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[liberationtech] CPJ: Solidarity in the face of surveillance

frank at frank at
Fri Oct 11 10:27:55 PDT 2013

Great piece here by Josh Stearns of Free Press and Freedom of the Press
Foundation for the Committee to Protect Journalists' Journalist Security

Solidarity in the face of surveillance
By  Josh Stearns/CPJ guest blogger

One way for journalists to build more secure newsrooms and safer
networks would be for more of them to learn and practice digital hygiene
and information security. But that's not enough. We also need
journalists to stand together across borders, not just as an industry,
but as a community, against government surveillance.

The Obama administration, in its attempt to control government leaks,
has issued subpoenas and conducted unprecedented surveillance of
journalists, as CPJ documented in  a report  this week. But the United
States is hardly the only democratic nation that has been trying to
unveil reporters' sources and other professional secrets.

In August, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, was
 detained by U.K. authorities  at London's Heathrow airport as he was
flying back to their home in Brazil. Greenwald's editor at the
London-based  Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, soon revealed that the British
government had been trying for months to stop the Guardian from
reporting on mass surveillance programs revealed by former U.S. National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, threatening unspecified
action. Finally, two agents from the U.K. Government Communications
Headquarters, a British intelligence agency, oversaw the physical
destruction of computer hard drives in the basement of the  Guardian's
London offices.

The  Guardian  continued reporting, however, but it also forged
partnerships with  The New York Times  and ProPublica. A  Guardian 
spokeswoman  told BuzzFeed, "In a climate of intense pressure from the
U.K. government, The Guardian decided to bring in a U.S. partner to work
on the GCHQ documents." This partnership goes beyond a simple editorial
collaboration, and seems tantamount to a journalistic act of civil
disobedience in order to serve the public. One colleague, Laura Poitras,
a Berlin-based U.S. filmmaker and journalist, with whom Greenwald has
broken some of the U.S. surveillance documents provided by Snowden, last
month shared a byline with  New York Times  intelligence reporter James
Risen, who himself remains subject to a U.S. court subpoena for his
reporting on other U.S. intelligence activities. (Greenwald's partner
Miranda was stopped in London after meeting with Poitras in Berlin.)

Increasingly, journalists are finding strength in this kind of global
solidarity that connects newsrooms and crosses borders.

New York University journalism professor and critic Jay Rosen has 
suggested  that journalists as a community need a new kind of "sunlight
coalition" to oppose what now seem like the increasingly united
government forces of mass surveillance and press suppression. The
coalition should bring together journalists, whistleblowers,
technologists, advocates, audiences, and more. "They are trying to make
journalism harder, slower, and less secure, by working together against
you," Rosen wrote, addressing governments in the third person and
colleagues in the second (italics are his). "You have to work together
against them to publish anyway and put the necessary materials beyond
their reach."

U.S. journalists saw examples of this kind of solidarity following the
revelations about the Justice Department's mass seizure of phone records
from the Associated Press, the department's labeling of a Fox News
reporter as a "co-conspirator," and the continued push by Obama
administration officials for James Risen to testify about his source.
But if colleagues like Rusbridger and Rosen are to be heeded,
journalists now need to move from a reactive posture to a proactive one
designed to address the mounting culture of harassment and intimidation
of the press.

In the wake of Snowden's revelations, and in seeing what it has taken
for Greenwald, Poitras, and others to report those stories, there has
been an increased emphasis on and interest in digital security for
journalists. The most trusted  encryption and security technologies 
tend to be "open-source," meaning their programming codes remain open to
inspection by anyone to ensure that there are no hidden vulnerabilities
or built-in "back doors" allowing government intelligence agencies
access to encrypted information. Open-source software is a model built
on solidarity, one of  showing your work, sharing your work, and
supporting each other's work

But when it comes to digital security, no one can do it alone. Both the
sender and receiver of an encrypted message must know how to use the
encryption software for any secrets to hold. Given the expansion of mass
surveillance and the new threats facing journalists in a digital age, it
is not enough to have a few passionate journalism nerds preaching the
benefits of encryption.

"Many people think journalist security involves the use of encrypted
files and counter-surveillance techniques--and those practices do have
their place," wrote CPJ's Frank Smyth in a piece about the importance of
 press solidarity within nations  . "But security is really a way of
thinking, a way of approaching your work. And fostering professional
solidarity is crucial to that approach."

We need a culture shift within journalism that reaches from the
individual freelancer to the largest newsroom, from the smallest press
club to the biggest journalism school. To get there, we are going to
have to work together with not only our closest professional colleagues,
but also our broader communities, beyond journalism, whose members are
increasingly participants and stakeholders in the newsgathering process.

In their report on "Post-Industrial Journalism," C.W. Anderson, Emily
Bell, and Clay Shirky, argue "there is no such thing as the news
industry anymore." They suggest that we need a fundamental restructuring
that will mean "rethinking every organizational aspect of news

I would argue it also means rethinking how we can organize to make
newsgathering resilient and sustainable. As the institutions of
journalism evolve and change, so too should press freedom advocacy. We
need a global solidarity that reflects our increasingly networked fourth
estate, one that can help us build new coalitions and engage our 
audience as allies.

The new challenges we face are epitomized by  the story of Sarah
Abdurrahman, a producer with NPR's "On The Media" program, who was
detained with her family and friends at the U.S. border for six hours.
She was not detained because of her reporting, but because of her race
and religion. During her detention, her electronics were searched, and
border patrol agents refused to answer her questions.  The New York
Times  has  documented  how the U.S. government has used borders as a
"backdoor" to seize and search travelers' electronic devices, an issue
with particular implications for journalists, but one that concerns
everyone. And we know that journalists like Laura Poitras have faced 
invasive questioning and harassment at U.S. borders  for years.

This is an issue that unites civil liberties groups like the ACLU,
digital rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, press
freedom groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists, and media
reform groups like Free Press. However, understanding and defending our
rights at the border is also an issue about which we can forge common
cause with our communities and our readers. In the last month,  more
than 75,000 people in the U.S. and U.K. have registered their concern 
at over the detentions of Abdurrahman, Poitras, and

Technology has given journalists new tools to cover their communities,
connect with their sources, and collaborate on their reporting.
Technology has also helped empower government institutions that are
organized in opposition to journalism, transparency, and accountability.
Challenging these institutions, and defending our right to gather and
disseminate news, will increasingly call us into new kinds of
collaborations and demand new networks of solidarity.

Josh Stearns is the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director of 
Free Press  and a board director of the  Freedom of the Press
Foundation, an advocacy group whose other directors include the
journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and the actor John Cusack.

Tags:  Alan Rusbridger,  David Miranda,  Edward Snowden,  Glenn
Greenwald,  Laura Poitras,Sarah Abdurrahman
October 11, 2013 12:37 PM ET  

Frank SmythExecutive DirectorGlobal Journalist
Securityfrank at journalistsecurity.netTel. + 1 202 244 0717Cell + 1 202
352 1736Twitter: @JournoSecurityWebsite: www.journalistsecurity.netPGP
Public Key 92861E6B

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