Whistleblowing: The New Yorker plugs its leak-proof leaking system

Click to follow
The Independent Tech

What do you do if you're a whistleblower with confidential documents you want to see the light of day? It may be ethical to email them to a dozen reporters, but will the men in dark suits come looking for you? In America this is increasingly the case, where the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under the draconian Espionage Act than all other presidencies combined.

Just this week the Justice Department is facing criticism for spying on the AP news agency to out its sources. Enter The New Yorker, which has launched Strongbox. It's a tool that allows citizens to share documents with the magazine with what it calls "a reasonable amount of anonymity".

It was put together over the past two years by Kevin Poulsen, news editor at Wired, and the late Aaron Swartz. Essentially it is a Dropbox for anonymous leaks. Swartz was the coder who helped develop the RSS web feed format and Reddit before becoming a legend to "hacktivists".

He took his own life in January 2011, only days after being charged with computer fraud. But before his death he had turned his attention to Strongbox, which is based on an open-source architecture called DeadDrop. It works by using a combination of secure servers, encryption software, obscure passwords and memory sticks.

Swartz's creation is quite a coup for The New Yorker, which has an investigative lineage from Daniel Lang in Vietnam to Seymour Hersh in Iraq. Stories such as Hersh's Abu Ghraib dispatches were done without anything as helpful as Strongbox, so The Independent is intrigued to see what it will help to uncover.