10 Things We Learned from Glenn Greenwald

10.24.2013

By Out.com Editors

The activist-journalist tells all from his home in Rio

Glenn Greenwald & David Miranda at home in Rio | Photo by Cale

He's helped Edward Snowden spill NSA secrets to the world that the government didn't want anyone to know. These revelations about the American surveillance state have rocked Washington, put the Obama administration on the defensive, and damaged U.S. relations around the world. Having recently left The Guardian as a contributor, Glenn Greenwald is starting a new journalism venture with the founder of eBay (the 105th richest man in the world). Is he a hero or is something else? In some ways, this was Greenwald's year, one of the most high-profile openly gay public figures in the world. As writer Natasha Vargas-Cooper describes him in her exclusive story, "Enemy of the State," he "has the rat-tat-tat chattiness of Midnight Cowboy’s Ratso Rizzo crossing a Manhattan street corners. Here are 10 other things we learned from the eye-opening expose.

READ: Behind the Story with Natasha Vargas-Cooper

1. When Miranda was detained in England, Greenwald spent most of those nine hours binge-eating Doritos and talking to Snowden over encrypted chat. “I was furious; I felt so powerless, but I think Snowden was even more outraged.”

2. He talks to Snowden nightly: “ 'I’m just talking with Snowden right now.' He flashes a chummy grin. 'It’s our nightly check-in.' Greenwald giggles, sips a little red wine, and continues chatting with the 30-year-old former systems analyst..."

3. His dream is to own farmland to house dozens of stray dogs: “Can I tell you what I would do with $6 million?” he says with a faraway, almost bashful tone to his voice. “I have this fantasy of buying farmland in Brazil with David and just taking care of as many dogs as we can. Is that totally crazy?”

4. He and his boyfriend David Miranda are being photographed for a (fully clothed) feature in the Brazilian edition of Playboy.

5. Greenwald ran for city council in South Lake, Fla. at age 17, then again at 19: “I came to believe if you’re smart, skilled, and have the resources, you should use those things to fuck with the powerful.” He officially entered the race at age 17 but would turn 18 by the day of the vote, making his candidacy legal. “Those incumbent pigs went to court to try to get me off the ballot,” Greenwald snorts. At the first public debate, Greenwald slaughtered his rivals and won the endorsement of all the local news rags and the biggies, the Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. Greenwald ran twice, coming in close each time but not close enough.

6. When Greenwald first flew to Hong Kong to meet Snowden with filmmaker Laura Poitras, he thought Snowden wasn't a credible source at first blush because of his age: “He looked so young!” Greenwald exclaims. “He was wearing a white T-shirt, hipster glasses, and sneakers, and I was like, ‘Is this the source’s son? His assistant? His gay lover? What the fuck is going on?’”

7. He met David Miranda on the first day of his vacation to Rio in 2005, and they moved in together that week. At the time, Greenwald was just beginning to transition from his job as a constitutional law litigator to fiery polemicist. He was reading on the beach at Copacabana; Miranda was playing beach volleyball. Miranda’s beach ball rolled onto Greenwald’s towel: “Oi! Meu nome é Glenn.” They moved in together that week. “As a gay man, when you come to Rio for seven weeks, you’re not looking for a relationship,” Greenwald says with a bawdy laugh, “but I never fell in love so fast.”

8. While he was a civil rights attorney, he defended neo-Nazis in first amendment trials. “I was pouring my energy into these institutions that were created to yield these unjust outcomes,” he says. “So it just felt like hitting your head into a brick wall.”

9. He’s furiously writing a book on the Snowden story, set for publication in the spring. And, he warns, there’s still a lot of grenades to be thrown from the Snowden document cache.

10. Part of Greenwald’s decision to leave his firm was over a pair of Rollerblades. His then-long-term boyfriend bought a pair, strapped them on, fell, and broke both his wrists. Greenwald sued Rollerblade on his boyfriend’s behalf, but his firm protested: They hadn’t given him permission, and what if Rollerblade had been a potential client? “I can’t deal with constraints like that,” Greenwald says with a tinge of self-effacement. “I chafe at any restraints on what I can do or say.”

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