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 @ 10:44am

    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.

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