Glenn Greenwald, the blogger and journalist who has revealed key details about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program, is leaving Britain’s Guardian newspaper to join a new news venture backed by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar.
The new, as-yet-unnamed news site has also sought to hire Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was instrumental in linking former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Greenwald and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post. Another potential hire is Jeremy Scahill, national security reporter of the Nation magazine, said a person familiar with the venture.
Snowden, now in temporary exile in Russia, supplied Greenwald, Poitras and Gellman with classified material detailing the extent of the NSA’s monitoring of electronic communications in the United States and abroad and cooperation by British agencies.
Poitras and Scahill could not be reached for comment.
Omidyar, who grew up in the Washington area, founded eBay in 1995 and became a billionaire two years later with its initial public stock offering. Forbes estimated that his net worth was $8.5 billion in September.
He has been involved in funding journalism projects before, including Backfence, a defunct network of “hyper-local” news sites in the Washington area, and Honolulu Civil Beat, a three-year-old site that does investigative reporting about Hawaii.
The new venture is being funded by Omidyar Network, a “philanthropic investment firm” operated by Omidyar and his wife, Pamela, that provided the money for Backfence and the Hawaiian site.
Greenwald, in a statement to BuzzFeed.com, which broke the news about him, said: “My partnership with the Guardian has been extremely fruitful and fulfilling. I have high regard for the editors and journalists with whom I worked and am incredibly proud of what we achieved. The decision to leave was not an easy one, but I was presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline.”
Guardian spokesman Gennady Kolker called Greenwald “a remarkable journalist,” adding, “Our work together over the last year has demonstrated the crucial role that responsible investigative journalism can play in holding those in power to account. . . . We wish him all the best.”
Greenwald, 46, will remain based in Rio de Janeiro, but his new, as-yet-unnamed organization will have offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington, he said in his statement.
The outlines of the new venture make it sound like an American version of the venerable Guardian, an opinionated, frankly liberal newspaper that has gained wide attention for a series of scoops and investigative articles over the past few years.
These include Greenwald’s NSA revelations, stories from Wikileak’s trove of leaked military and diplomatic documents, and revelations about the British phone “hacking” scandal perpetrated by Rupert Murdoch’s defunct News of the World tabloid.
In addition to writing for the new site, Greenwald said in his statement that his role was “to create the entire journalism unit from the ground up by recruiting the journalists and editors who share the same journalistic ethos and shaping the whole thing — but especially the political journalism part — in the image of the journalism I respect most.”
In addition to the Guardian, Greenwald has published articles about the NSA in other newspapers around the world, including in Brazil and India.
He told BuzzFeed in August that he had not shared all of Snowden’s files with the Guardian, and that only he and Poitras have access to all of the documents Snowden gave to journalists.