Tag Archives: Glenn Greenwald

eBay entrepreneur could make the powerful and corrupt shiver

If the stories are saying what I think they are, one of the biggest barriers to doing important journalism—heavy security protecting your sources and research—will soon be less about cobbling together your own ragtag system and more about buying into a proven solution.

Let’s just hope they open the source code.

I’m excited about Greenwald and Omidyar’s new organization for its journalism potential, but even more excited about the fact that it’s getting into the “technology” business to produce tech for “new media.” That’s so incredibly vague, but I suspect it’ll be looking to fill the need for end-to-end-secure products that are easy enough for everyone to use.

For example, PGP (the widely used e-mail encryption scheme) works, and is fun for those who use it, but I posit that’s in part because it has such a small user base. It’s like you’re in a little club. And in fact, the not-insignificant setup work and learning curve can fuel a nice smug attitude with every use.

It shouldn’t be this way. If everyone encrypted their communication, corporations and governments wouldn’t be developing the huge profiles on us that they do. (If you don’t care about that, read this right now, then return if you’d like.) Lots of folks wish for the ability to evade the dragnet—and journalists NEED to—so I figured it was only a matter of time before someone capitalized on these gaps.

(Of course, PGP is only good so far as the NSA doesn’t have quantum computing, which it looks like they don’t at the moment…and so far as they don’t keylog everyone, or in particular, YOU. I hope First Look Media makes some software that detects and eludes keyloggers.)

What are the gaps as I see them? I already mentioned encrypted e-mail and keylogging. (OTR chat is pretty easy enough already.) To head off the potential fall of RSA, they could ramp up the development of elliptic curve cryptography. They could get into making whole-drive encryption systems that rely on both hardware and software-level encryption. I suspect they could develop software (free software as a loss-leader??) that helps folks pick strong, easy-to-remember passwords. They could use Poitras’ experience in mail drops and drive-wiping to create systems for that with less friction.

I don’t think they could compete with LastPass or 1Password. I don’t think they could compete with Freedom of the Press Foundation’s SecureDrop system for anonymous submissions. They could manufacture extremely cheap burner phones whose cases decompose in landfills when you toss ’em. If the battery were easier to disconnect, people would be more inclined to do that whenever they weren’t using it. No GPS transponder, obviously, but tower triangulation is a problem. I wonder if there’s software akin to TOR that could mask what towers your signal is going through. (hint hint)

Seriously, the opportunity for providing secure systems to journalists, in particular, is huge. After the past year’s disclosures, inkbloods are shaking in their boots.

In a few years, if journos like me are armed with the right tools, I suspect any sufficiently corrupt politician or corporate executive will be doing the same.

Adversarial journalism part 2

Did you see the New York Times op-ed debate between Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald? It’s about “the future of journalism,” and the Times doesn’t use that language lightly. If you’re interested in the press, you should at least read a short commentary, like this one. But for a more thorough selection, see my relevant pulls below.

Greenwald appeared in the column on the heels of announcing, a bit prematurely, his new media venture—described succinctly as something supporting “adversarial journalism.” I don’t think what he spoke of in the column is really all that adversarial (in the real sense of the word), and I bet Greenwald wouldn’t either. But compared to the way a lot of old-guard American outlets operate, it seems we can all agree to use the descriptor.

After the break, here’s Greenwald in his first important declaration:  Continue reading

Adverserial journalism part 1: disclaimer


If you’re a source and I want to interview you or someone else you work with, there’s almost no chance (0.00%) that the story I’m writing will be an adversarial one. I’ve done some work in this vein, but what I do today isn’t it. The nature of my recent freelance contracts isn’t to inflame the public’s sense of right and wrong. Believe me: if it becomes that, you’ll know it, because I’ll tell you, and I’ll ask you what you think about it.

I frequently discuss so-called “adversarial journalism” on my site simply because I have a high regard for it. I believe it has the potential to nudge democracy in the right direction. And because it’s worth discussing. What are blogs for if not discussing?

I felt compelled to make the above disclaimer because a source recently returned my call to say, more or less, that they weren’t going to talk to me. They had read some of my website and—the implication was—it didn’t sit well with them. (I wonder why they called me back at all.)

I happen to agree with one of their sentiments: they’re from such a cool organization that they don’t need my promotion. Maybe they thought the risk of my doing an incendiary story (again, in reality, 0.0%) was just too high. But it’s their loss. I wasn’t lying when I said I was going to focus on their innovation and that alone.

What’s the moral here? Quick-hit interviews do not investigative reporting make, and I *will not* write incendiary things unless I have solid basis for it.

Smart commentary


One of my favorite journalists—one I hope to meet some day—Mort Rosenblum. Photo thanks to the International Journalism Festival, whose chroniclers used a Creative Commons license.

I read Rosenblum’s book shortly after its release a few years back. What a great piece of wisdom. Wisdom: that’s what journalism (and by necessity, journalists!) needs these days. It’s gratifying, then, to learn that Mort has a keen interest in all the NSA reporting of late by Poitras-Greenwald. Or Greenwald-Poitras. Whatever.

Rather than preach to the choir (have you seen my contact page, called Blowing The Whistle?), after the break I’ll offer some of Rosenblum’s recent thoughts, posted without fanfare on the Facebook page of his educational organization.

I think Greenwald’s new outlet needs to hire Rosenblum. And then me.

Continue reading