremacist Matthew F. Hale, in a series of First Amendment speech cases. Greenwald spent roughly five years defending the First Amendment rights of neo-Nazis, including Hale, the “Pontifex Maximus” of the Illinois church formerly known as the World Church of the Creator, one of whose disciples went on a murderous spree in 1999.
"I almost always did it pro bono. I was interested in defending political principles that I believed in. I didn’t even care about making money anymore."
In an interview with Rolling Stone he said:
"To me, it's a heroic attribute to be so committed to a principle that you apply it not when it's easy... not when it supports your position, not when it protects people you like, but when it defends and protects people that you hate."
Testa continued:
"Greenwald also litigated on behalf of himself and his then partner, Werner Achatz. In 1994, they had been looking for an apartment in Manhattan together, and one landlord — at a building on 29th Street and Third Avenue — required a certain income minimum to be met for rental applicants... In 1997, Achatz and Greenwald filed another lawsuit for broken elevators in their building. (They lived on the 32nd floor.) They later moved into another building in Midtown Manhattan, and countersued after being sued by that landlord for having a dog that weighed more than 35 pounds. They sued American Airlines and its parent company for not placing the right number of miles flown in their frequent-flier account.
"Personal lawsuits aside, by 2000, Greenwald was practicing full-time with his name on the door of his own three-man firm. “We were constantly underestimated by big firms,” said Elbaum, who was Greenwald Christoph’s associate attorney. “But they had no idea who they were up against. We worked our asses off. We worked every Sunday, and then hit the ground running on Monday … These distinguished gray-hair litigation partner types underestimated [Greenwald] and then grew to loathe him. We’d see them in court just losing their shit." Mona Holland, a lawyer who partnered with Greenwald in the late ’90s, recalled a similarly intense work ethic. “He decreed that during the week, even if we didn’t have to appear in court, we would be ‘suited up.’ He felt it promoted a proper work ethic,” she said. “My dry-cleaning bill didn’t like this notion.”
On being a lawyer and working with Snowden:
"Greenwald said he called on his experience as a litigator when he first spoke to Snowden. “When I got to Hong Kong, my immediate priority was to kick the tires as hard as I could on his story and see if there was anything that he was hiding,” Greenwald said. “I spent five or six hours just relentlessly questioning him, using the same tricks that I used to use in depositions.”"
He broke away in 2002:
"But despite his skill and ease as a litigator — or maybe because of his skill and ease — Greenwald grew bored with it. In 2002, he started a consulting company, Master Notions LLC, with his best friend, a Los Angeles film producer named Jason Buchtel. Greenwald mostly handled legal matters and contracts.
"After two years, Greenwald said, he was bought out of the company. He had gradually stopped taking on new cases, and his relationship with Achatz had ended. He decided to take a vacation to Brazil."
On Brazil:
“I was going to take two months off, come to Rio, take my dog with me, and figure out what I wanted to do next in my life. I didn’t have any plan at all.” On his second day there, he met David Michael Miranda, then 19, on the beach.
"One day in October 2005, “sort of spontaneously,” Greenwald started a blog. A few weeks later, news broke that President Bush had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans following Sept. 11. Greenwald learned everything he possibly could about the case and then wrote about it. By the end of that year,Slate was citing Greenwald’s blog. He became a columnist for Salon in 2007, then was hired by the Guardian in 2012."

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