Washington Post reporters and contracted employees warned Wednesday that the paper’s coverage of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs is still just heating up.
“The reason stories are still coming out is cause there’s a lot of material and we are not casual about putting it out on the public record… [but] there’s more,” said Barton Gellman, the Washington Post reporter who received the classified information and helped lead the Post team to win the Pulitzer Prize’s public service medal.
The Post’s top five government surveillance experts gave a behind-the-scenes look to their investigative process at Wednesday night’s panel discussion in Washington, D.C.
The talk focused on the continued revelations that are still surfacing from their reporting, including last month’s story on NSA’s international phone data storage system by Gellman and Ashkan Soltani, an independent security researcher and consultant.
The panel also answered the public’s questions regarding how former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released the information to the Guardian and Post, and why the Post continues to disclose new information.
According to Gellman, Snowden gave an undisclosed number of documents to both him and former Guardian U.S. columnist Glenn Greenwald late last Spring. Gellman said there was an agreement between he and Snowden that the information would be carefully considered and not released in high volume to the public or based on any instruction from the former government contractor.
But Gellman joked, “We could go through this material a lot faster if I said ‘let’s just dump the whole thing on the Internet, we’ll crowdsource it; the whole world can help…'”
Even the idea of stealing fellow Post reporters from their beats to help analyze the documents was not an option for the publication.
The Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron explained, “It’s obvious to all of us that a story of this magnitude was going to need a lot of ‘lawyering,’ and was going to need a lot of careful thought about how to balance the risks of disclosure with the necessity of bringing big policy decisions before the public.”
“There’s so much sensitive material in there, we’ve been much, much more controlled,” said Gellman.
The slow but steady processing of the government’s security plans will continue though the reporters did not give an estimation for how long they expect to keep airing information.