UK government accused of leak in Snowden drama Comment on this post ↓
August 23rd, 2013 by Warren Swil

Uber-leaker denies

being source for major

new story about spying

Fugitive Edward Snowden denies being source of major new revelation in UK. Click image to enlarge.

THE EDWARD SNOWDEN DRAMA took a bizarre twist this morning when dueling articles were published in Britain’s two leading newspapers.
One was a dramatic revelation in the Independent that the U.K. has a major spying outpost in the Middle East to intercept and monitor vast amounts of internet traffic.
Then came a rebuttal in The Guardian claiming the British government had itself leaked the story, denying that Snowden had been the source.
These are two of Britain’s most trusted newspapers. I monitor them routinely, because of their outstanding, aggressive coverage of world affairs, including the United States.
For them to publish contradictory claims about a major news event is extraordinary.

THE ONGOING SAGA  of the man accused by American officials of espionage has now taken a turn not even Ian Flemming could have imagined when he wrote the James Bond series of thrillers.
First the Independent.
Its lead story, with a bright red label “Exclusive” reports in Exclusive: UK’s secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowden leaks  that “Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.”

The Independent story attributed to leaked information from Edward Snowden. Click image to enlarge.

Then, being a little coy, as if wanting to be discreet, it adds the following:
The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden.
The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.”
“Dispute” is putting it mildly. The U.K. government of David Cameron has, according to Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger, harassed editors and reporters at the newspaper for months.
Things got so bad, Rusbridger reported on Tuesday, that drastic action was taken.
In Rusbridger: destroying hard drives allowed us to continue NSA coverage it was reported as follows:
“Alan Rusbriger, the Guardian editor-in-chief, has said that the destruction of computer hard drives containing information provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden allowed the paper to continue reporting on the revelations instead of surrendering the material to UK courts.”

Glenn Greenwald’s column in which he quotes Snowden denying any contact at all with the Independent. Click image to enlarge.

 THIS MORNING, the reporter at the center of a week-long front page story about his partner being detained by British authorities, Glenn Greenwald, publish Snowden’s denial that he was the source for the Independent article.
In Snowden: UK government now leaking documents about itself Greenwald writes:
“The Independent this morning published an article – which it repeatedly claims comes from “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” – disclosing that “Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies.”
Greenwald adds this observation:
“This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it’s the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.”
Then comes the bombshell. A quote from Snowden himself, who is hiding at an unknown location in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum:

The quote at the center of the Greenwald article. Click image to enlarge.

SNOWDEN: “I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger.
“People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.”
Where on earth did the Independent then get the information it published? And why did it attribute it to Snowden, who denies ever having had any contact with the paper and its staff?
The mystery gets more twisted and indecipherable at every turn.
Greenwald then writes:
“In other words: right as there is a major scandal of the UK’s abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act – with public opinion against the use of the terrorism law to detain (his partner) David Miranda – right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before.
“That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent’s attempt to make it appear that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?”
That is a very good question indeed.
It’s a made-for-television mini-series.
Stay tuned to this channel (while we sell more commercials!) for the next installment.



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3 Responses  
  • Charles writes:
    August 23rd, 2013

    “Not to dismiss the value of your work, especially at the (K)now blog which I am about to read, but I diaried this ( and suspect my analysis might be of interest to you.

    by CharlesII”


    • Warren writes:
      August 23rd, 2013

      Thank you Charles.
      I have posted a comment to your Kos diary.
      Your analysis is terrific … but the perspective is different.
      Mine is as a journalism teacher.
      The use of anonymous sources, while regrettable, is essential for watchdog journalism.
      Watergate would never have been exposed were it not for Deep Throat.
      The policy at The New York Times is well worth reading: there are two stools upon which it depends:
      1. The material is of vital public importance
      2. There is no other way to get it to the public.
      There are more rules and they make educational reading.

      • Charles writes:
        August 23rd, 2013

        Accepting your viewpoint, I have a slightly different perspective. My formulation of it was as follows:

        “[a]nonymous sourcing has one and only one proper function in journalism: to protect a source from retaliation by more powerful opponents.

        This clearly does not apply to government officials vs. whistleblowers. The only retaliation the government officials have in talking about whistleblowers to fear is from voters, the courts, or Congress.

        If the Independent has a genuine source inside government providing them with information about this wiretapping site, fine, they should protect that source. But who told them that the documents are among those Snowden has? That could only come from Snowden, journalists he has worked with, or the government. And, since Snowden and the journalists deny that information came from them, the Independent is probably protecting the government.

        We ended up in the Iraq war because anonymous government sources were free to feed us bull—t without fear of retaliation from the voters. What the Independent is doing looks a lot like that.”

        There are all kinds of journalism for which anonymous sourcing is not of vital public importance, but which is useful. For example, suppose a retailer has come up with a dodge to cheat each of its customers out of a penny. That’s hardly a vital interest. But the whistleblower providing the information, presumably an employee, would be risking getting fired for letting on. So, there, anonymous sourcing is fine.

        With Iraq, we saw the perversion of what the NYT argues is the basis for anonymous sourcing. The only place one could get lies about weapons of mass destruction was from government officials. Since The Times presumably did not know these were lies, it regarded the information as vital, and granted the officials anonymity. It comes down to what is a vital public interest. Newspapers misjudge this all the time, witholding stories because they are asked to by the government based on so-called national interest while dismissing as not of serious enough public interest to warrant anonymity, as has happened with all too many corporate crime stories.

        For these reasons, I like my definition better.

        You might be interested in a paper published in JMME here (click Preprint in Additional Sources below the abstract to get a pdf pre-print.

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