First Look Media, the big idea of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, debuted its first digital magazine on Monday — Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept — with a “short-term mission” to “report on the documents previously provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.” (“Our long-term mission is to produce fearless, adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues,” the site says.)
In its inaugural story, the site wastes no time at all in revealing its point of view: “The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people,” begins the first feature, a collaboration between Greenwald and Dirty Wars star Jeremy Scahill.
Using testimony from two former drone operators, one anonymous and one “tormented,” “who has become an outspoken critic” of the program, along with info from the Snowden leaks, the article argues that the use of NSA metadata and cell-phone-tracking has “absolutely” killed innocent civilians.
But while the connection between NSA surveillance and the drone program has been known previously, Greenwald and Scahill detail what they see as lacking in previous mainstream coverage:
In July, the Washington Post relied exclusively on former senior U.S. intelligence officials and anonymous sources to herald the NSA’s claims about its effectiveness at geolocating terror suspects.
Within the NSA, the paper reported, “A motto quickly caught on at Geo Cell: ‘We Track ’Em, You Whack ’Em.’”
But the Post article included virtually no skepticism about the NSA’s claims, and no discussion at all about how the unreliability of the agency’s targeting methods results in the killing of innocents.
“People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” says one of the regretful drone operators quoted by The Intercept. “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people – we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.”
“Once the bomb lands or a night raid happens, you know that phone is there,” says the other. “But we don’t know who’s behind it, who’s holding it. It’s of course assumed that the phone belongs to a human being who is nefarious and considered an ‘unlawful enemy combatant.’ This is where it gets very shady.”
Another story, published simultaneously, claims to reveal photos of the NSA and other intelligence agencies for the first time.
On CNN yesterday, Greenwald explained how his work with Snowden will propel the site forward. “I definitely think it's fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden's courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved,” he said. “I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.”