The Intercept is an online news publication created in early 2014 by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill. It is supported by First Look Media Works, a nonprofit owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. In a piece introducing The Intercept to the public, Greenwald, Poitras and Scahill claimed "Our short-term mission is limited but critically important: to provide a platform and an editorial structure in which to aggressively report on the disclosures provided to us by our source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden... 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."
In addition to the online print stories, ‘‘The Intercept’‘ releases two podcasts, also sponsored by First Look Media Works: Deconstructed, hosted by Medhi Hasan, an Al Jazeera and The Guardian contributor, as well as Intercepted, hosted by Jeremy Scahill.
- 1 Estimated Reach
- 2 News and Controversy
- 2.1 Closure of Edward Snowden Files
- 2.2 The SIDtoday Files
- 2.3 Reality Winner Leak
- 2.4 The Drone Papers
- 2.5 NSA Metadata in Drone Strikes
- 2.6 Selected Investigations of Corporate Influence in Politics
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Podcasts
- 5 Funding
- 6 Contact Information
- 7 External Resources
As of September 2019, The Intercepts website received an estimated 3.1 million unique visitors per month. As of this same time, the publication's Twitter account had over 720,000 followers and its Facebook page had over 560,000 followers
News and Controversy
Closure of Edward Snowden Files
In March 2019, First Look Media laid off 4% of its workers and closed off access to a large cache of files obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. This decision was met with criticism, including by Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras, who wrote in an email, "I am sickened by your decision to eliminate the research team, which has been the beating heart of the newsroom since First Look Media was founded, and has overseen the protection of the Snowden archive... I am also sickened by your joint decision to shut down the Snowden archive, which I was informed of only yesterday—a decision made without consulting me or the board of directors." Responding to these layoffs, Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) noted "First Look Media... paid Greenwald more than $1.6 million from 2014 to 2017... Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, earned $309,243 in 2016 and $368,249 the year after" and "Jeremy Scahill... earned $349,826 in 2015." CJR also pointed out "While the salaries at the top may not be unheard of in media, they are large for digital media and noteworthy in the world of progressive, nonprofit journalism."
The SIDtoday Files
In one special investigation The Intercept released four years' worth of an internal NSA newsletter in eight "batches", consisting of over 2000 total documents. The Intercept claims these newsletter articles will help readers "learn a surprising amount about what the agency's spies were doing, how they were doing it, and why."
Reality Winner Leak
In June 2017 The Intercept published a leaked NSA document describing how Russian hackers planned to "pose as an e-voting vendor and trick local government employees into opening Microsoft Word documents invisibly tainted with potent malware that could give hackers full control over the infected computers." Shortly before the publication of this document, the F.B.I. arrested NSA translator Reality Winner, who later confessed to leaking the document and was sentenced to over five years in prison. ‘‘ The Intercept’‘ was accused of not taking the necessary precautions to protect its source. This reported negligence included a failure to adequately erase "microdots", which likely allowed the NSA to glean information about the time, date, and model of the printer Winner used.
Some articles predicted Winner would have likely been found out even if The Intercept had acted more carefully, "Even if the Intercept had verified the document without alerting the NSA, and then paraphrased the entire report, after it published its story, the government would have quickly moved to determine who had accessed the document— and Winner would have, eventually, come under the same scrutiny." New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali defended The Intercept in a multi-part Twitter status.
The Drone Papers
In October 2015 ‘‘The Intercept’‘ published "The Drone Papers", a "cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia." which "offer an unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars."
NSA Metadata in Drone Strikes
In a February 2014 Democracy Now interview, The Intercept founders Greenwald and Scahill described how "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. The NSA identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cellphone tracking technologies, an unreliable tactic that has resulted in the deaths of innocent and unidentified people."
Selected Investigations of Corporate Influence in Politics
- Koch-Funded Think Tank at Public University Uses Private Email Server, Because of Course it Does explained that employees at the Mercatus Center use a private email server, protecting emails from being searched as public records.
- Debate Moderators Under the Spell of Deficit-Obsessed Billionaire Pete Peterson pointed out the fact that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget was repeatedly cited during 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates. The piece ran down the list of billionaire Pete Peterson's various faux-grassroots attempts to cut social programs in the name of deficit reduction.
- Law School Sells Naming Rights to Secretive Antonin Scalia Fan discussed the links between George Mason University, right-wing nonprofits, and corporate money. Dayen explained the ties between the Koch brothers, this university, academic research favorable to corporate interests, and right-wing legislation.
- Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups are Preparing to use the 'Janus' Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show layed out the plan of the State Policy Network to organize multiple right-wing think tanks in an effort to dismantle union membership. These plans include an opt-out campaign attempting to convince educators, public-sector workers, and other union members to stop paying their agency fees. Fang linked to the MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin-based member of the State Policy Network that worked to marshal public support for then-Governor Scott Walker's anti-union legislation, Act 10, as an example of the lengths to which members of network will go to undermine unions.
- Fearing 2018 Democratic Wave, Right-Wing Lobbyists are Mobilizing Against a $15 Minimum Wage Push looked into the goals and strategies of corporate lobbyist Rick Berman in combating the increased political favorability of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Berman concocted a plan to focus on public support of a lower minimum wage for youth workers and to display anti-$15 wage messages on food service items, such as coasters and coffee sleeves.
- Koch Brothers' Operatives Fill Top White House Positions, Ethics Forms Reveal sought to dispel the commonly-held belief that the President Donald Trump was not supported by the Koch Network, pointing out the influence of Americans for Prosperity in securing Trump's election and the ascension of former Freedom Partners, Mercatus Center, and Libre Initiative employees to the ranks of Trump's and vice president Mike Pence's staff.
- Donald Trump puts Coal Lobbyist in Charge of Prosecuting Environmental Crimes updated readers on the temporary appointment of Jeffrey H. Wood, a former lobbyist for Southern Company to the position of assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division. Fang directed readers to the Southern Company, exposing its efforts funding ALEC, climate denial, and lobbying efforts.
- Donald Trump's EPA Team Will be Run by Fossil-Fuel Industry Advocates (written with Naomi LaChance) explored Trump's choices for his EPA transition team, outlining how Scott Pruit, George Sugiyama, David Kreutzer, and Myron Ebell routinely minimize and outright deny human causes of climate change and speak in favor of drilling, fracking mining, and fossil fuel use. Fang connected Myron Ebell to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is in turn funded in part by grants from Koch Industries, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
- Private Prison CEO Unconcerned About Hillary Clinton's Pledge to End his Industry reported how Corrections Corporation CEO Damon Hininger did not believe it would make a difference who won the 2016 presidential election, claiming Corrections Corporation had successfully worked with "the federal government going back to the 1980s, where you had Clinton White House, you had a Bush White House, you had Obama White House, we’ve done very, very well” Fang showed how the Corrections Corporation of America (now called CoreCivic) used American Legislative Exchange Council's "tough on crime" lobbying efforts and political influence to grow its own business.
- In New Hampshire, TV Station Partners with Interest Groups that Push Candidates on War and Austerity exposed a New Hampshire television news network, NH1, for its ties to Fix the Debt and the Concord Coalition. Fang also noted the influence these interest group had on the framing of interview questions for 2016 presidential hopefuls, including focusing on lowering the corporate tax rate and increasing the U.S.'s missile defense programs. Fang showed the Fix the Debt's Partner Groups research to link billionaire Pete Peterson to the NH1 News network.
- Tea Party Invites Oil Lobby to Give Workshop on "Radical Green Anti-Energy Blitzkrieg describes how the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization which lobbies for oil and gas interests, uses Energy Citizens groups to create the mirage of grassroots support (also known as Astroturf). Fang linked to Energy Citizens groups, informing readers that they " mobilize regular people to advocate on behalf of API’s policy goals, including drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline."
- Solar Rooftop Energy Harms Minorities, Claims News Outlet Tied to Utility Industry looks at the way public relation firms and lobbyists work behind the scenes through news outlets to spread opposition to net metering and other rules they worry will threaten their employers' profits. In this piece, Fang linked to research connecting lobbying organization DCI Group to the media organization Tech Central Station.
- Trump's New State Department Spokesperson Spread Anti-Muslim Hate as Fox News Anchor worried about the anti-Muslim rhetoric espoused by Heather Nauer. On Fox and Friends, Nauer spread fear about Sharia Law using an image of hijab-wearing Somali-American girl in a Minnesota pool. She also held an hour-long panel discussion critical of Islam and promoting the idea of "stealth jihad", which included anti-Islam activist Robert Spencer. Jilani highlighted research on Spencer that named him as an inspiration for Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik, whose 1,500-page manifesto cited Spencer and his blog JihadWatch 162 times.
- Donald Trump's Economic Policy Team is Stacked with Lobbyists and Conflicts of Interest outlines how Trump appointees responsible for net neutrality policy, retirement policy, and environmental policy include a slew of lobbyists likely to favor policy considered advantageous by their respective business interests. Jilani revealed the connection between Trump energy sector appointee George David Banks and the American Council for Capital Formation, a Koch network-backed lobbying group where he was the vice president.
- Facebook's New Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, has Deep Ties to Trump Nominee highlighted another example of a close relationship between politically active nonprofits and media platforms. This piece delved into Facebook employee Campbell Brown's closeness with Betsy DeVos, head of the Education Department under Trump's presidency. Jilani provided background on the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit supported by DeVos where Brown is a board member, which lobbies in state elections and ballot measures for school vouchers and charter schools.
- Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Call for Bombing ISIS After Orlando Shooting that ISIS Didn't Direct discussed the misguided bipartisan agreement to increase airstrikes on ISIS and other terrorist groups abroad in response to a domestic terrorist attack. Jilani linked to the Bush-era logic behind Taking the fight to the terrorists, noting the continued prevalence of this mindset among politicians in the year 2016.
- Hedge Fund Billionaires Fund Super PAC Ad Against Bernie Sanders and Minimum Wage Hike exposed the money behind a 2016 anti-Bernie Sanders attack ad claiming his proposed $15 minimum wage and tax increases would eliminate jobs. The ad was sponsored by Future 45, headed by Brian O. Walsh, a Republican political strategist. Walsh was formerly president of the American Action Network, a dark money 501(c)4 that spent $26 million on Republican ads in 2010.
- No Questions About Climate Change at GOP Debate Sponsored by Big Oil reveals the sponsor of a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire to be funded by a fossil fuel lobbying group. Jilani linked to Vote4Energy to expose its connections to the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association related to oil and gas.
- Ted Cruz's Promise that Big Donors Will Match Campaign Donation Could Break Rules (with Dan Froomkin) raised questions about then-presidential hopeful Ted Cruz's donation matching scheme, which appeared impossible without violating campaign finance laws. The piece used research on Club for Growth to disprove a claim in Cruz's fundraising email that he does not take money from billionaires, lobbyists or special interests, pointing out that billionaire Robert Mercer gave $11 million to a Ted Cruz Super PACs.
- Trump's Pick for EPA Safety Chief Argued Kids are Less Sensitive to Toxins raised questions about Michael Dourson's conflicts of interest and ties to Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), a consulting company that worked with Dow Chemical, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries, and other industry groups. As Lerner pointed out, "The evaluations TERA produced consistently failed to recognize threats that were clear to scientists and regulators not on the companies’ payrolls." Lerner used research on Gio Batta Gori to raise questions about his praise for and support of Dourson, as Gori has connections to tobacco companies. (Dourson withdrew his name from consideration in December 2017)
- Republicans are Using Big Tobacco's Secret Science Playbook to Gut Health Rules looked at the Trump EPA's under-the-radar effort to do away with health regulations, calling upon a team of lawyers and public relations experts with connections to tobacco and oil companies. In Lerner's words, "This bald industry bid to subvert public health-based regulations that can cut into profit isn’t new. What’s new is that this upside-down environmental attack, in which those who benefit directly from polluting industries are policing the independent scientists who can show the harms of their products, could now succeed." Lerner linked to information about Citizens for a Sound Economy to explain the history of the battle between the EPA and scientists against oil interests.
- EPA Under Scott Pruitt Could Cost the U.S. Billions in Additional Health Care Costs raised concerns about the negative health impacts of pollution allowed by an EPA run by Scott Pruitt. Lerner contrasts the negative impact of lax environmental regulation on human well-being with the positive reception Pruitt enjoyed from right-wing groups and corporate interests. The piece highlights Frontiers of Freedom and the Independent Women's Voice; groups tied, respectively, to Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers.
As of January 2020:
- Betsy Reed, Editor-in-Chief
- Glenn Greenwald, Co-founding Editor and Columnist
- Jeremy Scahill, Co-founding Editor and Senior Investigative Reporter
- Cora Currier, Story Editor
- Mariam Elba, Associate Research Editor
- Vanessa Gezari, National Security Editor
- Ali Gharib, Senior News Editor
- Charlotte Greensit, Managing Editor
- Roger Hodge, Deputy Editor
- Andrea Jone, Story Editor
- Rashmee Kumar, Senior Copy Editor
- Peter Maass, Senior Editor
- Leandro Oliva, Senior Engagement Editor
- Nausicaa Renner, Senior Politics Editor
- Maryam Saleh, Story Editor
- Ryan Tate, Technology Editor
- Margot Williams, Research Editor for Investigations
- Ariel Zambelich, Senior Photo Editor
Reporters and Writers
- Sam Biddle, Technology Reporter
- Alleen Brown, Reporter
- Aída Chávez, Politics Reporter
- Matthew Cole, National Security Reporter
- Ryan Devereaux, Reporter
- Alex Emmons, Reporter
- Lee Fang, Investigative Reporter
- Andrew Fishman, Reporter/Managing Editor, The Intercept Brasil
- Mehdi Hasan, Senior Columnist
- Murtaza Hussain, Reporter
- Akela Lacy, Politics Reporter
- Robert Mackey, Senior Writer
- James Risen, Senior National security Correspondent
- Jon Schwarz, Senior Writer
- Liliana Segura, Senior Reporter
- Jordan Smith, Senior Reporter
- Alice Speri, Reporter
Directors and Producers
- Paul Abowd, Video Producer
- Setareh Biag, Audience Engagement Producer
- Rodrigo Brandão, Director of Communications
- Jack D’Isidoro, Lead Producer, Intercepted
- Lauren Feeney, Director, Video Production
- Laura Flynn, Producer, Intercepted
- Philipp Hubert, Creative Director
- Travis Mannon, Video Producer
- Elise Swain, Associate Producer, Intercepted
- Akil Harris, Senior Research Engineer, First Look Media Works
- Kate Myers, Executive Director, Revenue and Operations, First Look Media Works
- Marguerite Nutter, Associate Director, Revenue and Membership, First Look Media Works
- Soohee Cho, Designer
- Ryan Grim, D.C. Bureau Chief
- Micah Lee, Director of Information Security
- Miroslav Macala, Communications Associate
- W. Paul Smith, Investigative Researcher
Medhi Hasan's Deconstructed has featured many high-profile progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ihlan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, as well as 2020 Democratic presidential primary contenders Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Julián Castro, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer. (Since his appearance, Castro has dropped out of the race and endorsed Elizabeth Warren).
Funding information for The Intercept's sponsor nonprofit is available at First Look Media Works.
- Steven Perlberg, How the Intercept Is Fueling the Democratic Civil War, Politico, April 24, 2019, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Gideon Resnick, WikiLeaks Declares War on The Intercept, Daily Beast, June 6, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Al Jazeera
- American Action Network
- American Council for Capital Formation
- American Federation for Children
- American Legislative Exchange Council
- American Petroleum Institute
- Americans for Prosperity
- Betsy Reed
- Citizens for a Sound Economy
- Club for Growth
- Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
- Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Concord Coalition
- David Kreutzer
- DCI Group
- Dow Chemical
- Energy Citizens
- Exxon Mobil
- First Look Media Works
- Fix the Debt
- Fix the Debt's Partner Groups
- Freedom Partners
- Frontiers of Freedom
- Gio Batta Gori
- Glenn Greenwald
- The Guardian
- Independent Women's Voice
- Jeremy Scahill
- Koch brothers
- Koch Network
- Koch Industries
- Libre Initiative
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- MacIver Institute
- Medhi Hasan
- Mercatus Center
- Myron Ebell
- Robert Spencer
- Ryan Grim
- Southern Company
- State Policy Network
- Taking the fight to the terrorists
- Tech Central Station
- The Intercept, About, Intercept, accessed July 10, 2019.
- Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill, Welcome to the Intercept, Intercept, February 10, 2014, accessed July 10, 2019.
- SiteWorthTraffic, Report:theintercept.com, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Twitter, The Intercept, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Facebook, The Intercept, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
- Maxwell Tani, The Intercept Shuts Down Access to Snowden Trove, Daily Beast, March 13, 2019, accessed July 18, 2019.
- Maxwell Tani, Laura Poitras ‘Sickened’ By Layoffs at The Intercept, Daily Beast, March 13, 2019, accessed July 18, 2019.
- Charles R. Davis, The Intercept, a billionaire-funded public charity, cuts back, Columbia Journalism Review, March 15, 2019. accessed September 3, 2019.
- The Intercept, Snowden Archive: The SIDtoday Files, Intercept, May 29, 2019, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Matthew Cole et al., Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election, Intercept, June 5, 2017, accessed July 11, 2019.
- Dave Philipps, Reality Winner, Former N.S.A. Translator, Gets More Than 5 Years in Leak of Russian Hacking Report, New York Times, August 23, 2018, accessed July 11, 2019.
- Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, After Reality Winner’s Arrest, Media Asks: Did ‘Intercept’ Expose a Source?, New York Times, June 6, 2017, accessed July 11, 2019.
- Kelsey Sutton, The 'Intercept' faces criticism after arrest of suspected NSA leaker Reality Winner, Mic, June7, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Errata Security, How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner, Errata Security blog, June 5, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Jake Swearingen, Did the Intercept Betray Its NSA Source?, New York Magazine, June 6, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
- Yashar Ali 871934925582323712, Twitter, June 5, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
- The Intercept, Drone Papers, Intercept, accessed July 11, 2019.
- Amy Goodman, Death By Metadata: Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Reveal NSA Role in Assassinations Overseas, ‘‘Democracy Now, February 10, 2014, accessed July 11, 2019.
- Lee Fang Private Prison CEO Unconcerned About Hillary Clinton's Pledge to End his Industry, Intercept, accessed August 5, 2019.
- Lee Fang Tea Party Invites Oil Lobby to Give Workshop on "Radical Green Anti-Energy Blitzkrieg, Intercept, accessed Aug 5, 2019.
- Sharon Lerner, Trump's Pick for EPA Safety Chief Argued Kids are Less Sensitive to Toxins, Intercept, accessed August 6, 2019.
- Ben Wolfgang, "Trump's pick for EPA chemical safety post withdraws amid bipartisan opposition: report", Washington Times, December 13, 2017, accessed August 6, 2019.
- Sharon Lerner, EPA Under Scott Pruitt Could Cost the U.S. Billions in Additional Health Care Costs, Intercept, accessed August 6, 2019.
- Jeremy Wallace, "Julián Castro aggressively campaigning all over the country", Houston Chronicle, February 7, 2020, accessed February 9, 2020.