(CNSNews.com) – The American journalist and commentator who first reported on Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on National Security Agency surveillance programs will be the keynote speaker at an annual Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet next month.
Glenn Greenwald, described as “political commentator, lawyer, columnist,” tops the bill at CAIR California’s “Faith in Freedom” banquet in Anaheim on November 16.
“Join us as we reflect on our past year’s endeavors, honor inspirational figures, and embrace a more tolerant, inclusive and just future for all,” the organization says.
It’s not clear whether Greenwald will attend the event in person or by video link. Queries sent to the banquet organizers brought no reply by press time.
Last June, three weeks after Greenwald broke the Snowden NSA surveillance leaks story for Britain’s Guardian newspaper, he addressed a Socialism Conference in Chicago – via Skype.
Greenwald told the audience, which gave him a rousing reception, that he was beaming in “from the comfort of my little Skype prison” – adding that that was “definitely preferable to an actual prison.”
Since then, Greenwald has published more material on NSA surveillance, including claims of spying on the Brazilian government that prompted its president to cancel a scheduled White House visit and use her speech at the U.N. to accuse the U.S. of a “grave violation” of Brazil’s sovereignty.
In late August, Greenwald became part of the story he was covering when British security officials detained his partner, David Miranda, at London’s Heathrow airport for nine hours, seizing electronic equipment in his possession. Miranda had been carrying data relating to NSA surveillance to Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilian lawmakers who have begun an official investigation into the NSA surveillance allegations have asked their government to provide both men with police protection.
Greenwald made headlines again last week when it was reported that he and another American journalist have teamed up to report on the NSA’s role in “the U.S. assassination program.”
Hezbollah, Hamas ‘not remotely a threat’ to US
CAIR has not publicized a topic for Greenwald’s speech in California next month, but the organization holds strong views on NSA surveillance.
Greenwald has also addressed other issues high on CAIR’s agenda. In a 2010 Salon column, he wrote that the word “terrorist” has come to mean “a Muslim who fights against or even expresses hostility towards the United States, Israel and their allies.”
Greenwald’s appearance via Skype in June was the third year in a row he had addressed the annual Socialism Conference, which is sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, publisher of the Socialist Worker and the Center for Economic Research and Social Change, which publishes International Socialist Review.
At the 2011 conference he spoke on “Civil liberties under Obama” and in 2012 on “Challenging the U.S. surveillance state.”
The earlier speeches included some controversial statements regarding Islamist terrorism. At the 2011 conference he referred to Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric and al-Qaeda propagandist who was reported in 2010 to have been approved by the Obama administration for targeted killing.
Greenwald described Awlaki as “an American-born citizen in Yemen who the U.S. government hates because he speaks effectively to the Muslim world about the violence that the U.S. commits in that part of the world and the responsibility of Muslims and the need of Muslims to stand up to this violence.”
“The U.S. hates him because this message is resonating and so the solution is not to charge him with crimes – because he’s not committing any crimes, because you have the First Amendment right to say the things he’s saying – it’s not even to detain him without due process, they’re not bothering with that,” Greenwald continued. “They’re trying to kill him.”
A year before Greenwald gave that speech, Awlaki in online messages praised Fort Hood terrorist Nidal Malik Hasan and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bomb a Detroit-bound aircraft on Christmas Day 2009, calling them his “students.”
In the same message, the cleric justified the killing U.S. civilians. “Non-combatants are people who do not take part in the war,” he said. “The American people in its entirety takes part in the war, because they elected this administration, and they finance this war.”
Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen about three months after Greenwald made the speech in Chicago.
Greenwald also used the Socialism Conference platform to criticize the U.S. government’s designation of Hamas and Hezbollah as “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTOs).
“We have organizations on the [FTO] list that are not even remotely a threat to the United States, such as Hezbollah and Hamas which, whatever you think of them are not in any way devoted to harming Americans,” he said.
“They are devoted to protecting their citizens against the State of Israel and yet it is criminal in the United States to do anything that is deemed to be material support for Hezbollah and Hamas. There are people in prison who have been convicted of material support for terrorism, for doing nothing other than for example offering a cable service that includes a Hezbollah television station.”
“Material support of terrorism is really a way to criminalize opposition to U.S. policy in the Middle East and especially U.S. support for Israel,” he added.
Notwithstanding Greenwald’s comment about the two groups not being “remotely a threat” to the U.S., Americans have been among the victims of Hamas’ violent campaign against Israel. U.S. citizens were killed in Hamas bombings in Jerusalem in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2003.
The U.S. government holds Hezbollah responsible for suicide bombings targeting the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. More than 300 people, most of them Americans, were killed. Before 9/11, the U.S. held Hezbollah responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other terrorist organization in history.
CAIR describes itself as “America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization,” and says its “mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.”