Sunday Times Doubles Down On Government Stenography, Detailing Calls For Prosecution Following Its Own Debunked Story

from the that's-not-journalism dept

You might think that after publishing a high profile story that was widely mocked and debunked, the Sunday Times and its reporter Tom Harper might write a more thoughtful followup. Instead, it appears that they have doubled down on the original story by writing a followup (text here) that focuses on the actions of fear mongerers who believed their original propaganda unquestionably.

Last week, as you'll recall, we wrote about the absolutely ridiculous article in the Sunday Times, that made a bunch of dubious to outright false claims about the documents Ed Snowden passed along to reporters. The crux of the story was to suggest that Snowden either deliberately handed over the documents to the Russian and Chinese governments or that both governments had "cracked the encryption" Snowden used to lock up the documents. And, because of this, the Sunday Times claimed, UK intelligence "agents" were put at risk and had to be pulled out of Moscow. Nearly all of this was debunked by people who actually understood these issues, including a former diplomat from the UK and individuals who have access to the Snowden documents -- who noted that nothing in those documents revealed anything about intelligence resources like that. There were lots of other problems with the story as well, including the false assertion that David Miranda had travelled to Moscow to get documents from Snowden.

After the story was torn apart by basically everyone, the lead reporter on it, Tom Harper, appeared on CNN to defend the story, but only dug himself a deeper hole by flat out admitting "we just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government." In the interview he repeatedly admits he has no evidence. He has no proof at all, other than having one UK government official tell him this claim, and then confirming it with two other UK government officials. When pressed, Harper's editor, Martin Ivens, similarly responded that any questions about the story should be directed at the UK government, rather than the staff of the Sunday Times. In short, the Sunday Times was admitting that they were just publishing propaganda for the government and could not stand behind the actual story.

Given that, it would seem reasonable that the followup this week would, at the very least, explore the questions raised by the critics of the article. In fact, a good reporter or a real news organization might go back and start to explore their own reporting to see if they could actually confirm any of the details or to understand how they had ended up playing the role of the government stenographer. Instead... Tom Harper and his colleagues wrote a piece that basically follows the actions of those who believed their questionable reporting from last week, leading with this:
SCOTLAND YARD has been urged to investigate Edward Snowden, the fugitive American whistleblower, after it emerged that the government believes secret material he stole from British and US intelligence agencies has fallen into the hands of Russia and China.

Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, has written to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan police commissioner, asking his officers to examine the "great potential damage to the national security of the United Kingdom" caused by the former analyst, who used to work for America's CIA and National Security Agency (NSA).

Ken Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, also said that leaking the material, which contains details of sensitive intelligence techniques and information that could allow British and American spies to be identified, could trigger prosecutions for "any number of offences" under anti-terrorism laws.
Of course, the idea that Liam Fox is whining about "great potential damage" to national security is really rich, given that a big part of the reason why he's the former defense secretary was that he was accused of giving a buddy of his tremendous access to the government, leading to an investigation that he "jeopardised national security and raised issues around conflicts of interest."

But, really, to base an entire article on some hard line surveillance state apologist making claims based on his faulty reliance on your own bogus article? That's... incredible. I had no idea the role of the press was to create a false controversy, and then try to confirm the bogus controversy by believing the fools who believed your bogus reporting.

Meanwhile, it appears the only acknowledgement of the problems in last week's story were buried in a tiny correction in the physical paper (and not mentioned in this new story) about the blatantly false claim about David Miranda visiting Snowden in Moscow:
If you can't see that, it says:
The article "British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese" (News, last week) stated that David Miranda had visited Edward Snowden in Moscow. This is incorrect and we apologise for the error.
That's it. No mention of the other problems with the story, or (more importantly) that the entire story kind of hung on this particular detail. Oh, and apparently each week this story goes on, the Sunday Times is required to include a factually incorrect statement about Snowden in Moscow. Last week it was the Miranda visit. This week, it's that Snowden supposedly fled to Russia to seek the protection of Putin.
He eventually fled to Moscow to seek the protection of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, after America cancelled his passport.
Except, that's not true. He was stranded in Moscow after the US pulled his passport. He was only in Moscow because it was en route to his actual destination in Latin America.

In this latest article, the only acknowledgement of the concerns raised by last week's ridiculous article is this:
However, Snowden's supporters reacted with fury, claiming that the government was trying to smear the former NSA worker and bolster support for new laws that would govern the interception of communications.
No mention of how many of the details and claims in the article were called into question. No mention of how the terminology was wrong. No mention of anything like that. But there was Tom Harper patting Tom Harper on the back for his own bogus scoop:
Last week, The Sunday Times revealed that Downing Street now believes Moscow and Beijing have gained access to some of the estimated 1.7m encrypted files stolen by Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of operations in hostile countries.
I guess Tom Harper and the Sunday Times have decided that if they're going to be the government's propaganda rag, they might as well go all in. And what better way to cover up last week's failures than to report on the actions of those who fell for it last time around. With that as the basis for future "reporting" they can continue the nonsense indefinitely.

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:21am

    Perhaps the problems & issues are that this reporter is reporting on that horrible Eric Snowden fellow Congress keeps talking about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:38am

    And just like that, Tom Harper's journalistic integrity gets flushed down the toilet.

    The people can no longer trust anything this guy writes as it is nothing more than Government propaganda.

    I hope the mouthpiece pay is worth selling your soul for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 6:43am

    It's a lot like Techdirt twice yelling RUSSIANS PROPAGANDING TEH INTERNETS!

    That too is just stenography.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 7:35am

      Re: It's a lot like Techdirt twice yelling RUSSIANS PROPAGANDING TEH INTERNETS!

      perhaps because some dolts still arent listening

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 11:45am

        Re: Re: It's a lot like Techdirt twice yelling RUSSIANS PROPAGANDING TEH INTERNETS!

        Belief perseverence is a cronic illness. Argue with trolls and you will get beaten by their experience.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nigel Lew (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 12:46pm

      Re: It's a lot like Techdirt twice yelling RUSSIANS PROPAGANDING TEH INTERNETS!

      Wow. That could not be any further from factual.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 7:18am

    It's a News Corp paper. None of them have any credibility. They are the mouth piece for western fascism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 7:31am

    So the police cyber crime unit was not enough, they had to fire up the ministry of truth again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 7:46am

    This is why anyone who a government says is a journalist instantly loses all credibility.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andy, 22 Jun 2015 @ 8:24am

    Corrections and clarifications

    The correction was probably buried away on page 25 or something as well (as is the norm for UK papers it seams).

    Personally I think that if a paper gets something wrong with an article, it should have to print teh correction in teh same place using teh same font etc.

    i.e. you screw up page 1, then everyone gets to see the correction as well

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 8:33am

      Re: Corrections and clarifications

      IT's the Times; it's usually done on the same page as their Letters.

      Even so, a journalist blindly parroting what the government say isn't a journalist; they're a one-degree-removed PA.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 8:41am

    I guess Tom Harper thinks that gov't cock stuffed in his mouth makes him look more mature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    radix (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 8:44am

    Snowden's next move

    Maybe he should exercise his "Right to be forgotten" and get both stories pulled form the Internet?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 9:39am

    The liberal media does this all the time

    I had no idea the role of the press was to create a false controversy

    Uh, the liberal press does this all the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 22 Jun 2015 @ 10:31am

      Re: The liberal media does this all the time

      Uh, the press does this all the time.

      FTFY

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 12:04pm

      Re: The liberal media does this all the time

      Please consider freeing your mind from the Liberal vs. Conservative (a.k.a., Democrat vs. Republican) paradigm.

      At least where it's presented in politics, media, or industry. That paradigm exists only to deceive you into believing that there are two diametrically opposed forces at play. This simply is not true anywhere money or power are concerned. Ever notice how libs and cons only distinguish themselves from each other on wedge issues (e.g., religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, etc.). They focus on these types of issues to set the different segments of the populous against each other and to distract us from a very few folks stealing our tax dollars and from their other dubious machinations. They may talk about other issues like "jobs" or the "economy" but take very little meaningful action. But somehow our leaders generally seem to be able to come together on issue of money and power (e.g., TPP, mass surveillance, defense spending, corporate bailouts, etc.). The whole Democrat vs. Republican thing is nothing more than a scam to try and sell us that we have a democracy - don't fall for it.

      If you must take a side, may I suggest you take sides with the 99% of people with whom you share a common financial interest. Because the 1% could care less about - and are actively working to further subjugate/marginalize - you. Keep that in mind as the 2016 presidential race begins. The 1% are fully represented by both Democrats and Republicans. They have each other's backs. Neither party represents your financial interests or civil liberties.

      Also...

      Propaganda is propaganda.

      Although one should always take the source into consideration, learn to evaluate news based on its probable accuracy and not the source. I found there is some value to corporate news as it usually contains half-truths. If one critically analyzes enough sources, probable motivations of a given source, and opposing viewpoints, one can usually decipher the most probable truth over time. And beware your own confirmation bias, it's a hellava drug.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brabantian, 22 Jun 2015 @ 9:50am

    Not only Times lying, gov docs show Greenwald & Snowden are frauds too

    TechDirt is deceived by half of a dual-sided CIA hoax - the CIA loves people arguing between 2 or more falsehoods. - Not only the Times article, but Glenn Greenwald & Edward Snowden himself, are all known to European intelligence agencies as CIA liars, frauds & hoaxes / hoaxers. This is beyond any shadow of a doubt if you read the European intel agency reports on Snowden and Greenwald
    http://homment.com/3K3xdsYD7a
    well-buried by CIA contractor Google. Putin himself drops hints Snowden is a fraud, but gullible media fear to pick up the thread.

    As is well-proven, Snowden never 'stole' anything, the CIA gives his 'nothing really new' docs directly to his fake 'brave journalists' connected to CIA & Rothschilds (Greenwald & Guardian), with Snowden in fact a friend of Dick Cheney & Zbig Brzezinski. You will notice that the faker Greenwald produces almost zero 'brave journalism' despite US $50 million in funding from CIA billionaire & murder-sponsor-in-Ukraine Pierre Omidyar.

    The Times article is a continuation of that ridiculous 'smash the Guardian computers' ploy by British intel secretly colluding with the Guardian, so absurd even British schoolboys were laughing at it. The US-UK are now desperate to pretend that the hoax, liar & fraud Edward Snowden is still legit, when the intel report in Moscow exposed him totally as a fraud last year. This is well-known now at gov'ts of Russia, France, Germany, Switzerland etc.

    Here is the letter at Swiss government that terminated the US attempt to re-plant Snowden in Switzerland, with link to the larger Snowden fraud dossier in the files of European governments.

    « Re: Intelligence dossier on active CIA agent & fraud 'Edward Snowden', threats to Switzerland - Since the previous year - in case you did not know - the governments and intelligence agencies of Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Belgium, have all known that the man in Russia 'Edward Snowden' publicly requesting Swiss asylum, is a liar and fraud, an active CIA agent hoaxing and defrauding European citizens, a man who may have already helped murder innocent people via the CIA 'Operation Fake Dissident Snowden'.

    « There is a substantial intelligence agency file on 'Snowden' in the possession of the above countries, describing in detail the comprehensive CIA connections and evil purposes of this grand hoax, by which the US regime is attempting to humiliate Switzerland, the USA not being content with the billions already extorted from Swiss banks and institutions by the corrupt USA judicial apparatus. The 'Snowden' intel file is attached in e-mails to you, and can also be viewed online here - 'Russia gov FSB SVR report, Snowden, Greenwald are CIA frauds'
    http://homment.com/3K3xdsYD7a

    « The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service will understand this report quickly, if not holding it already, and may find amusement confronting Mr Snowden himself, his lying CIA-backed 'Snowden' journalists, and the CIA and US regime over this 'Snowden' fraud, which was clear from the beginning, when Snowden was promoted by the same CIA media, Guardian & NY Times - who have criminal charge complaints registered against them in Europe for spreading criminal lies about a genuine exiled USA dissident. No real victim receives 'Snowden'-type promotion by CIA media. And Snowden proved himself to be a fraud via his own words, not even interested in the corruption of the US judges who would put him on trial.

    « Everyone around Snowden is CIA - his lawyers, his journalists, etc. 'Operation Snowden' is a CIA 'limited hang-out', i.e., speaking some truths, to sell lies that defraud and murder. Among the purposes of 'Snowden' is to increase the sense of terrorism and blackmail among governments; to promote CIA-tied media, their lies and frauds; [to dupe people into using the CIA-NSA Tor browser; to de-legitimise real dissidents not supported by Snowden-style media hype] and very likely to entrap genuine USA dissidents, who may have already been silenced or killed after contacting 'Team Snowden'. The fraud 'Snowden' is now a subject for quiet USA-Russia negotiation. »

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 30 Jun 2015 @ 12:50am

      Re: Not only Times lying, gov docs show Greenwald & Snowden are frauds too

      Damn.

      We were all wondering just what Putin's Shill Brigade Posts would look like.

      Thanks Ivan. :)

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Giles Byles, 22 Jun 2015 @ 11:31am

    Massive spy operation couldn't keep a secret

    Plus the Times ignores Mr. Schneier's hypothesis that Mr. Snowden came blundering onto the scene long after the Chinese, Russians & everybody else had already rifled through the NSA's repository.  NSA's malignancy is surpassed only by its incompetence.

    On another note, armchair English professor posits thusly:

    The compulsion to stick hyphens into compound words where they don't belong should be discouraged, granted; but "followup" sans hyphen fails a spell-check (rightly so) & is invalid.

    Whereas the hardline (a modifier) in "hardline surveillance" would be one word.  As with "backdoor surveillance."

    So just to follow up (prepositional phrase), one can take a hard line on such matters without going overboard––-or going in through back door.  [tongue-face]

    & mouthpiece is one word.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 12:00pm

    The Sunday Times is even worse than tabloids. Tabloids are at least conspiratorial and running with rumours. This is a hatchet job.

    This storyline is sourced to shady and very biased people, lacks any real fact-checking (repeated use of 1,7 million documents etc.), ignores criticism and is portrayed as normal news as opposed to an opinion piece from certain government officials.

    All in all we are seeing the typical signs of propaganda here, which is horrfying. Shame on you Sunday Times!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 22 Jun 2015 @ 3:55pm

    Snowden Never Signed The Official Secrets Act

    As I understand it, in the UK spook business, you have to sign a copy of the Official Secrets Act before you are allowed access to any Official Secrets. But Snowden was never in the UK spook business, he was in the US spook business. So it wasn’t he who broke UK law, it was whoever divulged UK secrets to him that did so. That person or persons should be hunted down and prosecuted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 5:29pm

    Joseph Goebbels

    would be proud of the Sunday Times.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jun 2015 @ 11:28pm

    If you're going to do propaganda, you might as well jump in head first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 23 Jun 2015 @ 8:17am

    He was only in Moscow because it was en route to his actual destination in Latin America.

    I have to wonder about that, just a little. I have no question that he's a good guy who did the right thing, or that he was stranded in Russia through no fault of his own, but... just look on a map. How in the world is Russia on the way from China to South America?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Jun 2015 @ 9:04am

    Youcantcounterit

    Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 23 Jun 2015 @ 1:19pm

    1000 years of War and Profit

    As mentioned before, the veracity of such reports is not really important to those who have them produced and published.

    What is important is that they get published and appear to be officially authorized truth, so that the public has a memory of the reports being published as authorized true facts.

    All of these BS reports together are what we call history - the story of the past according to the criminals in power.

    You will be seeing this process more often in future as the desperation of the Elite becomes greater. After all, this whole coup - The NWO - was supposed to be finished by the year 2000 and the players are getting older every year and want to enjoy the fruits of their labors while still young enough to enjoy yachts, bimbos and cocaine.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 25 Jun 2015 @ 5:51pm

    Okay, who's up for posing as UK Gov officials and 'leaking' to The Times the news that Putin was in certain movies in his youth, and that's what his ban on pro-homosexual media is really about? ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 29 Jun 2015 @ 12:05am

      Re:

      "...posing as UK Gov officials ..."

      Team efforts die from low member greed and internal dissent, as only one person can be the leader and all the rest in the team must take a second string position, or lower.

      CIAF BINSA loves Teams. Look at NORML for example. 50 years plus of collecting funding from the public with absolutely nothing to show for it. Teams can be infiltrated and the members can be compromised with nearly zero effort and extremely little expense.

      Only the lone wolf has a chance of bearding the beast and getting safely away from the seeking maw of injustice manifest.

      So let us know how it went when your done hey.

      And of course, if we never hear from you again, we will assume you are still hiding and make silent wishes for your safe return.

      And hey, say hello to Snowden for us.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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