An Open Letter to Glenn Greenwald on the Occasion of his Release from Charges

Op-Ed by Janet Phelan

Mr. Greenwald,

Those of us watching the attacks on the press were acutely aware of the implications of the charges levied against you, and now dismissed, concerning “cybercrimes.” The charges were redolent not only of the questionable charges against Julian Assange, but also were tinged with the sorts of “crimes” that have forced whistleblower Edward Snowden into exile and have resulted in an ongoing saga of contempt charges which are keeping whistleblower Chelsea Manning in an extended incarceration.

Increasingly, journalists are using data mined from internet sources, some of which may be considered to have “national security” implications. The fact that The Intercept has chosen to shutter the Snowden archives, with a mere 5% of the documents having been published, also buttresses growing concerns that press freedom is now under siege. The timing of this decision by The Intercept, which was virtually coincidental with Assange’s removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy and arrest by British police, did not escape the attention of press freedom advocates. Apparently, people are scared and are making decisions based on this emotion.

But it is not only documents which are being withheld from public oversight. There have been a rash of reports of journalists under extreme siege. Bilal Abdul Kareem, whose case in federal court got significant media attention when first filed, is now simply hanging out there, with no protections whatsoever, after Judge Collyer dismissed his case following government assertions of “national security.” Kareem, if you recall, is a US born journalist whose credits include CNN and Al-Jazeera, whose case revolved around allegations that the US was trying to kill him with drones.

A search of The Intercept finds no mention of the Kareem case dismissal, however. In fact, there appears only one search result on Kareem, a story back in 2016 when Kareem was attacked in Syria by a drone.

Kareem is not the only reporter under extreme duress. As you may know, Mr. Greenwald, I have contacted you more than once following my being attacked by chemical weapons-laden drones in Latin America. A rash of US whistleblowers, including several former NSA employees, are also reporting extreme and potentially life threatening attacks with unconventional weapons. Some of these attacks are reported to have taken place within the borders of the US. Yet there is not one word that I can find in The Intercept concerning the escalating plight of US born journalists and whistleblowers who are being attacked in this manner.

The press seems to have its own vetting mechanisms at this juncture. The charges against you get press. When they are dismissed, this also gets coverage. Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Ed Snowden also have hit the vetting bar and are able to get significant coverage of their situations. Less so, Kiwi reporter Suzie Dawson, who has sought asylum in Moscow and some others. I was frankly shocked not to find on The Intercept an update on US journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem’s case being dismissed.”National security” apparently trumps life and liberty. Is this not of concern for The Intercept?

From the media reports, Mr. Greenwald, I understand that your situation in Brazil is still somewhat fragile. Charges may be initiated against you in the future. During your experience of personal peril for simply exercising your craft, I would like to encourage you to extend your concerns to your fellow journalists who are in at least as much danger as you.  We are not your enemy. Our enhanced peril does not diminish yours. In fact, I would like very much to think that by banding together, a stronger case could be made for press freedoms, world wide.

Janet Phelan


Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking exposé, EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You are invited to support her work on Buy Me A Coffee here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JanetPhelan

Image source: Caitlin Johnstone

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