Snowden Archives at Great Risk — As Alarming as Assange's Arrest
Justice Integrity Project Editor’s Note: Guest columnists Cathleen McGuire and her twin sister Colleen McGuire address below the vital and timely topic of recent controversy between leading investigative reporters regarding the fate of the massive archive of classified U.S. national security documents stolen in 2013 by former NSA and CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden (shown below in one of the first photos after his revelations became known) worked initially with freelance journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who published blockbuster stories (most notably via The Guardian and the Washington Post) disclosing massive secret surveillance by U.S. intelligence services such as the NSA (National Security Agency), which had hired Snowden as a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor after his previous work at NSA and the CIA.
In early June 2013, the first stories based on Snowden’s huge trove of documents revealed the massive complicity of major U.S. communications companies in warrantless surveillances of Americans and others. NSA’s charter supposedly prevented surveillance of Americans except incidentally because of surveillance of foreigners or via probable cause documented in a warrant application.
Snowden, then 29 (and shown at right), said that he was releasing the materials as an act of conscience because of what he regarded as the unconstitutional scope of privacy invasions. Following a global, U.S.-led manhunt, he landed in Russia, where he remains under political asylum.
Poitras, a film maker, and the journalist / attorney Greenwald later that year co-founded with author/journalist Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, a web-based investigative news site funded by a reported $250 million from Internet billionaire Pierre Omidyar, an eBay and PayPal founder.
Poitras, Greenwald and their colleagues, such as Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, received great recognition in terms of prizes, books, film treatments and other career advancement for their work.
In the column below, Cathleen McGuire, a truth activist based in New York City, and her sister, an attorney living in Greece, explore the recent controversy arising after The Intercept announced last month that it no longer planned to release investigative stories based on the Snowden documents and that it would be laying off most of its research staff associated with those documents.
The authors — and the sources they cite, including Poitras (shown at left)— allege that The Intercept and its parent company First Look Media are essentially privatizing and suppressing the fruits of Snowden’s whistleblowing in a corrupt maneuver threatening the public, whistleblowers and journalists elsewhere unless all become aware of the dangers of supposedly philanthropic funding of investigative journalism. They assess the threat as “alarming as” the arrest this month of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London.
They cite as sources for today’s column five recent reports — shown in a long appendix below — by prominent investigative journalists expressing similar dismay.
By Cathleen McGuire & Colleen McGuire
Billionaire Pierre Omidyar (right), the owner of the Snowden archives through his company, First Look Media, has shut down the analysis, release, and custodial care of the archives claiming lack of funds. Since 2013, only 10% of the documents have been published.
The decision was made just this past March, 2019, with the full participation of Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, star journalists with The Intercept, one of First Look Media’s various properties, as reported by MintPress News.
Laura Poitras — who with Glenn Greenwald was originally given custody of the documents by Edward Snowden in 2013 and works for Field of Vision, a First Look film company — was purposefully excluded from the decision, as was the company’s board of directors.
In 2014, Greenwald, Poitras, and Scahill launched The Intercept, an online publication whose initial raison d’etre was the reporting of the Snowden material. In short order, the effort of responsibly overseeing the security protocols and the analysis and release of the Snowden documents were turned over to a research group within First Look. (As planned, The Intercept went on to become the full news operation it is today.)
Aware of the historical significance of the Snowden cache, on March 13, Poitras went public informing the Daily Beast of the shutdown. On March 27, she released a series of emails which dramatically memorialized the play-by-play timeline. Poitras was basically screaming bloody murder as the research team investigating the valuable treasure trove was being eighty-sixed.
On March 14, Greenwald (shown at left) released a statement embedded in a tweet in which he represented that he, Poitras, and “other individuals and institutions” possess “full copies” of the archives. Who else has “full copies”? Snowden? Booz Allen Hamilton (Snowden’s employer at the time)? The CIA (Snowden’s one-time employer and NSA rival)?
Greenwald further represented that four media outlets — the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian, and der Spiegel — “have possessed large parts” of the Snowden archives since 2013. He noted that these media companies have “budgets and newsrooms far larger” than The Intercept, implying that they are in a better position to take over the herculean effort of releasing and analyzing the remaining 90% of the unpublished documents.
However, it is disingenuous of Greenwald to insinuate that the four media companies who possess “large parts” of the archives have commensurate access to the archives as the alleged individuals and institutions who have “full” access. Furthermore, it is not clear if those “large parts” consist simply of the 10% of the archives already released.
With Omidyar in control of the goods, only a trickle of the Snowden archives has seen the light of day. Although technically the documents are not in danger of disappearing, now that the entire archives research staff has been eliminated, the risk of the archives being publicly memory-holed has significantly increased, as Poitras so urgently tried to publicize.
Greenwald claims he is looking for the right partner with ample funds to maintain and publish the archives. Yet, Columbia Journalism Review reports that Omidyar’s net worth is $11.2 billion. Poitras’ asserts that the alleged budget concerns are a smokescreen since only a mere 1.5% of The Intercept budget was allocated to the research team. Greenwald’s sob story about the company’s “financial constraints” rings hollow.
Recall that from June, 2013, when Snowden appeared on the world stage, through at least 2015, for weeks on end the Snowden docs were a viral topic both in the mainstream and alternative media. Major and prolonged public debates ensued between those denouncing publication of the docs as a threat to national security versus First Amendment advocates who championed a journalist’s right to publish a whistleblower’s assets.
So now that First Look has shuttered the priceless Snowden archives, why is this alarming debacle not a viral topic among critical thinkers, be they left, right, or center? Why is Snowden—the man who risked his career, if not his life, and remains in exile in Russia—likewise strangely silent?
Since the very beginning, various alt-media analysts have raised serious questions about Snowden, Greenwald, Poitras, and Scahill, often to the ire of indignant supporters intolerant of criticism of their celebrated heroes. However, regarding the demise of the archives, at this juncture Pierre Omidyar is the strategic person of interest.
Omidyar is said to be one of the world’s most politically sophisticated data monarchs. In addition to proactively shaping the media landscape, Omidyar is also responsible for a legion of dubious activities that beg massive exposure, including:
• As a financial stakeholder in PayPal, Omidyar shut down WikiLeaks’ PayPal account, and in 2011 supported the criminal prosecution of 14 Anonymous defendants when they attacked PayPal’s servers in retaliation. See more on the PayPal 14 here.
• Omidyar attempted to steal Craigslist’s trade secrets for his company, eBay, in which, in an unusual decision against a corporate principal, a Delaware judge all but called Omidyar a thief in his effort to “learn the ‘secret sauce’ of Craigslist’s success.” See more on Omidyar’s corporate spying scandal here.
• With the U.S. government, Omidyar co-invested in opposition NGOs in Ukraine. His substantial funding was pivotal to the country’s neo-Nazi coup d’etat in 2014.
• Omidyar engaged in preferential insider trading with eBay, resulting in the payment of a $3 million settlement to shareholders.
• After establishing The Intercept and poaching star reporters and staff (e.g., Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi, Marcy Wheeler, Betsy Reed), on Omidyar’s watch a virtual freeze on publishing took effect. (See Ken Silverstein’s Where Journalism Goes to Die).
The recent development of Omidyar’s shuttering of the Snowden docs is an unprecedented violation of the public trust. No matter how cunningly Omidyar purloined the Snowden documents, they belong to the American public.
Given his track record, Omidyar should be one of the last persons entrusted with the archives, particularly given the claim by former NSA whistleblowers that the Snowden docs contain extensive documentation of PayPal’s partnership and cooperation with the NSA.
Glenn Greenwald’s reporting is by and large superb, often speaking out on unpopular issues. He voiced strong opposition to Julian Assange’s April 11 arrest in an email to The Intercept’s readers. Yet, demonstrating unseemly opportunism, Greenwald then asked readers to support free speech by donating — not to Assange’s legal defense — but rather to The Intercept, an already richly-endowed organization.
Worth noting further is Greenwald’s interview with NPR on April 11 in which he claims in a tweet that the interview “became contentious” when NPR characterized him as a “colleague of Julian Assange.” Why on earth would being a colleague of Julian Assange offend Greenwald?
International outrage erupted over the kidnapping and rendition of Julian Assange. Yet, why aren’t those who are enraged by this egregious violation of press freedom not up in arms that the Snowden archives are privatized, and that the preeminent owners, Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald, have conspired to withhold their contents from the public. The kidnapping and rendition of the Snowden cache demands a similar hue and cry!
Contact the author Andrew Kreig
Related News Coverage
About this appendix: Why The Intercept Really Closed the Snowden Archive by the brave whistleblower Barrett Brown, who was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison in 2015 for crimes associated with a hack of the defense contractor Stratfor, quotes Poitras extensively via her emails to top executives at The Intercept. Another insider, former Intercept staffer Ken Silverstein, published Why Did Omidyar Shut Down The Intercept’s Snowden Archive? — with this subheadline: His deep ties to USAID and relationship to a private contractor who advises the government on global counterinsurgency tactics may explain why.
Our appendix includes also extensive excerpts from Wayne Madsen, an author and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst who was the first investigative reporter to raise, beginning in 2013 and 2014, sustained criticism of Omidyar’s funding model and its implementation by top Intercept editors, most notably the chief editor Greenwald.
In columns like Snowden’s documents now safely in the hands of the Omidyar Network in October 2013 (excerpted with permission from the subscription site The Wayne Madsen Report), Madsen (shown in a JIP photo) raised repeated alarms that Omidyar could not be trusted and that some of his main hires were endangering whistleblowers. One was the idealistic defense contactor employee Reality Winner, shown in a mug shot, who was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison last year after being caught disclosing classified secrets to The Intercept, which revealed her identity by printing a photo of an actual record that was traceable to her.
Another key column this year cited by the McGuire sisters is How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal. It describes how the nearly billion dollars spent by the Omidar Network is having a vast impact in setting up gatekeeper operations that work with governments, high tech companies and seemingly independent journalists to self-censor news topics in Western nations under the theme of thwarting misguided reporting and / or threats to “national security.”
Finally, our appendix includes excerpts (collected also in our news summary here) from major stories in June 2013 when the Snowden revelations became part of public debate about privacy protection that was far more vigorous then than now.
The Real News Network, Opinion: The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, April 15, 2019. The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote:
“Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.”
The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.
There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange. The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.
Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it, it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.
In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”
The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.
The US prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The US uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. Political prisoners have been held in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the US from the UK in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.
The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.
Mint Press News:Silencing the Whistle: The Intercept Shutters Snowden Archive, Citing Cost, Whitney Webb, March 30, 2019. The closing of The Intercept’s Snowden archive will likely mean the end of any future publications, unless Glenn Greenwald’s rather absurd promise of finding “the right partner … that has the funds to robustly publish” is fulfilled.
On March 13, a report in the Daily Beast revealed that the New York-based outlet The Intercept would be shutting down its archive of the trove of government documents entrusted to a handful of journalists, including Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, by whistleblower Edward Snowden. However, that account did not include the role of Greenwald, as well as Jeremy Scahill — another Intercept co-founder, in the controversial decision to shutter the archive.
According to a timeline of events written by Poitras that was shared and published by journalist and former Intercept columnist Barrett Brown, both Scahill and Greenwald were intimately involved in the decision to close the Snowden archive.
While other outlets — such as the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post and the New York Times — also possess much (though not all) of the archive, the Intercept was the only outlet with the (full) archive that had continued to publish documents, albeit at a remarkably slow pace, in recent years. In total, fewer than 10 percent of the Snowden documents have been published since 2013. Thus, the closing of the publication’s Snowden archive will likely mean the end of any future publications, unless Greenwald’s promise of finding “the right partner … that has the funds to robustly publish” is fulfilled.
Washington Babylon, Investigative Commentary: Is The Intercept An Intelligence Operation? An Ongoing Inquiry, Ken Silverstein (right), March 28, 2019. Washington Babylon has been running a number of stories this week by Tim Shorrock and I which raise the possibility — mine did directly — that Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept (TI) is an intelligence operation, working in collaboration with the U.S. and/or a foreign government. I understand why some readers might be skeptical of that charge, so let me lay out here some additional information and why I think everyone should be open-minded about the topic.
Let me also say that I don’t have 100 percent proof that TI was and is an intelligence operation, but the preponderance of evidence points that way. And I’m accumulating more evidence every day that makes the case even more compelling.
Before going further, here is a brief, lightly edited excerpt from the first story I ran on this topic. I urge all genuinely interested parties to read the entire story, before or after finishing this one.
Did Omidyar set up The Intercept on behalf of U.S. intelligence, in order to entrap, expose and prosecute whistleblowers? It’s curious: Greenwald was Omidyar’s first hire and he had pretty much exclusive access to Edward Snowden’s NSA treasure trove. When I worked at TI, the Snowden archive was locked in a safe. Omidyar and Greenwald long promised they would make it all available to the public but they never did, and last week, amid staff cuts that will inevitably lead to Omidyar killing the publication, TI announced that the Snowden archive will be sealed off from the public for an undetermined amount of time. So it looks like the most explosive leak in U.S. intelligence history will end up being buried by Omidyar and Greenwald.
I briefly noted in that story that I had previously worked at TI, being one of the first hires in 2014. I quit in disgust in early 2015 and wrote about my experience for Politico.
Back then, I didn’t suspect anything nefarious. I merely thought TI was experiencing a lot of the same problems any web start up would face. I remember joking with colleagues that by hiring so many left-leaning writers and paying them so much money to effectively not write — my two best stories for TI ended up in VICE — Omidyar had effectively decommissioned half of progressive journalism in the country. (Recall here Omidyar is a tech oligarch with rich ties to Silicon Valley, which in turn has deep links to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.)
But looking back, I have to wonder: was it merely incompetence and standard problems faced by start ups that kept TI from publishing much, or was it something worse?
Medium: Why The Intercept Really Closed the Snowden Archive, Barrett Brown, March 27, 2019. Justice Integrity Project editor’s note: This column discloses the outraged internal emails of Laura Poitras to colleagues at The Intercept and reaches a stunning conlusion by the brave, former political prisoner and whistleblower Barrett Brown, himself a former membe of The Intercept’s reporting team.
Document One: Timeline written by Laura Poitras (shown in a file photo)
On Wed. March 6, Betsy Reed and Jeremy asked to meet me to: “We want to explain how we’ve assessed our priorities in the course of the budget process, and made some restructuring decisions.” The meeting began with Jeremy asking me to agree to keep the conversation confidential. I say no, I would not agree to that, and requested they speak hypothetically, and not share any names. In this 2-hour tense meeting, it becomes clear they have decided to eliminate the research department. I object to this on the grounds Field of Vision is dependent of research department, and the Snowden archive security protocols are overseen by them.
Friday March 8, I send a one-sentence email saying that the elimination of the research department would jeopardize the security of the archive, and was therefore negligent. This prompts Glenn email and reprimand me for having “substantive discussions” about the archive without cc’ing him.
On Tuesday March 12, on a phone call with Glenn and the CFO, I am told that Glenn and Betsy had decided to shut down the archive because it was no longer of value to The Intercept. This is the first time I am heard about the decision. On the call, Glenn says we should not make this decision public because it would look bad for him and The Intercept. I objected to the decision. I am confident the decision to shut the archive was made to pave to fire/eliminate the research team.
On Wed March 13, I send a memo to the board of directors urging them to step in and save the archive. See attached. Hours later, CEO Bloom announces the layoffs in a staff email. I reply to Bloom, expressing my disgust with the layoffs and shutting down the archive. My email was leaked the press, which is why the public knows the archive is shut down.
On Thursday March 14, I call Edward Snowden. He had not been informed by Glenn or Betsy about their decision to shut down the archive. I apologize to him.
On Thursday March 14, The Intercept’s Union invite me to attend a staff meeting. The chilling effect from the layoffs is so bad they have to write down the questions to management, rather than speak them individually. I am barred from attending the meeting by the general counsel of First Look and The Intercept….
Document Three: Laura Poitras reply, 3/13
Michael, As I have communicated to you and Betsy, I am sickened by your decision to eliminate the research team, which has been the beating heart of the newsroom since First Look Media was founded, and has overseen the protection of the Snowden archive.
I am also sickened by your joint decision to shut down the Snowden archive, which I was informed of only yesterday — a decision made without consulting me or the board of directors. Your email’s attempt to paper over these ﬁrings is not appropriate when the company is presented with such devastating news.
Barrett Brown (shown at right, writes): In conclusion, neither Greenwald nor Reed are competent to decide anything at all about how these documents should be handled, or how The Intercept should be allocating its increasingly publicly-funded resources.
This would have been harder to write down and send to 50 of their colleagues previously, before I learned about the specific impulses that lead to this decision, or had I not won the outlet their first National Magazine Award from a fucking segregation cell during a prison term that stemmed from my attempts to stop firms like Palantir from going after people like Glenn, or had Glenn not waited until public perception had turned back in my favor before writing a single word about what I was doing in prison to begin with, or did I not have obligations to the other activists who are still dealing with the consequences of our efforts back then, or had Aaron Swartz not spent a portion of his last months alive helping us to research and publicize the personal management capability that I would meanwhile ask Glenn to bring to wider attention lest it be forgotten in my inevitable prison term — which of course it was, to such an extent that it has now been discovered again by NYT and New Yorker in the form of Psy-Group, now reported to have used its “avatars” to influence the 2016 election for Trump, even after the campaign declined to pay for the service.
It will be discovered again by some other name in four or five years. Or perhaps not.
The worst part is that I haven’t even gotten to the worst part, and won’t for a while. Perhaps this will suffice for now.
Anyone else who is inclined to talk about the circumstances surrounding the closure of the Snowden archive may send me an email at this address, or on Wire at @BarrettBrown33. If you just want to send something anonymously via means of your choice, to be relayed to someone I believe many of you have reason to trust and respect, that can also be arranged.
Good luck to the majority of you who are trying to do the correct thing in ambiguous circumstances.
Washington Babylon: Why Did Omidyar Shut Down The Intercept’s Snowden Archive? Ken Silverstein, March 25, 2019. His deep ties to USAID and relationship to a private contractor who advises the government on global counterinsurgency tactics may explain why…
Remember the “Pierre Omidyar Insurgency”? That was the title of a fawning New York Magazine profile in 2014 of the Silicon Valley billionaire who financed The Intercept after Edward Snowden’s theft of thousands of classified National Security Agency documents from his Booz Allen Hamilton NSA workstation in Hawaii. The story was just one of many adoring articles to appear in the left-liberal media at the time, with its author swooning over The Intercept’s “scorching brand” of “fearless, adversarial journalism” and detailing in ironic tones the wacky adventures of its world-famous founding editor, Glenn Greenwald.
Five years later, those articles, and The Intercept’s extravagant claims, look ridiculous. On March 13, its readers learned that Omidyar’s First Look Media, was shutting down access to its vast archive of NSA documents. The news appeared in The Daily Beast, a center-right entertainment publication that’s known for its slanted, neocon-tinged reporting on Russia and North Korea. Its initial dispatch focused on Laura Poitras, Snowden’s first contact, who was said to be “livid” and “sickened” about the archive’s closing.
“This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we’ve all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle,” Poitras wrote in an email shared with Intercept staff. According to the Beast, she learned of the decision when First Look CEO Michael Bloom sent out an email saying that because other news organizations had “ceased reporting” on the NSA archive “years ago,” First Look had decided to “focus on other editorial priorities.”
Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer for his spoon-fed reporting on Snowden, has been surprisingly reticent about the closing. He has provided only the vaguest of details about the future of the documents that Snowden earmarked for him while he was working for Booz, one of America’s most notorious intelligence contractors. In a Twitter post the after the Beast story broke, he took the company line that it was purely a business decision. “Like all digital media outlets, the Intercept has been confronted with financial restraints,” the $500K+ a year founder and journalist explained in his best bureaucratic voice. “The budget given to the Intercept by First Look Media for 2019 forces its editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, in consultation with the Intercept’s senior editors, to make extremely difficult decisions.”
Greenwald added that he and Poitras “continue to possess full copies of the archive” and that he is working to “ensure that publication” of the material will continue with “academics and researchers, not reporters” working with institutions that have enough funds “to do so robustly, quickly and responsibly.” He didn’t bother to mention Omidyar and the enormous investment ($250 million, equal to what Jeff Bezos paid to buy the Washington Post) gave to him and his partners to create The Intercept in the first place (Omidyar is the “sole shareholder” of First Look, its IRS form 990 states). And true to form, his “fearless” Intercept has yet to inform its many readers and supporters about the shutdown on its website. That’s odd, considering that it was financed by Omidyar specifically to control, publicize and promote Snowden’s archive. And perhaps that’s why the slogan “fearless, adversarial journalism” quietly disappeared from The Intercept Twitter feed in recent months and was replaced by the bland “We pursue the stories others don’t.” Who doesn’t?
Daily Beast, The Intercept Shuts Down Access to Snowden Trove, Maxwell Tani, March 13, 2019. First Look Media, the company that owns the Intercept, also announced that it was laying off several of the researchers who had been charged with maintaining the documents.
First Look Media announced Wednesday that it was shutting down access to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s massive trove of leaked National Security Agency documents.
Over the past several years, The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, has maintained a research team to handle the large number of documents provided by Snowden to Intercept journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald.
But in an email to staff Wednesday evening, First Look CEO Michael Bloom said that as other major news outlets had “ceased reporting on it years ago,” The Intercept had decided to “focus on other editorial priorities” after expending five years combing through the archive.
“The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us,” Bloom wrote.
He added: “It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner—such as an academic institution or research facility—that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest.”
First Look Media’s decision to shut down the archives puts an end to the company’s original vision of using The Intercept as a means to report on the NSA documents. In its original mission statement, Poitras, Greenwald, and Jeremy Scahill wrote that the initial mission of the site was, in the short-term, to “provide a platform and an editorial structure in which to aggressively report on the disclosures provided to us by our source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”
Wednesday’s decision—coupled with an announcement that First Look would lay off 4 percent of its staff—was not received well by many Intercept staffers, including Poitras.
In a series of internal memos, Poitras admonished First Look Media for its decision to shut down its archives, and lay off several researchers who had maintained them.
Mint Press News, How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape, Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal, Feb 18, 2019. Through his purchase of influence over the daily flow of information to American media consumers, a dizzying array of connections to the national security state, and a media empire that shields him from critical scrutiny, Pierre Omidyar has become one of the world’s most politically sophisticated data monarchs.
A select group of national news “stakeholders” gathered at an undisclosed location for what was described as a “semi-secret” workshop somewhere in Canada on January 26. The meeting had been convened to determine how and to whom a “news industry bailout” of $645 million in Canadian government subsidies to private and supposedly independent media outlets would be disbursed. It was a striking event that signaled both the crisis of legitimacy faced by mainstream media and the desperate measures that are being proposed to answer it.
Jesse Brown, a Canadian journalist who participated in the meeting, complained that the first thing he noticed about it “was that one major public ‘stakeholder’ wasn’t represented: the public.” Inside what amounted to a smoke filled room that was off limits to most Canadian citizens, Ben Scott — a former Obama administration official who also served in Hillary Clinton’s State Department — presided over the discussions. Today, as the director of policy and advocacy for the Omidyar Network, Scott works for one of the most quietly influential billionaires in helping to shape the media landscape and define the craft of journalism itself.
His boss is Pierre Omidyar (right), the eBay founder best known for his sponsorship of The Intercept, a flashy progressive publication that possesses the classified documents exfiltrated by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Unlike rival Silicon Valley billionaires Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos, and Eric Schmidt, Omidyar has mostly managed to keep his influential role in media below the radar. And while he directs his fortune into many of the same politically strategic NGOs and media outlets that George Soros does in hotspots around the globe, he has never been subjected to the public scrutiny and often ugly attacks that dog Soros. And yet Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN and liberal interventionist guru, has explicitly praised Omidyar as someone who is following in the footsteps of Soros.
The almost total absence of critical coverage that Omidyar enjoys is partly the product of his aversion to publicity. Unlike Soros, who seems to yearn for the media limelight, Omidyar is an eccentric figure who owns a “safe house” in the wilds of the American West; he interacts with business partners in virtual-reality simulations he funds, and has been magnetized by New Age gurus. But the free pass Omidyar has received from the media is also a testament to how much money he has channeled into it – as well into the organizations that ostensibly exist to keep it honest.
While backing media outlets around the world that produce news and commentary, Omidyar supports a global cartel of self-styled fact-checking groups that determine which outlets are legitimate and which are “fake.” He has also thrown his money behind murky initiatives like the non-profit backing New Knowledge, the data firm that waged one of the most devious disinformation campaigns in any recent American election campaign; and he is a key backer of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), the outfit that holds the Panama Papers and oversees the strategic dissemination of that leaked trove of financial files to hand-picked journalists.
At the base of this vast media empire is a nepotistic culture that has seen the beneficiaries of Omidyar’s funding come in for gushing praise from the same fact-checking organizations he supports, while the journalists nurtured by his donations reap high-profile awards from the Omidyar-sponsored Committee to Protect Journalists. Last November, Omidyar backed the release of a documentary hyping up the journalists that helped expose the Panama Papers, and he is also involved in a feature film starring Meryl Streep about the leaked documents and the heroic reporters covering them. The conflicts of interests created under the billionaire’s watch are many but, as with his own political activities, they have been scrutinized by only a handful of journalists.
Behind the image he has cultivated of himself as a “progressive philanthropreneur,” Omidyar has wielded his media empire to advance the Washington consensus in strategic hotspots around the globe. His fortune helped found an outlet to propel a destabilizing coup in Ukraine; he’s helped establish a network of oppositional youth activists and bloggers in Zimbabwe; and in the Philippines he has invested in an oppositional news site that is honing corporate surveillance techniques like a “mood meter…to capture non-rational reactions.” Meanwhile, he has partnered closely with the leading arms of U.S. soft power, from the U.S. Agency for International Aid and Development (USAID) to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — acting as a conduit for information warfare-style projects in countries around the world.
Omidyar’s political agenda came into sharper focus last May when he began funding the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a pet project of neoconservative operative Bill Kristol that has stoked public fear of Russian infiltration of social media. This December, it appears that Omidyar’s donations helped Kristol launch a new online magazine called The Bulwark — rebranding the defunct Weekly Standard, which had served as the banner publication of the neocon movement and a central organ for promoting America’s wars. As usual, the billionaire’s activities were ignored in progressive media, leaving the critical coverage to a few right-wing outlets frustrated with Kristol’s anti-Trump crusading.
Omidyar’s support for the same neocon guru who oversaw the publication of an article branding NSA spying whistleblower Edward Snowden as a “traitor” should place the ebay founder’s acquisition of the Snowden files in a disturbing light. By establishing The Intercept and recruiting the journalists who possessed Snowden’s leaks, the billionaire effectively privatized the files. Not only did this delay their release, it denied the public access to the information in order to supply his stable of hired reporters with exclusive scoops that continue to appear years after they were leaked. To this day, only a minuscule percentage of the Snowden files have been made public and, for whatever reason, none of those that have been released relate to ebay or its assorted business interests.
While hoarding this valuable trove, Omidyar has forged relationships with the very same private military contractor that Snowden fought to expose. Two years after founding The Intercept, Omidyar welcomed a man named Robert Lietzke to the Omidyar Fellows program. Lietzke is no small character — he happened to have been Snowden’s former boss, reportedly one of “three principals [running] day to day operations” at the Hawaii branch of the Booz Allen Hamilton defense firm where Snowden toiled as an NSA contractor.
The Omidyar Group did not respond to requests for comment on Omidyar’s involvement with the publication of the Snowden documents. Additionally, The Intercept did not respond to questions about the extent of control Omidyar’s First Look Media enjoys over the Snowden archive.
Through his purchase of influence over the daily flow of information to American media consumers, a dizzying array of connections to the national security state, and a media empire that shields him from critical scrutiny, Omidyar has become one of the world’s most politically sophisticated data monarchs.
Wayne Madsen Report, (WMR), Omidyar’s Intercept engaging in massive redactions for NSA, Wayne Madsen (shown at a conference, syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), March 22, 2018. WMR previously reported on how “The Intercept,” the news website financed by Pierre Omidyar, was engaging in National Security Agency-level redactions of classified documents originally provided to The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The latest redactions of NSA documents by The Intercept demonstrate a professional-level of censorship usually meted out by the Freedom of Information Act reviewers at Fort Meade.
The multi-billionaire Omidyar is a founder of E-Bay and Paypal.
On September 1, 2014, WMR first reported in depth on Greenwald’s and Omidyar’s cooperation with NSA to censor Snowden’s documents. WMR pointed out that documents possessed by The Intercept on NSA’s relationship with Turkey’s two signals intelligence agencies — GES (General Electronic Service — military) and ETI (Electronic and Technical Intelligence, also known as Signals Intelligence Directorate — part of the civilian-led Turkish National Intelligence Organization (TNIO or “MIT”) — saw entire pages blacked out by Greenwald and his team of so-called “investigative reporters.”
Proving that Greenwald merely sold back to NSA, via Omidyar, all of Snowden’s documents, Greenwald saw fit to delete in the Turkish SIGINT documents the former site at Sinop, which the NSA turned over to the Turks after the Cold War. Sinop remains part of the NSA’s worldwide HFDF network code-named CROSSHAIR. He also redacted NATO member Greece as one of the Turkish SIGINT targets for interception of “military air, naval, ground, and paramilitary” targets.
The Washington Post, a paper with close historical and financial ties to the U.S. intelligence community, previously redacted Snowden documents in its possession, in concert with consultations with NSA. Greenwald has shown that his particular brand of “investigative journalism” is for sale to the highest bidder.
In the latest flurry of Intercept redactions, NSA documents from 2013 detailing the agency’s ability to decrypt and track cryptocurrencies were heavily redacted by either Greenwald’s censors or NSA employees working closely with The Intercept to ensure that only minimal information from the Snowden documents was revealed.
New York Magazine, How the Snowden Leaks Gave Pierre Omidyar a Cause — and an Enemy, Andrew Rice, Nov. 2, 2014. The eBay founder was a mild-mannered Obama supporter looking for a way to spend his time and fortune. The Snowden leaks gave him a cause — and an enemy.
Every September, for a siren-snarled week, much of midtown Manhattan surrenders to a pair of occupying powers: the United Nations and the Clinton Global Initiative. The U.N.’s annual General Assembly brings in the foreign excellencies and tin-pot dictators, but it’s Bill Clinton’s event that attracts the billionaires. This year’s edition, co-sponsored by, among others, a Greek shipping magnate’s wife and a Ukrainian oligarch, took place inside the barricaded Times Square Sheraton, where the Clintons made evangelical “calls to action” on issues like water scarcity and women’s empowerment.
One evening, in conjunction with CGI, Pierre Omidyar threw a reception across the street. Omidyar, the programmer who created eBay, is one of America’s richest men, a 47-year-old philanthropist intent on giving away the fortune he made when he was 31. He is on collegial terms with the Clintons and has been a partner in their charity work. His guests, sipping wine inside a vaulted glass atrium, represented foundations and banks, governments and NGOs, tech start-ups and McKinsey. Omidyar’s foundation had just unveiled a $200 million Global Innovation Fund, established in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The announcement was timed to coincide with President Obama’s speech to the conference that afternoon on nurturing civil society.
Omidyar was late to the party, however — he’d spent much of his day hatching plans with some of Obama’s most uncivil opponents. Down in the Flatiron District, he has been building a digital-media organization dedicated to a scorching brand of “fearless, adversarial journalism.” Its prime target is the U.S. intelligence apparatus, and its marquee voice is Glenn Greenwald, the columnist who shared a Pulitzer Prize this year with documentarian Laura Poitras and others for obtaining and publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA surveillance. Since that story broke, Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras have become heroes of a crypto-insurgency. More quietly, Omidyar has become the movement’s prime benefactor, financing an operation to disseminate government secrets.
Earlier this year, Greenwald, Poitras, and a third comrade in arms — former Nation writer Jeremy Scahill — launched a website called the Intercept. It is meant to be the prototype for a fleet of publications funded by Omidyar’s flagship company, First Look Media, to which Omidyar has initially committed $250 million. “We have the luxury of doing something different because we have this kind of infinite-resource backer,” Greenwald told me on the phone from Brazil, where he is based. “We’re thinking about how to do journalism structurally differently.” At the time of Omidyar’s visit, a second site, Racket, was also revving up for its launch. Headed by the polemical magazine writer Matt Taibbi, it was going to offer scabrous satire of the financial industry and politics.
Wayne Madsen Report, (WMR), The Omidyar/Greenwald Redaction Team, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 1, 2014. Ever since eBay/PayPal multi-billionaire Pierre Omidyar sank $250 million into Glenn Greenwald’s “First Look,” the guardian of the tens of thousands of classified files procured by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, the extent of the redactions being made to the original documents by Greenwald and his team of alleged “investigative journalists” has been staggering.
However, the most recent set of redactions made by Greenwald, in concert with Der Spiegel are on the scale of any familiar to Freedom of Information Act requesters of classified documents. In the case of NSA documents on the agency’s relationship with Turkey’s two signals intelligence agencies, GES (General Electronic Service)(military) and ETI (Electronic and Technical Intelligence, also known as Signals Intelligence Directorate) (part of the civilian-led Turkish National Intelligence Organization (TNIO or “MIT”), entire pages have been blacked out by Greenwald and his team of so-called “investigative reporters.”
The most recent redactions call into question who Greenwald is actually working for. When the First Look deal was announced, many questioned a deal between Greenwald, a self-described libertarian journalist who once legally represented Matt Hale, the neo-Nazi white supremacist, and Omidyar, an Iranian-American who comes out of the largely right-wing Iranian diaspora that still waxes nostalgic for the regime of the Shah.
The latest heavily-redacted “document drip” Greenwald is a series of NSA and British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) memoranda and newsletter items that point to Turkey as not only a target of the FIVE EYES signals intelligence alliance of NSA, GCHQ, and three other English-speaking countries, but also a Third Party partner of the FIVE EYES. Turkey is described as NSA’s oldest “Third Party” partner in a relationship that began in 1949, which precedes NSA’s establishment by three years.
Much of the content of what was released in the documents deals with NSA support to Turkish SIGINT gathering targeting the Kurdistan People’s Congress or Kongra Gel, which is formerly known as Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and other Kurdish separatist groups. This support is funneled through the Senior U.S. Liaison Adviser Turkey (SUSLAT) based in Ankara.
One redaction made by Greenwald and company is the description and location of a former NSA High-Frequency Direction Finding (HFDF) site on the Black Sea coast of Turkey.
What Greenwald saw fit to delete is the SIGINT site at Sinop, which the NSA turned over to the Turks after the Cold War. Sinop remains part of the NSA’s worldwide HFDF network codenamed CROSSHAIR. He also redacted NATO member Greece as one of the Turkish SIGINT targets for interception of “military air, naval, ground, and paramilitary” targets. The Turks also monitor America’s new friends and prospective NATO members — Ukraine and Georgia — on behalf of NSA.
Wayne Madsen Report, (WMR), Snowden’s documents now safely in the hands of the Omidyar Network, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 21, 2013 Ever since National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden first began releasing information and documents and PowerPoint slides amassed on thumb drives by him before he fled the United States for Hong Kong and Moscow, the information flow about NSA’s super-secret surveillance programs directed against U.S. citizens and foreigners alike has been plagued with redactions. These redactions have engineered by agreements between newspaper, magazine, and TV network editors, publishers, and managers, on one hand, and NSA, British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron administration officials on the other.
Media executives, including Washington Post editor Martin Baron, New York Times editor Jill Abramson, and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, as well as those at Germany’s Der Spiegel, France’s Le Monde, and Brazil’s Globo TV, have acceded to demands by NSA and/or GCHQ to redact information from documents and slides, fail to provide full and readable copies of documents to readers, and act as virtual gatekeepers for the powers of surveillance around the world.
The recent announcement that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar has hired Snowden reporter/confidante Glenn Greenwald to head up a new international news operation — one that will have an infusion of $25 million in cash from a philanthropic entity called the Omidyar Network — that will have bureaus in Washington, DC, New York, and Rio de Janeiro, appeared, at first, to be an effort to ensure the flow of unfettered information about NSA and other U.S. and allied surveillance program to the public. However, billionaires like Omidyar always have hidden agendas, no matter how much they insist their intentions are honorable and in the public interest.
When Army Private First Class Bradley, now Chelsea, Manning allegedly released over a quarter million State Department cables to WikiLeaks, headed up by media celebrity and intense egotist Julian Assange, the reading public did not get the whole unblemished story about the cables because Assange had cut deals with The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and The Guardian to give the papers exclusivity rights. Immediately, the papers began cutting deals with the Obama administration to redact names and other critical information. As the actress who plays the girlfriend of Assange’s erstwhile and more level-headed collaborator, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, alias Daniel Schmitt, says in the recently-released movie The Fifth Estate, “Julian is a manipulative asshole.” No truer words have ever been presented on the big screen by Hollywood.
WikiLeaks also cherry-picked what cables to release to the press: those critical of Iran received top billing while those critical of Israeli policies never saw the light of day. We have largely seen the same scenario play out with the documents and slides Snowden provided to Greenwald. In fact, Greenwald’s marriage partner, David Miranda, saw his cache of documents seized upon his “in transit” detention at Heathrow Airport, while he was en route from Berlin to Brazil, by aggressive British law enforcement and intelligence agents. The Guardian’s Rusbridger destroyed hard drives containing Snowden’s material while under pressure from the British government.
It is shoddy journalism to cut deals with the devil, whether that devil is NSA, GCHQ, or slack-jawed and pasty-faced “gentlemen” from Britain’s Home Affairs Department.
Guardian, GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits, Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball, June 16, 2013. Exclusive: phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009. Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic. The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.
Mediaite, Greenwald Denounces Snowden ‘Smear Campaign’: ‘Tactic Of Establishment To Try To Demean People,’ Evan McMurry, June 16, 2013. Appearing on Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources Sunday afternoon, Glenn Greenwald, left, responded to critics of Edward Snowden’s revelation of classified material, and of Greenwald’s own reporting, which has come under fire for inaccuracies since its publication two weeks ago.
Greenwald said the personal nature of much of the media’s Snowden coverage was exactly what the 29-year-old defense contractor had feared. “One of his big concerns with coming out,” Greenwald said, “really his only one, was that he knows political media loves to dramatize and personalize things, and he was concerned that the focus would distract away from the revelations of about what our government was doing on to him personally.” “The other problem is that whenever there’s whistleblower, someone who dissents from our political institutions, the favorite tactic is to try to demonize him and highlight his alleged bad personality traits. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to present him in his own words to the world, so that they could form their own impression before these smear campaigns began.”
Huffington Post, Obama Will Speak On NSA In The Coming Days, Says Denis McDonough, Jennifer Bendery, June 15, 2013.President Barack Obama doesn’t think the National Security Agency’s collection of phone records violates customer privacy and he will defend that view in the coming days, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday. During an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” McDonough was asked if Obama had privacy concerns relating to the NSA’s analysis of the phone metadata of millions of Americans. “He does not,” said McDonough, emphasizing that all three branches of government play a role in overseeing the agency’s surveillance programs. “The president is not saying, ‘Trust me,’” he continued. “The president is saying, ‘I want every member of Congress, on whose authority we are running this program, to be briefed on it, to come to the administration with questions and to also be accountable for it.’”
Mediaite, Palin Blasts NSA: Couldn’t Find ‘Two Pot-Smoking Bostonians With Hotline To Terrorist Central?’ Evan McMurry, June 15, 2013. Sarah Palin addressed Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference Saturday morning, skewering Obama voters, the NSA, and Washington culture in general, and throwing a good-natured elbow to her “friends” at Saturday Night Live while she was at it. “It seems so Orwellian around here,” Palin said. “Before 1984, terms like ‘leading from behind’ meant following. The other day the White House testified before Congress, bragging that they used the ‘least untruthful statement.’ Where I come from that’s called a lie.”
New York Times, For Snowden, a Life of Ambition, Despite the Drifting, John M. Broder and Scott Shane, June 15, 2013. In 2006, when Edward J. Snowden joined the thousands of computer virtuosos going to work for America’s spy agencies, there were no recent examples of insiders going public as dissidents. But as his doubts about his work for the Central Intelligence Agency and then for the National Security Agency grew, the Obama administration’s campaign against leaks served up one case after another of disillusioned employees refashioning themselves as heroic whistle-blowers.
New York Times, After Profits, Defense Contractor Faces the Pitfalls of Cybersecurity, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, June 15, 2013. Why did Booz Allen assign a 29-year-old with scant experience to a sensitive N.S.A. site in Hawaii, where he was left loosely supervised as he downloaded highly classified documents about the government’s monitoring of Internet and telephone communications, apparently loading them onto a portable memory stick barred by the agency? The results could be disastrous for a company that until a week ago had one of the best business plans in Washington, with more than half its $5.8 billion in annual revenue coming from the military and the intelligence agencies.
Washington Post, U.S. surveillance architecture includes collection of revealing Internet, phone metadata, Barton Gellman, June 15, 2013. On March 12, 2004, acting attorney general James B. Comey and the Justice Department’s top leadership reached the brink of resignation over electronic surveillance orders that they believed to be illegal. President George W. Bush backed down, halting secret foreign-intelligence-gathering operations that had crossed into domestic terrain. That morning marked the beginning of the end of STELLARWIND, the cover name for a set of four surveillance programs that brought Americans and American territory within the domain of the National Security Agency for the first time in decades. It was also a prelude to new legal structures that allowed Bush and then President Obama to reproduce each of those programs and expand their reach.
Washington Post, Metadata proves to be a powerful tool for U.S. intelligence agencies, Ellen Nakashima, June 15, 2013. Electronic surveillance of information about calls and e-mails can reveal hidden patterns behind terror attacks. Metadata reveals the secrets of social position, company hierarchy, terrorist cells. Officials say the NSA analyzed records of only a few hundred people in data for tens of millions. The government last year searched for the phone records of fewer than 300 people in a database containing tens of millions of Americans’ phone records, intelligence officials said Saturday in a statement to Congress. The figure’s release is part of a push by officials to allay privacy concerns following recent disclosures of National Security Agency surveillance programs that collect massive amounts of data in an effort to thwart terrorist attacks.
Washington Post, Edward Snowden’s life of hiding in plain sight, Carol D. Leonnig, Jenna Johnson and Marc Fisher, June 15, 2013. “I wouldn’t want God himself to know where I’ve been,” the former NSA contractor wrote online in 2003. Edward Snowden, the skinny kid from suburban Maryland who took it upon himself to expose — and, officials say, severely compromise — classified U.S. government surveillance programs, loved role-playing games, leaned libertarian, worked out hard and dabbled in modeling. Snowden, 29, has repeatedly insisted that the documents he revealed are the story and that his life is of no interest. [But] questions about his motives and rationale inevitably colored the debate over his decision to violate his oath.
Huffington Post, Dick Cheney: Edward Snowden Is A ‘Traitor’ And Possibly A Chinese Spy, Jennifer Bendery, June 15, 2013. Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Edward Snowden betrayed his country by leaking classified documents about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs and warned that the former National Security Agency contractor may be spying for the Chinese government. “I think he’s a traitor,” Cheney, right, said of Snowden in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had,” he continued. “I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory f somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.”
Bloomberg, U.S. Agencies Said to Swap Data With Thousands of Firms, Michael Riley, June 13, 2013. Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said. In addition to private communications, information about equipment specifications and data needed for the Internet to work — much of which isn’t subject to oversight because it doesn’t involve private communications — is valuable to intelligence, U.S. law-enforcement officials and the military.
Editor’s Note: James Bamford, former investigative editor for ABC-TV and author of the leading books about the NSA, described its new Bluffdale Data Center in a major article in 2012 for Wired Magazine. Bamford, at right, had disclosed the operations of the super-secret NSA in The Puzzle Palace in 1982. Later, however, NSA Director Michael Hayden cooperated with Bamford in the latter’s 2001 book, Body of Secrets, chronicling NSA’s vast spying operation. Bamford’s The Shadow Factory in 2009 continued his book-length, cutting-edge reporting. His Wired cover-story below was the Inside the Matrix: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say), published in the edition of March 15, 2012. This week, he published in Wired the authoritative article below.
Wired, Connecting the Dots on PRISM, Phone Surveillance, and the NSA’s Massive Spy Center, James Bamford, June 6, 2013. Physically, the NSA has always been well protected by miles of high fences and electrified wire, thousands of cameras, and gun-toting guards. But that was to protect the agency from those on the outside trying to get in to steal secrets. Now it is confronting a new challenge: those on the inside going out and giving the secrets away.
As someone who has written many books and articles about the agency, I have seldom seen the NSA in such a state. Like a night prowler with a bag of stolen goods suddenly caught in a powerful Klieg light, it now finds itself under the glare of nonstop press coverage, accused of robbing the public of its right to privacy. Despite the standard denials from the agency’s public relations office, the documents outline a massive operation to secretly keep track of everyone’s phone calls on a daily basis – billions upon billions of private records; and another to reroute the pipes going in and out of Google, Apple, Yahoo, and the other Internet giants through Fort Meade – figuratively if not literally.
But long before Edward Snowden walked out of the NSA with his trove of documents, whistleblowers there had been trying for years to bring attention to the massive turn toward domestic spying that the agency was making. Last year in my Wired cover story on the enormous new NSA data center in Utah, Bill Binney, the man who largely designed the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping system, warned of the secret, nationwide surveillance. He told how the NSA had gained access to billions of billing records not only from AT&T but also from Verizon. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he said. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” Among the top-secret documents Snowden released was a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order proving the truth to Binney’s claim and indicating that the operation was still going on. Without documents to prove their claims, the agency simply dismissed them as falsehoods and much of the mainstream press simply accepted that.
National Security Agency, Utah Data Center, Government website (accessed June 12, 2013.) The Utah Data Center, code-named Bumblehive, above, is the first Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative (IC CNCI) data center designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to monitor, strengthen and protect the nation. NSA is the executive agent for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and will be the lead agency at the center. The steady rise in available computer power and the development of novel computer platforms will enable us to easily turn the huge volume of incoming data into an asset to be exploited, for the good of the nation.
RT (Russia Today), ‘NSA ‘bamboozling’ lawmakers for access to Americans’ private data’ – agency, Staff report, June 12, 2013. American citizens hoping to change the way the NSA monitors their everyday activities have little hope of recourse, longtime agency veteran Bill Binney told RT. He said the way the Patriot Act is interpreted is the a big first step toward totalitarianism. American citizens hoping to change the way the NSA monitors their everyday activities have little hope of recourse, longtime agency veteran Bill Binney told RT. He said the way the Patriot Act is interpreted is the a big first step toward totalitarianism.
RT: I’m sitting here with Mr. William Binney — he’s a thirty-two year veteran of the NSA who helped design a top-secret program that he says broadly changed Americans’ personal data. And he actually helped crack those codes, and enter into this. He’s now a whistleblower. Mr. Binney, thank you so much for joining me. So first of all, let’s talk about the latest information that has come out from this NSA spying on Americans.
Bill Binney: Well, first of all, the FISA warrant that was issued to the FBI to get the data from Verizon…that’s been going on, according to the paper anyway, since 2007. And this is like being renewed every three months. So if you look at the top-right corner of that order, it’s 13-80 — that means it’s the 80thorder since this year of 2013. So when you start to say, so what are the other 79 orders? You can figure other companies. And this is like the second order of 2013, for each company. So that maximum — you would divide 80 by two, and the maximum number of companies that could be involved in this order would be 40. But I’m sure that there are other things, that they have other orders they are issuing than just this kind, for the service providers, or the telecoms.
Guardian, A Guide to Your Metadata, Staff Report, June 12, 2013. Metadata is information generated as you use technology, and its use has been the subject of controversy since NSA’s secret surveillance program was revealed. Examples include the date and time you called somebody or the location from which you last accessed your email. The data collected generally does not contain personal or content-specific details, but rather transactional information about the user, the device and activities taking place. In some cases you can limit the information that is collected – by turning off location services on your cell phone for instance – but many times you cannot. Below, explore some of the data collected through activities you do every day.
New York Times, Surveillance: A Threat to Democracy, Editorial Board, June 11, 2013. Perhaps the lack of a broader sense of alarm is not all that surprising when President Obama, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, and intelligence officials insist that such surveillance is crucial to the nation’s antiterrorism efforts. But Americans should not be fooled by political leaders putting forward a false choice. The issue is not whether the government should vigorously pursue terrorists. The question is whether the security goals can be achieved by less-intrusive or sweeping means, without trampling on democratic freedoms and basic rights. Far too little has been said on this question by the White House or Congress in their defense of the N.S.A.’s dragnet. The surreptitious collection of “metadata” — every bit of information about every phone call except the word-by-word content of conversations — fundamentally alters the relationship between individuals and their government.
FoxNews.com, Inside the Utah Data Center, John Brandon, June 11, 2013. As Americans demand answers about the government’s wholesale electronic snooping on its citizens, the primary snooper — the National Security Agency (NSA) — is building a monstrous digital datacenter in a remote corner of Utah capable of sorting through and storing every e-mail, voicemail, and social media communication it can get its hands on. Former NSA employee William Binney told The Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day. This top-secret data warehouse could hold as many as 1.25 million 4-terabyte hard drives, built into some 5,000 servers to store the trillions upon trillions of ones and zeroes that make up your digital fingerprint. But that’s just one way to catalog people, said Charles King, principal analyst at data center consulting firm Pund-IT.
OpEdNews, The Mask of Liberalism Falls As Their Pundits Accuse Snowden of Being a Traitor and Narcissist, Rob Kall, June 11, 2013. The liberal pundits in America are coming out, revealing themselves to be duopolist sycophants, serving the corporate state, serving the worst abuser of executive privilege in US history. The Liberal mainstream media is so “out of the closet” they are disgustingly naked. They are calling Edward Snowden — who is absolutely a courageous hero — a traitor and narcissist. Jeffrey Toobin suggests that because he left his good job and girlfriend he is being narcissistic. Funny, if a guy leaves a job in pro-sports to enlist, leaving his family, he’s considered a hero. What a pure crock from a collection of limp liberals who wouldn’t know courage if it bit them. Watch the former Obama appointees on MSNBC perform oral service for Obama. They have sold out the values that the Democratic party is supposed to and used to have. They have become political operatives.
Above is another view of the National Security Agency’s new Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. The government is collecting the records of virtually all U.S. customers, according to independent experts. The government defines its activities in a way that it says complies with relevant law, with all relevant proceedings secret. The data center had a VIP ribbon-cutting ceremony May 30, and moves into formal launch in October. Details below are quoted from an official NSA website:
The Utah Data Center, code-named Bumblehive, is the first Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative (IC CNCI) data center designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to monitor, strengthen and protect the nation. NSA is the executive agent for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and will be the lead agency at the center. The steady rise in available computer power and the development of novel computer platforms will enable us to easily turn the huge volume of incoming data into an asset to be exploited, for the good of the nation.
The Utah Data Center is currently under construction and is expected to open in October 2013. Our 1.5 billion-dollar one million square-foot Bluffdale / Camp Williams facility will house a 100,000 sq-ft mission critical data center. The remaining 900,000 SF will be used for technical support and administrative space. Other supporting facilities include water treatment facilities, chiller plant, power substations, vehicle inspection facility, visitor control center, and sixty diesel-fueled emergency standby generators and fuel facility for a 3-day 100% power backup capability. We’re using a Critical Path Method (CPM) schedule to track the cost and resource data for over 26,000 activities. The project initially required over a million cubic yards of earthwork and nearly seven miles of new roadways. The massive twenty-building complex is being completed in three phases. The first phase was completed last Fall and includes the first of four data halls.
Guardian, Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills: At the moment I feel alone, Mills’s blog – in which she described life with her boyfriend on Hawaii – taken down after Snowden identified as source of leaks, Paul Lewis, June 10, 2013. The girlfriend of Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked classified documents about US surveillance operations, has apparently blogged about the couple’s life in Hawaii and her uncertainty about the future without her “man of mystery.” Just a day after Snowden identified himself as the source of the leaks, Lindsay Mills, a 28-year-old performance artist, wrote: “I don’t know what will happen from here. I don’t know how to feel normal.” She added: “My world has opened and closed all at once. Leaving me lost at sea without a compass … at the moment all I can feel is alone.” The authenticity of the blog, which was seen by the Guardian before it was taken down on Tuesday, could not be verified. Snowden had previously told the Guardian his girlfriend was called Lindsay.
Lawfare, Today’s [Snowden] Headlines and Commentary, Ritika Singh, June 11, 2013. Keith Bradsher of the New York Times reports that Hong Kong is likely to extradite Edward Snowden if asked to by the U.S. government. From the Department of You Really Can’t Make This Up: Russia has called Snowden a “human rights activist” and has said it would consider an asylum request from him. Julian Assange, meanwhile, has invaluable advice for Snowden: “I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America.” CNN has more. The Post tells us that a full-scale investigation has begun into how Snowden was able to gain access to the information he leaked. The Times also reports on how and why Snowden gave his media contacts the information he did. And Kim Zetter of Wired magazine explains why what Snowden did was the “ultimate insider attack.” The Los Angeles Times, however, reports that Snowden’s claims that “at any time [he could] target anyone, any selector, anywhere” are a huge overstatement of what the NSA can legally do.
Washington Post, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and the risk of the low-level, tech-savvy leaker, Greg Miller, June 11, 2013. In the span of three years, the United States has developed two gaping holes in its national security hull, punctures caused by leakers who worked at the lowest levels of the nation’s intelligence ranks but gained access to large caches of classified material.
The parallels between Edward Snowden, who has declared himself the source of leaks on National Security Agency surveillance programs, and Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army private on trial for sending hundreds of thousands of secret files to the WikiLeaks Web site, go beyond generational ties. Who is Edward Snowden?: A 29-year-old government contractor who admitted that he was behind recent leaks of classified intelligence has vaulted from obscurity to international notoriety, joining the ranks of high-profile leakers such as Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame. Both enlisted in the Army during the war in Iraq only to later say they were disillusioned by that conflict. Neither has a college degree or extensive academic training in computer science. And yet both were technically savvy, able to navigate sensitive computer networks and smuggle classified files.
WhoWhatWhy, Why Obama Cannot Undo the Surveillance Society — But We Can, Russ Baker, June 11, 2013. Today, the New York Times, in a news/analysis article, essentially declared that there was no hope for any kind of restraint of growing government spying on the public. Not if it is up to the people’s representatives.
The Times noted that secrecy rules will prevent robust and open discussion in Congress. It also pointed out that Republicans will mostly stay in line with their traditional allies in the intelligence services—and that Democrats will too, both because they will want to show they did the right thing in voting to authorize the Patriot Act and other relevant legislation, and because during this round, the leader is Obama, a Democrat. But that’s just the beginning of the difficulties in the way of achieving reform of our incipient surveillance state. What the Times and other media will not and perhaps cannot say, is this: not only is Congress impotent in these matters, but it wouldn’t even matter if the president himself chose to act. Here’s why.
Presidents of both parties rarely deviate from a kind of “consensus” cobbled together by people in academia, media and government, a consensus that almost always serves the interests of a fairly small number of wealthy people and interests. (If you’ve never heard this notion, a visit to one of our remaining public libraries might be in order.) This is not a partisan issue. It doesn’t matter who is president. No “ordinary American who can dream of one day becoming president” is in a position to alter the basic equation, which would involve bucking the vast military-financial-industrial-academic complex that drives the American economy, funds our political elections and keeps people in line through any means necessary. That’s as true of Obama as it was of Kennedy or Nixon or…fill in the blank.
Guardian, A Guide to Your Metadata, Staff Report, June 12, 2013, Metadata is information generated as you use technology, and its use has been the subject of controversy since NSA’s secret surveillance program was revealed. Examples include the date and time you called somebody or the location from which you last accessed your email. The data collected generally does not contain personal or content-specific details, but rather transactional information about the user, the device and activities taking place. In some cases you can limit the information that is collected – by turning off location services on your cell phone for instance – but many times you cannot. Below, explore some of the data collected through activities you do every day. On Thursday, June 13 The Guardian’s data editor James Ball will answer your questions about the NSA data collection program in the US from 3pm-4pm EST | 8pm-9pm BST.
Washington Post, Tech companies urge U.S. to ease secrecy rules on national security probes, Craig Timberg and Cecilia Kang, June 11, 2013. Technology companies stung by the controversy over the National Security Agency’s sweeping Internet surveillance program are calling on U.S. officials to ease the secrecy surrounding national security investigations and lift long-standing gag orders covering the nature and extent of information collected about Internet users. The requests, made by Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo and echoed by a top official from Twitter, came as debate intensified over whether oversight of government spying programs grew too lax in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when security concerns combined with soaring technological capabilities led to individuals being monitored on a vast new scale.
Washington Post, NSA revelations put Booz Allen Hamilton, Carlyle Group in uncomfortable limelight, Thomas Heath and Marjorie Censer, June 11, 2013. The Carlyle Group has spent years attempting to shed its image as a well-connected private equity firm leveraging Washington heavyweights in the defense sector. Instead, it nurtured a reputation as a financially sophisticated asset manager that buys and sells everything from railroads to oil refineries. The recent disclosures involving National Security Agency surveillance on U.S. citizens by an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a Virginia consulting firm that is majority owned by Carlyle, has thrust two of Washington’s most prominent corporate entities uncomfortably into the limelight, bound by the thread of turning government secrets into profits.
The NSA boasts legal compliance, as in its motto above.
Huffington Post, Edward Snowden: Hero or Traitor?, Geoffrey R. Stone, June 10, 2013. Based on what I know from the media thus far, Snowden is neither a hero nor a traitor, but he is most certainly a criminal who deserves serious punishment. Snowden knowingly accepted a position of trust in his relation to the government. He did not have to accept his job, but he did. A clear condition of that job was his voluntary agreement not to disclose any classified information – that is, information the disclosure of which could reasonably endanger the security of the nation.
Pro Publica via Washington Spectator, 5 Basic Things We Still Do Not Know about NSA Snooping, Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer, June 10, 2013. Last week saw revelations that the FBI and the National Security Agency have been collecting Americans’ phone records en masse and that the agencies have access to data from nine tech companies. But secrecy around the programs has meant even basic questions are still unanswered. Here’s what we still don’t know:
- Has the NSA been collecting all Americans’ phone records, and for how long?
- What surveillance powers does the government believe it has under the Patriot Act?
- Has the NSA’s massive collection of metadata thwarted any terrorist attacks?
- How much information, and from whom, is the government sweeping up through Prism?
- So, how does Prism work?
MSNBC via Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald Clashes With Mika Brzezinski, Accuses MSNBC Host Of Using ‘White House Talking Points’ (VIDEO), June 10, 2013. Glenn Greenwald, left, clashed with Mika Brzezinski on air Monday when he accused her of using “White House talking points.” The Guardian columnist broke a bombshell story revealing the NSA’s secret surveillance of the phone records of Verizon customers on Wednesday night. The next day, he raced the Washington Post to report on the NSA’s PRISM program. The revelations have roiled the Obama administration. On Monday, Greenwald appeared on “Morning Joe” to discuss the programs. He reiterated his point that the public should be made aware of government surveillance, and be able to decide if they want it. Brzezinski then asked him to put the programs into “perspective.”
“Isn’t it the case that reviewing of emails or any wiretapping cannot take place without an additional warrant from a judge and a review?” she asked. “I mean it’s not like there’s haphazard probing into all of our personal emails. Can we put this into context so we understand exactly what is going on?”
“Yeah, I’ll put this into context for you,” Greenwald responded. “The White House talking points that you’re using are completely misleading and false.” He said the law required individual warrants under when two people are in the United States and are both American citizens, but that the government could still probe the phone calls and emails of “all kinds of American citizens.” “So those talking points that you’re reading from are completely false as anybody whose paid even remote attention to the surveillance debate knows over the past 10 years,” Greenwald continued.
Mika interrupted, “Uh no. Hey, Glenn, I’m not reading talking points. Glenn, I’d like to ask a question. Is this legal or illegal?
Slate, Edward Snowden, the Man Behind the NSA Leaks, Farhad Manjoo, June 10, 2013. If the NSA Trusted Edward Snowden With Our Data, Why Should We Trust the NSA? Edward Snowden sounds like a thoughtful, patriotic young man, and I’m sure glad he blew the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs. But the more I learned about him this afternoon, the angrier I became. The NSA trusted its most sensitive documents to this guy? According to the Guardian, Snowden, shown at right in a Guardian photo,is a 29-year-old high-school dropout who trained for the Army Special Forces before an injury forced him to leave the military. His IT credentials are apparently limited to a few “computer” classes he took at a community college in order to get his high-school equivalency degree—courses that he did not complete.
His first job at the NSA was as a security guard. Then, amazingly, he moved up the ranks of the United States’ national security infrastructure: The CIA gave him a job in IT security. He was given diplomatic cover in Geneva. He was hired by Booz Allen Hamilton, the government contractor, which paid him $200,000 a year to work on the NSA’s computer systems. The worst part about the NSA’s surveillance is not its massive reach. It’s that it operates entirely in secret, so that we have no way of assessing the sophistication of its operation.
All we have is the word of our politicians, who tell us that they’ve vetted these systems and that we should blindly trust that the data are being competently safeguarded and aren’t vulnerable to abuse. Snowden’s leak is thus doubly damaging. The scandal isn’t just that the government is spying on us. It’s also that it’s giving guys like Snowden keys to the spying program. It suggests the worst combination of overreach and amateurishness, of power leveraged by incompetence.
Hill, Sen. Feinstein calls Snowden’s NSA leaks an ‘act of treason,’ Jeremy Herb and Justin Sink, June 10, 2013. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday said the 29-year-old man who leaked information about two national security programs is guilty of treason. Feinstein said that she doesn’t see National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden as a hero or a whistle blower.
Washington Post, Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you, Timothy B. Lee, June 10, 2013. If recent reports are to be believed, the National Security Agency has broad powers to capture private information about Americans. They know who we’re calling, they have access to our Gmail messages and AOL Instant Messenger chats, and it’s a safe bet that they have other interception capabilities that haven’t been publicly disclosed. Indeed, most mainstream communications technologies are vulnerable to government eavesdropping. But all is not lost! The NSA’s spying powers are vast, but there are still ways to thwart the agency’s snooping. Here are five of them.
Legal Schnauzer, Was The Fiery Death Of Journalist Michael Hastings Connected To Atlanta Security Firm Called Endgame? Roger Shuler, July 1, 2013. At the time of his death in a fiery car crash on June 18, journalist Michael Hastings was working on a story about alleged Anonymous leader Barrett Brown. Currently under federal indictment on charges related to computer hacking, Brown is the journalist who first reported on a shadowy private security firm in Atlanta called Endgame.
The Web site freebarrettbrown.org reports that Hastings was planning to interview Brown in late June and had announced to his followers, “Get ready for your mind to be blown.” A Hastings/Brown interview almost certainly would have included questions about Brown’s research on “black hat” private security firms that work with the official U.S. intelligence community. Some of these outfits also have powerful ties to corporate America via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Primary among such firms is Endgame, which is based on the seventh floor of the former Biltmore Hotel building in Atlanta.
Huffington Post, PRISM Program: Obama Administration Held 22 Briefings For Congress On Key FISA Law, Sam Stein June 10, 2013. The Obama administration officials held 22 separate briefings or meetings for members of Congress on the law that has been used to justify the National Security Agency’s controversial email monitoring program, according to data provided by a senior administration official. According to the official, the sessions that took place over the course of 14 months starting in October 2011 touched on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, which gives the attorney general and director of national intelligence the authority to gather intelligence on non-U.S. citizens for up to one year. Section 702 has been cited by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper as the legal basis for the NSA’s PRISM program, which has allowed the government to track email communication data.
Washington Post, Investigators looking into how Snowden gained access at NSA, Peter Finn, Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima, June 10, 2013. Counterintelligence investigators are scrutinizing how a 29-year-old contractor who said he leaked top-secret National Security Agency documents was able to gain access to what should be highly compartmentalized information, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials. Edward J. Snowden worked as a systems administrator at an NSA Threat Operations Center in Hawaii, one of several such facilities that are tasked with detecting threats to government computer systems. He has previously worked for the CIA, U.S. officials said. Snowden leaked documents to The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper on distinctly different operations: the NSA’s collection of data from U.S. phone call records and its surveillance of online communications to and from foreign targets.
Washington Post, Hong Kong hotel says Edward Snowden was there, but checked out Monday, Jia Lynn Yang, June 10, 2013. “Hong Kong is definitely not a safe harbor for him,” said Regina Ip, a current legislator and chair of the New People’s Party. Snowden’s fate lies in a 16-year-old treaty between the United States and Hong Kong that guarantees extraditions except under rare circumstances. The treaty says that Hong Kong can refuse to transfer a suspected criminal to the United States if giving up the person “implicates” the “defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy” of the People’s Republic of China. The treaty with Hong Kong says that any request to extradite must originate from the U.S. Department of Justice, and would be channeled through the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong.
Guardian, Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind revelations of NSA surveillance, Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras, June 9, 2013. The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows. The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell. The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said. Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA. In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
Regarding his future, he said, “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
Washington Post, From obscurity to notoriety, Snowden took an unusual path, Ellen Nakashima, June 9, 2013. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old National Security Agency contractor who admitted that he was behind recent leaks of classified intelligence, has vaulted from obscurity to international notoriety, joining the ranks of high-profile leakers such as Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, shown at left.
The fact that Snowden stepped forward to acknowledge his leaks to The Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers rather than wait for the FBI to find him impressed others who have disclosed government secrets. “I consider it a magnificent act of civil disobedience,” said Thomas Drake, a former NSA official who was prosecuted for leaking classified information to a journalist but wound up serving no prison time after the government’s case fell apart. “He’s a whistleblower.” Ellsberg was similarly impressed. He said in an interview: “There’s no American official or former official that I admire more at this point. There’s never been a more important disclosure to the American people than the leak [by Snowden] — and I include the Pentagon Papers in that. . . . He’s clearly ready to give his life or his freedom for the interests of his country.”
Washington Post, Source of NSA leak reveals himself, Barton Gellman, Aaron Blake and Greg Miller, June 9, 2013. Edward Snowden, 29, says disclosing the top-secret information was right to do and is seeking asylum abroad.
Washington Post, The risk of outsourcing intelligence, Robert O’Harrow Jr., June 9, 2013. The unprecedented leak of National Security Agency secrets by an intelligence contractor, including bombshells about top-secret programs to collect telephone records, e-mail and other personal data, was probably an inevitable consequence of the massive growth of the U.S. security-industrial complex.
Washington Post, Edward Snowden says motive behind leaks was to expose ‘surveillance state,’ Barton Gellman and Jerry Markon, June 9, 2013. Before the world knew his name, 29-year-old Edward Snowden drafted a note of explanation. He had worked for the CIA and as a contractor for the NSA, he wrote, and had lived a “comfortable and privileged life.” But he was also deeply uncomfortable with the knowledge that had already been afforded to him in his brief career — knowledge about the U.S. surveillance that officials said they were carrying out to keep America safe.
Washington Post, Wonkblog: Is he crazy to seek asylum? Has the US become the type of nation from which you have to seek asylum? Timothy B. Lee, June 9, 2013. The whistleblower who disclosed classified documents regarding NSA surveillance to The Washington Post and the Guardian has gone public. He is Edward Snowden, 29, an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Rather than face charges in the United States, Snowden has fled to Hong Kong. He plans to seek asylum in a nation with a strong civil liberties record, such as Iceland. Americans are familiar with stories of dissidents fleeing repressive regimes such as those in China or Iran and seeking asylum in the United States. Snowden is in the opposite position. He’s an American leaving the land of his birth because he fears persecution. Four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities to face charges of violating the Espionage Act.
Politico, NSA leaker reveals self, has no apologies, Reid J. Epstein, June 9, 2013. The leaker is taking credit for exposing the NSA’s PRISM program. Snowden told the Guardian that he has gone to great lengths to maintain his digital privacy, going so far as to keep pillows under his door frame to interfere with listening devices and maintain a hood over his computer when entering passwords to block any hidden cameras. “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” he told the paper. “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” Snowden, according to the Guardian, copied a series of NSA documents from a Hawaii office where he worked until late May, when he requested According to the Guardian, Snowden was raised in North Carolina and suburban Maryland. The paper reported that he never completed high school, yet was able to enter a U.S. Army Special Forces training program in order to fight in the Iraq war. The paper said he later received a GED. The Guardian reported that Snowden was discharged from the Army after breaking his legs in a training accident. Then, the paper said, he joined the NSA where it reported his “understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.
Time, Four Things to Know About Surveillance Leaker Edward Snowden, Zeke J Miller, June 9, 2013.Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old defense contractor who leaked classified documents on U.S. government surveillance programs, revealed himself Sunday afternoon in interviews with the Guardian and the Washington Post. Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton for the past three months, moved to a Hong Kong hotel on May 20, after accessing a trove of classified information from a government office in Hawaii with the intent to reveal information on the controversial classified programs, the Guardian reported. Last week the British paper revealed details on two classified programs — one pertaining to the seizure of all telephone metadata in the U.S. and another dealing with an effort to monitor Internet activities overseas using the resources of American technology firms. The Post revealed information about the second program, called PRISM. Both papers confirmed that Snowden passed them the information.
Huffington Post, Glenn Greenwald On ‘This Week’: ‘You Should’ Expect More Revelations From Me, Rebecca Shapiro, June 9, 2013. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday and told host George Stephanopoulos that the public should expect more revelations from him. Last week, Greenwald broke the bombshell story about the NSA collecting phone data from millions of Verizon customers. Additional stories on major government surveillance programs followed, including news about the NSA program called Prism that allows officials to collect material from some of the country’s largest Internet companies (including AOL, HuffPost’s parent company). On Sunday, Greenwald published another story about an NSA datamining tool used for global surveillance called Boundless Informant. “Should we be expecting more revelations from you?” Stephanopoulos asked Greenwald. “You should,” he said.
Huffington Post, Rand Paul: NSA Surveillance Programs Warrant Supreme Court Challenge, Mollie Reilly June 9, 2013. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), left, said Sunday that he is weighing a Supreme Court challenge to the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance programs, calling the organization’s collection of records an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” “I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said on Fox News Sunday. “I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”
Lawfare, The Washington Post on Prism, Paul Rosenzweig, June 9, 2013. I had some hesitancy writing this blog since so many of the writers at the Post are acquaintances. But it really must be said. By now, readers are familiar with the Post’s story on the NSA Prism program from last week. It turns out that the story is wrong — wrong on the facts and wrong on the technology. That’s not my conclusion — that’s the conclusion of the inestimable Declan McCullagh of CNET. His conclusion is notable precisely because McCullagh is never thought of as a government apologist. Quite to the contrary he is a frequent, but fair, critic.
Reuters via Huffington Post, NSA Leaks Investigation Report Filed, Timothy Gardner and Mark Hosenball, June 8, 2013. A U.S. intelligence agency requested a criminal probe on Saturday into the leak of highly classified information about secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an aggressive defense of a secret government data collection program. Clapper, right, blasted what he called “reckless disclosures” of a highly classified spy agency project code-named PRISM. It was not known how broad a leaks investigation was requested by the super-secret NSA. The report goes to the Justice Department. Prosecutors have brought a series of high-profile leak investigations under President Barack Obama.
U.S. officials said the NSA leaks were so astonishing they expected the Justice Department to take the case. In a statement earlier on Saturday, Clapper acknowledged PRISM’s existence by name for the first time and said it had been mischaracterized by the media. The project was legal, not aimed at U.S. citizens and had thwarted threats against the country, he said. “Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,” Clapper said in a statement. He said the surveillance activities reported in the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper were lawful and conducted under authorities approved by Congress. “Significant misimpressions” have resulted from recent articles, he said.
Director of National Intelligence, Facts on the Collection of Intelligence Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, James Clapper, June 8, 2013. PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a). This authority was created by the Congress and has been widely known and publicly discussed since its inception in 2008. Under Section 702 of FISA, the United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers.
Ed Bott Report via ZD Net, The real story in the NSA scandal is the collapse of journalism, Ed Bott, June 8, 2013. Summary: A bombshell story published in the Washington Post this week alleged that the NSA had enlisted nine tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple, in a massive program of online spying. Now the story is unraveling, and the Post has quietly changed key details. What went wrong? One day later, with no acknowledgment except for a change in the timestamp, the Post revised the story, backing down from sensational claims it made originally. But the damage was already done.
Washington Post, U.S., company officials: Internet surveillance does not indiscriminately mine data, Robert O’Harrow Jr., Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman, June 8, 2013. The director of national intelligence on Saturday stepped up his public defense of a top-secret government data surveillance program as technology companies began privately explaining the mechanics of its use. The program, code-named PRISM, has enabled national security officials to collect e-mail, videos, documents and other material from at least nine U.S. companies over six years, including Google, Microsoft and Apple, according to documents obtained by the Washington Post. The disclosures about PRISM have renewed a national debate about the surveillance systems that sprang up after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, how broad those systems might be and the extent of their reach into American lives.
Washington Post, Vast surveillance programs renew debate about oversight, Robert Barnes, Timothy B. Lee and Ellen Nakashima, June 8, 2013. The disclosure of vast government surveillance programs has renewed the debate about whether the kind of transparent oversight that Americans expect from their government can work if it might compromise efforts to keep them safe from terrorism. President Obama and his national security leaders have asserted that vigorous oversight of government surveillance of phone calls and Internet data exists and denounced media reports that brought the programs to public attention. Can the kind of transparent oversight Americans expect from their government work if it might compromise efforts to keep them safe from terrorism?
Washington Post, A timeline of surveillance in the United States from 2001 to 2013: from the Patriot Act to the PRISM program, Masuma Ahuja, June 7, 2013.
Buzzfeed, Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans, Michael Hastings, June 7, 2013. Besides Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, most Democrats abandoned their civil liberty positions during the age of Obama. With a new leak investigation looming, the Democrat leadership are now being forced to confront all the secrets they’ve tried to hide.
Jacob Appplebaum, a transparency activist and computer savant, has been repeatedly harassed at American borders, having his laptop seized. Barrett Brown, another investigative journalist who has written for Vanity Fair, among others publications, exposed the connections between the private contracting firm HB Gary (a government contracting firm that, incidentally, proposed a plan to spy on and ruin the reputation of the Guardian’s Greenwald) and who is currently sitting in a Texas prison on trumped up FBI charges regarding his legitimate reportorial inquiry into the political collective known sometimes as Anonymous.
That’s not to mention former NSA official Thomas Drake (the Feds tried to destroys his life because he blew the whistle ); Fox News reporter James Rosen (named a “co-conspirator” by Holder’s DOJ); John Kirakou, formerly in the CIA, who raised concerns about the agency’s torture program, is also in prison for leaking “harmful” (read: embarrassing) classified info; and of course Wikileaks (under U.S. financial embargo); WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (locked up in Ecuador’s London embassy) and, of course, Bradley Manning, the young, idealistic, soldier who provided the public with perhaps the most critical trove of government documents ever released.
The attitude the Obama administration has toward Manning is revealing. What do they think of him? “Fxxx Bradely Manning,” as one White House official put it to me.
Washington Post, Documents: U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, June 6, 2013. The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by the Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind.
The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
Huffington Post, Dianne Feinstein Says NSA Phone Records Surveillance Has Thwarted Terrorism, ‘But That’s Classified,’ Matt Sledge, June 6, 2013. Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Thursday the National Security Agency program collecting domestic phone records has prevented terrorism. But she and other senators briefed on the program refused to delve into details about how it is used. Feinstein, right, spoke to reporters after the Intelligence Committee held a “highly classified” briefing on the vast NSA program, which Feinstein said had been put together “quickly” after The Guardian’s report on its existence.
Washington Post, Administration, lawmakers defend NSA program to collect phone records, Ellen Nakashima and Ed O’Keefe, June 6, 2013. The Obama administration and key U.S. lawmakers on Thursday defended a secret National Security Agency telephone surveillance program that one congressman said had helped avert a terrorist attack in recent years. The program apparently has collected the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order.
The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe. The National Security Agency secretly collected phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the court order, issued in April, appears to be “the exact three-month renewal” of the program that has been underway for the past seven years. She said the program is “lawful.”
AP via Huffington Post, NSA PRISM Program: Is Big Data Turning Government Into ‘Big Brother?’ Michael Liedtke, June 7, 2013. With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials. The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.
Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Washington Post, Does Verizon records case mean an end to privacy? Eugene Robinson, June 6, 2013. Someday, a young girl will look up into her father’s eyes and ask, “Daddy, what was privacy?” The father probably won’t recall. I fear we’ve already forgotten that there was a time when a U.S. citizen’s telephone calls were nobody else’s business. A time when people would have been shocked and angered to learn that the government was compiling a detailed log of ostensibly private calls made and received by millions of Americans.
The Guardian got its scoop by obtaining a secret order signed by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Since we know so little about this shadowy court’s proceedings and rulings, it’s hard to put the Verizon order in context. The instructions to Verizon about what information it must provide take up just one paragraph, with almost no detail or elaboration. The tone suggests a communication between parties who both know the drill. Indeed, Senate intelligence committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the order obtained by the Guardian was nothing more than a “three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years.”
Guardian, NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily, Glenn Greenwald, June 5, 2013. Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama. Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
Huffington Post, Hey America — ‘Can You Hear Me Now?!’ Obama, Verizon, and Executive Power Run Amok, Kristen Breitweiser, June 6, 2013. Today’s news relating to the Verizon data and records siege speaks volumes about this president and his absolute abuse of power. And when coupled with Eric Holder’s abuses regarding the targeting of journalists and whistleblowers, Obama’s positioning of John Brennan at CIA and James Comey at FBI, along with Obama’s shift of drone warfare from CIA to DOD, which will now conveniently enable drones to operate within our borders, we all should be very, very scared.
Because dissent, discussion, debate can no longer exist with this sort of omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent government. In short, the deck is stacked against us. Years ago, while in the midst of fighting the Bush administration for access to 9/11 documents that the 9/11 Commission needed to conduct its investigation, I met some old law school buddies for drinks. During our conversations, I railed against the Patriot Act and its inherent triggers against “our” privacy rights.
American Conservative, American Pravda: “Liberal Bias,” Ron Unz, June 5, 2013. When a small publication such as the American Conservative publishes a sharp attack against the mainstream media as I recently did in American Pravda, the ultimate result largely depends upon whether that self-same media will take any notice. Many tens or even low hundreds of thousands may read a highly popular article online, but such totals are negligible in a nation of over three hundred million, and those readers might anyway question the credibility of the charges. After all, one of my central arguments had been that our media decides what is real and what is nonsense.
With the media serving as gatekeeper to its own criticism, the impact of my efforts remained in substantial doubt over the last month, but early Monday morning the ground shifted as the venerable Atlantic — one of America’s oldest publications and still among the most influential — published a very thoughtful 2,000 word discussion of my piece, under the noteworthy heading “Why Does the American Media Get Big Stories Wrong?” Agreeing with me on some particulars and disagreeing on others, author Conor Friedersdorf helpfully summarized my critique while also providing several suggested answers to his own title-question, something that I had not treated in detail.
At right, President Obama and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough walk June 3 on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)
Guardian, Bradley Manning Trial Focuses on His Database Access, Ed Pilkington, June 5, 2013. Bradley Manning, the source of the largest intelligence leak in US history, was allowed by his superiors to surf massive closed databases of secret information without any official restrictions, as well as download classified files to CDs and play music, movies and video games on his secure computer, his court martial has heard.
Day three of the trial, the highest-profile prosecution of an official leaker in at least a generation, focused on a tussle between the US government and Manning’s defence lawyers over the environment in which the soldier worked as an intelligence analyst. The prosecution attempted to depict his unit within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division as meticulously trained in the handling and safeguarding of classified information.
By contrast, the defence team led by civilian lawyer David Coombs extracted answers from prosecution witnesses under cross-examination that presented the unit as an ill-disciplined group that operated under lapse security guidelines, even though they were stationed on active duty at a US military base outside Baghdad. Two of Manning’s supervisors at Forward Operating Base Hammer were called to the stand, Jihrleah Showman and chief warrant officer Kyle Balonek, and grilled in similar fashion.
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