The federal government thinks there's another Edward Snowden-style leaker exposing national security documents after a terror watch list report Tuesday by the Glenn Greenwald news site The Intercept.
The suspicion is based on documents used
for the article, "Barack Obama's Secret Terrorist-Tracking system, by the Numbers," CNN reports.
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Focusing on the explosive growth in government databases of known or suspected terrorist names, The Intercept reports "nearly half of the people on the U.S. government’s widely shared database of terrorist suspects are not connected to any known terrorist group."
In The Intercept article, documents from the National Counterterrorism Center are dated August 2013 – after former NSA contractor Snowden fled to Russia to avoid U.S. criminal charges, and the possibility of another spy secrets leaker was suggested by Greenwald himself in a tweet July 4:
Former Guardian reporter Greenwald was one of the key journalists
to report on the leaked Snowden documents.
Government officials are now trying to figure out who the leaker is, CNN reports.
It's not yet clear how many documents the new leaker has shared and how much damage it may cause; the documents shared by the new leaker are labeled "Secret" and "NOFORN," which means it isn't to be shared with foreign government, CNN reports — a lower level of classification than documents leaked by Snowden.
CNN reported the biggest terror watch database, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, has 1 million names — a number that increased after the botched attempt by the so-called underwear bomber
to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009.
The growth of TIDE, and other terrorist databases and watchlists, was a result of vulnerabilities exposed in the 2009 underwear plot, CNN reported, noting the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, wasn't on any government watchlist.
The Intercept reported the new TIDE database numbers, along with details of other databases.
One watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, a subset of the TIDE database, has 680,000 names, only a small number of which are Americans.
The Intercept report said 40 percent of those 680,000 don't have affiliations to terrorist groups.
But CNN reported U.S. officials say the claim is incorrect because of a misreading of the documents.
Intercept said as of August, 2013, 5,000 names of Americans were on the TSD watchlist. Another 15,800 were on the wider TIDE list. Some 16,000 names — including 1,200 Americans — are listed as "selectees" subject to more intensive screening at airports and border crossings, The Intercept reported.
Cities with the most names on the list are New York, Dearborn, Michigan; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago, The Intercept reported.
Dearborn is home to one the nation's biggest concentrations of Arab and Muslim populations.
According to the documents cited by the Intercept, the government has also begun a new effort to collect information and biometric data on U.S. persons in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, including photos from driver's licenses.
CNN reported FBI agents investigating the Boston bombings found existing databases lacking when they tried to match images of the two bombers isolated from surveillance video, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, the Huffington Post
noted there was even some intrigue as well in competing stories on the terror watch data, reporting the government tried to leak the scoop to The Associated Press to "soften the blow" of The Intercept story.
A few minutes after the AP ran a three-paragraph story on the explosion of names on the terror watch lists at 12:32 p.m., Intercept published its more comprehensive article, the Huffington Post reported.
AP spokesman Paul Colford told the Huffington Post: "Pulitzer Prize-winning AP reporter Eileen Sullivan has been covering this territory for a long time. She gathered and reported additional news today as part of her expertise on this subject."
And the National Counterterrorism Center told the Huffington Post it was all an honest mistake.
"Last year NCTC published the size of the TIDE [Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment] database as a matter of transparency, and was in the process of doing so again this year," the Center told the Huffington Post.
"As such, we had been working with the AP for several months on a story about watchlisting and TIDE when First Look Media [publisher of The Intercept] approached us with a similar story. Because both the AP and First Look Media were working on a similar story, both news organizations should have been provided the same information simultaneously, which did not happen, and which was our mistake."
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