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Conference to explore digital security for news gathering; agenda includes Poitras film screening

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Note: The agenda has been updated slightly since the release date. In addition to panelist changes (noted in italics below),…

Note: The agenda has been updated slightly since the release date. In addition to panelist changes (noted in italics below), the venue for the screening has moved from the Knight Conference Center to the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington. In addition, the proceedings will be webcast at Follow on Twitter with the hashtag #EncryptNews.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Freedom of the Press Foundation and New America’s Open Technology Institute are hosting a free daylong conference Nov. 7 at the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., that will explore the effects of widespread government surveillance on newsgathering and teach techniques that reporters can use to better protect themselves with encryption.

The conference, “News Organizations and Digital Security: Solutions to Surveillance Post-Snowden,” will feature panels and breakout sessions led by journalism, legal and security experts, as well as a screening of “Citizenfour,” Laura Poitras’s new film about Edward Snowden’s decision to leak NSA documents to the news media.

The conference is made possible by the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

The day’s agenda is as follows:

9 a.m.: Real-World Encryption Problems. Leak investigations are at a record high and national security journalists now often work under a shadow of surveillance. By knowing the stakes and how to respond to them, reporters can assess the risks, and still keep their sources relatively safe. This panel will discuss current and future unsolved digital security problems in journalism.

Panelists will include: Julia Angwin, senior reporter, ProPublica; Dana Priest, investigative reporter, The Washington Post, and John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; James Risen, investigative reporter, The New York Times;  Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst, Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, ACLU; and Hannah Bloch-Wehba, Stanton Fellow, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (moderator).

10:15 a.m.: Beyond PGP, Protecting Reporters on an Institutional Level. Beyond encrypting individual email, panelists will look at the importance of utilizing the right systems company-wide to stave off hacking and other cyberattacks, as well as handing subpoenas and safeguarding sources.

Panelists will include: Morgan Marquis-Boire, director of security, First Look Media; Jack Gillum, reporter, The Associated Press; Nabiha Syed, associate, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz; and Marcia Hofmann, digital rights lawyer (moderator).

11:30 a.m.: Breakout Sessions:

Using Off the Record (OTR) chat: Attendees are encouraged to bring their laptops for this hands-on session on how to set up OTR encryption to protect sources.

Setting up PGP mail encryption: Attendees should bring their laptops for this tutorial on how PGP works and how to set it up for secure electronic communications.

Demonstration of SecureDrop: This demonstration of the system for enabling secure communications between journalists and sources, managed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, will also focus on how to install and use it in your newsroom.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch at the Knight Conference Center

1:30 p.m.: Security Lessons from the Snowden Files. Journalists involved in reporting on the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden will talk about what they learned from the experience and how it might be handled better in the future.

Panelists will be: Spencer Ackerman, U.S. national security editor, Guardian US; Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent, The Wall Street Journal; Micah Lee, technologist, The Intercept; Julie Tate, researcher, The Washington Post; and Lynn Oberlander, general counsel, First Look Media (moderator).

2:30 p.m.: Keynote (To Be Announced)

3:30 p.m.: Screening, “Citizenfour.” A special screening of filmmaker Laura Poitras’ film about Snowden and government surveillance will be held at Landmark E Street Cinema. The film “Citizenfour” is being distributed theatrically by Radius, in association with Participant Media and HBO Documentary Films. Tickets for the screening are limited and will be distributed at the conference.

Registration for “News Organizations and Digital Security: Solutions to Surveillance Post-Snowden,” is free, but space is limited and participants must register online here.

For more information, contact:

Hannah Bloch-Wehba
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Trevor Timm
Freedom of the Press Foundation

Kevin Bankston
New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute

About the Reporters Committee

Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.

About Freedom of the Press Foundation

Freedom of the Press Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports public-interest journalism dedicated to transparency and accountability. In addition to advocating on a variety of press freedom issues, Freedom of the Press Foundation supports a variety of encryption tools for journalists that aim to protect digital communications. It also manages the SecureDrop project, an open-source whistleblower submission system for news organizations, and provides assistance with installation and training for journalists. For more information, visit

About New America’s Open Technology Institute

The Open Technology Institute at New America is committed to freedom and social justice in the digital age. To achieve these goals, it intervenes in traditional policy debates, builds technology, and deploys tools with communities. OTI brings together a unique mix of technologists, policy experts, lawyers, community organizers, and urban planners to examine the impacts of technology and policy on people, commerce, and communities. Our current focus areas include surveillance, privacy and security, network neutrality, broadband access, and Internet governance. OTI conducts data-driven research, develops policy and regulatory reforms, and builds real-word pilot projects to impact both public policy and the built communications environment that people experience.

The Open Technology Institute supports free expression and open technologies at home and around the world, and is committed to supporting engaged, self-sufficient communities by promoting safe and affordable access to connectivity. We view technology not an end in and of itself, but a means. Across our work, we are guided by these principles: Openness, Privacy, Justice, Collective self-determination, Service, and Integrity. For more information, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The Foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.

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