Soghoian says the piece he wrote for The New York Times was “heavily edited” and that many of his criticisms of the Times were removed. In his op-ed, he’s also critical of The Wall Street Journal’s Safehouse, a WikiLeaks style whistleblower platform set up this past May, which he said had technical flaws and a terms of service that allowed the paper to a reveal a confidential source to law enforcement or a third party. The Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized Safehouse along with Al Jazeera’s Transparency unit, also a leaking platform, for similar problems. (More on whistleblower portals here.) But in an interview, Soghoian praised The Wall Street Journal, saying its operational security is “pretty impressive at this point,” and said that Al Jazeera is “probably the best there is as an organization.” Both organizations would not comment on what types of protections they have in place.
Soghoian says WikiLeaks has been an influencing force. “Every news organization I’ve spoken with that’s dealt with WikiLeaks, as a result of working with them, has learned how to communicate securely, because WikiLeaks will only communicate over secure means,” says Soghoian. When WikiLeaks released the “Spy Files” in December, a cache of documents from the surveillance industry, Soghoian says the news organizations who were in contact with WikiLeaks in the course of reporting on the leak were forced to learn how to use encrypted text messaging because “that’s what WikiLeaks insisted on.”
Awareness is certainly spreading across the journalism community, and one start-up I spoke with is in the process of putting security measures into place before launch. James Heaney, an investigative reporter and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is building an investigative news site for the Buffalo New York region, called the Investigative Post. After hearing Steve Doig’s Spycraft talk at an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in June, he asked Doig for advice about what precautions he should take, and plans on having a sit down with a technology expert to figure out how to translate his advice into some concrete action, as he anticipates his reporting to “ruffle some feathers.” “As an investigative reporting site, it’s a priority to safeguard my notes and other sensitive internal documents,” says Heaney. In his days at the The Buffalo News, where he worked for twenty-five years, he had received threats over stories he did, and he’s brought that experience into the planning for this new venture: “I’ve learned to think defensively.”