Since July, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson has been trying to do something that should come easily to a federal lawmaker: hold a congressional hearing.
But the months-long effort has repeatedly hit roadblocks, and the Orlando Democrat suspects one reason is the focus of the hearing itself: an investigation into the National Security Agency and reports that federal agents scooped up the phone and Internet records of millions of Americans.
Another reason is the star witness Grayson hopes to invite: journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the news of the NSA’s wide-ranging surveillance programs earlier this year with the help of leaker Edward Snowden. Grayson wants to have Greenwald appear in person, but the journalist, who lives in Brazil, has been reluctant to fly to Washington because of fears that he will be arrested by U.S. authorities at the airport.
In the months since, Grayson has tried to assure Greenwald’s safe passage, even asking the U.S. Department of Justice in October whether agents intend to detain Greenwald, a U.S. citizen, upon arrival. Grayson said he never received a response, though in recent weeks top Justice officials seem to have warmed to the idea of Greenwald’s visiting.
In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Attorney General Eric Holder said that, although he disagreed with Greenwald’s publication of sensitive information, “I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution.”
A Justice Department spokesman confirmed that account and pointed to new agency guidelines meant to smooth relations with the media following the revelation that federal agents had snagged the phone records of Associated Press reporters.
Even so, Greenwald reportedly remains reluctant to return to the U.S. So Grayson has been trying to find a room on Capitol Hill that could accommodate a video feed.
At the same time, Grayson accused leaders in both parties, including those who sit on Congress’ intelligence committees, of not doing enough to oversee the NSA or its controversial activities.
Last spring it was revealed that the NSA was tapping the central servers of the country’s biggest Internet companies as well as seizing phone data that included millions of records from Verizon.
“We couldn’t get the relevant [intelligence] committees to do this [hearing] because the relevant committees essentially are puppets for the spying industrial complex,” Grayson said.
Click here for the story in the Orlando Sentinel.