© Getty ImagesPulitzer winner Laura Poitras says she was fired for raising concerns about protecting whistleblowers
First Look Media co-founder Laura Poitras alleged in an open letter Thursday that she was fired from the media organization for raising concerns in the press about whistleblower protections.
First Look, owner of The Intercept, said in a statement that it decided not to renew Poitras's contract after she "decided to step away from her role at the company to pursue her own projects."
However, in the letter, Poitras claimed she was fired in retaliation for discussing The Intercept's handling of the whistleblower leak from Reality Winner with The New York Times.
"CEO Michael Bloom and Editor-in-Chief Betsy Reed have demonstrated repeatedly that they consider the whistleblowers and journalists who risk their lives on behalf of the organization as disposable. They demonstrated this by their lack of effort to protect Reality Winner. And again when they didn't bother to inform Edward Snowden of their decision to defund the NSA archive," Poitras, a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote.
"And now by firing me on a day's notice from an organization built upon my work and reputation without even informing the staff or the public of their decision," she added.
Winner was a former Air Force linguist and intelligence contractor that leaked top-secret government information on Russian hacking. She was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison. She was initially arrested in 2017 while prosecutors built a case, according to the Times.
Poitras's open letter blames the publication's own "negligence" for Winner's arrest and imprisonment.
The National Security Agency (NSA) identified Winner as the Intercept's source after the publication's journalists reached out to the agency to confirm the veracity of documents she leaked. Winner mailed the documents to the publication and the FBI was then able to trace the leak back to Winner based on printer tracking dots.
"The Biden administration should pardon Reality Winner on their first day in office," she wrote. "But this does not excuse journalists and news organizations from doing their job to project sources."
Poitras is the second co-founder of the media organization to depart in recent months. Glenn Greenwald announced his own exit from The Intercept, claiming he was pressured to remove reporting critical of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The publication disputed Greenwald's account, telling The Hill in a statement that he chafed at his writing undergoing any editing and "demands the absolute right to determine what he will publish." Jeremy Scahill is the only original co-founder who remains with the company.
The Hill has reached out to First Look Media for comment.