The U.S. government has identified the person it believes is the so-called "second leaker" who has given over classified national security documents to some of the same journalists who have reported on many of the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden this year, a news report claimed on Monday.
"The Obama administration in my view is conducting a war against whistleblowers and ultimately against independent journalism."
—journalist Jeremy ScahillAccording to Michael Isikoff at Yahoo News!, citing law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case, the FBI has already searched the home of the individual—said to be "an employee of a federal contractor"—and prosecutors from the Department of Justice in Northern Virginia currently have an open criminal investigation into the alleged actions of this still-unidentified person.
As Isikoff reports:
The case in question involves an Aug. 5 story published by The Intercept, an investigative website co-founded by Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who first published sensitive NSA documents obtained from Snowden.
Headlined "Barack Obama's Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers," the story cited a classified government document showing that nearly half the people on the U.S. government's master terrorist screening database had "no recognized terrorist affiliation."
The story, co-authored by Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, was accompanied by a document "obtained from a source in the intelligence community" providing details about the watch-listing system that were dated as late as August 2013, months after Snowden fled to Hong Kong and revealed himself as the leaker of thousands of top secret documents from the NSA.
This prompted immediate speculation that there was a "second leaker" inside the U.S. intelligence community providing material to Greenwald and his associates.
As Isikoff notes in his report, the fact that a second person has been feeding The Intercept high-level documents was dramatically confirmed in the just-released documentary film Citizenfour, directed by Laura Poitras, which chronicles the Snowden revelations alongside an examination of the mass surveillance conducted throughout the world by the NSA. In a scene in the film, shot in Moscow, Greenwald is shown telling Snowden that there is a new leaker, though there is no indication about who this person is or how much information that person may have divulged.
Following some of the revelations contained in Scahill and Devereaux's reporting, the ACLU recently cited the new information in ongoing federal lawsuits which it has helped bring against the government on behalf of clients who found themselves on the nation's No-Fly List.
Reached by Isikoff, Scahill declined to make any comment about his source, but said neither he nor The Intercept had been informed of the federal investigation. What he did say, however, was that the news was not surprising and stated, "The Obama administration in my view is conducting a war against whistleblowers and ultimately against independent journalism."
In a response to the Huffington Post regarding Isikoff's reporting on Monday, The Intercept's editor-in-chief John Cook stated, "Without commenting on any purported sources: Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux’s reporting for The Intercept on the federal watchlisting program brought crucial information about this preposterously overbroad and inefficient system to light, and has been repeatedly cited by civil liberties groups and civil rights attorneys who are seeking the intervention of federal courts to reign in its excesses.”
Cook added that "any attempt to criminalize the public release of those stories benefits only those who exercise virtually limitless power in secret with no accountability."