Glenn Greenwald Gives Civil Libertarians Momentum Despite Canceled Hearing

Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald was set to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a hearing on the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance program, first revealed to the public by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The informal hearing was put on hold after President Obama scheduled a meeting with the Democratic lawmakers involved.

Snowden, a former intelligence analyst for security contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked classified NSA documents to several news outlets and journalists, most notably Greenwald, revealing the mass surveillance program that collects communications data from all American citizens, as well as communications abroad. Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the increased erosion of civil liberties under the Obama administration.

Greenwald was set to testify via satellite from his base in Rio de Janeiro in front of an informal, bipartisan committee of twelve congressmen. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) has been credited with organizing the hearing, which was also supposed to feature testimony from representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the libertarian Cato Institute. Grayson's motives for the hearing stem from what he believes is a stream of "constant misleading information" from those in the intelligence community who support these programs while civil libertarians have not been able to share their opinion.   

Greenwald said he's hoping the hearing will be rescheduled before Congress adjourns.

While Grayson, like Greenwald, may be a critic of the NSA's mass data collection, he would certainly face much opposition during his testimony from those representatives who support the NSA's surveillance program. It is possible that Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Peter King (R-N.Y.) will be clamoring at the chance to grill Greenwald. They are all members of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

On the flip side, some of his potential allies on the committee may include Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), and other members of the "Liberty Caucus" in addition to Grayson. Greenwald, being the most prominent of those speaking before the committee, would undoubtedly have a bullseye on his chest. However, considering the backlash he has already faced for helping leak the Snowden papers, he should be able to hold his own, even if he'll only be there remotely.

The one thing that Greenwald and the other speakers have going for them is momentum. The Amash-Coyners amendment that was shot down last week by only 12 votes is not a pyrrhic victory, but a massive step in the right direction toward reversing the trend of eroding civil liberties. A new poll conducted by Pew Research shows that the majority of Americans believe the government has gone too far in curtailing basic civil liberties in fighting terrorism.