Glenn Greenwald NSA The Daily Banter

13 Observations About Greenwald’s New Website, ‘The Intercept’

Glenn Greenwald’s new website, The Intercept, launched early Monday. In case you’re just joining us, the site is part of Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, a $250 million investment into the world of software development and digital journalism. The Intercept is the first “magazine” to launch and is run by editors Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras.

The site posted its first two articles based on the National Security Agency (NSA), one of which we covered yesterday, and, as promised, here are some impressions of not only the site in general but also the first post by Greenwald and Scahill.

1) Corporate trackers. As predicted, each page of The Intercept contains two analytics trackers from alleged PRISM collaborator Google and another called Mixpanel. Among other things, according to Ghostery, the Google bug alone collects your browser information, your demographic data, what hardware and software you use, your IP address, your search history, “location based data” and, weirdly, your phone number. Google doesn’t disclose who it shares your information with or how long it retains it. It’s unlikely The Intercept would want all of this information, but the fact that Google has it should be a little bit alarming to anyone concerned about privacy rights. It’s also curious how a site dedicated to outing alleged violations of privacy would employ such an invasive tracking tool — even though the site discloses it on their Privacy Policy page.

2) DDoS attack or normal traffic? About midday, the site suffered from a 503 error, which generally happens when there’s too much traffic hitting it. Greenwald attributed the outage to exactly that, traffic, but wouldn’t it be ironic if it was actually a denial of service attack, also known as a DDoS attack, which involves hackers crippling a site with a glut of automated hits, considering how last week Greenwald conflated hacking with protected political speech.

3) Credit where credit is due. The Intercept team was wise enough to hire a technical editor with a background in “operational security, source protection, privacy, and cryptography.” Micah Lee is a former staffer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and he’ll certainly have his hands full, especially since Greenwald once admitted that before meeting Snowden he was “technically (sic) illiterate,” and yet he’s been authoring article after article about top secret operations that are all about technology.

4) Where are the documents? Greenwald and Scahill posted a massive 4,000 word article that cites a variety of documents, but the “Documents” vertical is empty. The article reveals small snippets, but fails to post the documents in full with appropriate redactions.

Let’s talk about the first big Greenwald post. The article, titled “The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program,” details how NSA helps to track terrorist targets for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes — also known as drone strikes. Yes, drones and NSA — a serious outrage cocktail. The article quotes from documents as well as two former drone operators, one anonymously, one by name.

6) Old news. Barton Gellman published an article about this back in October; Dana Priest in July and Stuart Fox back in 2011, pre-Snowden.

7) Death by metadata. “Death by metadata” is sure to become a meme… [CONTINUE READING HERE]