The biggest leak, and then some
"Get used to this term: The Panama Papers," tweets SnapChat's Katy Byron in reaction to an unprecedented leak of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca (news in the making for over a year but just published yesterday at a whopping 50,000+ shares and rising). This groundbreaking feat of networked journalism was brought to us collectively by 400 reporters from more than 100 newsrooms in 80 countries, who all managed to work on this story for more than a year without a hint of it leaking to the public in advance of publishing. "An international consortium of journalists - it's even better than one of those movies with secret world guardians," muses Diana Marcum at the LA Times. "I'm a little late to this, but will echo all of Twitter by saying this is a BIG DEAL & great journalism," applauds Bloomberg's Alexandra Scaggs. It's an insane, deep impact story that's looped in one of the world’s highest earning footballers Lionel Messi, implicated the father of Britain's prime minister David Cameron in tax avoidance, revealed links to Tory donors, uncovered a $2 billion offshore trail that leads to Vladimir Putin and sparked Iceland protests to erupt in front of Alþingi while their prime minister walks out of interviews over the tax haven questions. "Probably not a good day for Iceland PM Gunnlaugsson," WSJ's Leandro Oliva tweets the understatement of the day.
To sum, the monstrous leak exposed an array of crime and corruption. "Disgusting. A #panamapapers client may be behind fueling the Syrian war," realizes Patrick deHahn. "Our colleagues at @ICIJorg reveal the offshore schemes that, in some cases, hide $ taken from widows and orphans," observes Liz Essley Whyte at the Center for Public Integrity. "#PanamaPapers will resound for yrs -- & may finally end public's tolerance of legalized, corrupt financial system," suggests Newsweek's Leah McGrath Goodman.
Wired breaks it down for us how reporters managed to pull off the biggest leak in whistleblower history. "Reporter talking to #PanamaPapers source used tools 'like' Threema, Signal, PGP, switching often & deleting history," details Andy Greenberg there. To put it into visual perspective: "How big is #panamapapers leak? It's THIS big," points out Neil Chenoweth with the Australian Financial Review. The journalists involved won't be releasing all the sensitive data, though, because, "We’re not WikiLeaks. We’re trying to show that journalism can be done responsibly." "The story behind the #PanamaPapers? Courage is contagious," concludes that other famous whistleblower, Edward Snowden. By the way, one key similarity between the Snowden leak and the Panama Papers is what’s been legalized. And one key way it's different: the Suddeutsche Zeitung reporter who started it all still doesn't know the real identity of the mole who leaked the data. "I'm still unclear from this whether source of #PanamaPapers was a whistleblower or a hacker. Does it matter?" shrugs New York Magazine's Andrew Rice.