The Washington Post's institutional jealousy
towards the Guardian and its role in the Ed Snowden leaks continues to be quite bizarre. At the same time that some of the Post's reporters are doing excellent work on the story, including breaking a few of the stories themselves, the old timers seem to be reflexively attacking the Guardian for doing the same thing -- and, at the same time, attacking Snowden himself for being a source. The latest example is Walter Pincus, the octogenarian and long-term Washington Post "national security" reporter, who wrote a bizarre column "asking questions" of Ed Snowden
, and by association, of Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras (who has assisted both the Guardian and the Washington Post with the Snowden story) and Julian Assange. Pincus makes a bunch of "connections" that he finds concerning about the Snowden ordeal, suggesting strongly that the whole thing was somehow orchestrated in secret by Julian Assange.
The only problem with this is that a very large number of the factual claims made by Pincus are complete bunk. Not only that, but they're such complete bunk that even a basic fact check would have told you they were complete bunk. It's a perfectly legitimate journalistic practice to ask questions based on information presented -- but when those questions are based on complete falsehoods, it makes you wonder. Much of Pincus' piece is based on the incorrect claim that Greenwald has a close connection with Assange and Wikileaks, stating, falsely, that Greenwald "wrote for the WikiLeaks Press's blog about Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by U.S. government officials." That's completely untrue. Greenwald wrote his piece for Salon
not for Wikileaks, and has never written for Wikileaks in any manner.
Greenwald confronted Pincus
about this and other inaccuracies in the piece, leading Pincus to grudgingly admit
that it was a mistake, but saying his confusion was because the Salon piece "was carried on the Wikileaks Press page without attribution to Salon as the originating venue."
Except, that's not true. The blog clearly carries just an excerpt with a link
to the full piece at the end. Still, Pincus promised that a correction would be coming but, despite being aware of the mistakes for at least a day, the Washington Post (at the time I'm writing this) still has not posted a correction. Pincus told the Washington Post's Erik Wemple (who has
been doing good work on the story, and who rightly scolds Pincus for his actions) that a correction "is in the works."
Not sure why it should take so long, through.
Of course, there are a number of other pretty big factual errors by Pincus, which he has refused to acknowledge. For example, the claim that Julian Assange "previewed" the first Snowden leak a week before Greenwald published it in the Guardian. However, as anyone following these issues knows, Assange was talking about a completely different NSA surveillance program (Stellar Wind), which had been leaked many years ago and was shut down a few years back. Instead of admitting this error, Pincus is doubling down, telling Wemple that perhaps his point was "badly phrased," but Assange and Greenwald were talking about the "same program."
Except, they're not. They are both NSA surveillance programs, but Stellar Wind was revealed years ago. The Greenwald revelations were much more detailed and were about very different programs, many of which came after Stellar Wind. Considering that Pincus is supposed to be the Washington Post's "national security" expert, you'd think he'd recognize that. Instead, he tells Wemple that the complaints are "argumentative." Pincus also, falsely, suggested that Snowden only worked at the NSA for 3 months, ignoring -- as has been widely reported -- that Snowden worked at the NSA as a contractor for four years. He merely switched which firm he was contracting for (from Dell to Booz Allen).
Again, asking questions is a perfectly reasonable activity. But those questions should be based on facts. And... when those facts are shown to be wrong, you issue a correction. And, once you've admitted you're flat out wrong, and say that you'll fix it, it shouldn't take over 24 hours to do so....