Laura Poitras, the Joyous Pending Collapse of The Intercept and War Crimes

A fresh installment in my ongoing series on the place journalism goes to die.


Who says I never carry good news here at Washington Babylon?

In what amounts to great news for journalism, the godawful, neocon Daily Beast recently reported that First Look Media, publisher of The Intercept, announced yesterday that it was shutting down access to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s massive trove of leaked National Security Agency documents. The Beast wrote:

Over the past several years, The Intercept has maintained a research team to handle the large number of documents provided by Snowden to Intercept journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald.

But in an email to staff Wednesday evening, First Look CEO Michael Bloom said that as other major news outlets had “ceased reporting on it years ago,” The Intercept had decided to “focus on other editorial priorities” after expending five years combing through the archive.

“The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us,” Bloom wrote.

He added: “It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner—such as an academic institution or research facility—that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest.”

For those of us to know the horrible Pierre Omidyar and The Intercept, equally vile and henceforth TI, this was great news and not at all surprising.

“Five years ago I criticized the Poitras-Greenwald deal to privatize Snowden NSA docs to a tech oligarch connected to the national security state—and was smeared as CIA/COINTELPRO and worse, Mark Ames tweeted today. “Now Poitras is mad that Omidyar is shutting down their fencing operation.”

But before going further, let me state that I detest First Look Media and TI, and have no sympathy for anyone who works there other than the amazing Briahna Joy Gray, who you should follow on Twitter. But even in these troubled times for journalism, no one should work there under the dishonest regime of my former friend Betsy Reed. By the same logic, German concentration camp guards were right to take their jobs because “Someone had to to it, why not me?”

(I have never communicated with Gray and she is not a source for this story but I admire her work.)

I worked at First Look and quit my job, because the place literally made me sick. It also literally cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages and I had to take out a $50,000 loan to keep from filing for bankruptcy, but I felt much better immediately upon resigning. You can read my story, Where Journalism Goes To Die, about quitting that horrible job and published by Politico in 2015, by clicking here.

Anyway, let me go on to quote from the Beast story and then I’ll tell you why you should detest Laura Poitras. I’ll tell you why you should detest Pierre Omidyar, Jeremy Scahill, Betsy Reed and Glenn Greenwald, and why you should dislike the sad sack snitch Jon Schwarz, and also be very skeptical about Edward Snowden, in upcoming installments of this series.

Scahill: Pathetic.

(Note: So far, Glenn has not replied to a request for comment about whether he owns a secret Swiss bank account and whether or not he disclosed it to the IRS. If he does and didn’t, it would be tax evasion and a crime. Either way there is an appearance problem since Greenwald frequently writes about how much he hates rich people and the evils of hiding money offshore.)

Loves Donald Trump, Vlad Putin and Fox News. Also a Swiss banker?

Anyway, to quote from the Daily Beast:

First Look Media’s decision to shut down the archives puts an end to the company’s original vision of using The Intercept as a means to report on the NSA documents. In its original mission statement, Poitras, Greenwald, and Jeremy Scahill wrote that the initial mission of the site was, in the short-term, 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.”

Wednesday’s decision—coupled with an announcement that First Look would lay off 4 percent of its staff—was not received well by many Intercept staffers, including Poitras.

Laura Poitras—the Citizenfour director and award-winning filmmaker who helped start The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media—lashed out Wednesday after layoffs were announced internally at the publication, according to emails obtained by The Daily Beast.

“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 [NSA leaker Edward] Snowden archive,” she wrote. “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.”

Poitras also called the email announcing the layoffs from CEO of First Look Media, Michael Bloom, an “attempt to paper over these firings” and claimed it was “not appropriate” for such “devastating news.”

Devastating? My ass. I hope TI goes out of business.

As I wrote in Politico, “The company seemed to me to spend far too much time on all of the things other than actually producing journalism—obsessing over policies, procedures and meetings when what we actually needed to do was publish some stories. When I was hired I was told that the whole premise of First Look was that it would hire good reporters, get out of their way and let them do good work. That is pretty much the exact reverse of what happened.”

As to Poitras, read this disgusting profile of her in Vogue. Quite the revolutionary.

(Note: You think Scahill is a great journalist. Think again. Check out this piece I wrote in the New York Observer, where I reported that at one point Scahill “worried that a story by an Intercept staff reporter that was critical of Al Qaeda might jeopardize his relationship with an Al Qaeda spokesman who was a good “source” of information for him.”)

If you still aren’t repelled by Poitras, consider this from the hideous and mercifully now defunct Weekly Standard, which cites John R. Bruning’s 2006 book,  The Devil’s Sandbox: With the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry at War in Iraq:

Contrary to Greenwald’s claim that Poitras has never been accused of any wrongdoing, Devil’s Sandbox details the explosive allegation that Poitras had foreknowledge of a November 20, 2004 ambush of U.S. troops but did nothing to warn them.

Brandon Ditto led the platoon that came under fire that day. Speaking Tuesday evening by phone with THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Ditto said it seemed that Poitras “had pre-knowledge” of the ambush. He recalled the events he witnessed that day, confirming the details described in Devil’s Sandbox.

During a patrol of Adhamiya early in the morning of November 20, two soldiers in Ditto’s platoon noticed a woman standing on a rooftop next to a man while holding a camera. They found that very odd. “Usually when you see someone planted on a rooftop with a camera, they’re waiting for something, and right after that is when we got ambushed just down the road,” Ditto told me Tuesday night. “So it seems that she had pre-knowledge that our convoy, or our patrol, was going to get hit.”

Have a good day. I’ll have more on TI soon.

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