The Wall Street Journal today launched the WSJ SafeHouse, a new site that allows potential whistleblowers to safely submit documents to the Journal. It’s hard not to assume that this effort was not inspired by WikiLeaks and the success other papers have had with reporting about these leaked documents. The Journal, it’s worth noting, was never on the list of WikiLeaks’ partner organizations and hence never received these documents before they were published. Indeed, in an editorial in 2010, the WSJ called WikiLeaks “bastards” who endangered the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. As the WJS acknowledges, though, documents and databases are “key to modern journalism.” Submitted documents will be vetted by a WSJ editor.
To ensure the anonymity of potential whistleblowers (though users can also submit their names, email addresses and phone numbers if they choose to do so), the WSJ encourages submitter to encrypt their documents with the Journal’s public PGP encryption key and to obscure their IP address with the help of the Tor project’s software. The SafeHouse site itself also uses https:// to ensure the data users send over the open Internet can’t be read by third-parties who intercept it.
There is obviously nothing new about the fact that news organizations accept documents from whistleblowers. By making it easier and safer to do so, though, organizations like the WSJ will likely increase the number of interesting documents they receive and – hopefully – be able to follow up on.