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The Intercept

The Intercept
Web address .comtheintercept
Commercial? Yes
Type of site
News website
Available in English
Owner First Look Media
Editor Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill[1]
Launched February 2014
Photo by Trevor Paglen of the National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade first published in The Intercept

The Intercept is an online publication launched in February 2014 by Morgan Marquis-Boire.


  • Aims and content 1
  • Major stories and reaction 2
  • US government reaction 3
  • Criticism 4
  • External links 5
  • References 6

Aims and content

At launch, the editors announced:[3]

"A primary function of The Intercept is to insist upon and defend our press freedoms from those who wish to infringe them. We are determined to move forward with what we believe is essential reporting in the public interest and with a commitment to the ideal that a truly free and independent press is a vital component of any healthy democratic society. […] Our focus in this very initial stage will be overwhelmingly on the NSA story. We will use all forms of digital media for our reporting. We will publish original source documents on which our reporting is based. We will have reporters in Washington covering reactions to these revelations and the ongoing reform efforts. We will provide commentary from our journalists, including the return of Glenn Greenwald’s regular column. We will engage with our readers in the comment section. We will host outside experts to write op-eds and contribute news items. Our longer-term mission is to provide aggressive and independent adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues, from secrecy, criminal and civil justice abuses and civil liberties violations to media conduct, societal inequality and all forms of financial and political corruption. The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed, and they will be encouraged to pursue their journalistic passion, areas of interest, and unique voices. We believe the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power. Our journalists will be not only permitted, but encouraged, to pursue stories without regard to whom they might alienate."

In a press release announcing his hiring as editor-in-chief, John Cook stated "I am thrilled to be able to help them build a truly great outlet for the sort of aggressive, muckraking reporting that they embody."[4]

Major stories and reaction

Their first published story was an in-depth report about the NSA's involvement in the U.S. targeted killing program, which detailed the flawed methods which are used to locate targets for lethal drone strikes, resulting in the deaths of innocent people.[5] This was followed by an article containing new aerial photographs of the NSA, NRO, and NGA headquarters.[6]

In March 2014, The Intercept published leaked documents from Edward Snowden showing that the National Security Agency was building a system to infect potentially millions of computers around the world with malware.[7] The report included a top-secret NSA animation showing how the agency disguised itself as a Facebook server in order to hack into computers for surveillance.[8] The story reportedly prompted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to phone President Obama and complain about the NSA's surveillance.[9] Zuckerberg later wrote in a blog post: "I've called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future." [10]

In May 2014, The Intercept found itself embroiled in what Time called "a war of words" with WikiLeaks via Twitter.[11] In an article reporting that the NSA collects cell phone metadata in Mexico, the Philippines and Kenya, and records and keeps for up to a month all cell phone calls in the Bahamas and another country, The Intercept declined to name that country "in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence."[12] After accusing The Intercept of "acting like a bunch of racists who believe citizens of US dominated countries do not have rights,"[13] WikiLeaks threatened to "reveal the name of the censored country whose population is being mass recorded in 72 hours."[14] Glenn Greenwald called WikiLeaks' allegation of racism "absurd," given that The Intercept's article identified four "non-white countries whom the NSA wanted suppressed & the [Washington Post] did suppress."[15] Greenwald insisted that "there was a very convincing probability in that 5th country for how innocent people would die which we all accepted."[16] The deadline came and went without incident, with WikiLeaks asserting they had moved their outing of "country X to another date for media cycle reasons."[17] Three hours later, WikiLeaks announced, "The country in question is Afghanistan."[18]

In December 2014, The Intercept published new leaked documents from Edward Snowden showing that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind an attack, codenamed Operation Socialist, on Belgacom’s systems (Belgium’s largest telecom).[19]

US government reaction

On August 15, 2014, U.S. National Counterintelligence Executive (NCE) William Evanina confirmed that the FBI is moving forward with a probe into how classified documents were leaked to The Intercept for its article published on August 5.[20] "It's a criminal act that has us very concerned," said Evanina, a former FBI special agent with a counter-terrorism specialty who was appointed NCE by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper in May 2014.[21]

In August 2014, The Intercept revealed that members of the US military are banned from reading it.[22]


The Intercept received criticism shortly after its launch from journalists Melissa Byrne,[23] Susie Cagle and others for the gender makeup of its contributors. Glenn Greenwald acknowledged a need to improve on the site's 3:1 male to female staff ratio, promising "that's (sic) needs to get better, and it will – very shortly."[24]

Erik Wemple, writing at The Washington Post, noted the conspicuous refusal of The Intercept to use the term "targeted killings" to refer to the U.S.'s drone program, instead referring to the drone strikes as "assassinations". Wemple included Greenwald's explanation that it is "the accurate term rather than the euphemistic term that the government wants us to use"; Greenwald further noted that "anyone who is murdered deliberately away from a battlefield for political purposes is being assassinated."[25] TechCrunch referred to the story as clear evidence of "unabashed opposition to security hawks."[26]

In May 2014, journalist Ed Pilkington of

"Maybe my judgment was a bit impaired," Greenwald reflected. "I didn't predict how people would see it. Pierre [Omidyar]'s not just a funder. He's the 100th-richest person in the world. He has $9bn, which is an unfathomable sum, and he's from the very tech industry that is implicated in the NSA story. I probably paid insufficient attention to those perceptions." Greenwald nevertheless insisted that he and The Intercept remain editorially independent of Omidyar. "I know in my mind that the minute anybody tries to interfere with what I'm doing, that is the minute I will stop doing it."[27]

In February 2015, having resigned after nearly 14 months, Ken Silverstein contributed an article on Politico about his time at First Look and The Intercept. "I went to First Look to do fearless journalism," Silverstein wrote, "but I found I couldn't navigate any journalism, fearless or not, through the layers of what I saw as inept management, oversight and editing."[28]

External links

  • Official website
  • https://y6xjgkgwj47us5ca.onion/[29][30] implementation of SecureDrop on Tor hidden service
  • Defying Threats to Journalism, Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Launch New Venture, The Intercept – video by Democracy Now!


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  13. ^ Wikileaks (May 19, 2014) Tweet by Wikileaks Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-20
  14. ^ Wikileaks (May 19, 2014) Tweet by Wikileaks Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-20
  15. ^ Glenn Greenwald (May 19, 2014) Tweet by Glenn Greenwald Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-20
  16. ^ Glenn Greenwald (May 19, 2014) Tweet by Gleen Greenwald Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-20
  17. ^ Wikileaks (May 22, 2014) Tweet by Wikileaks Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-23
  18. ^ Wikileaks (May 23, 2014) Tweet by Wikileaks Twitter. Retrieved 2014-05-23
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