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Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald Claim U.K. Leaked Sensitive Info To Newspaper To Discredit Them

First Posted: Aug 24, 2013 10:04 AM EDT
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It's becoming increasingly hard to trust anyone anymore. As if the NSA/Edward Snowden spying scandal needed any more intrigue, it is now being claimed that the British government has been feeding misleading information to the British media. 

The people making such claims? None other than Edward Snowden and the man who broke his story, The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald. The claims are quite the revelation in and of themselves, but the fact that their release may have been an attempt at political misdirection makes the story all the more intriguing.

"Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies[...]The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden," read an article by The Independent on Friday.

Given the content of the previous NSA leaks, it should come as no surprise that such an intelligence system has been put in place. What is surprising is that the revelation is coming from Snowden, who to date has been very finicky about whom he talks to, having no previous working relationship with The Independent.

And apparently, he still has no working relationship with The Independent. Snowden came forward soon after the article surfaced on Friday to dispute his involvement in the story, and provide a possible motive for why he was attributed as a source.

"I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent[...]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," observes Snowden.

Let's be clear here. The Independent did not explicitly state that Snowden gave them the information, but rather, that the Middle East intelligence was part of the 50,000 GCHQ documents Snowden downloaded in 2012. However, prior to The Independent's acquisition of such files, there were only three entities who knew the details of those documents: Snowden, The Guardian, and U.S./U.K. governments.

Snowden has already disavowed any affiliation with the news story, and Greenwald was quick to write a story on Friday stating that he had no involvement either. That of course leaves only the U.S./U.K. governments as the source of the new leaks. So far, that theory has been adamantly denied by The Independent.

"For the record: The Independent was not leaked or 'duped' into publishing today's front page story by the Government," tweeted Independent journalist Oliver Wright.

Of course, it seems hard to fathom Snowden leaking a story or his documents to a media outlet and deciding to not take credit for it. Even more unlikely would be Greenwald leaking a source to a rival newspaper. So just what is going on here? 

As Snowden already stated, it is his belief that the U.K. government did in fact leak sensitive and potentially dangerous information to The Independent (who of course would never admit as much) to make the fallout from Snowden's leaks seem that much more egregious. Should the revelation of this new information prove harmful to the Western powers later on, Snowden's leaks could then easily be characterized as a conduit for terrorism overnight. Greenwald goes on to note that such a strategy is nothing new.

"The US government itself has constantly used this tactic: aggressively targeting those who disclose embarrassing or incriminating information about the government in the name of protecting the sanctity of classified information, while simultaneously leaking classified information prolifically when doing so advances their political interests," writes Greenwald.

That is certainly a bold claim, but if ever the Western governments needed to discredit the intentions of a journalistic outlet, it would be now. Not only has the NSA scandal been a huge egg on the face of the U.S. government, but Britain (who has certainly been in cahoots with the U.S. on this) hasn't fared much better, especially after their controversial detainment of Greenwald's partner, David Miranda.

How The Independent was able to attain the 50,000 GCHG documents may never be definitively known, but so far there are only three possibilities, and two of them are denying involvement. Though it seems hard to believe that the U.K. government would be so sneaky in discrediting a whistle-blower, if the NSA leaks have taught us anything, it's that the Western powers have no problem acting behind their citizens' backs in the name of "public interest."

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