Billionaire Pierre Omidyar Defunds Snowden Archive

in #snowden4 years ago (edited)



Back in 2014 there was quite a buzz surrounding the launch of First Look Media and the flagship online media project known as The Intercept. The new media brand was to be headed by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras, author and journalist Jeremy Scahill and financial and political satirist and author Matt Taibbi. The funding for this new venture into digital media would come from Pierre Omidyar, internet pioneer and founder of EBay.

At the time, the public was still reeling from the revelations disclosed by NSA whistleblower and private intelligence employee of Booze Allen Hamilton Edward Snowden. We learned of the NSA's sophisticated and widespread data collection of ordinary American citizen communications. The cat was out of the bag. From phone calls, to texts, to emails, browsing history and social media activities - nothing was off limits.

"Collect It All"

was, and in all probability still is, the mantra of the nation's largest intelligence agency. Despite what legacy media institutions would like us to believe. A recent headline from the NY Times proclaimed: NSA Phone Records Program Shut Down.

When Edward Snowden met with Glenn Greenwald (then with the Guardian) and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong he provided them with a substantial archive of NSA files detailing the mass surveillance on the American public. Snowden maintained that he felt it was his patriotic duty to inform the citizens of the US about the extent of domestic data collection.

Greenwald shared the NSA archive with prominent publishers including the New York Times, Washington Post and his then publisher the Guardian. Week after week, stories deriving from the contents of the archive were slowly 'dripped' to the public from these publishers. The revelations were unprecedented revealing NSA programs such as XKeyScore.

• XKeyscore gives 'widest-reaching' collection of online data
• NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
• Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history

With each new disclosure from the Snowden archive pressure was mounting on the media organizations who were running stories on the NSA's clandestine operations. However mainstream media attention quickly evaporated. The NY Times, WaPo and even the Guardian stopped publishing the material.

The Intercept and Omidyar's online media empire was soon launched with much fanfare and many believed that the Intercept would be the new home of the NSA files and would focus resources allowing for the continue release of documents and further disclosures to the public on illegal government surveillance.
It's true that the Intercept has continued to release portions of the archive over the last 5 years and has continued reporting but the vast majority of the archive, an estimated 90% still remains unavailable to the public.

This has lead some to suggest that the Intercept and First Look Media have been actively withholding the archive and rather than making the contents known to the public, the organization acts as a sort of custodian or even gatekeeper to the Snowden files.

Defunding the Archive

March 13 2019

An internal all-staff email from First Look Media CEO Michael Bloom reveled that the organization would no longer fund the Snowden Files. It was an "agonizing" but necessary decision based on the amount of resources FLM has spent on maintaining the collection.


In response to the surprise announcement, an outraged Laura Poitras said she was "sickened" by the decision made by the top brass at FLM without bothering to consult wtih the board of directors.


Journalist Alex Rubinstein cut to the heart of the matter suggesting the decision may have come from Omidyar and that it was a major setback in the field of investigative journalism.


According to the email, First Look Media justified the decision due to lack of resources and was laying off the research staff involved in the project. This comes as a surprise as Omidyar seems to be expanding his online media empire but apparently funding the Snowden archive is no longer a priority.

It begs the question: Was it ever a priority?

Information Gatekeepers?

Since news of the defunding of the Snowden archives broke people have been anxious to hear from Greenwald who was first to publish the information provided by Snowden back in 2013.

Greenwald maintains that both he and Poitras still possess copies of the full archive and are actively looking for a suitable partnership to house and safeguard the files.

Glenn Greenwald on Twitter   On the Intercept and the Snowden archive …  .png


While some may take comfort that Greenwald and Poitras still have the archives others are openly questioning why the Intercept has not produced more results over the last five years considering that it does (did) have a research team and the backing of a billionaire.


Piling on criticism, some took to Twitter to demand that the full archive be made public and rehashing a claim that Glenn Greenwald himself is acting as a gatekeeper preventing access to the public.

Free ThoughtComm.png

Greenwald adamantly defended the journalistic practices of the Intercept citing safety concerns that could seriously damage the lives of individuals named in the collection.


However, as pointed out by Mint Press News reporters:

The Intercept’s Greenwald pledged in 2014 to build a secure “reading room” where outside journalists could review files at the publication’s New York City office. That room has not materialized.


More criticism:

More Comm.png

Some even suggested that the archives would find a better home if passed on to the whistelblowing site Wikileaks.

Journalist Suzie Dawson (@suzi3d), who has conducted extensive research into the publicly available Snowden archive with her Decipher You series tweeted that she too was dismayed by the decision to defund the project reiterating that the archive remains as relevant today as it was 5 years ago.


Dawson has vowed to renew the Decipher You research in earnest following the decision by FLM.

The Wikileaks Twitter account also weighed in on the news with a tweet highlighting the fact that 90% of the archive is still in private hands.


Omidyar GateKeeper

Omidyar remains an elusive and reclusive figure in the public realm, a man who goes to great lengths to preserve his personal privacy. Omidyar spends most of his time away from the US mainland preferring to conduct business empire from the comfort of his Hawaiian home. Omidyar is so reclusive that he invested 300,000K into the Second Life virtual world in the early years. To this day, some of Omidyar's business partners have only met his avatar within the Second Life virtual landscape.

pierre omidyar.jpg


omidyar network.png

In recent years the reclusive billionaire has quietly expanded his online media empire with a complex web of interconnected internet holdings that have also greatly increased his online influence well beyond FLM and the intercept.

According to, the ON network has invested hundreds of millions into a wide range of startups that consist of 175 subsidiary companies. The Omidyar Network is essentially an investment firm.

Omidyar recently tweeted about NewsGuard, the dubious fact checking rating system being rolled out by Microsoft.


In 2017, Omidyar provided 100 million to fight hate speech and to support of investigative journalism.

With so many investments in a plethora of internet startups it's hard to believe that Omidyar's company is hard-pressed to find the resources needed to keep the Snowden Archive afloat.

So we have to ask the question once again - Was reporting on the Snowden archive really the driving force behind the creation of the Intercept as stated in their introductory press release?

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. We decided to launch now because we believe we have a vital and urgent obligation to this story, to these documents, and to the public.

Or did Omidyar essentially privatize the archive as part of a plan to slowly close the door on NSA files?

For an in depth analysis of Pierre Omidyar, I highly recommend reading a recent article by Alex Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal for Mint Press News.

Ebay Founder Pierre Omidyar is Funding a Global Media Information War

Omidyar A Billionaire Prone to Reclusiveness and His Trove of State Surveillance Secrets




I honestly don't know why people thought that deep state clown Pierre Omidyar, would actually follow through? The guy has connections to the NSA, and is behind "Freedom of the Press Foundation" which was responsible for defunding Wikileaks.

Actually I'll go as far as to say that Greenwald, and other names that chose to remain in that FPF lie, have some serious explaining to do. Why on Earth would they keep supporting that group, after they cut funds to Wikileaks? Besides, it's not like FPF has done anything significant besides that.

Hey thanks for the great comment. I completely forgot that Omidyar was involved with FPF, a very important observation. When i was reading up on the archive i was shocked that only 10% had been made public, i'm sure there were methods employed through FLM's corporate structure that probably further hindered the research team as well.Just my guess.

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Maybe the corporate structure could be to blame. Ironically, it seems there is not much transparency from FLM. And there is a chance FLM was keeping certain individuals tied to some agreements, without them fully knowing why.

CorbettReport and Sibel Edmonds had some interesting articles and videos on Pierre/Greenwald/NSA. According to Sibel, documents pertaining to Paypal have been kept hidden by them, among other things.

Only 10% released? They should data dump it into a Blockchain. I know of one that would hold it safe and openly.

Yes! After 5 yrs only 10%, very eye opening.
I also think that in that time they could have redacted names and released the bulk of the archive. Why not let the public dig through it? More eyes on it, the more we'll know about state surveillance.
I've talked with some researchers about the need for a blockchain archiving option. I think it would be valuable.

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I wonder if something like @tokenbb forums could hold an archive plugin for such things where a service could get a room that it controls to publish in an orderly fashion. Then over the top, all the comments and related articles that spring from it can be built with a relationship link back to the original publication. It would make a massive network of interrelated content.

This is great work! I'm going to cite this tomorrow and cover it - excellent report!

10% released, that's almost nothing at all... they should dump those files on a blockchain in order to release them to the public and in order for them to not be censored, the problem is, would this be safe? The amount of info those files have would probably put many people in danger, dumping them on a blockchain without a careful comb through the info to censor out the parts that shouldn't be released would be a must... But who would do this? What would be the criteria used to know what information should be public forever...

First time hearing about Omidyar... now I'm wondering if the guy has a daughter that I could meet xD

Sounds like a great asset to hold for a billionaire seeking publicity and to further his own interests. A really weak defense regarding names, surely they could have put more that 10% out there and just removed these?

Good points by Taraz (get it on chain!) and angryman - is Omidyar still around? hmm

For sure, they should be able to at least make the redactions and make more of the files open to the public.
I think that Omidyar sought to gain "cool" points / street cred for creating the Intercept that promotes itself as "adversarial journalism". In doing so, he gains the credibility as a progressive forward thinking organization but the real goal was to capture and control the archive.

Yeah, there's certainly a need for a blockchain archival tool, it's something I'm very interested in and would like to help create one if possible.

Yeah I agree re:cool points, but I'm guessing he's now lost these in the eyes of many due to what you've explained in the text.

It sounds like a huge undertaking to even just archive what has been released thus far, but it would be cool to have it all here on Steem.

This is not surprising at all really. It was just a matter of when rather than if. I think the delayed release of information at snails pace only shows that the whole process was compromised from the beginning. That's why the billionaire bought the documents in the first place.

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Right, at first the "slow drip" method proved to be quite effective in keeping the public's attention on the issue but with control of the publishing / brass of the FLM company he could really slowdown the release to a 'snails pace'. I agree, it certainly appears that was his true motivation for creating the media organization.

Curated for #informationwar (by @thoughts-in-time)

Ways you can help the @informationwar!

Thanks for the recent news regarding the Snowden archive files, and Omidyar bowing out from his monetary support.

Omidyar is so reclusive that he invested 300,000K into the Second Life virtual world in the early years. To this day, some of Omidyar's business partners have only met his avatar

Reclusive? Perhaps - deceased...???

I don't fully understand why Snowden is on the run, but the people holding the actual data are roaming around freely with no problem. Isn't it a 'national security threat' to have the head of one of the world's largest commercial enterprises holding on to state security secrets? This whole situation is covered in logical holes that seem odd.

Greenwald's accusation of the person being a sociopath, without even knowing them seems childishly absurd.

Sorry to be off topic, though I thought you may like this article, I found it intriguing to say the least.

Incredible article dude. Followed for more

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Great article. Thanks for including the info on NewsGuard.

I their world, every man got his price...
A Billion more won't hurt ;)
Somebody paid or "muscled" him.

Thanks for the post, I didn’t do a whole lot of research into the Snowden dumps but it’s dismaying that so little was released. Clearly the people like Greenwald are being strong armed by the government to not release it all. I understand the need to protect people but 5 years is plenty of time to figure that out.
I would love if eventually the files get put into the blockchain. I think it will, but when is the question.

The news guard plug was bs by this dude. Holding onto an archive such as the Snowden and promoting news guard are an antithesis of each other. He’s shown where his loyalties lie. Billionaires are not going to go against the state.

That's indeed big news, thanks for reporting. Wouldn't have gotten aware of it otherwise probably.