NEW YORK -- The FBI has searched the Northern Virginia home of a government contractor suspected of disclosing details of the U.S. government's terrorist watch list to The Intercept, according to Yahoo News.
Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff reported Monday that the federal prosecutors have opened up a criminal investigation into disclosures from the suspected “second leaker,” a reference to the source not being former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
In August, The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux reported that nearly half of the 680,000 people on the U.S. database of terrorist suspects “are not connected to any known terrorist group.” They described the documents they received as having been provided by a “source in the intelligence community.”
Scahill, along with Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, has reported extensively on classified documents provided by Snowden. But Poitras’s new documentary, Citizenfour, makes clear that Snowden was not Scahill's source. In fact, Snowden appears shocked at the end of the film about the degree of information provided by the "second leaker."
"Without commenting on any purported sources: Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux’s reporting for The Intercept on the federal watchlisting program brought crucial information about this preposterously overbroad and inefficient system to light, and has been repeatedly cited by civil liberties groups and civil rights attorneys who are seeking the intervention of federal courts to reign in its excesses,” Intercept editor-in-chief John Cook said in a statement to The Huffingont Post.
Indeed, the ACLU recently cited The Intercept's report in relation to a lawsuit challenging the government's criteria for its No Fly List.
Cook said that "any attempt to criminalize the public release of those stories benefits only those who exercise virtually limitless power in secret with no accountability."
The Obama administration has prosecuted more current and former government officials under the Espionage Act for disclosing information to the news media than all previous administrations combined, and has prompted fears of a chilling effect on investigative journalism. New York Times reporter James Risen, who is still being pursued by the administration to reveal a source in court, has called President Obama “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we’ve had in generations.”
Isikoff reported that some in the U.S. intelligence community are concerned that DOJ officials may be reluctant to bring criminal charges against the source because of criticism over how the government has handled previous high-profile leak cases. Still, another source told Isikoff that "investigators are continuing to pursue it, but are not ready to charge yet."