THE STORY OF EDWARD SNOWDEN’S disclosure of NSA secrets to the press has been told and retold in books, films, and countless articles. Left unreported has been the quiet role of two journalists who literally had Snowden material mailed to them in a cardboard box.
In a new article in Harper’s Magazine, the duo finally tells their story of beginners’ encryption, convoluted codewords, and extreme paranoia. They also reveal that they are not the only people to have received Snowden files without the public knowing about it.
Dale Maharidge is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism, but was only pulled into the Snowden leak because of a Brooklyn house party he attended one night in December 2011, where he met filmmaker (and Intercept co-founder) Laura Poitras. The two bonded quickly over their work and, throughout the following year, as their respective reporting and film projects allowed, spent time together in New York and at Maharidge’s “very remote” coastal dwelling in Northern California. Then, near the beginning of 2013, Poitras was contacted by an anonymous source claiming to possess materials that would reveal the scope of American surveillance. She confided in Maharidge:
We talked about the source over dinner, and Laura told me that this person wanted a physical address to use in case (as the source put it) “something happens to you or me.” We speculated that perhaps this person might want to send her a parcel. Hard copy? Data? It was unclear. Needless to say, the material couldn’t go directly to Laura: her mail was surely being scrutinized. Nor could I receive it, because of our connection. She said we needed a third party, someone who wouldn’t be on the NSA’s radar.
All the while, Poitras and Maharidge communicated using code words — but not, interestingly, any means of digital encryption:
We would call the unnamed source the “architect” and refer to the mysterious shipment as “architectural materials.” The recipient of the package would be called the “sink.” Should that person prove to be unavailable, I would find a backup choice, whom we would call the “other sink.” The NSA or FBI would be called the “co-op board”—a tribute to the truculent nature of such boards in New York City. And if either of us wrote, “The carpenter quit the job,” that meant it was time to start over with a new plan.
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In 1995 At Maui High Performance Computing Center The Maui Scientific Analysis & Visualization of the Environment Program was first incubated. I was the principal investigator of this independant research project which was a joint development between MHPCC, Silicon Graphics Computers (SGI) & NKO.ORG. Using SGI Cosmo Worlds software, we pioneered the development of Internet based 3D virtual reality GIS based interactive worlds. In 1996 with a network of seven high performance SGI workstations we pioneered development of live streaming MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Real Video and QuickTime Streaming Server utilizing Kassenna MediaBase software. In Maui 2002 we pioneered and tested the first wireless live streaming video using laptop computers and Maui Sky Fiber’s portable 3G wireless device. In Maui we pioneered live streaming video using usb modems from AT&T , Verizon as well as live streaming from iPhone 3 over 3G wireless networks.
Today The Maui S.A.V.E. Program has diversified into storm tracking including visualization and analysis of large, memory-intensive gridded data sets such as the National Hurricane Center’s wind speed probabilities. I volunteer my services to numerous Disaster Services Organizations. In June 2013 I returned from Hurricane Sandy deployment as a computer operations service associate with the Disaster Services Technology Group assisting as The American Red Cross migrated from a Disaster Response Operation to Long Term Recovery Operations. Pioneering the production/editing and Internet distribution of HD video to sites like Youtube.com and Vimeo.com we are shining the light towards environmental and peace efforts of humans across the globe. Since 1992 I have held the vision of establishing Maui, Hawaii as the environmental sciences center of the world. After His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet came to Maui This vision has expanded to establishing Maui as the environmental & peace center of the world.