Paula Schmitt is a Brazilian journalist and Mideast correspondent with a Political Science degree from American University in Beirut. She has writter for RollingStone, GQ, Folha de Sao Paulo, @972mag and Poder360, which is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (@ICIJorg). She has written critically about Glenn Greenwald, including in this story you’re reading. She’s also the author of Eudemonia & Spies.
Schmitt has enemies — if you’re a journalist and you don’t, you’re a failure — but she also has some very impressive credentials, in addition to those listed above. Among many, she is one of the few woman in the world — other than Lebanese and other Middle Eastern reporters — to have interviewed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah; Leila Khaled; Salman Rushdie, when he was still under a death sentence; and Shabtai Shavit, an ex-head of the Mossad, and giving him such a hard time that he pressured her arm and asked when she was leaving Israel.
Incidentally, about ICIJ: I once wrote a critical piece about it, which was over the top so I deleted it, months ago, not today, as Greenwald would do. (See below.) However, one point in the now-deleted story I think is worth thinking about, namely that I believe its big donors, like George Soros through Open Society Foundations — among other troubling contributors because just like other huge political donors and “philanthropists,” Soros is almost always looking for something in return for his cash and knowledge of that could shape a recipient’s agenda, including ICIJ. And, yes, I know, ICIJ mentioned Soros a few passing times in its great Panama Papers reporting, but it could have done a whole series on him.
In any case, back to this story. “If you want to spice things up and allow your reader the thrill of reading about a very suspicious chain of events, do please read my articles (Google translate works almost perfectly) so you can perhaps reproduce a few passages and better illustrate to your readers how suspicious the whole thing is,” she wrote me. Don’t worry, the links are included below.
This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.
1. You’ve written that Glenn Greenwald has one persona in Brazil and a very different one in the U.S. Can you explain that and why it’s significant?
While Greenwald appears to be anti-identity politics in English, in Portuguese he kowtows to the identity politics left. It’s disturbing to watch such disparate personalities inhabiting the same body. It makes me wonder what interests Greenwald truly serves, as I find it hard to believe he is serving his own conscience. Consciences tend to have some consistency and coherence of principles.
2. Is Greenwald highly regarded in Brazil amongst other journalists? How about with the general public? Is he widely popular for his work helping free Lula?
Greenwald will always be viewed as the man who helped free Lula, and that in itself inspires respect and spite, probably in equal measure. But for many Brazilian journalists with left-leaning predilections, it was a great (and belated) disappointment to see Greenwald defending Trump (or as he does so skillfully, attack those that attack Trump). But saving Lula may also have prompted some gratitude, to what level we will perhaps never know. After leaving The Intercept, Greenwald started writing for Carta Capital, a leftwing magazine that was once quite respected. Today it is a parody of itself. One of Greenwald’s latest pieces is about the risks of “selective leaking.”
3. Just a few days ago, Greenwald discussed the “dishonesty of selective leaking,” yet you’ve suggested in your reporting (and to me) that he selectively leaked information from the Lava Jato leaks.(*) Can you explain how he got that material and if he selectively leaked it? If so, what did he do that to protect political allies of his or his husband’s?
Greenwald is said to have collected the equivalent of seven terabytes of private communication among hundreds of the most important politicians, celebrities and journalists in Brazil. The mere fact that there was absolutely nothing that could embarass any leftwing politician — not even a tasteless joke – is just a statistical impossibility. Greenwald also conveniently warned Supreme Court judges that he wouldn’t be releasing any of their convos (a few were actually released, but only those that seemed to help Lula and to embarrass judges less than friendly towards the former president). In this interview, Greenwald says as clearly as possible that he won’t be publishing anything, “nothing, not even conversations, between Supreme Court judges, we’ve already said that.” Not surprisingly, Greenwald was protected by this same Supreme Court and a few politicians he conveniently omitted from the leaks.
4. I understand the leaker is not happy with Greenwald, he feels that he disclosed only a tiny fraction of the material. Can you explain that? It would be ironic if true given that so much of the Snowden leaks is now under the lock and key of Pierre Omidyar, major donor to The Intercept and one of the very tech oligarchs Greenwald claims to despise.
I don’t know about that. I recommend your readers look into what happened between Laura Poitras and Greenwald after he, in a way, privatized the Snowden leaks to Pierre Omidyar (and after that move, went back on his promise to allow public access to that information trove). Poitras is said to have been barred from entering the premises of First Look Media after she criticized Greenwald for blocking public access to the Snowden leaks. The original Medium article by Barrett Brown reproducing emails allegedly written by Poitras are linked in this 3-part piece I wrote about Greenwald and one intriguing coincidence: in the same month when a large amount of money was allegedly deposited in the bank accounts of one of the hackers, Greenwald made a drastic move and deleted over 20 thousand tweets in one go — tweets chosen by topic, not date. This happened just a month or so after he publicly insulted a journalist for being a coward for deleting his own tweets. It’s all here in my article, with original screenshots and links. [English translation here.]
5. Didn’t you have problems yourself getting a look at the Lava Jato leaks? Can you explain what happened?
Greenwald announced that he was inviting journalists to verify their own conversations by visiting the premises of The Intercept and checking out the stolen material. I was told by a few journalists (off the record) that they were not allowed to bring any recording material, including phone, tablets or cameras. I started to suspect that what was happening was the following: if a journalist is going to the Intercept to see his or her own private conversations, this person will not only be verifying the veracity of those conversations – the person will also be intimidated into remaining friendly, because now his or her own conversations are in the possession of the Intercept. I suspected that, the more embarrassing the conversation, the more favorable the journalist would act towards Greenwald and that 7 terabyte theft. Leandro Demori, The Intercept’s editor in chief or whatever his title is, said directly to me, publicly, on Twitter, that any journalist was welcome to visit and check out the material. I then said I wanted to come — but my request was never accepted. This strengthens my belief that The Intercept only allowed journalists whom they could keep on a leash with kompromat, i.e., with the implicit threat of being exposed through their embarrassing (or immoral, criminal, corrupt) conversations. After my insistence that Demori allow my presence, as he promised, he stopped following me on Twitter and blocked my access to his own tweets.
6. You told me you have words from Greenwald himself saying he was saving material about journalists to use in a future book. in other words: GG, who got that stolen trove with private convos from hundreds of people, felt it was his right to announce he would be exposing a few journalists in a future book, THUS saving himself criticism from any journalist who knew or suspected he had their private conversations in his possession. Can you explain that? It sounds like blackmail, or chantagem in Portuguese?
Yes. This came from a video of a university debate in which Greenwald says, in broken Portuguese: “Tem muito mais Vaza Jato para fazer, e o material que ainda não reportamos que muito logo vamos reportar é exatamente esse relacionamento entre Lava Jato num lado –e Sérgio Moro– e alguns veículos no outro que, na minha opinião, renunciou seu papel como jornalistas e se comportaram como parceiros da Lava Jato”. In English: “There’s much more Vaza Jato (leaks) to report on, and the material that we still haven’t divulged that we will soon be divulging is exactly about the relationship between the Car Wash (taskforce) – and Sergio Moro (the judge) on one side – and the media on the other which, in my opinion, renounced its role as journalists and behaved instead as partners in the Car Wash [judicial taskforce].” I talk more about that in “The capture of Brazilian journalists.” The link to the original video is here too.
7. Is there anything else that US and Brazilian readers should know about Greenwald’s curious political posturing?
I strongly advise them to read my three-part series. [English translation here.] I link some weird stuff between the deletion of his tweets, the payments deposited on the accounts of hacker etc. All linked to official judiciary documents. When one read it in that order, chronologically and aware of parallel events, the whole thing is way more significant than it first appears.
*Operation Car Wash in English. A major corruption scandal in Brazil and many countries. It was used politically to damage Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a cynical and disgusting way, in my view, but it is true that Lula’s Workers’ Party, known as the PT, became implicated in corruption. Read a story here about it here and you can buy an old book I wrote about the PT here. Oh yeah, the story is called “Defend Glenn Greenwald,” because I oppose harassment of journalists by thugs like the Jair Bolsonaro regime. I still detest Greenwald, though my views on The Intercept have mellowed.