The Perfect Leak

Photo Credit: AP

In his dealings with the media, Edward Snowden played his hand like a pro.

Snowden, 29, was looking to disclose top-secret information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs to the world — and to do so he arranged a powerful one-two combination punch with the press that provided both mainstream credibility (Barton Gellman and The Washington Post) and someone who shared his ideological inclinations (Glenn Greenwald), according to media observers and whistleblower experts.

As more and more agenda-driven outlets, reporters and bloggers hit the media scene, leakers such as Snowden find themselves with a wealth of potential options to get their information out. It’s a seismic shift from the old media landscape, when would-be leakers had only one clear path to ensuring widespread attention for their stories: a successful pitch to a handful of national newspapers or TV networks.

But the traditional national security media heavyweights — led by The New York Times and The Washington Post — still have outsize influence on stories about intelligence gathering and potential overreach by the government.

So at the end of the day, experts told POLITICO, Snowden found a way to pull off what was in effect the perfect leak. He established parallel tracks with the MSM — The Washington Post and The Guardian — and also found a member of the media who was sympathetic to his cause. Snowden’s material was given widespread exposure and credibility in the traditional press and at the same time had the hand of a friendly journalist on the wheel for at least part of the ride.

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