Free Press

Bringing the First Amendment into the 21st Century

Trevor Timm and the Freedom of the Press Foundation empower journalists in a changing world.


Trevor Timm

Trevor Timm is the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit that works to provide funding, encryption tools, and other resources to journalists who expose government secrets. Timm's group is backed by heavy hitters-journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, actor John Cusack, and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden. Timm sat down with Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller in March to discuss the vision for the project, how it plans to operate, and what happens if the foundation becomes a target. To watch a video version of this interview, go here or view it below.

Q: What are the overarching goals of the Freedom of the Press Foundation?

A: This first got started about a year and a half ago. The original inspiration for it was actually the Wikileaks financial blockade. Back in 2010 when Wikileaks started publishing all this classified information-State Department cables and war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq-the payment processors, Visa and MasterCard and PayPal, all cut them off, even though they were fully protected by the First Amendment and they were doing exactly what other media organizations do all the time.

We thought this was an injustice-an end run around the First Amendment, where government officials were able to pressure private companies to financially strangle [Wikileaks] into censoring themselves. Getting this big group of people together, we really wanted to make this a much broader mission about First Amendment principles and bringing the First Amendment into the 21st century.

We transcribed the Chelsea Manning trial for the media to use after the government wouldn't release their own transcripts. Now we're actually going around and installing SecureDrop, which is an open source whistleblower submission system that can better help news organizations use technology to get documents from whistleblowers.

Q: What are the big changes that need to be made?

A: Again, look at the Wikileaks example where they were cut off from payment processors, where they were kind of looked at as this digital upstart. They were treated differently [than established media organizations] even though they were essentially doing the same thing.

The same can be said about sources and whistleblowers who have been prosecuted at a record rate under the Obama administration. The government has figured out that they don't need to get reporters to testify against their sources anymore. They can just go to email providers and phone providers and subpoena all of their contacts.

Q: What's your solution to get around the payment problem going forward?

A: On our website you can donate to a variety of different organizations, all with one click. The donation will show up on your credit card as Freedom of the Press Foundation. But then we take the bundle of money for each organization and send it off to them at different intervals.

Q: That seems like that puts a target on you guys. How are you protecting yourselves?

A: We have very good legal counsel in [the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)]. The good thing about this is that it's perfectly legal. Having a big platform with a bunch of great people with loud voices hopefully would raise hell if we were ever cut off ourselves.

Q: Before you started this venture, you worked at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has really been at the forefront of a lot of these privacy issues.

A: EFF has been suing NSA for years over surveillance that was exposed in 2005 and 2006. It was hard for us to get the public to pay attention. It's really been extraordinary seeing the sea change in public opinion since Edward Snowden.


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  1. This guy’s pro-gun control tweet – “Because you care about guns more than you care about dead children” – prompted a Twitter debate on abortion, which illustrates how simplistic conservatives are compared to sophisticated liberals.…..on-Twitter

    1. We had a light rain this morning. It cooled things off a bit. I cooked pineapple pork chops, over-easy eggs, and some toast for breakfast. Yum. The wife and I fluffed the sheets already today. It is shaping up to be a very nice day.

      No fuckin’ way I am clicking on The Daily Kos and ruining that.

      1. Pineapple pork chops at breakfast?

        Hrmmm… Never tried that.

      2. Pineapple pork chops? For breakfast?*wipes drool from chin*

        I’ll be in my bunk…

        1. Fresh pineapple sliced and some juice squeezed into skillet. plop lean chops in and douse chops with muscadine hot sauce and a few drops of bitters then grind black pepper over them. Cook over medium heat uncovered until juice has cooked down to syrup. Take chops out, top with cooked pineapple slices and squeegee syrup out of pan over that.

          1. +1 cherry on top

    2. I linked to that, and got a pop-up box saying that a company moving its HQ to Switzerland to cut its tax liability would be “cheating” taxpayers out of $4 billion Because not being stolen from is the same as cheating the recipients of stolen loot.

      Holy fuck, I exited that site in a hurry, before the derp got to me further.

      1. Or what Suthenboy said.

    3. Yesterday, I came across one of those sponsored tweets from a company urging people to register to vote in order to protect their second amendment rights. Feeling snarky, I replied “Because you care about guns more than you care about dead children.” Within an hour, my feed was filled with all sorts of bile with one guy accusing me of being a hypocrite for claiming to care about kids but being pro-abortion. Arguing about abortion is difficult enough; the constant misrepresentations and ancient talking points are a pain to deal with in long form, but in 140 characters it’s downright diabolical.

      Oh, the irony.

      1. Hope and Change

        *finger, finger, toe, carry the one*

        You could fit that into a tweet 10 times. For, you know, reinforcement.

      2. Gotta love the projection.

        1. The dude starts the tweet storm with his own diabolically 140-character misrepresentations and ancient talking points on the 2nd Amendment and then whines when it comes back at him on abortion.

      3. What Man says “Feeling snarky”?

    4. Any dumb motherfucking cunt retarded enough to blame an inanimate object for acts like murder and robbery isn’t worth the shit on your shoe.

      1. True. However to shift, or nudge people toward thinking in this manner it might be helpful to be more humane. When a person addresses me and their first word is ‘motherfucker’ of some permutation of it, they immediately alienate me. But I agree with your premise. What is needed is true education.

        1. True education. Good luck.

          It has been pointed out here many times that you cannot argue using facts and logic with a person whose beliefs are not based on facts or logic, and that certainly applies to gun grabbers.

          1. It applies to nearly everyone. Almost everyone is living unwittingly in a blind spot (some in more than others).

            The value of having robust, intense debates is not so much in the prospect of changing your opponent’s mind. Human pride and hubris more or less prevent this from occurring anyway.

            Instead, the value is in convincing the bystanders, who may be on the fence and/or otherwise impartial to the debate. The unseen effect over the seen (and frustrating) one.

  2. The good thing about this is that it’s perfectly legal.

    However, like perfectly legal tax loopholes, it’s “un-American”.

  3. John Cusack

    It is good to know that not all d-bag leftist actors are not complete d-bag leftists.

  4. Reason should do an issue about all the tools that one can use to keep government, ISPs, whoever from tracking you.

    The way they presented both here and elsewhere in media is as tools for whistle-blowers and journalists and activists.

    What about jane or joe smo who just wants hers or his privacy back?

    Also i am wondering about tools that secure ones privacy in the commercial realm. Recently i got an email about a recall of buckyballs from the government. Where are the tools that keep government from knowing about stuff I buy online or hell even tools that hide my identity from the companies i buy stuff from? Do they exist?

    1. The biggest problem is that best privacy tools we have out there now — PGP, TrueCrypt and Dark Wallet (for anonymous bitcoin transactions) — are a bit of a pain to use and people are (justifiably) afraid of forgetting their passphrases and losing their info or money forever.

  5. That dude jsut looks corrupt as the day is long.

  6. Didn’t anyone tell you all? The constitution was written over 200 years ago, and times are different now. Human beings have evolved on a complex and fundamental level psychologically. Plus, its framers owned slaves, so it could not possibly contain anything of value.

    Free speech is okay, I guess, as long as it’s something I and my likemindeds agree with.

  7. As a (sorta) tangent, EFF is a great organization. They’ve been fighting this warrantless collection crap way before it was cool to tweet about, when it was considered somewhat unpatriotic and terrorist-loving to even suggest what the government is doing may be illegal.

    I don’t know much about this group. But if they’re teaching people how to use encryption, more power to them.

  8. The Family Courts commit the same crimes against peoples’ First Amendment rights, only in those courts they micromanage your life, almost get into your underwear with the intimacy of their approach, prohibiting you from publishing your experiences in those courts.
    See this expose on their violations of the 1st Amendment:…..h-part-ii/

  9. my stepmum just purchased an awesome 6 month old Chevrolet Traverse SUV by working parttime from a laptop… visit homepage W?W?W.J?u?m?p??62.C?o???m

  10. Electronic Frontier Foundation

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