New government leaker emerges

Yesterday’s The Intercept story by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux about the numbers of people caught up in the various government’s watch lists was based on confidential documents from the National Counterterrorism Center that was leaked to them. What was interesting is that these were not part of the trove of documents released by Edward Snowden and the date of the documents is August 2013 showing that they were created after Snowden left the NSA.

The government has concluded that this is the work of a new leaker, which must be giving them headaches as their fears that Snowden would inspire others to follow suit seems to becoming reality.

The federal government has concluded there’s a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN.

In a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, [Glenn] Greenwald said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved.”

He added, “I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.”

It’s not yet clear how many documents the new leaker has shared and how much damage it may cause.

The government’s ham-handed way of dealing with these stories was revealed once again. The editor of The Intercept John Cook went to the NCC for comment and response before they published the story, as is the usual journalistic custom. But the NCC, in a petty move, then gave a friendly reporter Eileen Sullivan at the Associated Press advance notice of this story so that she could scoop The Intercept and also write a story that was more friendly to the government, which she did.

After the AP story ran, The Intercept requested a conference call with the National Counterterrorism Center. A source with knowledge of the call said that the government agency admitted having fed the story to the AP, but didn’t think the reporter would publish before The Intercept did. “That was our bad,” the official said.

Asked by The Intercept editor John Cook if it was the government’s policy to feed one outlet’s scoop to a friendlier outlet, a silence ensued, followed by the explanation: “We had invested some quality time with Eileen,” referring to AP reporter Eileen Sullivan, who the official added had been out to visit the NCTC.

But since the AP published their story only a few minutes before The Intercept, it made the NCC’s attempt at undermining the story less effective. But what the NCTC did is a big no-no in the world of journalism and as a result of their pettiness, The Intercept editor says that in future, they will give the government only 30 minutes to respond to stories before they publish. Now expect the government to whine that they are not being given enough time.

This incident illustrates the dangerous cozy relationship between some journalists and the national security state and the need for a distant, if not outright antagonistic, relationship between journalists and the people they cover.


  1. Chiroptera says

    I’ve said this before: the national security agencies are in kind of a bind. If they hire employees who truly want to help their country and defeat evil, then they are hiring people with ideals and morals, people who may realize that what the agencies are doing is bullshit and leak the information to the public for the betterment of the nation.

    On the other hand, their other option is to hire amoral time servers, who are just as likely to sell their secrets for money to people like narcotrafficers and foreign intelligence officers.

    Assuming that Sullivan didn’t have any knowledge that the scoop she was being given was to deny the scoop to another news organization, I wonder what her opinion is on the allegations that she may have been used?

  2. Chiroptera says

    Come to think of it, I wonder what the US intelligence agencies think is the biggest threat: the public coming to know what is being done in their name and objecting to it, or foreign intelligence finding out how the US agencies are going about their business and implementing countermeasures? I’m guessing the former is a bigger threat to their livelihoods.

  3. says

    their fears that Snowden would inspire others to follow suit

    Their lack of respect for the law, and their prediliction for hiding their activities under a veil of “national security” is what inspires others to follow suit. Let there be a thousand Snowdens — the most transparent administration ever, would be a nice thing.

  4. says

    If they hire employees who truly want to help their country […]
    On the other hand, their other option is to hire amoral time servers […]

    There is a third option: hire incompetent yutzes. Which appears to be the strategy being pursued; it fits all the evidence: hire poor performers and outsource the real work, hoping the outsourcers are trustworthy. There are obvious flaws with that, but if the agencies have aggressively pursued the strategy I outline above, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between trustworthy hirelings and incompetent hirelings.

  5. doublereed says

    This kind of thing would cause considerably less damage if they actually acted like adults rather than yell “Traitor! Blargabablable!”

    It’s like they’ve never heard of the term “civil disobedience.”

  6. says

    doublereed (#5) –

    It’s like they’ve never heard of the term “civil disobedience.”

    A better term for civil disobedience is ethical defiance. Those who oppose a law or government action do so for moral reasons, and usually morally superior ones to those they oppose.

    The US and other oppressive governments want to label ethical defiance as “terrorism” both to use laws to silence those who speak out, and to intimidate others into silence. But when governments oppress and terrorize the populace long and often enough, there comes a point where the ethical opposition is no longer afraid of the regime and will speak out regardless of the consequences.

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