That guy Glenn Greenwald? The one who helped spill all those secrets about the gub'mint keeping tabs on everybody's electronic communications? Like everything else weird in the news, there's a Florida connection, specifically Lauderdale Lakes in Broward County, where the highly controversial blogger/journalist spent his youth.
It wasn't your typical youth, not by a long shot. From his high school days, Greenwald showed a flair for stirring the pot, raising hell with public officials, and denouncing them for violations of sacred political principles. Stuff he's doing now -- blowing the lid on supersecret counterintelligence ops -- is a natural extension of those early endeavors.
Hero or traitor, Greenwald's an odd duck, personally and politically. Personally, he's gay and out, living most of the year in Brazil with his partner and 11 rescue dogs. Politically, he's been slammed by left and right alike.
Greenwald's family background in Broward County led him into politics. The grandson of a onetime Lauderdale Lakes City Councilman, as an 8-year-old, he was appointed to the city's recreation advisory board, serving there again as a teen from 1980 to 1984.
In March 1985, as a Nova High senior, then 17-year-old Glenn ran for an open seat on the Lauderdale Lakes City Council, where his grandfather L.L. Greenwald had sat before. He self-funded his campaign to the tune of $740.
The young candidate's key concerns were bus service for senior citizens, road repairs, the hiring of more police, and the size of council members' expense accounts. Even then, he framed the details in the big picture, telling the Sun Sentinel, the issues, "quite simply, all concern the neglect and imperviousness the present councilmen have displayed toward the needs of the city."
Greenwald got trounced, finishing fourth out of five candidates, blaming voter apathy for his loss. He took solace, however, in a near-simultaneous victory in a statewide high school debate tourney. The Sun Sentinel reported:
His future now open, Greenwald has applied to five universities in the Northeast. He hopes his straight A's in advanced classes can get him into Northwestern, Georgetown, or George Washington University or another prestigious school. He wants to study political science and foresees a career in politics... He plans to spend the rest of his senior year "basically just taking it easy and doing nothing," he said. "I'll just live out the life of a stereotypical 18-year-old."
Maybe. But five years later, back in town as a GWU grad, Greenwald got into a tussle with police at a Lauderdale Lakes City Council meeting. It was October 1990, he'd come to protest the structure and scheduling of city government meetings, and he ended up forcibly removed from the podium.
"I wanted to ask about changing the time of the meetings to the night so working people can attend," Greenwald told the Sun Sentinel. "The mayor refused to answer my questions. We had a 60-second dialogue. I kept asking when and where we could discuss the issue of the committees. Then the mayor said, 'That's it, Glenn.' He told the deputies to 'get him out of here.'"
One councilman dismissed Greenwald's appearance as a publicity stunt. Greenwald, then working as a desk clerk at a Hilton hotel in Fort Lauderdale, said he was "just challenging the philosophy and general direction of the council... They say I was disruptive but aren't they supposed to be tolerant? That's the meaning of democracy."
Within a year, now working as an accounting assistant for a Sunrise tax preparation firm, he ran again for Lauderdale Lakes City Council and lost again.
That was it for Greenwald in South Florida. He disappeared from the headlines locally and nationally until 2005, when he made news as an attorney in a series of civil suits for white supremacist Matthew Hale, whom he defended on First Amendment grounds. Like his Broward political career, it was a sign of the absolutist approach he's followed to this day -- for better or for worse.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.