Sunday Times Doubles Down On Government Stenography, Detailing Calls For Prosecution Following Its Own Debunked Story
from the that's-not-journalism dept
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.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."
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.
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:
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.