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Whistleblowers or Anonymous Sources: Read This Carefully

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Guidelines for Sending Tips to Me

Like any investigative journalist, I’m thrilled to get tips from whistleblowers or other sources, including anonymous ones. I’ve been long known for my integrity, credibility, and willingness to protect my sources, if I’m certain after vetting they’re legitimate.

If you tell me I can’t identify you in my story I won’t. If the only way the news organization for which I’m writing will use your quote is to have your identity revealed, not only will I not use your quote, I won’t reveal to the news organization who you are.

But, I can tell you from firsthand experience it can be dangerous business for both the source and journalist for you to share secrets. So, for both our protection please take the tips below seriously before reaching out to any investigative journalist with your story.

But, first, remember, I am an investigative journalist. I am going to investigate you and your tip first before I agree to pursue your story or work with you as a source on one I’m already pursuing. I am as smart as any excellent lawyer, government agent, LEO, private investigator, or anyone else who does similar work.

I have access to the tools and techniques necessary to do thorough investigations. I’m as dauntless as any of these other professionals.

Don’t underestimate me by sending me misleading, false, distracting or “alternative facts” based tip. That won’t go well. In fact, that’s how I ended up writing an award-winning expose. I hate being lied to, duped, misdirected or otherwise mislead. Don’t or you could become my next award-winning investigative piece.

Now that we’ve agreed on that, here are the tips I suggest you follow carefully. 

  • Assume everyone is or wants to be Wikileaks when sharing tips with investigative journalists.
  • Only send your tips to me using my encrypted email address when possible. Because of my experience with hacking and surveillance, I prefer non-US servers with programs that use an OpenPGP key like the account on my contact page. You must follow specific instructions for sending an email to me there, which includes your own free ProtonMail account to ensure end-to-end encryption. When you do, I strongly suggest you activate two-factor authentication to log in and out.
  • Even using this method to send me a tip, be aware your email may be subject to communications surveillance meaning it may be monitored. See other tips below to address that.
  • You may only request my secure phone or chat messaging app information via the secure email above. I reserve the right to decline to share that.
  • The first email address on my contact page ending in “” is not a secure email address. Emails sent here, especially from the US or other Five Eyes country webmail servers or email clients that are unencrypted end-to-end with OpenPGP, likely will be subject to communications surveillance. That means it’s likely to be tracked, traced, logged, and seen by anyone with access to your device. That includes hackers or others who gain access illegally or without your permission as well as.
    • those gaining direct or indirect access using software like the type in this story.
    • spyware software or back door access to your servers by your ISP, government, lawyers involved in or considering a lawsuit with you, or private investigators.
    • spying by nosy neighbors; your employer; snooping friends, domestic partners/spouses or family; the owner or manager of any location from which you use internet access to send emails; professional hackers and even kiddie scripters hacking your devices.
  • If you don’t need a secure email address to send your tip, use the first email address on my contact page. But, still, send your email with utmost care if it contains sensitive revelations.
  • The second email address won’t be encrypted on your end unless you set up your own free ProtonMail email address. One of the key benefits of using ProtonMail is that it’s in Switzerland, a high privacy country, and it’s created for sending private emails.
  • Do NOT send documents you don’t want to be intercepted and shared by others unless you have encrypted them using an open source encryption tools. (Proprietary ones can and usually do have backdoors installed for easier government, corporate or hacker access.) Follow the instructions for encrypting and make sure you provide me keys or passwords for opening them.
  • Send your email only from an SSL encrypted webmail or email client or use a disposable email address that is SSL encrypted (unless you need me to respond). Set up ALL email accounts from which you send tips with two-factor authentication. (You might want to do this with all email at all times anyway.)
  • Send email only using a secure, encrypted, wired or wireless internet connection. Don’t use public wireless or wired services without a VPN that’s on unbranded OpenVPN software.
  • Even with these tips, someone who has installed keyloggers or screen capture software on your primary device or has other surveillance apparatus installed near your laptop or where you typically work or send email from still may see your email. If you have a seriously secret tip to send, I suggest you do it from a library you don’t usually go to and use my ProtonMail email. Consider using a USB stick with Tails installed to get access to TOR (while keeping in mind it’s a browser that the US military created for its own use years ago and the FBI and CIA have hacked it in recent years).

Disclaimers of Liability

These tips do not absolve you from any responsibility for protecting yourself before, during or after sending me tips, especially if you employ them incorrectly or they won’t work for you. Research all of them before using any of them.

I accept absolutely no personal or professional liability for any harm that may come to you by sending an email to either email address or calling me on the secure line I provide you only if you request it by encrypted email.

I cannot guarantee no one will hack my devices or servers or yours or listen to or record our conversations. (Please note: I do record all conversations with sources and interviews for hard news pieces and will decline interviews where I’m prohibited from doing so.)

Please be careful sharing your secrets with me. It is entirely your responsibility do whatever is necessary to protect your safety before sharing any information with me. I have no intention of encouraging you to take dangerous risks by sharing these tips

Right to Reject Story Ideas, Tips or Projects

I reserve the right to refuse to respond to your tips, particularly if they’re related to stories I don’t cover. I also reserve the right to reject any story or project for any reason at any time with absolutely no explanation. I do not do stories on 

I further reserve the right to stop pursuing a story or working with a source at any time for any reason with no explanation and to terminate contact with you.

You agree to this and to apply these tips with care before sending me any information of any kind. I will assume you have read everything here, understand it and are following instructions carefully.

These Tips Can Protect Us Both

Like I will, I’m sure you want to protect yourself legally when whistleblowing or acting as a source. A final benefit to protecting yourself is that it may make it easier to pursue legal process against those who get around your every effort to protect your privacy using encryption.

While that depends on where you are in the world, that can include private citizens in any role and government agents and operatives.

Remember, these are just other people with a different job title or who work with the other people who make up government agencies or corporations. Some behave dangerously and have no conscience, meaning they don’t mind causing harm to or executing those who have the temerity to try to keep them from damaging you or others.

So, be extra careful when dealing with those known to be corrupt or thugs.

But most others aren’t physically dangerous. (However, they can be dangerous in other ways. I’ve had personal experience with those who’ve tried to destroy my reputation behind my back because they have “connections” and didn’t think or care that I’d figure it out or I wouldn’t have recourse if I did. If people will try this with those who can expose them, they’re brazen enough to do it to anyone.)

However, people aren’t entirely invincible and most usually don’t remain immune from prosecution forever.

I’m not trying to discourage you from whistleblowing. I’m trying to make sure you understand the implications if you do. Whistleblowing or being an anonymous source takes courage. Protect yourself and your loved ones first and don’t be manipulated into sharing information you’re uncomfortable sharing or feel puts you in harm’s way.

Good investigative journalists can find other stories or sources. Keep yourself safe first.

(c) 2017. New Fourth Estate Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

Image: Pixabay

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