Snowden Accuses UK Gov't Of Leaking Documents He Never Leaked To Make Him Look Bad

from the a-bad-game-of-chess dept

The UK’s Independent newspaper today had an “exclusive” article, in which they claim that documents from Ed Snowden’s leaks revealed a secret internet surveillance base in the Middle East run by the UK government. There’s just one problem. While the article implies (though does not state) that it got those documents from Snowden, Snowden says he’s never talked to nor given anything to The Independent. Instead, he argues, that he’s worked carefully with key journalists (namely, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Barton Gellman) to make sure that the things they publish don’t reveal anything that might put anyone in danger. Snowden suggests, instead, that this is the UK government itself releasing this information in an attempt to “defend” the detention of David Miranda.

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.

It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post’s disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.

If you read the Independent’s coverage carefully, they never actually claim they got the documents from Snowden, even if they leave that impression. Instead, they claim that “information on [the base’s] activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden.” In other words, they got that information from someone else — almost certainly the UK government. And, yes, that’s convenient timing for the UK government to claim that some of the documents that Snowden downloaded might contain useful information to terrorists, so that they can then turn around and argue that they detained Miranda and took all of his electronics (and destroyed a Guardian hard drive) to avoid having this information “fall into the hands of terrorists.”

The Independent article also implies that the UK government is afraid that Greenwald is going to start revealing this type of info in response to the Miranda detention, even though there’s no basis to believe that all. Greenwald has been quite careful so far not to reveal any information that puts anyone at risk, so it’s odd to believe that he’d start doing so now. Of course, it’s fairly bizarre since the Independent story itself contains tons of details — the kinds of details that Greenwald has avoided.

If Snowden’s assertion is correct — and it does seem like the most plausible argument at this point — then it highlights the ridiculous lengths to which the UK government is going: releasing potentially damaging information that Snowden himself has avoided revealing just to suggest that Snowden was leaking damaging information. Incredible.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

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 “Snowden Accuses UK Gov't Of Leaking Documents He Never Leaked To Make Him Look Bad”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Another possibility, one that I have suggested before, is that Snowden is likely not the first person to collect this data (a point bolstered by Putin while Snowden was stuck in the Russian airport when he said “there is nothing Snowden can tell us that we don’t already know”).

Clearly there were others who had access to at least parts (if not all) the data Snowden did, and I find it unlike people of unscrupulous natures didn’t abscond with at least some of it and pass it along (for a fee of course) to countries like Russia or China.

Nor do I think some of these people would have issues at this point revealing that info publicly if they figure they can get Snowden to take the rap for it.

Not that I doubt that the UK or US governments, knowing that information is out there, would be willing to put lives at risk to try to burn Snowden. they’ve shown they have very little concern for the welfare of anyone outside their own elite standing. But that clearly doesn’t preclude other possibilities either.

Anonymous Coward says:

The reactions from the UK and the US make it very plain there is lots more that they are extremely worried about the public finding out about. In other words, just from their responses to these releases it makes it rather plain that there is far worse dirty laundry that they really really don’t want to deal with.

Since it is the non-threatening info to personnel coming out that means all we are hearing is about the outer wrapping.

Were I the UK and the US I’d be worried that teeing off these reporters and media centers could result in releasing data of more severe consequences as protection from all the threats and pressure being brought to bear. Right now it’s just embarrassment of having been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. It could get worse.

I can not help but notice that no one got punished for revealing the US’s involvement in the Stuxnet affair. No one got punished over the Valery Plame affair where personnel were indeed put in life threatening positions and ended a career. No one has been put in jail over the renditions that actually did these actions and no one is being held responsible for Gitmo and it’s methods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I can not help but notice that no one got punished for revealing the US’s involvement in the Stuxnet affair. No one got punished over the Valery Plame affair where personnel were indeed put in life threatening positions and ended a career. No one has been put in jail over the renditions that actually did these actions and no one is being held responsible for Gitmo and it’s methods.”

And, lest anyone forget, no one has been punished in any way for refusing to send military reinforcements to Bengazi before, during, or in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2012 attack or for refusing to answer questions about why they declined to send reinforcements.

Anonymous Coward says:

given the way the UK government are acting atm, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. they are going to do anything they can think of now to appear as squeaky clean as possible after the screw up they have committed with Miranda. i doubt if they expected any push-back and i doubt if they expected any backing for him from The Guardian. on top of which, as they also appear to not have the balls to do anything other than what they are told and with more and more crap being directed at the USG, the UK are going to try to keep up the pressure on Snowden being the bad boy, removing it from the USA. considering what Snowden has released so far, he wouldn’t gain anything by saying he did or didn’t release this or that. governments involved, however, seem to think that the blacker they can paint him, the less crap they will be in. also, the more they can keep the blame game going, the less attention they hope will be directed at what they have in fact done. a bit late for that! when the UK government stopped Miranda, it didn’t detract from what they have been up to, it made it more prominent. the statement about supporting what Snowden had done was the killer really. they expected everyone to turn on him and forget about how they have been invading everyones privacy and freedom in the same way as the NSA has!! the thing is, once you have been fucked against your will, you find it extremely hard to forget about it and to trust again!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Governments have been making controlled leaks forever and it’s likely the UK Government could have been behind these leaks.

Before we jump to conclusions let’s realize that there’s no way Snowden could ever protect all his documents from wider dissemination. As soon as he made the copies he must have realized there was no way to secure them forever. The leaks will keep leaking and eventually may cause some harm, possibly even deaths.

However, that’s a small price to pay for the overwhelming good the leaks have caused for civil liberties and democracy.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The leaks will keep leaking and eventually may cause some harm, possibly even deaths.

See, the interesting thing about this for me is that so far it doesn’t seem that any information has leaked from the Guardian/Snowden.

Unlike the NSA. Or the UK Police.

Both of whom are proven security risks. The former due to letting a random contractor infiltrate them and walk out with thousands of documents (which they can’t even identify), and the latter through ongoing bribery and corruption scandals involving tabloids.

I find it a bit ironic that these groups are suggesting that it is the Guardian which is a national security risk…

Anonymous Coward says:

Why should we care if leaks are sensitive?

That’s not our problem. People die for lies EVERY DAY. Millions died in Iraq — on all sides, and and on no side — because the Bush administration lied, lied, lied. They’re still dying today.

And we’re supposed to concerned that someone might die for the truth?

I don’t think so. Anyone who’s put themselves in harm’s way and is relying on the secrecy of information to protect them should know the risk they’re undertaking and accept it. They should have already made their peace with the concept that IF that information gets out, they could die. If they HAVEN’T made their peace with that concept, then they shouldn’t be there. But no whining, either way.

The larger lesson here is that governments should consider that the best way to keep secrets is not to have hundreds of millions of them. It won’t work. It’s never worked. Basing foreign policy and military action and everything else on the ludicrous idea that (in the case of the US) 4 MILLION people can have security clearances and nothing will go wrong is insane.

Greenwald should publish it ALL. All that information is the property of the people, and we deserve to know every last scrap of it. Anyone in the government who complains should be reminded that it was their idea to collect/collate all of it in the first place, therefore 100% of the blame for issues arising from it lies with them. Let them go comfort the families. Let them explain why their myopia and their stupidity got people killed.

Anonymous Coward says:

And another thing...

The implied assumption in all of this posturing is that Snowden is the only leak vector.

But that’s ridiculous. Snowden just happened to be the one that’s talking to Greenwald The other leak vectors aren’t talking to journalists: they’re reporting to Beijing and Moscow and Tehran and elsewhere because that’s their job.

Look, Snowden was a low-level contractor. He’s not a trained espionage agent. And yet he walked out with enough material to OMG ENDANGER NATIONAL SECURITY OMG OMG!

Well, at least per some government officials (who are lying) and some commentators (who are idiots).

But if we accept that ridiculous premise, for just a moment, and grant that Snowden is sitting on a whole bunch of sensitive material, then we must ask: how much material have the professionals managed to exfiltrate from the same operations?

After all, they’re trained to do this sort of thing. They’ve spent years or decades on it, positioning themselves and gaining access. And no doubt their spymasters are careful about how they use the information, lest they provide a clue that what they have and how they got it. They should be and most likely are doing a waaaay better job of this than Snowden did.

Please don’t tell me this isn’t happening. Of course it is. They spy, we spy, everybody spies on each other. And given that the chimps in the US still use lie-detector tests to screen employees…well, let’s just that their chances of nailing a competent spy before he/she goes to work for the NSA or CIA or FBI aren’t very good. But that’s okay, because the same thing is true in other countries, where Americans are working inside their intelligence services and funneling info back to Washington.
And this is before we even get to bribery and blackmail, affairs and deceptions, screwups and lost laptops, and all the other ways that country A’s “secrets” become country B’s “oh that’s interesting”. (And let’s not forget secondary leakage: if country C’s agent happens to be in the room when country B is reviewing country A’s secrets, now country C knows too.)

So let’s stop pretending that Snowden is the only or even the most important leak vector. There are too many people with access to too many “secrets”. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the total volume of information Snowden’s shared with Greenwald is insignificant compared to what leaks out every week, one way or another.

FM HIlton (profile) says:

One point statement missed

In a previous article at the Guardian, the editor (in an interview) stated that an unnamed person from the British government told him:

“You’ve had your fun. Now stop-we want our stuff back.”

Or similar.

“Our stuff”? Whose stuff was that?

Because as far as I can tell, nothing that Greenwald or the Guardian had was property of the British government.

Pretty sure this stems from that-the British government actually has “stuff” that they’ve been taking from the US government and using it against the Guardian via the Independent to make Greenwald, Snowden, and the Guardian look like they’re releasing secret information that only the government should have.

In other words, a set-up job:

The British government is feeding the trolls at the Independent on behalf of United States and the NSA to discredit all the other parties in this fight.

Until proven otherwise, assume this is the scenario.

Do not insult my intelligence by suggesting that I’m a tinfoil hat person.

out_of_the_blue says:

Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

Yet again: We’ve learned nothing new from the Snowden “leak”! So it’s quite plausible that the WHOLE Snowden flap is a limited hangout psyop.

“Greenwald has been quite careful so far not to reveal any information that puts anyone at risk,” — You don’t know that he has ANY such information! All that’s visible is some Powerpoint slides that anyone could have whipped up in an afternoon and still made it to happy hour. That’s the sole actuality of the Snowden “leak”! Most of his “info” is just fine-sounding sentiments that are EXACTLY what patriot-techies want. Dis-believe everything that’s been anywhere near NSA until the criminals running it are actually in jail!

FM HIlton says:

Re: Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

I think you missed the point.

You think it’s a failed psyop? You haven’t got a clue how the government of any country works.

It’s not an operation-it’s a war on information, and both governments would love to hang anyone who’s been taking their ‘stuff’ because it exposes the truth.

You know, like what we’re entitled to?

I mean, everyone wants to be like Ed Snowden and wind up in Russia for the rest of their lives because their country is out hunting the world to waste him.

Yes, such a complicated plot-better than any movie, and far more dangerous. It’s called the way the real world works, not the way tinfoil hat people think it does.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

@ “FM HIlton”
I think you missed the point.

You think it’s a failed psyop?

NO, YOU EVIDENTLY CANNOT GET THE POINT. The psyop is WORKING just fine! You’re not questioning the Snowden “leak”, are you? Don’t even suspect may be an ulterior purpose for it? — Obviously you don’t understand “limited hangout”: it’s to put out part of the truth to prevent more from coming out, or in this case to get the public accustomed to current level of tyranny. Snowden and Greenwald may both be unwitting to the op, but in fact haven’t told us anything new.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

So let me get this straight. You assert that the people running the NSA are criminals, just point blank. To that end, you disbelieve anything they say, and will continue to do so until they’re in jail.
Along comes a man called Snowden. He talks to a couple newspapers and leaks information massively damaging to the reputation of the NSA, the US and UK governments, information that shows that those nations’ intelligence agencies HAVE been breaking the law…and yet you disbelieve this?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

@ “Rikuo”: First, read my response to “FM HIlton”.

Then try reading this:

Naomi Wolf: My Creeping Concern That The NSA Leaker Is Not Who He Purports To Be
June 15th, 2013
Update: Even AP Admits that Prism Is Chicken Feed Compared to What We Learned Years Ago About Mass Intercepts

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Limited hangout: the discrediting phase.

Your link about Prism is way out of date now. Prism was about hoovering up metadata. We now know about far worse programs, like XKeyScore, which allow an NSA operative to look at pretty much any online data he wants.
So, yes, Prism is chicken feed. I agree with you and the link there. It’s chicken feed compared to XKeyScore, and basic logic tells us…what could be worse than being able to look up anything you want? If all this were in fact being orchestrated by the NSA, then how does tanking their reputation and revealing they have the ability to look at ANYTHING, while still claiming they operate within the framework of a democracy, help them?

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Correct me if I'm wrong

But isn’t the Independent more of a tabloid than an actual newspaper in terms of journalistic integrity?

As for where they got the info from, sure, it could be the UK government, or (as an associate of mine suggested), the Guardian might have a mole being paid by the Independent in order to get access to the documents. Personally I’m leaning toward the UK government leaking it myself, but a leak at the Guardian is possible as well.

As the Zen Master says, “We’ll see.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Wait, what?

They don’t like whistleblowers, so they release more information than a whistleblower would, to try to justify their attempt to harass a whistleblower’s ally’s partner?

That’s like trying to put out a forest fire with an atomic bomb.

(I suppose it could be some other entity trying to use the current debacle as cover, but I’m generally inclined to go with Hanlon’s razor on government matters.)

PopeRatzo (profile) says:

False Flag Nation

This means that the UK is actually giving the terrorists sensitive information in order to expand their anti-civil liberties campaign.

I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t believe that the US or the UK would hesitate to initiate false terrorist attacks on their own people.

It’s getting uglier and uglier. It seems like somebody’s schedule to put in place a total lockdown on liberty once and for all has been stepped up. The US and the UK aren’t even trying to cover up what they’re doing any more.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is why it’s so important for whistleblowers to be FREE, and not locked up like Manning was with no access to the press – so when bullshit like this comes from the government, he can defend himself.

This is exactly why Obama wanted to remove his 1st amendment rights, too, and not allow him to talk to the human rights groups when in Russia. They don’t want him to refute the lies they’re telling to the world.

HappyBlogFriend (profile) says:


Anonymous wrote:

This is why it’s so important for whistleblowers to be FREE, and not locked up like Manning was with no access to the press – so when bullshit like this comes from the government, he can defend himself.

Exactly. The impact of leaks is very easily undermined if the leaker can’t defend himself in the public arena. Snowden was smart to flee.

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...