Emma Best (journalist)

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Emma Best
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CitizenshipUnited States of America
OccupationInvestigative reporter

Emma Best is an American investigative reporter who gained national attention with her work for WikiLeaks and famed activist Julian Assange. Best was known for prolific filing of Freedom of Information Act (United States)(FOI) requests on behalf of the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets)[1] which resulted in Best being investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security and ultimately banned from filing FOI requests.[2]

During the Trump administration, Best is also known for reporting on the FBI files of President Donald Trump, his associate Roger Stone, and a company owned by then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.[3][4][5][6]

Freedom of Information Act

Since 2016, Best has filed more than 5,000 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including numerous requests to U.S. intelligence services and over 1,600 with the FBI, and published hundreds of articles.[7][8]

In 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated and considered prosecuting Best for their use of FOIA.[9] According to the Calyx Institute, Best "consistently sits at or near the top of FBI's list of vexsome FOIA requesters."[10]

In 2017, Best helped get the CIA database of 13 million pages of declassified files online.[11] In 2019, Best and former National Security Agency[12] Emily Crose embarked on a project to use FOIA to get documents on historical hacking incidents, called “Hacking History.”[13]

In 2021, the FBI banned Best from filing FOIA requests, and their existing requests were closed. With the help of national security attorneys Mark Zaid and Brad Moss, the ban was lifted after several months and their requests were reopened.[14]


Before DDoSecrets, Best had joined a narrow group of WikiLeaks contributors before falling out with Julian Assange, accusing him, among other things, of having lied about the source of the 2016 Democratic National Committee email leak|DNC email leak,[7][15] and the incomplete nature of its archive of John Podesta's Podesta emails|emails.[1] Best has published several of WikiLeaks' own leaked documents.[16][17][18][19]

On 19 July 2016, in response to the 2016–present purges in Turkey|Turkish government's purges that followed the coup attempt,[20] WikiLeaks released 294,548 emails from Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (Turkey)|Justice and Development party (AKP).[21] Most experts agree that Phineas Fisher was behind the leak.[22] On 21 July, WikiLeaks tweeted a link to a database which contained sensitive information, such as the Turkish Identification Number, of approximately 50 million Turkish citizens.[23] The information was not in the files uploaded by WikiLeaks,[24] but in files described by WikiLeaks as "the full data for the Turkey AKP emails and more", which was Internet Archive|archived by Best, who then removed it when the personal data was discovered.[25][26]

In mid-August 2016, Guccifer 2.0 expressed interest in offering a trove of Democratic e-mails to Best. Assange urged Best to decline, intimating that he was in contact with the persona’s handlers, and that the material would have greater impact if he released it first.[27]

In October 2018, Best accused WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson|Kristinn Hrafnnson of being "a violent drunk with a history of being physically and emotionally abusive of women."[28]

In November 2018, they leaked Record sealing|sealed chat logs that were part of the case against Assange.[29]

In April 2019, they revealed that Chelsea Manning|Chelsea Manning's FBI files were central to the ongoing proceedings against Assange before the indictment was unsealed.[30]

Distributed Denial of Secrets

On December 3, 2018, Best co-founded Distributed Denial of Secrets with another member of the group known as The Architect. According to Best, The Architect, whom they already knew, approached them and expressed their desire to see a new platform for leaked and hacked materials, along with other relevant datasets.[1]

In July 2020, three agents who identified themselves as part of Homeland Security Investigations visited a woman in Boston to question her about BlueLeaks, Distributed Denial of Secrets and Emma Best. The agents asked the woman about her involvement with BlueLeaks before eventually asking her to become an informant, and offered to pay for any information that led to arrests.[2]

As of January 2021, the site hosts dozens of terabytes of data.[31]

In February 2021, Distributed Denial of Secrets leaked 70 gigabytes of data from the far right social media platform Gab (social network)|Gab, including email addresses, passwords, and internal emails; the group referred to the action as "GabLeaks".[32] While he did not directly accuse Best of instigating the leak, Gab CEO Andrew Torba released a statement in which he referred to the leakers as "mentally ill tranny demon hackers".[33][34]


She is openly queer and nonbinary[35] and is married to fellow DDoSecrets member Xan North.[36]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Thielman, Sam (February 6, 2019). "A new group devoted to transparency is exposing secrets Wikileaks chose to keep". Columbia Journalism Review. New York City: Columbia University. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (July 20, 2020). "ICE Questions an Admin of The-Eye Archive Site About 'BlueLeaks'". Vice (magazine). Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  3. Leopold, Jason (January 19, 2017). "Trump's Long History With The FBI: In 1981, He Offered To "Fully Cooperate"". BuzzFeed News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. North-Best, Emma (September 7, 2018). "FBI Documents on Roger Stone Reveal Sabotage, Espionage, and the Life of a Serial Bagman". Property of the People.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. North-Best, Emma (January 2, 2017). "Trump's Treasury pick appears to be part of a federal investigation". MuckRock.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. Brown, J. Pat (January 31, 2018). "Even Congress wasn't allowed details of FBI's Steven Mnuchin probe". MuckRock.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Database Exposes Offshore Holdings of Prominent Germans". Der Spiegel. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  8. Salame, Richard; Zweig, Nina (March 25, 2020). "Public Access to Information Suffers Under Coronavirus". Columbia Journalism Review. New York City: Columbia University. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  9. North-Best, Emma (December 12, 2017). "FBI appears to have investigated - and considered prosecuting - FOIA requesters". MuckRock. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  10. "Hacking History Project - Calyx Institute". calyxinstitute.org. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  11. Brown, J. Pat (January 17, 2017). "The CIA's declassified database is now online". MuckRock. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  12. Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (January 4, 2018). "This Ex-NSA Hacker Is Building an AI to Find Hate Symbols on Twitter". Vice (magazine). Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  13. Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (May 10, 2019). "Researchers Are Liberating Thousands of Pages of Forgotten Hacking History From the Government". Vice (magazine). Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  14. Best, Emma (June 13, 2021). "FBI Tried To Ban Me From FOIA". Emma Best.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. Collier, Kevin (April 5, 2018). "These Messages Show Julian Assange Talked About Seeking Hacked Files From Guccifer 2.0". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  16. Cox, Joseph (July 31, 2018). "Activist Publishes 11,000 Private DMs Between Wikileaks and Its Supporters". Vice (magazine). Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  17. Gilmour, David (July 31, 2018). "Activist speaks out about publishing damning WikiLeaks chat". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  18. Gallagher, Sean (January 7, 2019). "Please don't repeat these things WikiLeaks says you can't say about Assange [Updated]". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  19. Stone, Jeff (July 14, 2020). "After Assange indictment, DDoSecrets publishes old WikiLeaks chats, strategy sessions". CyberScoop. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  20. Sezer, Can; Dolan, David; Kasolowsky, Raissa (20 July 2016). "Turkey blocks access to WikiLeaks after ruling party email dump". Reuters. Archived from the original on 21 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  21. Yeung, Peter (20 July 2016). "Here's what's in the Wikileaks emails that Erdogan tried to ban". The Independent. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  22. "The CyberWire Daily Briefing 07.22.16". The CyberWire. Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  23. Tufekci, Zeynep (July 25, 2016). "WikiLeaks put Women in Turkey in Danger, for No Reason". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  24. Murdock, Jason (26 July 2016). "WikiLeaks criticised for tweeting link to leaked database of millions of Turkish women". International Business Times. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  25. Best, Emma (26 July 2016). "The Who and How of the AKP Hack, Dump and WikiLeaks Release". Glomar Disclosure. Archived from the original on 1 September 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  26. Cox, Joseph (July 28, 2016). "How 'Kind of Everything Went Wrong' With the Turkey Data Dump". Vice (magazine). Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  27. Khatchadourian, Raffi (August 21, 2017). "Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  28. Gilmour, David (October 12, 2018). "Can Kristinn Hrafnsson end the war inside WikiLeaks?". The Daily Dot.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  29. McLaughlin, Jenna; Luppen, Luppe B. (November 16, 2018). "Leaked chat logs on hacks may be part of case against Julian Assange". Yahoo! Finance.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. Cameron, Dell (April 8, 2019). "Chelsea Manning's FBI Files Are Central to Ongoing Criminal Proceedings, Bureau Claims". Gizmodo.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. Coburg, Tom (January 23, 2021). "A socialist 'hacktivist' has helped expose the platform used by both US rioters and UK government ministers". The Canary (website). Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  32. Greenberg, Andy (February 28, 2021). "Far-Right Platform Gab Has Been Hacked—Including Private Data". Wired (magazine). Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  33. Browning, Bil (March 1, 2021). ""Mentally ill tr**ny demon hackers" blamed for massive data leak at far right site Gab". LGBTQ Nation. Retrieved June 5, 2021.
  34. Murdock, Jason (March 2, 2021). "Gab CEO Andrew Torba condemns threats of violence against social network's hackers". Newsweek. Retrieved June 5, 2021.{{cite magazine}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. Lynn, Samara (March 31, 2021). "Transgender in tech: More visibility but obstacles remain". ABC News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. Elder, Jeff (August 8, 2020). "How 'Keyser Söze' leaked a secret trove of police documents that exposed cops tracking George Floyd protesters". Business Insider. Retrieved June 5, 2021.

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