Are we losing trust in The Intercept?

Greenwald and Poitras both gone…. Not a good look

Graham Stewart
2 min readJan 17, 2021


Snowden, Poitras, and Greenwald were the recipients of the 2014 Carl von Ossietzky medal. Photo: Michael F. Mehnert, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What it does it say when the co-founders of an organisation both leave within months of each other and both write damning accounts of why they are no longer at the organisation?

I first came across the names of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras because of their part in the breaking of the Edward Snowden files. Poitras also made the Oscar-winning film Citizenfour about Snowden and the release of the files and Greenwald won a Pulitzer for his reporting on the Snowden story and later released a book-length version of the events and how they related to the burgeoning surveillance culture, called No Place to Hide.

Around the time that the book came out, Poitras, Greenwald, and Jeremy Scahill started publishing on The Intercept, part of First Look Media. This was primarily meant to be a safe space for quality independent journalism. And, by inference, a safe space for whistleblowers.

Given my interest in Snowden and the work of both Poitras and Greenwald up to that point I started reading The Intercept. Not long afterwards, I set up a monthly debit to support the site. I stopped paying at the end of last year after Greenwald left. Greenwald accused The Intercept of censorship of a story involving Joe Biden’s son. The Intercept hot back that Greenwald’s story simply didn’t stand up. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in the middle — how centrist of me — but it wasn’t a good look for The Intercept.

I had also heard that Poitras had left but it is only today that I have read her open letter from January 14th in which she accuses The Intercept of firing her for her outspoken reaction to the company’s internal review regarding the Reality Winner case.

Even if what Poitras says is mistaken — and that is unlikely, given both her qualities as a journalist and her knowledge of security protocols — that fact that The Intercept failed Winner to the extent that a whistleblower ended up with a shocking and unjustifiable prison sentence is an indictment of a company that was set up on the back of some of the most significant and painstaking efforts to protect sources and information.

From the outside, it looks like The Intercept not only made some bad errors originally but they are compounding them by obfuscation and an inability to accept blame.

There are still good stories from time to time on the site but, somehow, the gloss is gone. It is as if The Intercept is simply becoming mainstream and seeking to appease money and power where once they challenged it.



Graham Stewart