Edward Snowden

Two Years After Snowden's Revelations, Western Officials Still Anonymously Claim Unproven Harms

And some journalists are more than happy to let them.


Everybody forget about those Chinese hackers now!
The Guardian

Can Edward Snowden have "blood on his hands" despite a subsequent admission that nobody has actually been harmed as a result of his leaks about the overbroad, privacy-destroying surveillance tactics of Western powers like the United States and the United Kingdom?

Painting such a picture certainly appears to be the goal of a bunch of unidentified British "senior government sources" that told the Sunday Times (paywalled) in the United Kingdom that the Russian and Chinese governments have gotten their hands on the files that Snowden had copied from the United States and have cracked the encryption, allowing them to read (allegedly) millions of Western intelligence documents.

To be clear, no actual sources are named in the story. No actual evidence is provided to show that this claim that the British government has had to pull agents out of the field to protect them from the Russians and the Chinese is true. And the newspaper seems happy to have just carried water for the government. There is no evidence they attempted to contact Edward Snowden (or even Glenn Greenwald, who reported the initial stories). In fact, the story even vaguely floats this unattributed, explosive claim:

It is not clear whether Russia and China stole Snowden's data, or whether he voluntarily handed over his secret documents in order to remain at liberty in Hong Kong and Moscow.

Greenwald took to The Intercept to blast this poor reporting, also pointing out factual errors made in the piece (ignoring that Snowden ended up stuck in Russia not by choice but because the United States canceled his passport and completely misreporting that Greenwald's boyfriend had been detained in London after visiting Snowden in Russia—he actually had been in Berlin). Greenwald responds to the overwhelming granting of anonymity to government officials to smear Snowden:

The beauty of this tactic is that the accusations can't be challenged. The official accusers are being hidden by the journalists so nobody can confront them or hold them accountable when it turns out to be false. The evidence can't be analyzed or dissected because there literally is none: they just make the accusation and, because they're state officials, their media-servants will publish it with no evidence needed. And as is always true, there is no way to prove the negative. It's like being smeared by a ghost with a substance that you can't touch.

This is the very opposite of journalism. Ponder how dumb someone has to be at this point to read an anonymous government accusation, made with zero evidence, and accept it as true.

The Guardian, which reported the first Snowden stories, has its own questions for the government officials anonymously making these claims. The lack of actual "journalism" that took place in the Sunday Times piece ended up highlighted in an unintentionally hilarious and awful interview with one of the reporters, Tom Harper, on CNN Sunday. Harper is absolutely unable to delve further or explain further any of the claims made in his story. He cannot actually explain what evidence exists for any of the claims his story put forth and at one point actually says, "We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment."

Journalism, ladies and gentlemen.

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  1. “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.”

    Tom Harper, I name you stenographer.

    1. Cringe at the stupidity to admit this, or begrudgingly admire the absolute brutal honesty?

      1. Only if he clearly stated that he was no journalist and merely acting as a govt propaganda mouthpiece would I admire him for his honesty.

        1. “Government decides. We report.”

          1. It’s Britain, after all; they’ve never been a free people even historically.

    2. CNN should be able to identify with that.

  2. You can explain a lot of what’s wrong in America by looking at what’s wrong with “jounalism.”

    And once more, Thank you Ed Snowden!

    1. And there is no solution. The market gets what the market pays for. The market pays for shit journalism.

  3. Where is the journalistic integrity when printing these kinds of statements without facts or even sources?

    Thanks for raising that question. It seems mainstream media outlets are all too happy to be mouthpieces for the all powerful security state.

    1. Sensationalism gets eyes on ads. If the sensationalism originates with the State’s official talking points? Even better! That sounds official and so contributes to the sense of exciting, impending doom!

  4. Good job, Shackford. Keep it up.

  5. “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.”

    He should be both condemned for his dishonesty and praised for his honesty.

    1. That would actually be fine, if it was phrased:

      “We were approached by members of the British government who demanded anonymity in order to make the following accusations. They refused to provide any evidence, or to go on the record. However, we thought you’d like to know what kinds of anonymous, unsupported accusations your government is making.”

      1. I meant that he’s being honest about his dishonesty.

        He’s trying to speak defensively, but it comes across like, “We just make it up as we go along”.

        “We just make shit up” is honest! …about being fundamentally dishonest.

  6. And the newspaper seems to have happy to have just carried water for the government.

    You don’t say.

  7. I haven’t made too close a study of the comments at Instapundit, but I seem to be noticing a little bit of a trend there.

    It used to be that that comments were pretty strongly pro-authority, with lots of pro-cop and anti-Snowden comments, depending on the article.

    More and more, thought, the comments seem to have a definite flavor of skepticism about whether Snowden really is a traitor, and whether cops really are all heroes who should be taken at their word.

    1. My impression is that the pieces by Elizabeth Price Foley generally tend to attract a more authoritarian audience, while the Reynolds pieces are more libertarian.

      The other thing I’ve noticed is you find a lot more pro-liberty comments once you have one or two.

  8. Incidentally, the U.S. press seemed to be pretty close to unanimous in its condemnation of Snowden, too.

    Hawks on the right hate him for making the War on Islam look bad, and the left hated Snowden for the unpardonable sin of making Obama look bad.

    It used to be unpardonable anyway. Now that everybody up to and including Pelosi thinks it’s perfectly alright to pull the rug out from under Obama in public, maybe the worm has turned.

    1. Eh, six years is the longest amount of time any president can expect loyalty.

      1. And 5 1/2 more than Obama deserves.

  9. UPDATE: The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted omirane of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents.

    Greenwald points out they’ll have to issue a retraction for that being in the print edition.

    1. Finally some good use for those UK libel laws.

  10. Ponder how dumb someone has to be at this point to read an anonymous government accusation, made with zero evidence, and accept it as true.

    There are a lot of dumb people out there. More than you can imagine.

    1. Citation needed. 😉

      1. Do election results count?


        2. sarcasmic|6.15.15 @ 1:49PM|#
          “Do election results count?”

          Not really. How many people vote?

    2. Not necessarily dumb. Just, in many cases, understandably ignorant. Getting a thorough understanding of some of these issues involves a considerable amount of work. And people generally assume the press some sort of check on the government.

      1. I’m going with dumb. What do you need to know to discount the ever-living fuck out of anonymous, self-serving, unsupported applications?

        Disregarding them doesn’t require information that you may or may not have. It only requires a base level of intelligence.

        1. Applications should be Accusations.

        2. “It’s on the news. It has to be, at minimum, mostly true.”

          That’s as far as most Americans go when thinking about news.

          1. Exactly. And my point is that it’s probably not a wholly irrational perspective. It’s sort of like the voting argument I see quite often offered up here. Your vote isn’t likely to matter much. And there’s a cost to voting. So, why bother. It’s kind of similar for most people’s acceptance of the standard narrative. Even if you go through all the trouble of researching what parts of what you’re being told is true and what parts are false, you’re still left with the same remaining question – so what? By and large, there’s little you can do about it if you do get the story right. So, why bother even questioning the prevailing narrative.

    3. There are even a few here. Not a lot, but a few.

  11. I wonder if this might have a more specific target than just a generalized attack. When I saw the headline on BBC yesterday, I admit to some immediate doubt in my heretofore unquestioning support of Snowden. I drew a parallel from the Chelsea Manning case which attracted much greater debate here at Reason: some commentators here, while supporting Manning’s whistleblowing, expressed grave concerns about the methodology which may have exposed a number of undercover agents.

    Attacking Snowden as a traitor or a liar didn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction outside groups already sympathetic to such accusations. Accusing Snowden of having placed lives in jeopardy – if true (which now seems unlikely) – would be a somewhat easier sell.

    Oh and, probably needless to say, I have returned to my total support of Snowden.

    1. I had the same reaction as you (doubt in support of Snowden.) Maybe that was the point. Get the story out, cause doubt, quiet retraction..

      1. That wouldn’t surprise me. In fact, I expect to see more of this tactic used in the future.

  12. I can believe some sort of harm was done to the intel agencies. That much info going out might have disrupted some ops/methods/individual matters… However, balancing that harm against letting all of us know how out of control/outside the law they were operating – I see the scales coming down in favor of what Snowden did.

    1. And, of course, even if the harm had been quantifiable and definite, illegal is illegal. If the intelligence agencies make it impossible to reveal their illegal acts without exposing someone to harm, who is the real bad guy here? I don’t want people getting killed in our service, either, but I also don’t want this kind of absolutely criminal activity going on.

      1. I don’t want people getting killed in our service

        As long as they all go home safe at night?

        1. Well, no, that’s not the only consideration, is it? But the real bad guys here are the ones sitting in DC, without a care in the world.

          1. Super Chicken said it best: You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

            The job isn’t more dangerous because of anyone’s actions but their own.

            1. I’m just not casually dismissing that people may have been harmed. But that’s likely going to be true with any wholesale whistleblowing, which in this case was clearly necessary. This illegality needs to end, and the only way to even start that ball rolling was to reveal it all. Even so, the government is still doing the same shit.

              1. But I AM casually dismissing that people were harmed. Despite their illusions of grandeur, they volunteered to be fodder. If they didn’t factor in the strong possibility that illegal activity would create whistleblowing, that mistake is on them not the whistleblower. Or are all these people, including contractors, taking vows to shit on the Constitution?

                1. Look, I’m all for revealing all of these illegalities, even if there were consequences. But that doesn’t mean I think that if there were any (and there probably weren’t any involving blood), the ones suffering may well have had nothing to do with the illegal decision-making and actions.

                  1. Not sure that last part made sense. I just mean that I don’t like casually dismissing the consequences to people who may not be particularly guilty of anything (say, an agent in the field), even if I think it’s necessary.

      2. I don’t want people getting killed in our service

        Our service, as in society’s service, or the government’s service? Because they’re not the same. People getting killed in the government’s service doesn’t bother me a whit, because service to government is the antithesis of service to society.

    2. My feeling is that if the officers of intel agencies didn’t want to have methods and ops compromised, pehaps they shouldn’t have chosen to egregiously violate their oaths of office, break the law, and commit perjury.

    3. The intel agencies wanted more power and weren’t asking permission nor telling anyone what they wanted to actually do. They brought the harm on themselves.

  13. Can Edward Snowden have “blood on his hands” … about the overbroad, privacy-destroying surveillance tactics of Western powers like the United States … ?

    Sure. Just wait until TPTB pin the OPM breach on him.

  14. redacted

    According to this, the 1A only applies to real journalist, like NPR.

      1. Can someone point me to a source to change a link to a word like the cool kids do here? Thanks.

        1. Here you go:


        2. [a href=”link here”]witty text here[/a]

          Except that insted of using square brackets, use the less than and greater than signs (the ones over the comma and period on a standard qwerty keyboard).:

          Proof that Florida Man is an idiot!

          1. Now, was that really necessary?

          2. I held a birthday party for you yesterday. You weren’t invited.

    1. Freedom means getting a license from the government.

      1. Seems like that’s the prevailing belief now, that rights come from the government. Bad, bad idea.

    2. I think NPR’s question (are commenters analogous to sources) is wrong and immaterial. The better analogy is that we are subscribers and I’m pretty sure publications frown upon handing their subscriber list over to the government.

      1. Unless they are indemnified from legal trouble over “information sharing.” Which they are, thanks to our elected officials.

  15. “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.”

    Journalism, ladies and gentlemen.

    Well that’s news right? That the media is a servile creature of the state? Who could have possibly known?

    1. Well it is the 4th branch of government, so what did you expect?

  16. Can the NSA exist in America in an uneven keel disallowing its members to be tried by a jury of their peers?

  17. “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government at the moment.”

    -brought to you by the Ministry of Journalism and Truth.

    1. The Ministry of J&T would have the courtesy to obfuscate with euphemisms.

  18. Gleenwald responds to the overwhelming granting of anonymity to government officials to smear Snowden:


    1. Good job, Scott… and great article, btw.

      1. You’ll know he’s serious about his lacism when he spells is “Gleenward”

  19. Worth reprinting, from Stephen Colbert’s address to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2006:

    But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works.The President makes decisions. He’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

    1. I wonder if Colbert would make the same comments today. Fairly easy to say that to journalists during a Republican administration.

      1. Nah. CBS wouldn’t let him either.

      2. He was so brave to say those things to Dubya, you guys.

        But no, he’s not that brave.

  20. Is there an Ellsworth Toohey award?

    Seems like reason should create one for journalists who do this kind of thing.

  21. OT: There are about 8 of us (so far) planning a New England-area meetup in the next month or so. If you’re in our area, we’d love to have you join us around the woodchipper for a couple of cold ones. Email address is in my handle.

    C’mon, sarcasmic, you’re not that far….

    1. Texans need to get our shit together on this… the problem is, in NE you can get 6 or 8 states together in an easy drive…

      Plus, don’t they tax you twice every time you cross a state line up there? If not, I smell a revenue generator!

      1. I’m good with making an Austin trip from Houston if anyone wants to have a few sometime. People tell me Dallas isn’t actually a part of Texas though so that’s just out of the question.

      2. Jesus, don’t give them any ideas! You know the Nazgul would rubber-stamp such an idea on Commerce Clause grounds.

  22. New favourite quote: “Ponder how dumb someone has to be at this point to read an anonymous government accusation, made with zero evidence, and accept it as true.”

    1. yet it happens multiple times a day in every city, town, and village across the country.

  23. When are we going to make Mr Snowden the hero he is and get him back in the USA?

    Maybe we could trade Obama to get him back. Putin would probably go for that.

    1. What would he do with Obama? Seems pretty lame to me. He should demand Stallone in revenge for Rocky IV and Rambo.


        1. “At last, Russia has its revenge. Now we will liberalize, run off the criminals, and become a friendly trade partner with the world. Here, have a Russian bride.”

      2. Pro Libertate — Putin could make Obama his lap dog. That’s all he is anyway. Score another one for Putin.

      3. Putin may need a bootlicker.

    2. No, unlike some people, Putin’s not stupid. He would NEVER go for that.

  24. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……


  25. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……


  26. The passport was pulled on June 22, and reporters knew about this and wrote it about by then as ample news coverage shows. Some even knew earlier. Snowden left on the afternoon of the 23rd with an Ecuadorean travel document dated June 22 — which wouldn’t have been sought unless he knew the passport was already useless. Obviously he met with Russian diplomats and cleared the way — Putin himself admitted this in an interview.

    So why the “stranding” myth? He chose to go to a country that Assange told him would resist US pressure and of course would be heavily motivated to exploit Snowden. But in fact, he could have flown to Venezuela or Brazil or Cuba or Iceland or even Germany at any time, starting May 1 or May 19 or June 19 and trusted that the media storm manufactured by Greenwald would work to prevent his extradition. In fact, he sought later to go to these countries anyway!

    DO tell us why Snowden has repeatedly sought to go to Germany and Brazil, *promising them documents* if in fact there is “no other place” in the world where he is “safe from the CIA.” Really, I’ll wait.

    1. Katherine, sweetie,

      Get a globe. Now, consider the flight paths from Hong Kong to Mosco, Rio Di Janairo, Berlin, Reykjavik.

      You’ll note that only one of those paths doesn’t take you either over oceans with a strong U.S. naval presence or NATO countries. Shockingly, it’s also the flight that crosses the fewest international borders, and is the shortest flight(!)

      Given the treasonous activities of the NSA, the lawlessness of the national security apparatus, Snowden made a very prudent decision. Many people seem desperate to smear him as a traitor by implying that he made some deal with the Russians that harms Americans. This is bullshit… any deal he made was only made possible by the NSA’s betrayal of the American people. The traitors are the NSA. Snowden, the most *recent* patriotic employee of the NSA who tried to alert the American people of the NSA’s treason was the first to do so in a way that evaded the NSA; his predecessors all ended up in jail or in fear for their freedom. This makes him a hero, and any american who cares for freedom, who cares to live in a country that isn’t a totalitarian shithole should be feting him.

      1. Metaphorically speaking, I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for horrible public officials like General Clapper, Barack Obama, the other officers in the NSC, NSA, FBI and DEA who are complicit in this violation of the fourth amendment. I am entitled to comment on these officials, purely as hyperbole, on a matter of public concern under my First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the Government for redress of grievances. Cf: The Screwtape Letters, an allegorical series of essays in which C. S. Lewis used Hell as a literary device for comment upon matters of spiritual and political concern.

        There are no woodchippers referred to within the contents of this comment.

  27. Glen Reynolds over at Instapundit made an ass of himself by swallowing this story hook, line and sinker.


  28. Mike Morrell is hardly anonymous.

  29. I would ask if any remembered when papers did journalism, but I don’t think it was ever true.

  30. After the Supreme Court declared the NSA metadata gathering (that Snowdon exposed) to be illegal one might think criminal accusations against him would be dismissed but one would be wrong. It seems rather obvious that he is a whistle blower rather than a traitor.

    1. In the minds of this administration, they are the same. Obama has gone after more whistleblowers than any other president.

  31. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netcash5.com

  32. Secret laws. Secret understandings of those laws. Secret courts. Secret decisions. Secret arrests. Secret detentions.

    Are we feeling safe yet?

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