On September 5, 2013, The Guardian, the New York Times and ProPublica jointly reported — based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden — that the National Security Agency had compromised some of the encryption that is most commonly used to secure internet transactions. The NYT explained that NSA “has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the emails, web searches, internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world.” One 2010 memo described that “for the past decade, NSA has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used internet encryption technologies.”
In support of the reporting, all three papers published redacted portions of documents from the NSA along with its British counterpart, GCHQ. Prior to publication of the story, the NSA vehemently argued that any reporting of any kind on this program would jeopardize national security by alerting terrorists to the fact that encryption products had been successfully compromised. After the stories were published, U.S. officials aggressively attacked the newspapers for endangering national security and helping terrorists with these revelations.
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