Journalist Glenn Greenwald believes the Brazilian government should offer asylum to Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA analyst currently taking refuge in Russia. In an interview with the Brasil Post, the American reporter discussed what the future should hold for Snowden, his main source of information. Snowden leaked documents revealing the espionage programs of the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA), which led to a worldwide backlash over invasions of privacy.
Greenwald also praised the way the Brazilian government has dealt with the U.S. following allegations of espionage.
"Brazil is doing the right thing insisting on wanting to know what the U.S. has done against the government and businesses here," he said.
While passing through São Paulo on Thursday, Greenwald also spoke with the Brasil Post about his new independent journalism project funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar, owner of the virtual shopping site eBay Inc. Below is the complete transcript of Greenwald's interview.
Brasil Post: How do you see the issue of asylum for Edward Snowden now that he's in Russia, a country whose relationship with the U.S. is complex and delicate?
Glenn Greenwald: Due to the issue of human rights, I think all countries have the obligation to provide this type of asylum, especially those countries that have learned a lot from his revelations. Unfortunately there are not many countries able to do this besides Russia. Russia will fulfill the function of protecting him from U.S. sanctions.
Isn't it odd that Snowden, who revealed U.S. espionage secrets and fights for democratic rights, is taking refuge in a country that often curtails people's freedoms, such as the case of violence against gays?
I don't think it's odd. There are millions of people who receive asylum in the United States, a country that invaded and destroyed another country, that's holding people without due process or a right to lawyers and that kills people all over the world. No one is saying, "How strange that they are giving asylum to someone who suffers from the violence that they practice."
Should Brazil, one of the U.S.'s main spying targets as revealed by Snowden, take him in?
Brazil, much more so than other countries, has that obligation and has signed an international treaty that guarantees it [the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights]. The Brazilian government will consider this and grant asylum to Snowden.
President Dilma requested, after allegations of American espionage, that an email service be created that does not use the American network for the exchange of information. A committee met on Thursday in Washington with Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor. What is your assessment of how Brazil is leading this process?
Brazil is doing the right thing insisting on wanting to know what the U.S. has done against the government and businesses here. The United States is not cooperating. Brazil is defending its independence because that means: "We do not accept the spying, we want to know what happened and if you do not reveal the truth, our relationship will change." The government's attitude is amazing.
What can we expect in regards to your new media project, which is financed by eBay owner Pierre Omidyar?
We think the American media is too weak in relation to the government, large corporations and other powerful groups. They are afraid. They do not meet the basic requirement of journalism, which is to investigate the behavior of these groups. Our organization was created in order to practice journalism without fear and to support its independence. Journalism is done with passion.
How can Pierre Omidyar influence editorial decisions?
Well, he knows that if he tries to meddle in editorial issues, the project ends at that very moment. He's dealing with journalists who have always worked with a lot of independence and we won't let anyone interfere with that. Anyway, he is not supporting the project in order to earn more money, he already has enough. He's betting on something different and for that you need to give freedom to the journalists involved with it.
Does the fact that you recently had professional relationships with a public enemy of the U.S. make contact with your traditional sources difficult?
Yes, but many sources are also at risk for documents being leaked and they do it just because they believe that people should know about the facts being revealed. They wouldn't take that risk if the journalists they work with were not trustworthy.
The issue of internet neutrality has been discussed recently in the U.S. and here in Brazil. How can the interference of telecommunication companies affect the way people consume information?
Major institutions and governments are afraid that people might become agents of information because they know that this is the kind of thing that puts limits on how they act, and then everyone will know how they abuse their power. The more people know about information that was previously hidden, the more journalists and people will be inspired to carry out this type of work. It is also essential that a journalist's relationship with sources and issues occur without interference. Otherwise, the journalist may be afraid of being prosecuted or going to jail. Spying exacerbates it. Without trust between the source and the journalist, journalism will die and the information we consume will be compromised.
This piece was translated from Portuguese and originally appeared on Brasil Post.