US government officials have told CNN that it believes a new, post-Edward Snowden whistleblower is providing national security information to journalists. The claim comes after the Intercept published secret documents detailing the government’s expansion of the terrorist-tracking system that lands people on the no-fly list. As Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux report, “the Obama Administration has presided over an unprecedented expansion of the terrorist screening system.”
The Intercept reports that the documents were “obtained from a source in the intelligence community.”
But as the Huffington Post reports, the government leaked the newsworthy information to the Associated Press just before the Intercept was set to publish, “spoiling the scoop” after the Intercept had given government officials time to comment for its forthcoming report.
If the Obama Administration doesn’t mind spilling this information to AP just to reward its more favorable reporting, why did it need to be classified in the first place?
The government will now likely investigate the Intercept’s source with the hopes of silencing future disclosures. Whoever leaked to AP will, of course, face none of the repercussions that whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have experienced.
This is a double standard the Obama Administration has employed for years. Back in March, John “Chris” Inglis leaked major details about the NSA’s data collection capabilities in Iraq, just after retiring, despite the agency’s claims that such disclosures could lead to deaths. Similarly, in 2012, government officials leaked top-secret details to the New York Times about the Obama Administration’s “kill list” for targeted assassinations. When congressmembers suggested the disclosures should be investigated, the White House responded that their claims were “grossly irresponsible.”
In contrast, the Obama Administration has reacted to whistleblowers, particularly within the intelligence community, with an unprecedented string of Espionage Act prosecutions and an Insider Threat programme that aims to identify potential whistleblowers before they act. It is significant that, despite the penalties that could follow, the Intercept‘s source still decided that the information needed to be brought to public attention.