Washington Post Makes Bizarre, Factually Incorrect Claims About Glenn Greenwald, Can't Figure Out How To Update

from the keep-working-at-it.. dept

The Washington Post’s institutional jealousy towards the Guardian and its role in the Ed Snowden leaks continues to be quite bizarre. At the same time that some of the Post’s reporters are doing excellent work on the story, including breaking a few of the stories themselves, the old timers seem to be reflexively attacking the Guardian for doing the same thing — and, at the same time, attacking Snowden himself for being a source. The latest example is Walter Pincus, the octogenarian and long-term Washington Post “national security” reporter, who wrote a bizarre column “asking questions” of Ed Snowden, and by association, of Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras (who has assisted both the Guardian and the Washington Post with the Snowden story) and Julian Assange. Pincus makes a bunch of “connections” that he finds concerning about the Snowden ordeal, suggesting strongly that the whole thing was somehow orchestrated in secret by Julian Assange.

The only problem with this is that a very large number of the factual claims made by Pincus are complete bunk. Not only that, but they’re such complete bunk that even a basic fact check would have told you they were complete bunk. It’s a perfectly legitimate journalistic practice to ask questions based on information presented — but when those questions are based on complete falsehoods, it makes you wonder. Much of Pincus’ piece is based on the incorrect claim that Greenwald has a close connection with Assange and Wikileaks, stating, falsely, that Greenwald “wrote for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials.” That’s completely untrue. Greenwald wrote his piece for Salon not for Wikileaks, and has never written for Wikileaks in any manner.

Greenwald confronted Pincus about this and other inaccuracies in the piece, leading Pincus to grudgingly admit that it was a mistake, but saying his confusion was because the Salon piece “was carried on the Wikileaks Press page without attribution to Salon as the originating venue.”

Except, that’s not true. The blog clearly carries just an excerpt with a link to the full piece at the end. Still, Pincus promised that a correction would be coming but, despite being aware of the mistakes for at least a day, the Washington Post (at the time I’m writing this) still has not posted a correction. Pincus told the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple (who has been doing good work on the story, and who rightly scolds Pincus for his actions) that a correction “is in the works.” Not sure why it should take so long, through.

Of course, there are a number of other pretty big factual errors by Pincus, which he has refused to acknowledge. For example, the claim that Julian Assange “previewed” the first Snowden leak a week before Greenwald published it in the Guardian. However, as anyone following these issues knows, Assange was talking about a completely different NSA surveillance program (Stellar Wind), which had been leaked many years ago and was shut down a few years back. Instead of admitting this error, Pincus is doubling down, telling Wemple that perhaps his point was “badly phrased,” but Assange and Greenwald were talking about the “same program.”

Except, they’re not. They are both NSA surveillance programs, but Stellar Wind was revealed years ago. The Greenwald revelations were much more detailed and were about very different programs, many of which came after Stellar Wind. Considering that Pincus is supposed to be the Washington Post’s “national security” expert, you’d think he’d recognize that. Instead, he tells Wemple that the complaints are “argumentative.” Pincus also, falsely, suggested that Snowden only worked at the NSA for 3 months, ignoring — as has been widely reported — that Snowden worked at the NSA as a contractor for four years. He merely switched which firm he was contracting for (from Dell to Booz Allen).

Again, asking questions is a perfectly reasonable activity. But those questions should be based on facts. And… when those facts are shown to be wrong, you issue a correction. And, once you’ve admitted you’re flat out wrong, and say that you’ll fix it, it shouldn’t take over 24 hours to do so….

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: the guardian, washington post, wikileaks

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Washington Post Makes Bizarre, Factually Incorrect Claims About Glenn Greenwald, Can't Figure Out How To Update”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
velox (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh he’s being smart alright, but I think its for a different reason.
If he waits long enough, then almost all of the people who are ever going to read his story will have already done so and will have moved on to the next day’s news. Not too many people are going to come back and look to see if there are any changes after a day or two. By delaying, he is able to leave group of readers who were not really informed on the situation with the same incorrect beliefs he wanted them to have in the first place.

PopeRatzo (profile) says:


The senior people at the Washington Post have been nothing but government stenographers for a long time. While there is some good reporting at the paper, you’ll never see any serious challenges to the government’s agenda, especially if there is intelligence contractor money at stake.

Just take a look at their editorial pages to know what I mean.

Anonymous Coward says:

Again, asking questions is a perfectly reasonable activity. But those questions should be based on facts. And… when those facts are shown to be wrong, you issue a correction. And, once you’ve admitted you’re flat out wrong, and say that you’ll fix it, it shouldn’t take over 24 hours to do so….

I love how Mike, who is too chicken shit to do actual journalism, is on the soapbox telling real journalists how they should act. Classic douchebaggery.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It used to be that people always clicked in the flagged comments, to find out what hilarious nonsense was being posted by the trolls.

After this, people will just (rightly) just skip them, as it’s likely just more of your spam (which, at this point is just that, it no longer even qualifies as trolling).

So kudos for streamlining the way people use the comments section, I suppose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where was Pincus in 1991?

You don’t have to make up dumb rumors about Pincus — he really was a CIA spy on US student dissidents the 1960s and he really was involved in ruining Valarie Plame’s career as retaliation for Joe Wilson’s failure to find (or make up) yellowcake in Iraq.

Being an curmudgeonly octogenarian columnist for the Washington Pravda is just Pincus’ way of postponing retirement.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where was Pincus in 1991?

thanks, i was just going to say something like this…

he has been ‘covering’ the national security beat for decades, it would not be surprising if he was not still an ‘asset’ of one stripe or another…

(it was bernstein who reported that there were HUNDREDS of mainstream media droids who were direct or indirect assets of ‘the company’, and some were out-and-out cover jobs for ‘real’ spooks…)

AT THE VERY LEAST, he has become dependent upon the very people he is supposed to be ‘investigating’, so i have ZERO doubt he is being fed bullshit and lies to spew about Snowden and Greenwald, et al…

of course, the graham family which owns the post has been spooked up for generations; katherine graham has famously said that us 99% do not DESERVE or NEED to know all the skullduggery done in our names, with our money…
’cause -you know- that is the province of elites like her…

nowadays, their mighty media empire is crumbling, but they are rising pheonix like from the ashes to be one of the top educational ripoff companies -kaplan- to take advantage of the testing regimen, etc…

(oh, if you want to know who ‘leave no child’s behind left unspanked’ is meant to benefit, you only have to look at the companies who make tests, etc… THEY are the only ones who benefit from this madness…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

aldestrawk says:

The correction has been made, sort of

So, Pincus added an update in front of hist blog post correcting all the issues brought up by Greenwald. However, the actual blog piece remains the same, with all the errors unchanged. If one were reading this for the first time they might well have forgotten the update corrections by the time they reached the text that remains in error. Is this normally how corrections are made?

Anonymous Coward says:

best thing for TWP to do is keep quiet! what is it going to do when a story of this magnitude lands in it’s lap? take it to the Feds first or publish it? if it’s the first option, they need to shut up shop, if it’s the second, they need to think just what Greenwald has done and why they would act any different. unless, of course, they are being paid by those Feds to print only what they are told?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...