Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil and has spoken of the “risk” he would face if he entered the United States, is scheduled to speak here later this month to a controversial Muslim group.
The Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says that Greenwald will be the keynote speaker at its November 16 “Faith in Freedom” dinner in Anaheim, California.
The banquet is the first scheduled appearance in the United States for Greenwald, who lives in Brazil, since he used information provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to disclose NSA electronic surveillance programs in a series of articles for the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper.
One Republican congressman has already called for the prosecution of Greenwald.
Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told Fox News host Megyn Kelly this June that, “In this case, when you have someone who discloses secrets like this and threatens to release more, yes, there has to be legal action taken against him.”
Perhaps with King’s words in mind, Greenwald told a left-wing website this August that he recognized the legal perils of entering the United States but “I won’t be kept out of my country for doing journalism.”
Greenwald did say he would consult lawyers before entering the United States. “I am working with lawyers,” he told truth-out.org. “I absolutely intend that I will go back to my country when I choose.”
Greenwald’s domestic partner was detained in the United Kingdom in August under the UK’s strict anti-terrorism statute, but was released without charges after nine hours.
Columbia University Law School lecturer Scott Horton told The Daily Caller he doubts that the government would prosecute Greenwald if he enters the United States, but he said it is possible.
“If they were going to make a case against Glenn Greenwald they would have to show he induced Snowden to turn over documents to him and therefore there was a conspiracy between him and Snowden to breach statutes that protect confidential information.”
Horton, a vociferous critic of the war on terror, says it is more likely that authorities would stop and search Greenwald upon his arrival in the United States.
“I think that is something he would have to be concerned about. He could be pulled aside [at the airport] and have his laptop taken and communications devices examined. Civil liberties on United States soil don’t exist at border check points.”
Greenwald’s choice of venue for his first scheduled public appearance is sure to raise further charges from critics that he is more interested in providing comfort to American enemies than he is of doing legitimate journalism.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has repeatedly barred Daily Caller reporters from its press conference, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal government’s successful prosecution of a charitable organization in the United States for funneling money to Muslim terrorists overseas. (Related: House report urges Justice Dept. to cut ties with CAIR)
Another scheduled speaker at the CAIR dinner is Imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was on the government’s list of unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial.
Wahhaj was also a character witness for Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman when he was tried for conspiracy to bomb other New York City landmarks. Wahhaj testified that he had “great respect” for Abdel-Rahman.
CAIR also has a history of opposing and trying to discredit moderate Muslim-American leaders who try to deal homegrown extremists within the U.S. Muslim community. (Related: Somali-American leader: ‘I tried to warn America’ about homegrown radicalization)
Greenwald has spoken to CAIR on at least two previous occasions and long expressed affinity for the organization.
Greenwald told the CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area chapter on November 17, 2012 that “there really is no organization with which I’d rather be spending my time, or with which I feel more at home than CAIR.”
Greenwald dismissed critics of CAIR, who contend the organization is terrorist-friendly, as smear merchants. He praised CAIR for its concerted effort to fight alleged oppression of Muslims in the United States and abroad.
“Despite malicious attacks and coordinated smear campaigns, including from our own government, and various other precincts [CAIR] has continued to devote itself relentlessly and really quite heroically to the fight for what I think is quite clearly, far and away, the greatest civil liberties crisis of our generation, at least, which is the persecution of Muslim Americans, and Muslims generally, in the post-9/11 era, which is really an assault on the liberties of everyone.”
Greenwald also spoke at the CAIR-NY Awards Dinner this past May, praising CAIR for its “steadfast” support of civil liberties.
CAIR-Los Angeles spokeswoman Yasmin Nouh said Greenwald’s speech to the CAIR-San Francisco Bay Area banquet last year is “how we got the idea” to invite him.
Nouh said she is hopeful the event will generate considerable publicity.
Advance tickets for the dinner, $60 per person and $550 per table, are currently listed for sale on the CAIR Greater-Los Angles website.
The dinner where Greenwald will speak has already proved controversial. Wells Fargo was originally listed as an event sponsor. But it pulled out after the conservative Florida Family Association urged supporters to complain to company officials.
Wells Fargo spokesman Gary Kishner would only say that the company remains “a proud supporter” of CAIR.
Greenwald did not respond to a tweeted request for comment.
Update: After publication, Glenn Greenwald tweeted Monday that he would be appearing at the CAIR conference via video, not in person. However, a notice on CAIR’s website, which was updated Monday, says the group will “host” Greenwald, and a news story posted on the CAIR site says Greenwald will appear in person. CAIR-LA spokeswoman Yasmin Nouh could not be reached for comment.
Evan Gahr, a former press critic for the late New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel, has written for almost every major conservative publication, plus the Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer.