Freedom of the Press Foundation—along with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Open Technology Institute—co-host a conference on journalism and digital security in Washington DC focusing on how news organizations and reporters can use technology and encryption to better protect their sources in the post-Snowden age.
Real-World Encryption Problems
Leak investigations are at a record high and national security journalists now often work under a shadow of surveillance. By knowing the stakes and how to respond to them, reporters can assess the risks, and still keep their sources relatively safe. This panel discusses current and future unsolved digital security problems in journalism.
- Dana Priest, investigative reporter, Washington Post
- James Risen, investigative reporter, New York Times
- Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst, ACLU
- Julia Angwin, investigative reporter, ProPublica
Beyond PGP: Protecting Reporters on an Institutional Level
Beyond encrypting individual email, panelists look at the importance of utilizing the right systems company-wide to stave off hacking and other cyberattacks, as well as handling subpoenas and safeguarding sources.
- Morgan Marquis-Boire, director of security, First Look Media
- Jack Gillum, reporter, Associated Press
- Nabiha Syed, associate, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz
- Xeni Jardin, editor, Boing Boing + Freedom of the Press Foundation
- Marcia Hofmann, digital rights lawyer
Security Lessons from the Snowden Files
Journalists involved in reporting on the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden talk about what they learned from the experience and how it might be handled better in the future.
- Spencer Ackerman, U.S. national security editor, Guardian US
- Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent, Wall Street Journal
- Micah Lee, technologist, The Intercept
- Julie Tate, researcher and reporter, Washington Post
- Lynn Oberlander, general counsel, First Look Media
“One of the most significant things that was not well understood about the events of last year was that it’s not entirely about surveillance,” said Snowden, who spoke via livestream.
What it’s also about, he argued, is a shift in balance from traditional institutions such as the press and civic society to self-serving government bodies.
“We have seen a trend toward governments that are affording themselves, in secret, greater powers and more and more authority without the consent or awareness of the public,” Snowden said.
That’s why journalists shouldn’t look at the current climate and think the only answer is to find tools to hide their communications, he added.
“By accepting that as the status quo, we are back-footing the idea of the press,” Snowden said. Journalists shouldn’t need to “operate sneakily” to have an off-the-record conversation.
Instead of just using “the tactics of making communications more secure,” the media “need to push on regulations” that preserve the freedom of the press, he said.
Reporters can’t do that alone. Snowden argued that Americans need to push back on the idea that the government needs exhaustive access to private data.
The discussions about how much access government officials can have to private information “can’t simply be confined to lawyers,” Snowden said. “If we don’t demand answers from the government” and commitments to discuss these issues “with technical experts, as opposed to some appointed czars, we are not going to get the best-quality decisions.”
Pressed to comment on FBI director James Comey’s statements last month that he prefers using so-called front-door tactics to gather intelligence, as opposed to back-door tactics that provide law enforcement a secret way to access encrypted data, Snowden said that was hogwash.
“That’s rhetoric,” he said. “There is no real difference.”
“When James Comey asks for a front door, we need to remind him that he already has it,” he said. “It’s called a warrant.”