The person who brought Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald together

Micah Lee has a fascinating account about the role he played as an intermediary in enabling Edward Snowden to contact Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald and thus breaking the huge story. He was the initial contact for Snowden who had been unable to communicate securely with Poitras and Greenwald. Lee was a staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the chief technology officer of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, his public encryption key was available and had solid digital signature guarantees. Snowden thought that Lee could be trusted and would know the public key for Poitras, which he did

Lee describes a tightly compartmentalized network of people who trusted each other and yet shared information on a strict need-to-know basis to maintain security. It is a fascinating account by someone who was willing to help Snowden long before he knew who he was or what he was going to reveal. The article will be particularly interesting to those who know more about encryption and security than me, but I found it engrossing too.

Lee thinks that it is now safe to reveal how the whole story unfolded. He has also published a how-to document on encryption, a 30-page whitepaper titled Encryption Works: How to Protect Your Privacy in the Age of NSA Surveillance.

During this time, Lee knew that what he was doing was dangerous though he did not what it was. After he had played his role in bringing them together and bowed out of the picture, at least temporarily, Snowden emailed him and said that someday Lee would be proud of the role he played. Lee says that that was correct, he is very proud of the role that he “played in shining light on the global espionage apparatus”.

Already I have noticed that the most vociferous critics of Snowden have become muted. One rarely hears scathing attacks on him personally and his motives. The tide seems to have turned.


  1. says

    that the most vociferous critics of Snowden have become muted

    Generally, yes. I think that Snowden and Greenwald’s strategy of disclosing something, letting the government lie about it, then disclosing something that showed the lie – has worked very well. The government’s initial inclination to lie its pants off has really obliterated its credibility with anyone who has half a brain. Also, anyone who cares about the situation has had time to do a bit of research, now that the initial reaction has worn off, and realize that Snowden’s telling the truth. It requires weapons-grade cognitive dissonance to think that the NSA is lying to itself on its own top secret powerpoints. 🙂

  2. Dunc says

    That whitepaper is pretty good, but it kinda glosses over one of the most difficult steps: “create a new pseudonymous email address”. In practice, it’s really quite difficult to create a pseudonymous email address that can’t be tracked back to you. Out of curiosity, I recently tried to set up a free Hushmail account using Tor, but “due to the volume of terms of service violations”, it wouldn’t let me. I could have set up a paid account, but then the payment information would tie it to me (also, I don’t actually have any real need for secure email, I’m not curious enough to pony up actual cash just to play around). Although that might just be related to the location of whatever Tor exit node I was using at the time…

    Another thing I do wonder about is just how much of the Tor network is actually operated by the NSA. I were them, I’d set up as many exit nodes as I could, capture all of the traffic, and then try and correlate it with the rest of their data. It seems safe to assume that they’re the canonical example of a “global adversary”.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Already I have noticed that the most vociferous critics of Snowden have become muted.

    Yes, how is Jefferey Johnson doing these days?

    But seriously, is there anyone besides Administration officials or worshippers of the national security state who are still trying to defend Obama?

    In case it’s of any interest, I notice that the latest issue of The Nation has a longish interview with Snowden (may not be available to non-subscribers; I haven’t checked). I haven’t read it yet; I just download the electronic version a couple of minutes ago.

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