Laura Poitras, one of the founding editors of The Intercept, was barred from attending a company meeting on Thursday following a decision by First Look Media to discontinue managing The Intercept’s archive of leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Poitras was the initial recipient of Snowden’s trove of secret NSA documents and a driving journalistic force behind the bombshell stories they yielded beginning in 2013. Since 2014, Poitras and Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald have entrusted The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, to maintain the voluminous archive. The trove of information includes millions of files that have been the basis for major stories worldwide concerning the growth and reach of 21st-century mass digital surveillance.
Multiple sources told The Daily Beast on Thursday that Poitras was invited by staff to a meeting following the company’s announcement that it was cutting four percent of staff and ending its maintenance of the archive. But according to two sources, David Bralow, the company’s general counsel, blocked Poitras, who co-founded the site but now works for a different arm of First Look Media, from attending.
Part of the agenda for the meeting was to permit staff to query management about the staff cuts. The mood was said to be tense, featuring written questions to permit a frank discussion.
A First Look spokesperson did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
In a series of notes shared among staff on Wednesday evening and obtained by The Daily Beast, Poitras criticized First Look Media CEO Michael Bloom for the decision to lay off research staff and discontinue management of the archive, and called on the board of directors to reconsider the decision.
“This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we’ve all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle,” she wrote in an email shared with staff.
Bloom responded in a company-wide memo on Wednesday evening, saying that while company leadership had decided to “focus on other editorial priorities” after combing through the archives for five years.
“The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us,” Bloom wrote.He added: “It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner—such as an academic institution or research facility—that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest
Greenwald pointed out in a statement on Thursday that other media outlets with access to the files had ceased reporting on the archive, and acknowledged that The Intercept’s financial constraints were the primary reason that the company was halting its reporting on the archive. He also said he is working to secure a new permanent home for the archives.
“I have spent the last several months seeking to ensure that publication of these materials continues under the auspices of experts most competent to do this work, and who work with institutions that have the ample funds required to do so robustly, quickly, and responsibly,” Greenwald wrote.