Anonymous Source Says
The APs Kimberly Dozier reports that two anonymous officials and one unnamed “lawmaker” believe terrorist groups have altered how they communicate since the information contained in Edward Snowden’s leaks became public.
“Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance,” she writes.
Unfortunately, she can’t disclose who told her this secret information because, “The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about the intelligence matters publicly.”
In addition, neither official would apparently go into detail on “how they know this,” or explain what behaviors had changed.
But a “lawmaker” briefed on the matter claimed that “al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been among the first to alter how it reaches out to its operatives.” Though he too wished to remain off the record and “would not discuss the confidential briefing by name.”
(Question: does the term “lawmaker” refer only to Congress men and women, or could it also include a member of their staff?)
Dozier then goes on to quote several other people on the record, including current “lawmakers” and former intelligence officers and analysts, all of whom attest to what her unnamed sources claim, though without offering any evidence as to how this is the case, or why they believe it to be the case–at least none that Dozier felt compelled to include in the story she filed.
Last, but certainly not least, Gen. Keith Alexander–the director of the NSA, well known for his involvement in warrantless wiretapping–is quoted as telling “lawmakers that the leaked information has done “irreversible and significant damage to this nation.”
THIS is what journalistic malfeasance looks like. Assuming each were independent, that is that she contacted each of the unnamed sources separately, and the “lawmaker” in question wasn’t briefed by one of them, then I suppose that passes the confirmation test. Still, something about relying on two secret sources, each of which represent the U.S. government, to corroborate the claims of a third, seems problematic.
Especially when secondary stories, like the aggregated version at The Atlantic Wire by Rebecca Greenfield, remove the AP headline’s qualifying “said.”
[UPDATE]: Rebecca Greenfield’s post’s headline has been amended upon request to more accurately reflect the original AP story. It now reads, “NSA Leaks Are Said to Have Changed the Ways Al Qaeda Talks, but How Much?”
It should be noted, for the record, that Greenfield’s piece is actually quite good, mostly because it focuses on the questions the AP story left unanswered rather than the spacious clarification its anonymous sources sought to offer.