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Todd Krainin, ReasonTV
February 4, 2015

Glenn Greenwald is a lawyer who has lost all interest in making legal arguments. The reason for his indifference should terrify anyone who believes that the law, and not arbitrary decision-making by government officials, should govern a nation. Asked whether NSA mass surveillance is legal under any conceivable interpretation of United States law, Greenwald told ReasonTV:

“I think it’s important to understand, when we talk about what’s legal, is the extent to which our institutions that determine legality have been completely co-opted, either by the other branches of government, or just by the post 9/11 fearmongering and hysteria that have subsumed federal judges as much as they have everybody else – if not more so.”

Greenwald’s experience in uncovering our national secrets “from deep within our security apparatus to the FISA courts” has taught him that sometimes the law doesn’t matter. When the government is determined to act outside of its constitutional restraints, justifications will be made, legal memoranda will be written, in order that the outcome will be determined by a contest of institutional power.

Reason TV traveled to McGill University in Montreal to present Glenn Greenwald with Reason Foundation’s 2014 Lanny Friedlander Prize. The prize honors media entrepreneurs who expand human freedom by increasing our ability to express ourselves, engage in debate, and generate new ways of understanding the power of “free minds and free markets.”

In this case, Greenwald has earned the honors for standing up for some of the bedrock principles that have been neglected in an age of national security and mass surveillance. Since breaking the story of NSA abuses, he has championed whistleblowers, and schooled establishment journalists in the meaning of the first amendment. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Today he’s a subject of Citizenfour, an Academy Award nominated documentary about Edward Snowden.

Greenwald has not only broken the biggest news story in a generation, he’s following it up by co-founding The Intercept, a new magazine that aims to shake up American journalism.


Produced and hosted by Todd Krainin. Camera by Jim Epstein and Josh Swain.


1:20 – ACCOUNTABILITY. Will anyone be held responsible for the mass violation of Internet privacy?

5:49 – LEGALITY. Is blanket NSA surveillance legal under any possible interpretation of the law?

8:59 – THE INTERCEPT. What’s Greenwald’s new publication all about?

11:18 – JOURNALISM. Objective vs. subjective; the democratizing power of the Internet; Should journalism be backed by billionaires?

22:19 – INSIDERS vs. OUTSIDERS. How the establishment uses shame to maintain the status quo.

27:30 – ADVERSARIAL JOURNALISM. The virtues of excessive criticism.

31:08 – TYRANNY. The changing views of government in light of NSA surveillance.

33:27 – POLITICAL REACTION. Hypocrisy on the Left, mixed reaction on the Right.

36:03 – POLITICAL ACTION. Is politics the best means for reform?

38:12 – REASON MEDIA AWARDS. Reaction to winning the 2014 Lanny Friedlander Prize.

40:16 – THE LIBERTARIAN/PROGRESSIVE COALITION. The new political paradigm.

Contributed by


Alexandra Bruce

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