New York Daily News
SECRETS OF MR. SECRET
THE REPORTER who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs has a little secret of his own.
Before he was a reporter and commentator for The Guardian newspaper, Glenn Greenwald was a lawyer — and had a part-time job in the porn business.
“It was a long time ago,” Greenwald told the Daily News.
In a column posted on the Guardian website Wednesday, he hinted at his checkered past.
“I’m 46 years old and, like most peo-ple, have lived a complicated and varied adult life. I didn’t manage my life from the age of 18 onward with the intention of being a family values U. S. senator. My personal life, like pretty much everyone’s, is complex and sometimes messy.”
The best- selling author’s already-successful career shot into the stratosphere earlier this month. He thrust himself into the spotlight after breaking the story about the Obama administration’s widespread phone surveillance, as well as subsequent interviews with the person who leaked the information, Edward Snowden.
His path to the spotlight has been unconventional, to say the least.
The Queens native became a lawyer in 1995, after graduating from NYU.
Greenwald was enjoying a career as a litigator when friend Jason Buchtel offered him a partnership in his consulting company, Master Notions Inc., back in 2002.
Court papers show that one of the company’s clients was then known as HJ — short for “Hairy Jocks” — and that Greenwald was the one who negotiated their deal.
Owner Peter Haas “had this pornog graphic company he wasn’t able to maintain,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald and Buchtel agreed to help Haas in return for 50% of the profit its.
In the two months the companies worked together, “Haas made more money than he ever made before in his entire life,” Master Notions’ filings say.
But Haas refused to pay the company its share of the profits, which led to a nasty legal battle.
Haas said he called the deal off because Greenwald was “demanding changes to the content of the videos w which were and are unacceptable.”
He also accused Greenwald of having bullied him into signing the deal, citing several twisted emails that he said were from Greenwald, whose email address was, “DomMascHry31.” In one, Greenwald allegedly called Haas “a little bitch” and “a good little whore.”
Greenwald said those emails were “completely fabricated” and “not written by me.”
After the business relationship soured, Haas also accused Greenwald and Master Notions of having swiped his client list to market their own videos on “hairystuds.com.”
“If you liked Hairy Jocks video, you will LOVE our new line of videos,” the site said.
In court filings, Greenwald contended Haas as didn’t have a real client list to steal, and that Master Notions had assembled its own by “reviewing clubs, groups and chat rooms on the Internet and on America Online, which are geared toward those with an interest in adult videos.”
The case was settled in n 2004. In a post on The Guardian website Wednesday, Greenwald said the deal came after he “threatened to retain a forensic expert to prove that the emails were forgeries.”
“The producer quickly settled the case by paying some substantial portion of what was owed, and granting the LLC the rights to use whatever it had obtained when consulting with him to start its own competing business,” he wrote.
Greenwald told The News it was Buchtel’s idea to press ahead with the competing site, and that Buchtel bought out his share in Master Notions ons after about six months.
“It was very short- lived,” he said, adding he’d partnered with Buchtel because he’s “very entrepreneurial” and he’d been looking for different things to do.
He said they also partnered up to produce therapy products in California, as well as a movie called, “Showboy,” but he soon determined the business world was not for him.
“Being a businessman, running businesses, was never my interest. I just sort of experimented with it,” Greenwald said. “It was interesting — a different challenge, a different way of life.”
Court filings also show different challenges Greenwald has faced over the years.
In a 2003 lawsuit, he and his then partner, Werner Achetz, were sued by their West Side condo board for having a dog that was bigger than building bylaws allowed.
The couple countered that they and their dog Uli were being singled out because they were gay, a charge the board denied. The case eventually settled.
“The co- op board said the dog could stay,” he said.
Filings also show he’s had some money problems — his law license was suspended for failing to pay his registration fee in 2009. He’s said he started winding down his law practice in 2005 to focus on writing, but he still has
some financial ghosts from his previous career.
The New York County Clerk’s office shows Greenwald has $126,000 in open judgments and liens against him dating to 2000, including a $21,000 from the state Tax Department and the city Department of Finance.
There’s no record of those debts being paid, but Greenwald said he believes he’s all caught up — although he’s still trying to pay down an old IRS judgment against him from his lawyer days.
I didn’t manage my life from the age of 18 onward with the intention of being a family values U.S. senator. My personal life, like pretty much everyone’s, is complex and sometimes messy. Glenn Greenwald
Records show the IRS has an $85,000 lien against him.
Greenwald lives in Rio, because that’s where his boyfriend is. His tax problems didn’t drive him away.
“We’re negotiating over payment plans,” he said.
Now he’s facing off against the Obama administration and the U.S. government while he does so.
Since the NSA story broke, Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) has called for Greenwald to be prosecuted over the disclosures, saying “there has to be legal action taken against him.”
Greenwald said that kind of reaction is “what happens when you take on” an administration.
“The Obama (Department of Justice) has flirted with theories to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information,” he wrote in an email to The News on Wednesday.
“I’ve acted as investigative journalists do all the time, and Eric Holder just last month vowed never to prosecute journalists for doing their jobs.”
But, he told The News, “I don’t completely discount” the possibility that the feds may come after him.
He also said he realized his work on the NSA case would open his own past to scrutiny.
“I knew when I set out to do these stories I was going to be attacked all sorts of different ways, and people were going to look into my background,” he said.
In his Wednesday column, he complained that both The News and the New York Times had been asking about his problems with the IRS.
“If journalists really believe that, in response to the reporting I’m doing, these distractions about my past and personal life are a productive way to spend their time, then so be it.
“None of that – or anything else – will detain me even for an instant in continuing to report on what the NSA is doing in the dark.”