The scandal embroiling Brett McGurk, the Obama administration’s nominee to become the next ambassador to Iraq, got its start when an anonymous tipster alerted a 76-year-old architect to recent photo uploads on a mysterious Flickr account. The account contained what purported to be images of explicit emails from 2008 between McGurk and Gina Chon, then a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq.
In the wake of the leaked emails, Chon has resigned from the Journal, McGurk’s nomination is imperiled, and media pundits have had a field day debating whether an email discussion of “blue balls” between a reporter and her source is unethical or merely stupid.
But what’s received less attention is the website that published those emails, and the man who runs it. John Young founded Cryptome, a clearinghouse for leaked documents from the military and intelligence community, in 1996, roughly a decade before WikiLeaks existed. It has since become a must-read for some people who track the intelligence community and the military. “Cryptome has become part of the national security information landscape,” says Steven Aftergood, the director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit think tank. “I check it every day,” he adds.