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.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2013 @ 10:12am

    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 et.al. 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.

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