How to be a whistleblower while minimizing the risk of exposure

The Intercept website was started by Glenn Greenwald and others following the whistleblowing by Edward Snowden. It has a page where they encourage other whistleblowers to come forward but also provides them with suggestions as to how to do it while minimizing the risks of exposure.

One of the founding principles of The Intercept is that whistleblowing is vital to holding powerful institutions accountable; in fact, we were launched in part as a platform for journalism arising from unauthorized disclosures by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. We are strongly committed to publishing stories based on leaked material when that material is newsworthy and serves the public interest.

So whether you are in government or the private sector, if you become aware of behavior that you believe is unethical, illegal, or damaging to the public interest, consider sharing your information securely with us.

We’ve taken steps to make sure that people can leak to us as safely as possible. Our newsroom is staffed by reporters who have extensive experience working with whistleblowers, as well as some of the world’s foremost internet security specialists. Our pioneering use of the SecureDrop platform enables you to communicate with our reporters and send documents to us anonymously.

Access journalism — where reporters treat business and government officials as arbiters of truth — is a discredited model. Whistleblower-based journalism is far better suited to the challenges facing the press and the public today. [My emphasis-MS]

That last bolded paragraph is so true. But access journalism is what much of the media is wedded to because it is cheap and safe.

The website provides information about how to leak information using secure electronic drop boxes, regular mail, secure voice and messaging apps, email, and also provides information on something called Tails.

Consider using a completely separate computer or operating system for all of your whistleblowing activity so that a forensics search of your normal computer won’t reveal anything. Even if you’re using the Tor browser, for instance, if someone has hacked into your computer, they’ll be able to spy on everything you do. Tails is a separate operating system that you can install on a USB stick and boot your computer to. Tails is engineered to leave no traces behind. It’s not intuitive to use, but if you’re risking a lot, it’s probably worth the effort. You can find instructions for downloading and installing Tails here.

It also lists the things you should not do if you want to remain anonymous.

Don’t contact us from work. Most corporate and government networks log traffic. Even if you’re using Tor, being the only Tor user at work could make you stand out.

Don’t email us, call us, or contact us on social media. From the standpoint of someone investigating a leak, who you communicate with, and when, is all it takes to make you a prime suspect.

Don’t tell anyone that you’re a source.

As The Intercept says:

At The Intercept, our editors and reporters are committed to high-impact reporting based on newsworthy material. If we decide to go forward with a story, we will have a discussion with you about what risks of retaliation you might face and whether you want to remain anonymous. We will be explicit with you about the parameters of our agreement to protect your anonymity, and we will honor our commitments.

Becoming a whistleblower carries risks, but they can be minimized if you’re careful. And sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Other publications like The Guardian and the New Yorker have also developed secure drop boxes.

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