Newly disclosed documents from Edward Snowden, revealed by the Guardian, show that the British spy agency (and close NSA partner) GCHQ intercepted emails from many of the US and UK's most well-known news organizations, including the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, Le Monde, the Sun, and NBC.
In a surprising development, the New York Times reported late Friday that the FBI and Justice Department have recommended felony charges against ex-CIA director David Petraeus for leaking classified information to his former biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell. While the Times does not specify, the most likely law prosecutors would charge Petraeus under is the same as Edward Snowden and many other leakers: the 1917 Espionage Act.
We've long known the Justice Department's stance on transparency has been hypocritical and disingenuous. But they've really outdone themselves this time. (more…)
Today, a judge in Dallas will decide the fate of journalist Barrett Brown, who is being sentenced in a case that has been fraught with controversy and deplorable conduct by the Justice Department from its beginning in 2013. Brown, who author Barry Eisler profiled earlier today, was one of the very few reporters covering intelligence contractors and their role in mass surveillance of citizens around the world for years before we ever heard the name Edward Snowden.
Director Brian Knappenberger, whose film The Internet's Own Boy was just short-listed for an Oscar, has released to us this previously unpublished outtake interview of Brown from his previous film We Are Legion. Brown's description of these shadowy contractors and the necessity of journalists to uncover their secrets is uncanny, given the interview was conducted almost two years before the first NSA leaks from Snowden. Watch Knappenberger's clip above.
On October 6th, New Zealand police raided the house of one of the country's best independent investigative journalists, Nicky Hager, seizing many of his family's belongings and his reporting equipment—all in the search for one of his sources. This is a flagrant violation of basic press freedom rights, and today we are announcing a campaign to assist Hager in raising money for his legal defense. (more…)
Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would resign yesterday, after serving as the nation's top law enforcement official since President Obama came into office in 2009. Holder will leave behind a complex and hotly debated legacy at the Justice Department on many issues, but one thing is clear: he was the worst Attorney General on press freedom issues in a generation, possibly since Richard Nixon's John Mitchell pioneered the subpoenaing of reporters and attempted to censor the Pentagon Papers.
Two weeks ago, the DOJ Inspector General released a report on the FBI's use of National Security Letters (NSLs)—-the controversial (and unconstitutional) surveillance instruments used to gather personal information of Americans without any prior oversight from a judge. In a little-noticed passage buried in the report, the IG describes how NSLs have been used on journalists in the past, and indicates that the FBI can currently circumvent the Justice Department's media guidelines to do so in the future.
We've fact-checked statements in the media about Edward Snowden and the NSA before, but by far the biggest falsehood being spread by government advocates is the alleged fact that he took 1.7 million documents from the NSA.
All the parties involved—Snowden, the journalists, and even the government—either deny it or have said they have no reason to believe it is true, yet it has become the go-to number when discussing Snowden's case. It's time news organizations start issuing corrections.
Glenn Greenwald wrote about this last week, showing that news outlets have taken the statement by an NSA official on 60 Minutes that Snowden—at one point or another in his career—"accessed" or "touched" millions of documents and warped it into a claim that he'd stolen that many:
Ever since then, that Snowden "stole" 1.7 or 1.8 million documents from the NSA has been repeated over and over again by US media outlets as verified fact. The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, citing an anonymous official source, purported to tell readers that "among the roughly 1.7 million documents he walked away with — the vast majority of which have not been made public — are highly sensitive, specific intelligence reports". Reuters frequently includes in its reports the unchallenged assertion that "Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents." Just this week, the global news agency told its readers that "Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents."
As Greenwald pointed out, in an interview given to the Australian Financial Review, former NSA chief Keith Alexander was asked point blank if the NSA can really say how many documents Snowden took. Here's what he said:
Well, I don't think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don't have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.
Read that again. They do not know how many documents he took. But this actually isn't anything new, we've known this for months. After the New York Times reported Snowden "accessed" 1.7 million files in February, they also wrote, albeit a dozen paragraphs later, that DIA head General Michael Flynn admitted in Congressional testimony they still had "a great deal of uncertainty about what Mr. Snowden possessed. 'Everything that he touched, we assume that he took,' said General Flynn." In other words, they have no idea.
Despite these known facts, even this week, the Wall Street Journal has published an incredibly irresponsible piece by Edward Jay Epstein, who based an entire op-ed around the false 1.7 million statement as a way to claim that Snowden is working for a foreign goverment. And look what happens when you Google the phrase "Snowden 1.7 million": He either "took," "has," or "stole" nearly 2 million documents is all over the entire front page.
So to sum up, Edward Snowden has said the number is made up, the journalists involved deny they have 1.7 million documents, and the government has stated multiple times they do not know how many documents he took. Literally no party in the NSA story believes the 1.7 million number is true, yet most media organizations claim it's a fact.
We look forward to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and others who have been peddling this fictitious number issuing corrections.
It's now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee's landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation.
Hillary Clinton made her first extended public remarks about Edward Snowden late last week, and unfortunately she misstated some basic facts about the NSA whistleblower and how events have played out in the last year. Here's a breakdown of what she said and where she went wrong:
Clinton: "If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been… I don't understand why he couldn't have been part of the debate at home."
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Snowden that even NSA reform advocates have furthered. Edward Snowden could not be part of this debate at home, period.
The US State Department announced the launch of its third annual "Free the Press" campaign today, which will purportedly highlight "journalists or media outlets that are censored, attacked, threatened, or otherwise oppressed because of their reporting." A noble mission for sure. But maybe they should kick off the campaign by criticizing their own Justice Department, which on the very same day, has asked the Supreme Court to help them force Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter James Risen into jail.
On The Media dedicated its whole program this week to addressing a growing and disturbing problem: the suspension of constitutional rights at the US border, where Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) can detain US citizens for hours and seize their electronic devices without any suspicion of wrong doing. Perhaps worse, the policies and practices of CBP are extremely secretive and in many ways unaccountable, and Freedom of Information Act requests to the agencies are largely stonewalled or ignored.
As our board member Josh Stearns wrote recently, "The U.S. border may be the next battleground for press freedom."
In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knew Miranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world's most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.
Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I'd like to expand on one particular point:
Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.
The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a "co-conspirator" in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim's case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.
In a Senate Judiciary Hearing on NSA surveillance today, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insinuated dozens of journalists reporting on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were "accomplices" to a crime. His spokesman further suggested Clapper was referring to journalists after the hearing had concluded.
If this is the official stance of the US government, it is downright chilling.
Pentagon Papers whistleblower (and our co-founder) Daniel Ellsberg held an expansive, seven-hour long Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session yesterday to explain why NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will join our board of directors. He also discussed many other subjects—including NSA surveillance, President Obama's flip-flop on whistleblowers, Nixon's dirty tricks, and the dangers of excessive government secrecy.
Below are some of our favorite questions and answers. But make sure to read the last remarkable exchange, in which Mr. Ellsberg finds out—for the first time—that the Nixon administration had surveillance of him from before the Pentagon Papers were leaked.
There seems to be a new talking point from government officials since a federal judge ruled NSA surveillance is likely unconstitutional last week: if Edward Snowden thinks he's a whistleblower, he should come back and stand trial.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on 60 Minutes Sunday, "We believe he should come back, he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court." Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell made similar statements this weekend, as did Rep. Mike Rogers (while also making outright false claims about Snowden at the same time). Even NSA reform advocate Sen. Mark Udall said, "He ought to stand on his own two feet. He ought to make his case. Come home, make the case that somehow there was a higher purpose here."
These statements belie a fundamental misunderstanding about how Espionage Act prosecutions work.
Freedom of the
Press Foundation has taken
charge of the DeadDrop project, an open-source whistleblower
submission system originally coded by the late transparency advocate
Aaron Swartz. In the coming months, the Foundation will also
provide on-site installation and technical support to news
organizations that wish to run the system, which has been renamed
By installing SecureDrop,
news organizations around the world can securely accept documents from
whistleblowers, while better protecting their sources' anonymity.
Although it is important to note that no security system can ever be 100
percent impenetrable, Freedom of the Press Foundation believes that this
system is the strongest ever made available to media outlets. Several
major news agencies have already signed up for installations, and they
will be announced in the coming weeks.
"We've reached a time in America when the only way the press can assure
the anonymity and safety of their sources is not to know who they are,"
said JP Barlow, co-founder and board member of Freedom of the Press
Foundation. "SecureDrop is where real news can be slipped quietly under