The Washington Post

Edward Snowden sent Glenn Greenwald this video guide about encryption for journalists. Greenwald ignored it.

(Screengrab via Vimeo)

Before Laura Poitras brought Glenn Greenwald into the story about former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, Greenwald received messages from a mysterious contact calling himself Cincinnatus. The source urged Greenwald to learn how to protect his e-mail with encryption so he could receive sensitive information.

Cincinnatus reportedly even went so far as to send a video tutorial to Greenwald, walking him through the necessary steps to set up the added security measures. But Greenwald didn't bother to get with the program until after he was in Hong Kong and in deep discussions with Snowden, at which point he realized he may have missed out on the opportunity for another scoop by not following up with Cincinnatus.

The twist? Cincinnatus turned out to be Snowden. After Greenwald e-mailed Cincinnatus to let him know he'd finally set up encryption, Snowden revealed he was behind the correspondence all along.

"By the way, that Cincinnatus you just emailed, that’s me,” Greenwald recalled Snowden telling him in "No Place to Hide," his new memoir.

And now anyone can watch the video Snowden sent to Greenwald. Dan Froomkin, who works with Greenwald at the Pierre Omidyar media startup The Intercept, tweeted out a link to the video Wednesday morning. It appears to be the video tutorial Greenwald described in a Rolling Stone interview published last December.

The video, which clocks in at just over 12 minutes, was posted to Vimeo a year ago by someone using the pseudonym "anon108." It explains how to set up encryption on a Windows machine, using stick figures and screenshots that reveal the creator was using Tor and other tools to cover his tracks. The video is narrated by a digitally disguised voice whose speech patterns sound similar to those of Snowden in subsequent interviews and live-streamed appearances.

Interestingly, the NSA is directly referenced in the video: A parody version of the agency's logo created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation is used as a stand-in for government surveillance.

Froomkin and Greenwald did not immediately respond to an inquiry asking whether Snowden actually created the video himself. Earlier this year, Snowden joined the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which counts Greenwald and Poitras among its founding members and is currently running a crowd-funding campaign to support encryption tools for journalists.

Correction: This post previously contained an update that erroneously stated that Greenwald confirmed Snowden had authored the video. Greenwald said he could not confirm the authorship of the video.   

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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Andrea Peterson · May 14, 2014

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