How to curry favor with U.S. intelligence sources

What’s the easiest way of getting government officials to open up and provide you with a story? Just repeat whatever they say and call it “news.” Here’s an example from Associated Press and the word “said” in the headline is the subtle disclaimer — it signals to those who are paying attention that there may be no factual basis for the claims being made in the report.

“Al-Qaida said to be changing its ways after leaks”

U.S. intelligence agencies are scrambling to salvage their surveillance of al-Qaida and other terrorists who are working frantically to change how they communicate after a National Security Agency contractor leaked details of two NSA spying programs. It’s an electronic game of cat-and-mouse that could have deadly consequences if a plot is missed or a terrorist operative manages to drop out of sight.

Two U.S. intelligence officials say members of virtually every terrorist group, including core al-Qaida, are attempting to change how they communicate, based on what they are reading in the media, to hide from U.S. surveillance — the first time intelligence officials have described which groups are reacting to the leaks. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak about the intelligence matters publicly.

The officials wouldn’t go into details on how they know this, whether it’s terrorists switching email accounts or cellphone providers or adopting new encryption techniques, but a lawmaker briefed on the matter said al-Qaida’s Yemeni offshoot, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, has been among the first to alter how it reaches out to its operatives.

While this report is completely unsubstantiated, the report itself can be seen as transparent evidence that the intelligence community and members of Congress are using the press to characterize Edward Snowden as a traitor who is aiding and abetting terrorism.

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