Daniel Soar suggests that “there’s a serious sense in which Snowden is more journalist than whistleblower”:
As journalist, Snowden was extraordinarily conscientious. [Glenn] Greenwald says that on the memory sticks he was given the documents were meticulously organised and indexed, with not a single one miscategorised: he didn’t doubt that Snowden had read them all. The evidence certainly points to Snowden’s knowing quite a bit about their contents.
In his book [The Snowden Files, author Luke] Harding describes the moment when Ewen MacAskill, the Guardian journalist who travelled to Hong Kong along with Greenwald and [Laura] Poitras to meet Snowden for the first time, took out his iPhone and asked Snowden whether he minded ‘if he taped their interview, and perhaps took some photos’.
‘Snowden flung up his arms in alarm,’ Harding writes, ‘as if prodded by an electric stick … The young technician explained that the spy agency was capable of turning a mobile phone into a microphone and tracking device; bringing it into the room was an elementary mistake in operational security, or op-sec.’ Every paranoiac probably supposes as much, but Snowden knew exactly what it was that the spooks might have done to MacAskill’s phone. We too now know, thanks to a document released at the end of January, that GCHQ has developed a virus called WARRIOR PRIDE that can be invisibly installed on devices. It comes with ‘iPhone specific plugins’: the one that does the tracking is TRACKER SMURF; the one that turns the thing into a microphone is NOSEY SMURF. These are facts that you wouldn’t want to unlearn.