Preface: Silkie

It is almost two years since the first publication of this handbook, and three since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on mass surveillance, sacrificing his freedom in the hope that others might reclaim theirs. 

In that time, we have discovered that, at a minimum, UK police spied on over 100 journalists, and over 240 sources between 2011-2014 (IOCCO, 2015). The Guardian was visited by spies who systematically destroyed hard drives containing source material; David Miranda was detained and interrogated under the Terrorism Act; and a BBC Newsnight journalist had his laptop seized under the Terrorism Act. 

The Government’s response to the revelations, and various legal challenges, is the Investigatory Powers Bill - legislation that puts extraordinary powers for mass surveillance, recording of every single person’s internet use, hacking, and database building, on a statutory footing. Provisions to intercept and hack 'targets’ feature, with no need for reasonable suspicion of any crime. Journalist protections that exist in previous legislation are eerily absent in this Bill - no information is off limits in the new surveillance state. 

The draconian mass surveillance practices currently in place are only the beginning, not the end, of the story of democracy in the digital age. Our response now only indicates how well we will be able to protect freedom of expression and the right to a private life in the future.

If journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed, and for investigative journalists it certainly is, you must assume that in the course of producing your best work, you have an adversary against whom you must protect yourself, your story, and your sources.

Since Edward Snowden blew the whistle on June 5 2013, I felt it important to educate myself in the information security methods that protect freedom of speech and freedom of press – simple methods that are, without overstatement, essential to preserve and advance these critical human rights. I am testament to the fact that any determined investigative journalist who has the patience to learn can soon become an advanced user of ‘InfoSec’ methods.

This handbook is written in the plainest terms possible, with comprehensive instructions, to share with you a shortcut to this learning process – without compromising knowledge, teaching or security. The best way to learn is by doing – so I recommend that you use this handbook whilst also tooling up.

Importantly, I hope that this handbook empowers a wide range of investigative journalists and especially their sources. If this handbook relieves one victim of injustice or witness of criminality from the burden of their story; if it liberates one individual to securely communicate with the world and have their voice safely heard, then this handbook will have served its purpose very well. 

Silkie Carlo, London 2016

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