30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Snowden ally Glenn Greenwald joins eBay's Pierre Omidyar's new venture
Journalist who revealed whistle-blower's NSA secrets joins eBay billionaire's new venture
Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who revealed key details about the US National Security Agency's massive surveillance programme, is leaving Britain's The Guardian newspaper to join a venture backed by the eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar.
The new, as-yet-unnamed news site has also sought to hire Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was instrumental in linking former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Greenwald and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post.
Another potential hire was Jeremy Scahill, national security reporter of The Nation magazine, said a source.
Snowden, now in temporary exile in Russia, supplied Greenwald, Poitras and Gellman with classified material detailing the extent of the NSA's monitoring of electronic communications in the US and abroad and co-operation by British agencies.
Omidyar, who grew up in the Washington area, founded eBay in 1995 and became a billionaire two years later with its initial public stock offering. Forbes estimated his net worth was US$8.5 billion in September.
He has been involved in funding journalism projects before, including Backfence, a defunct network of "hyper-local" news sites in the Washington area, and Honolulu Civil Beat, a three-year-old site that carries investigative reports about Hawaii.
The new venture is being funded by Omidyar Network, a "philanthropic investment firm" operated by Omidyar and his wife Pamela that provided the money for Backfence and the Hawaiian site.
Greenwald said in a statement to BuzzFeed.com: "My partnership with The Guardian has been extremely fruitful and fulfilling … but I was presented with a once-in-a-career dream journalistic opportunity that no journalist could possibly decline."
The Guardian's Gennady Kolker called Greenwald a "remarkable journalist", adding: "Our work together over the last year has demonstrated the crucial role responsible investigative journalism can play in holding those in power to account."
Greenwald, 46, would remain based in Rio de Janeiro, but his new, as-yet-unnamed organisation would have offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington, he said in his statement.
The outlines of the new venture make it sound like an American version of the venerable The Guardian, an opinionated, liberal newspaper that has gained wide attention for a series of scoops and investigative articles over the past few years.
These include Greenwald's NSA revelations, stories from the WikiLeaks trove of leaked military and diplomatic documents, and revelations about the British phone-hacking scandal perpetrated by Rupert Murdoch's defunct News of the World tabloid.
In addition to writing for the new site, Greenwald said in his statement that his role was "to create the entire journalism unit from the ground up by recruiting the journalists and editors who share the same journalistic ethos and shaping the whole thing - but especially the political journalism part - in the image of the journalism I respect most."