Part of me identifies with Donald Trump. When a politician wants to get something controversial done, the media is as welcome as mosquitoes at a fishing hole. Sometimes journalists do a shoddy job of covering the issues. Sometimes the headlines are out of cinque with the story, giving readers a false impression of what’s going on. Sometimes editorial boards have axes to grind. In 1989, before I left public life, I wrote an article about the media called, “Whose Watching the Watchers?”
Nonetheless, I acknowledge the Fourth Estate has a responsibility to provide independent coverage on the workings of our democracy. In a recent blog, (Blog 2/10/17) I laid a similar charge on technology, the Sixth Estate. By the way, if anyone’s counting, the Fifth Estate is the realm of bloggers and private purveyors of alternate news like Breitbart News or the Huffington Post.
Edward Snowden has done some thinking about the Fourth Estate since he leaked National Security Agency (NSA) documents to the media. What he discovered, then, was his handlers’ naiveite about security protocols. He had to stop in the middle of his cloak and dagger capper to teach them how to protect themselves. (Reporter 5,” by Andy Greenberg, Wired, March 2017, pgs. 66-67.) Since then, he has created a small non-profit based in San Francisco called Freedom of the Press Foundation. The mission is to provide security upgrades for reporters. Someone needs to protect Bob Woodward and his ilk should there be another deep throat exposé.
Working with Snowden are heavy hitters like Fred Jacobs, a well-known encryption coder and Andrew (Bunnie) Huang, Ph.D. from MIT. Their product is called SecureDrop, available at a Tor site (Blog 10/19/15) similar to one run by WikiLeaks. With Donald Trump complaining about leaks, the media has been quick to see the need for privacy protection. Dozens of outlets have signed up for SecureDrop, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. They have an incentive. Snowden has exposed recent government attempts to hack into reporters’ files. In 2015, “British spies had collected emails from practically every newspaper and wire service” (Ibid pg. 67.) In 2016, Canada’s Montreal police broke into a reporter’s system hoping to identify news sources. (Ibid pg. 67.)
Too bad Snowden’s company isn’t publicly traded. If it were, I’d be a shareholder and probably rich by now.