Journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill launched the premiere digital magazine of First Look Media today, called The Intercept, which will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden.
In their introductory message, the trio wrote, “a primary function of The Intercept is to insist upon and defend our press freedoms from those who wish to infringe them. Much of this will be done through fearless publishing, backed-up by an A-Team of First Amendment lawyers. But The Intercept is also using technology to protect press freedom, which is increasingly important in the age of mass surveillance.
The Intercept is the first major news publication in the United States to make its entire site HTTPS encrypted by default. As the NSA documents have shown, this is vital for reader privacy, as every site you visit is vulnerable to snooping by intelligence agencies if it's left unencrypted. HTTPS can also help protect readers against getting hijacked by outside attackers, like when the news site Slashdot was unwittingly spoofed by Britain's spy agency.
This should a minimum best practice followed by every news organization, but unfortunately, for various reasons, no other news organization has done so before today. In the coming months, we hope to help change that.
We’re also proud to have helped The Intercept launch their own version of SecureDrop, the whistleblower submission system that was originally created by Aaron Swartz. We currently maintain the open-source project and worked with The Intercept's staff to make sure their version is as secure as possible. SecureDrop provides a way to help sources to get documents and information to journalists in a secure and anonymous way.
If sources or whistleblowers want to contact The Intercept journalists through SecureDrop rather than email, they can download and launch the Tor browser (or preferably Tails) from a public wifi spot like a coffee shop, and go to this URL that is only accessable through Tor: http://ofwvo6t3agiiwcrq.onion/
From there, sources can follow the instructions and hopefully avoid many of the digital pitfalls that put whistleblowers at risk in the last decade.
None of this would be possible without Micah Lee, our first CTO and current board member, who is now a full-time technology analyst for The Intercept. Micah has also made sure The Intercept’s journalists all post their PGP public keys on their staff pages. Micah previously wrote our digital security guide for journalists called Encryption Works: How to Protect Your Privacy in the Age of NSA Mass Surveillance.
While there is always room for improvement, it's great to see The Intercept team is taking digital security seriously. Without it, it's increasingly difficult to truly have press freedom, even with the best reporters out there.
UPDATE: As Kevin Gallagher explains, a few security researchers pointed out some problems with The Intercept's security configurations, many of which have now been fixed.
Editor's Note: Greenwald, Poitras, and Snowden are also board members of Freedom of the Press Foundation.