The Intercept

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The Intercept is an online news publication created in early 2014 by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill.[1] It is supported by First Look Media Works, a nonprofit owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.[1] 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."[2]

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.

Estimated Reach

As of September 2019, The Intercepts website received an estimated 3.1 million unique visitors per month.[3] As of this same time, the publication's Twitter account had over 720,000 followers[4] and its Facebook page had over 560,000 followers[5]

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.[6] 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."[7] 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."[8] 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."[8]

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."[9]

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."[10] 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.[11] ‘‘ The Intercept’‘ was accused of not taking the necessary precautions to protect its source.[12][13] 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.[14]

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."[15] New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali defended The Intercept in a multi-part Twitter status.[16]

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."[17]

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."[18]

Selected Investigations of Corporate Influence in Politics

David Dayen


Lee Fang

  • 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”[19] 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.

Zaid Jilani

  • 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.
  • 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.

Sharon Lerner

  • 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."[23] 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.



As of January 2020:[1]



  • 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

First Look Media Works

  • 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).[24]

Jeremy Scahill's Intercepted regularly includes commentary from Glenn Greenwald, Betsy Reed and author, journalist, and social activist Naomi Klein.


Funding information for The Intercept's sponsor nonprofit is available at First Look Media Works.

Contact Information

Website contact information: The Intercept About & Contacts
Twitter: @TheIntercept
Facebook: /theinterceptflm

External Resources

Related SourceWatch


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Intercept, About, Intercept, accessed July 10, 2019.
  2. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill, Welcome to the Intercept, Intercept, February 10, 2014, accessed July 10, 2019.
  3. SiteWorthTraffic,, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
  4. Twitter, The Intercept, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
  5. Facebook, The Intercept, organizational website, accessed September 25, 2019.
  6. Maxwell Tani, The Intercept Shuts Down Access to Snowden Trove, Daily Beast, March 13, 2019, accessed July 18, 2019.
  7. Maxwell Tani, Laura Poitras ‘Sickened’ By Layoffs at The Intercept, Daily Beast, March 13, 2019, accessed July 18, 2019.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Charles R. Davis, The Intercept, a billionaire-funded public charity, cuts back, Columbia Journalism Review, March 15, 2019. accessed September 3, 2019.
  9. The Intercept, Snowden Archive: The SIDtoday Files, Intercept, May 29, 2019, accessed September 3, 2019.
  10. Matthew Cole et al., Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election, Intercept, June 5, 2017, accessed July 11, 2019.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Kelsey Sutton, The 'Intercept' faces criticism after arrest of suspected NSA leaker Reality Winner, Mic, June7, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
  14. Errata Security, How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner, Errata Security blog, June 5, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
  15. Jake Swearingen, Did the Intercept Betray Its NSA Source?, New York Magazine, June 6, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
  16. Yashar Ali 871934925582323712, Twitter, June 5, 2017, accessed September 3, 2019.
  17. The Intercept, Drone Papers, Intercept, accessed July 11, 2019.
  18. Amy Goodman, Death By Metadata: Jeremy Scahill & Glenn Greenwald Reveal NSA Role in Assassinations Overseas, ‘‘Democracy Now, February 10, 2014, accessed July 11, 2019.
  19. Lee Fang Private Prison CEO Unconcerned About Hillary Clinton's Pledge to End his Industry, Intercept, accessed August 5, 2019.
  20. Lee Fang Tea Party Invites Oil Lobby to Give Workshop on "Radical Green Anti-Energy Blitzkrieg, Intercept, accessed Aug 5, 2019.
  21. Sharon Lerner, Trump's Pick for EPA Safety Chief Argued Kids are Less Sensitive to Toxins, Intercept, accessed August 6, 2019.
  22. Ben Wolfgang, "Trump's pick for EPA chemical safety post withdraws amid bipartisan opposition: report", Washington Times, December 13, 2017, accessed August 6, 2019.
  23. Sharon Lerner, EPA Under Scott Pruitt Could Cost the U.S. Billions in Additional Health Care Costs, Intercept, accessed August 6, 2019.
  24. Jeremy Wallace, "Julián Castro aggressively campaigning all over the country", Houston Chronicle, February 7, 2020, accessed February 9, 2020.