For months, journalist Glenn Greenwald has suggested that Edward Snowden wasn’t his only source of national security-related leaks. On July 4, Greenwald tweeted that it “seems clear” there were multiple leakers from inside the US intelligence apparatus, a statement that implied Snowden may have started a wave of disclosures from national security insiders that the US intelligence community would be powerless to stop.
Now, Yahoo investigative journalist Michael Isikoff is reporting that Greenwald’s second leaker is under federal investigation, specifically for passing along information on the US government’s terrorist watch list that became the basis for a major story in The Intercept on Aug. 5.
Isikoff reports that “The FBI recently executed a search” of the home of “an employee of a federal contracting firm,” while “federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter” of the alleged leaks. One source told Isikoff that investigators are pursuing the case, “but are not ready to charge yet.”
Shortly after The Intercept published its story in August, US officials told CNN that the scoop had convinced them that there was a second leaker within their ranks with access to sensitive national security information.
Greenwald has used the existence of this second leaker to legitimise Snowden’s actions. As Isikoff notes, there’s one point in “Citizenfour,” filmmaker Laura Poitras’s recent documentary about the Snowden leaks, in which Greenwald reveals the existence of the other leaker to Snowden himself.
“The person is incredibly bold,” Snowden says when Greenwald tells him about the other leaker. “It was motivated by what you did,” Greenwald replies.
Additional leakers would potentially aid the case for offering some form of amnesty to Snowden. New leakers would prove the lack of a robust internal process for addressing the concerns of whistleblowers while helping to create the public pressure needed to reform the US national security apparatus — thus vindicating Snowden and bolstering the case for allowing him to return to the US.
If the government has in fact identified a second leaker, the case will be a benchmark for how and whether the US’s stance towards national security leakers has changed in the 16 months since the first Snowden disclosures. The alleged leaker revealed highly sensitive and compartmentalized information, and he or she would likely qualify as the most high-profile leaker to emerge since Snowden became a household name.
Isikoff notes that some inside the intelligence community believe that federal investigators are now notably hesitant in pursuing criminal cases against leakers. This case may clarify whether the Snowden precedent, and over a year of national debate on the scope, purpose, and legality of the US’s government’s surveillance programs, has had any impact on the government’s approach.
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