Counting the US Intelligence Community Leakers

It's getting hard to keep track of the US intelligence community leakers without a scorecard. So here's my attempt:

  • Leaker #1: Chelsea Manning.

  • Leaker #2: Edward Snowden.

  • Leaker #3: The person who leaked secret documents to Jake Appelbaum, Laura Poitras, and others in Germany: the Angela Merkel surveillance story, the TAO catalog, the X-KEYSCORE rules. My guess is that this is either an NSA employee or contractor working in Germany, or someone from German intelligence who has access to NSA documents. Snowden has said that he is not the source for the Merkel story, and Greenwald has confirmed that the Snowden documents are not the source for the X-KEYSCORE rules. This might be the "high-ranking NSA employee in Germany" from this story -- or maybe that's someone else entirely.

  • Leaker #4: "A source in the intelligence community," according to the Intercept, who leaked information about the Terrorist Screening Database, the "second leaker" from the movie Citizen Four. Greenwald promises a lot from him: "Snowden, at a meeting with Greenwald in Moscow, expresses surprise at the level of information apparently coming from this new source. Greenwald, fearing he will be overheard, writes the details on scraps of paper." We have seen nothing since, though. This is probably the leaker the FBI identified, although we have heard nothing further about that, either.

  • Leaker #5: Someone who is leaking CIA documents.

  • Leaker #6: The person who leaked secret information about WTO spying to the Intercept and the New Zealand Herald. This isn't Snowden; the Intercept is very careful to identify him as the source when it writes about the documents he provided. Neither publication give any indication of how it was obtained. This might be Leaker #3, since it contains X-KEYSCORE rules.

  • Leaker #7: The person who just leaked secret information about the US drone program to the Intercept and Der Spiegel. This also might be Leaker #3, since there is a Germany connection. According to the Intercept: "The slides were provided by a source with knowledge of the U.S. government's drone program who declined to be identified because of fears of retribution." That implies someone new.

Am I missing anyone?

Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler has written an excellent law review article on the need for a whistleblower defense. And there's this excellent article by David Pozen on why government leaks are, in general, a good thing. I wrote about the value of whistleblowers in Data and Goliath.

Way back in June 2013, Glenn Greenwald said that "courage is contagious." He seems to be correct.

This post was originally published on the Lawfare blog.

EDITED TO ADD (4/22): News article.

In retrospect, I shouldn't have included Manning in this list. I wanted it to be a list of active leaks, not historical leaks. And while Snowden is no longer leaking information, the reporters who received his documents are still releasing bits and pieces.

Posted on April 20, 2015 at 11:18 AM • 27 Comments

Comments

DaveKApril 20, 2015 12:25 PM

> Glenn Greenwald said that "courage is contagious." He seems to be correct.

To put it another way, the first one to stick their neck over the parapet. This is also how you overcome the bystander effect: everyone's sitting around, waiting to see if someone intervenes. As soon as the first person does, everyone else is emboldened to join in.

It's scary being first, but most people know when something is wrong, and if you can overcome the fear, you'll find you have a lot of backup.

Ray DillingerApril 20, 2015 12:26 PM

When you act too far outside the morality embraced by the culture you draw employees from, you have to expect this sort of thing.

Daan WynenApril 20, 2015 2:20 PM

IIRC the bits of paper Greenwald was ripping apart at the end of Citizenfour was about the Ramstein airbase and the drone strikes, wasn't it?
So #7 would seem related to #4?

Bob S.April 20, 2015 4:16 PM

I wonder if the German government is doing the leaking because they are still pissed about Merkel's phone being monitored. Friends aren't supposed to do stuff like that.

I read NSA stopped doing her phone, but instead zeroed in on high level staff close to her. That's hilarious. But, I wonder if the Germans are laughing, too? Or, going for the last laugh?

anonysmousApril 20, 2015 4:59 PM

Scooter Libby - leaked info re CIA agent Plame

Jesselyn Radack - re legal issues & treatment of prisoner John Walker Lindh

Unknown leaker of Abu Grahib photos to Seymour Hersh

Thomas Drake to Siobahn Gorman @ Baltimore Sun re NSA Trailblazer, Thinthread, Turbulence, Executive Order 12333

Drake's friends to various media after Drake's trial story broke (perhaps not technically leaking, but breaking silence)

Thomas Tamm - wiretaps @ NSA

Mark Klein - AT&T Room 641A (NSA splitter on backbone)

Unknown leakers of details re Bin Ladin assassination, such as identities of Seal team, helicopter details, etc.

The unnamed and largely unregarded anonymous leakers who are responsible for supplying sites like apacheclips.com (i.e. the thousands of gun camera videos from GWOT that have formed into micro communities all over the web, sort of the web 2.0 version of Schwarzkopf and Powell showing laser-bomb video to reporters circa 1990)

i claim these are all relevant to Nat'l Security b/c that's exactly what govt lawyers claim when they try to put certain of these people in prison.

For example the Chelsea Manning charge sheet specifically listed a gun camera video from a helicopter as being a nat'l security leak, not sure why any of the other similar videos on youtube etc are any different.

but how far back do u want to go?

Reagan admin leaked identity of Barry Seal, DEA undercover asset, resulting in his death...

Someone leaked info re Oliver North's "Rex 84" martial law plan in case of nat'l emergency

etc etc etc etc

Sancho_PApril 20, 2015 6:28 PM

@Bruce

Society needs leakers, as it needs controversial opinions in public.

Witch-hunting will only bring up false positives because there are no witches.

Imagine your chain of “evidence” leads to 23 suspected “leakers” being fired in the US?
Glad?
Silencing 123?

PetterApril 20, 2015 7:50 PM

It's great that some of those million people with security clearances leak information to keep transparency and democracy up.

CuriousApril 21, 2015 1:10 AM

I can understand that leaks are a good thing, but I don't like to think of leaks as creating "transparency" and "democracy" *as such*, as if the powers at be/rulers changed themselves for the better; because challenging the powers at be isn't what I associate with something being safe nor liberating. I like to think of leaks as being important for having accountability, where none might have existed at all. I just don't like the idea of a "society" at state/nation level where everyone pat themselves on the back so to speak, regardless o awkward issues.

AndrewApril 21, 2015 3:50 AM

Ray Dillinger: "When you act too far outside the morality embraced by the culture you draw employees from, you have to expect this sort of thing."

I think they also hired hackers, assassins and all sort of low life scums that get them that far.

nnApril 21, 2015 11:12 AM

@Bruce: Personally, I would prefer if you would not speculate on identities of whistleblowers. Any idea you provide to someone who is trying to reveal them is one they don't have to come up with.

@Bob S.: FTR, from a German perspective, the government is not gaining anything from the leaks, but getting some domestic bashing by the media, and risking a swing in public opinion regarding own snooping efforts.

They just newly outlined a telecommunications data retention act and quite desperately try to avoid discussions, since the last one was ruled illegal under our constitution.

Also, they want to set up an own armed drone program. (The last attempt to failed miserably, and expensively see: Eurohawk).

Also, if the NSA and GCHQ pull the plug, they have no way of obtaining info from a lot of sources the two 'friendly' sources have tapped into. The own wiretapping of DE-CIX they provide (and share) with NSA could become quite a problem, since it was revealed publicly at the parliamentary commission of enquiry on the NSA affair that the German intelligence agency BND was (and assumedly still is) also wiretapping purely domestic traffic, which is protected by constitutional rights. Same as in the US applies here: if don't spy on your own, at least don't get caught. Any more leaks will probably lead to further enquiries, which is something the Bundeskanzleramt is actively trying to prevent.

Also, from a domestic perspective, they still seem to be quite eager to get closely affiliated with the "Five Eyes". Any leaks are quite detrimental to this position, I believe.

tl;dr: from a German perspective, it would make no sense that the government would blow the whistle on the US intelligence activities at Ramstein and Darmstadt.

albertApril 21, 2015 12:05 PM

@Ray, Andrew
.
"morality" ?
.
Don't we already have laws, and the soggy, but still viable, Constitution?
.
It's hard to argue the 'morality' point. Killing is wrong, but...
.
...

albertApril 21, 2015 12:40 PM

The situation in Germany is interesting. Notwithstanding the IC relationships with the US, plenty of Germans are quietly pissed at the US activities in Ukraine, the US demonization of Russia, and generally insane ME policies. The French aren't too happy, either. German economic interests in Russia and Asia are thwarted by outdated NATO BS. It's high time the EU take a stand against US European hegemony, and start thinking for themselves. I have a dream...that Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal break away from the EU, and set up their own economic system. The Russia/China economic alliance stands by. If this happened, Germany, then France, might gain some momentum toward the east. Don't know about the US favorite lapdog, the UK. A Euro-Asian economy would be something. External influences might shake up the US policy makers, unless they decide start wars with everyone. I'm not joking.
.
In a feeble, but nonetheless sincere, attempt at being on topic, I say this:
.
'Whistle-blower' should be applied to those who reveal fraud, waste, and illegal activities.
.
'Leaker' should be applied to anyone who releases any information normally not available to the public.
.
I don't judge the 'legality' of the releasing of the information. That's BS. Off hand, I can't think of any information within the gov't that requires secrecy. It's only tradition that governmental bureaucracies worldwide have a secrecy fetish. In most cases, it serves only to hide their own mistakes and illegal actions.
.
...

JesseApril 21, 2015 1:45 PM

@Albert: "Don't we already have laws, and the soggy, but still viable, Constitution?"

This depends on what you mean by "Have". The antagonists are the people *creating* new laws, which is why we have rubber stamp courts like FISA, and they are also the same parties in charge of enforcing the Constitution.

You might as well try to use an unsecured IOU against it's issuer, or push on a rope.

So the next step is to apply pressure against that old saw "the consent of the governed". Make absolutely certain that as many people as possible can understand what is happening so that they have the opportunity to voice if this is against their consent or not.

And I'd say the present challenge is whether or not we can penetrate our message farther into the public consciousness than the propaganda machine has been doing.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance

JustinApril 21, 2015 2:14 PM

As to Petter's comment about "those million people with security clearances," well, that's their problem right there. There is no way a million people can keep a secret. However, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of benefits to transparency and democracy as a result of these leaks. Most people just don't care, and both Republicans and Democrats continue to spy on us and violate our Constitutional rights with impunity.

People are scared, so the war on terrorism justifies any intrusion whatsoever on our rights. Once the apparatus is in place, the wall between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement breaks down, and all that private data and information seized without a warrant is shared with local law enforcement (at the fusion centers) to prosecute any and all crimes. We used to have a Constitution to prevent this sort of thing, but it is to all intents and purposes no longer in effect.

It would be a lot simpler if, for example, the government just stayed out of my cell phone and out of my computer unless they had a warrant, but we don't have those protections of the Constitution anymore.

Mike AmlingApril 21, 2015 8:00 PM

> why government leaks are, in general, a good thing.

ISTR a Scientific American article a long time ago about game theory, and my takeaway from it was that spying is a good thing. (Two sides using mixed strategies; I don't recall if was limited to zero-sum or not.) Both sides want to "prepare for the worst". In the absence of spying, the worst possible enemy intention and capability is very bad indeed. When spying establishes limits on how bad the enemy's intentions and capabilities are, preparing for the worst becomes less costly.

65535April 21, 2015 8:30 PM

@ Jesse

“The antagonists are the people *creating* new laws, which is why we have rubber stamp courts like FISA, and they are also the same parties in charge of enforcing the Constitution.”

I mostly agree. But I think National Security letters that are not required to be signed by an actual Judge is outrageous [and worse in many cases]. There are other administrative loop holes that are equally as bad. Something has to change.

@ Justin

“People are scared, so the war on terrorism justifies any intrusion whatsoever on our rights. Once the apparatus is in place, the wall between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement breaks down, and all that private data and information seized without a warrant is shared with local law enforcement (at the fusion centers) to prosecute any and all crimes. We used to have a Constitution to prevent this sort of thing, but it is to all intents and purposes no longer in effect. It would be a lot simpler if…the government just stayed out of my cell phone and out of my computer unless they had a warrant, but we don't have those protections of the Constitution anymore.”

I agree.

When the phrase “National Security” is mentioned by various three letter agencies - they get away with murder [figuratively speaking].

I believe their will have to be a Constitutional “show-down” between so called “Presidential Powers/National Security Powers” and the US Constitution.

To drill down into this issue would require a legal expert who can size up the make up of the current US Supreme court members and their position on this issue of over reaching “Presidential/National Security Powers”.

I think the ACLU could do it but I wonder if the EFF lawyers could effect change.

I don’t know the exact roadblocks to bring the reduction of this egregious over-reaching “Presidential/National Security” abuse up the chain of courts to the Supreme Court ["Legal standing" and so on].

Currently, turning every cell phone into a bug, tapping emails, and the entire mechanism of so called meta-data including photo copying of all US mail items gives away the legal strategies of most lawyers [that is tilts the playing field in favor of those who can tap cell phones - to those who cannot]. Hence, lawyers have a lot TO LOSE if this continues!

If there are any legal experts on this board please speak-up.

Anonymous CowardApril 21, 2015 8:48 PM

All whistleblowing is leaking, but not all leaks are whistleblowing. Whistleblowing involves leaking information specifically about malfeasance and illegal activity. Edward Snowden's leaks of the NSA's illegal activities are whistleblowing, as were many of the documents that Bradley/Chelsea Manning released. The Valerie Plame affair didn't reveal any irregularities and seems rather to have been part of an attempt to discredit a report by Plame's husband regarding Saddam Hussein's alleged attempts to procure uranium from Niger.

RyanApril 22, 2015 12:22 AM

Arbitrary starting point. How do we know the frequency and pacing of leaks is not unusual?

What sorts of leaks merit inclusion?

TonyApril 22, 2015 4:14 PM

@ albert

Whilst I'd agree, that there are quite some Germans who are pissed about the "demonization" of Russia I do not perceive there being much talk about US interests in Ukraine (though the proxy war assumption is a given).

On topic:
If any leaker is from Germany, then I'm willing to bet quite a bit on him not being a native German. In an oversimplified way there is still quite a bit of the "Fuehrer befiehl - wir folgen" (Fuehrer command! We'll follow!) mentality left here.

I'd wager a guess, that people in a position of power (equivalent: money) here are less likely to act as a whistle-blower than their equivalents in the US (I might be overestimating US here).

hankApril 24, 2015 7:43 AM

whistle blowing has little to do with legality of leaked acts until judged by court of law. thus calling it whistle blowing is preposterous in nature becuz legality is unknown at the time the whistle blew. i do not believe the whistle blower himself alone can pass judgement nor can a panel of journalists.

thus bruce is absolutely correct in calling them leakers.

NathanaelApril 29, 2015 10:08 AM

You're missing John Kiriakou...

...and a bunch of earlier guys, who I simply can't remember the names of.

----

All of these people were whistleblowers, because the whole damn "intelligence community" operation is a criminal conspiracy at this point; we figured this out sometime between the illegal torture camp at Guantanamo Bay and the unconstitutional mass warrantless spying.

Until some of the people responsible for mass acts of criminality are imprisoned, basically any information released which sheds light on the conspiracy is an act of public service.

NathanaelApril 29, 2015 10:10 AM

Ah, I see you wanted a list of active leaks.

But it's worth making a list of historical leaks dating back to 2000 or 2001. It seems that the criminal conspiracy started right around then. It's going to be valuable to have a complete list of the witnesses who will be wanted to testify when we finally put the criminals in the "intelligence services" in prison.

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