Global surveillance and journalism

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Global surveillance and journalism is a subject considering journalism in light of the Global surveillance disclosures of 2013.

Allegation of a US "war on whistleblowers"[edit]

The Obama administration has been characterized as much more aggressive than the Bush and other previous administrations in their response to whistleblowing and leaks to the press,[1] prompting critics to describe Obama's crackdown as a "war on whistleblowers."[2][3][4] A public statement by the Obama campaign bragged that "the Obama administration has prosecuted twice as many cases under the Espionage Act as all the other administrations combined.[5][6][7][8]

Eight people have been charged under the previously rarely used leak-related provisions of the Espionage Act of 1917. They include Thomas Andrews Drake, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who was critical of the Trailblazer Project,[9] Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor who allegedly had a conversation about North Korea with James Rosen of Fox News Channel,[10] and Jeffrey Sterling, who allegedly was a source for James Risen's book State of War. Risen has also been subpoenaed to reveal his sources, another rare action by the government. Also, Shamai Leibowitz, a contract linguist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was convicted of leaking information from embassy wiretaps,[11] John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst pleaded guilty to passing classified information,[12] Chelsea Manning, an intelligence analyst for the US Army pleaded guilty to passing classified information to the Wikileaks organization,[13] and James Hitselberger, a former contract linguist for the US Navy in Bahrain is charged with possessing classified documents.[14] Most notably, Edward Snowden, a technical contractor for the NSA and former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is currently at large and has been charged with theft and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information to columnist Glenn Greenwald.[15][16]

Reporters Without Borders' 2014 Press Freedom Index[17] saw a drop of 13 ranks for the United States due to their "treatment of whistleblowers, leakers, and those who assist them" in 2013. The country fell to 46th place, between Romania and Haiti. The United Kingdom fell three places for similar reasons. The Index is meant to highlight places where journalists and photographers are free to do their work, as well as places where the work puts them in danger.[18] Reporters Without Borders' executive director Christian Mihr stated: "In the US, state persecution of investigative journalists and their sources by security services has reached an unprecedented level. If sources can no longer be trusted, we face a significant curtailment of press freedom and a dramatic step backwards when it comes to democracy."[19]

Allegations of government intimidation of The Guardian[edit]

The Guardian, founded in 1821, is a UK-based international newspaper. In 2013, The Guardian received a copy of data from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Legal threats and forced computer destruction[edit]

External video
Video from The Guardian including footage of destruction

In June and July 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron sent Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, to meet with Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian.[20] Accordingly, Heywood ordered the editor cease publishing articles based on the Snowden disclosures. According to the Guardian, Heywood said: "We can do this nicely or we can go to law", adding that "A lot of people in government think you should be closed down." [20]

On July 20, the destruction was carried out by three Guardian staffers under observation of GCHQ experts.[20][21]

The Guardian was clear that there were multiple copies of the data in other nations. One staffer involved in the destruction discussed the experience, saying "It was purely a symbolic act. We knew that. GCHQ knew that. And the government knew that. It was the most surreal event I have witnessed in British journalism."[20]

Arrest of David Miranda[edit]

Greenwald and his partner David Miranda in 2013

In August 2013 the Metropolitan Police detained Greenwald's partner David Miranda at London's Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, while he was traveling home from Berlin.[22][23][24] A February 2014 court decision upheld the detention as appropriate.[25]

Greenwald described his partner's detention as "clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ".[26] Miranda was detained for nine hours and his laptop and other items were seized. He has since sued the Metropolitan Police for misuse of their powers. According to The Guardian the claim, "challenging controversial powers used under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, maintains that Miranda was not involved in terrorism and says his right to freedom of expression was curtailed".[27]

In December 2013, Greenwald and Miranda openly advocated for asylum in Brazil for Edward Snowden in exchange for the fugitive leaker's cooperation in investigating the NSA.[28] Brazil responded by saying that it was not interested in investigating the NSA.[29]

Journalists as accomplice?[edit]

Director Clapper has referred to Snowden's "accomplices",[30] while Rep. Peter King explicitly accused Greenwald of having Snowden as an "accomplice".[31] UK Conservative politician Liam Fox has contacted the UK Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether journalists at The Guardian "breached counter-terrorism laws".[32][33]


Computer Science Professor Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University posted a statement critical of the NSA. The university issued a statement it had "received information that Matthew Green's blog contained a link or links to classified material", after which it asked him to remove the post. [34][35]


  1. ^ Bill Kovach: "It strikes me as a much more aggressive approach on the part of the government than I have experienced in 30 years." Leonard Downie describes the Administration as the "most militant" since Richard Nixon's regarding leaks. Richard McGregor (28 May 2013). "Press freedom: A heavy-handed approach". Financial Times. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Greenwald: Obama engaged in ‘unprecedented war on whistleblowers’," The Washington Post
  3. ^ "The War on Whistleblowers: On the Sin of Being Correct", The Nation
  4. ^ "Obama's War on Whistleblowers" Mother Jones.
  5. ^ Obama Administration Has Declared War On Whistleblowers, Describes Leaks As 'Aiding The Enemy' | Techdirt
  6. ^ Obama campaign brags about its whistleblower persecutions | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free |
  7. ^ Edward Snowden is eighth person Obama has pursued under Espionage Act
  8. ^ Obama's War on Whistleblowers | Mother Jones
  9. ^ Mark Hosenball (April 16, 2010). "Exclusive: House Republican Staffer Introduced Alleged NSA Leaker to Reporter". Declassified. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  10. ^ Scott Shane (April 15, 2010). "Former N.S.A. Official Is Charged in Leaks Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  11. ^ Maria Glod (May 25, 2010). "Former FBI employee sentenced for leaking classified papers". Washington Post. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  12. ^ Scott Shane (January 5, 2013). "Ex-Officer Is First From C.I.A. to Face Prison for a Leak". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  13. ^ Paul Adams (February 28, 2013). "Bradley Manning pleads guilty to some Wikileaks charges". BBC News. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  14. ^ Pete Yost (AP) (November 7, 2012). "Linguist charged under Espionage Act". Retrieved July 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ Finn, Peter; Horwitz, Sari (June 21, 2013). "U.S. charges Snowden with espionage". Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  16. ^ Greenwald: Obama engaged in ‘unprecedented war on whistleblowers’
  17. ^ "Biggest rises and falls in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index". Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Thomkins, Mike. "Press less free in 2013, says Reporters without Borders; incidents of assault, threats increasing". Imaging Resource. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "Reporters without Borders: 'Security interests threaten press freedom'". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  20. ^ a b c d Footage released of Guardian editors destroying Snowden hard drives | UK news |
  21. ^ NSA files: why the Guardian in London destroyed hard drives of leaked files | World news | The Guardian
  22. ^ Charlie Savage, (August 16, 2013) Britain Detains the Partner of a Reporter Tied to Leaks The New York Times
  23. ^ Savage, Charlie; Michael Schwirtz (2013-08-18). "Britain Detains Partner of Reporter Tied to Leaks". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  24. ^ "US given 'heads up' on David Miranda detention". BBC News Online. August 19, 2013. 
  25. ^ Alice Ritchie (19 February 2014), British court upholds Snowden-linked detention AFP
  26. ^ Greenwald, Glenn (19 August 2013). "Glenn Greenwald: detaining my partner was a failed attempt at intimidation". The Guardian. London. 
  27. ^ David Miranda lawyers argue that Heathrow detention was unlawful, The Guardian, Wednesday 6 November 2013
  28. ^ Romero, Simon. "Snowden Offers Help to Brazil in Spy Case", New York Times, 17 December 2013.
  29. ^ "Brazilian Government Denies Asylum to Snowden in Exchange for Information". Folha de S.Paulo. 17 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  30. ^ James Clapper Suggests Journalists Could Be Edward Snowden's 'Accomplices'
  31. ^ Rep. Peter King: Greenwald and ‘His Accomplice’ Snowden Trying to ‘Make the NSA the Enemy’ | Mediaite
  32. ^ Edward Snowden spy leaks: Liam Fox in push for Guardian newspaper to be prosecuted - Telegraph
  33. ^ It's outrageous to accuse the Guardian of aiding terrorism by publishing Snowden's revelations | Ben Emmerson | Comment is free | The Guardian
  34. ^ The NSA's next move: silencing university professors? | Jay Rosen | Comment is free |
  35. ^ Crypto prof asked to remove NSA-related blog post | Ars Technica