The Sunday Times’ Snowden Story is Journalism at its Worst — and Filled with Falsehoods

By Glenn Greenwald

Western journalists claim that the big lesson they learned from their key role in selling the Iraq War to the public is that it’s hideous, corrupt and often dangerous journalism to give anonymity to government officials to let them propagandize the public, then uncritically accept those anonymously voiced claims as Truth. But they’ve learned no such lesson. That tactic continues to be the staple of how major US and British media outlets “report,” especially in the national security area. And journalists who read such reports continue to treat self-serving decrees by unnamed, unseen officials – laundered through their media – as gospel, no matter how dubious are the claims or factually false is the reporting.

We now have one of the purest examples of this dynamic. Last night, the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times published their lead front-page Sunday article, headlined “British Spies Betrayed to Russians and Chinese.” Just as the conventional media narrative was shifting to pro-Snowden sentiment in the wake of a key court ruling and a new surveillance law, the article (behind a paywall: full text here) claims in the first paragraph that these two adversaries “have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”

Read the full column on The Intercept.

UPDATE: The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted one 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. By “quietly deleted,” I mean just that: they just removed it from their story without any indication or note to their readers that they’ve done so (though it remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction). That’s indicative of the standard of “journalism” for the article itself. Multiple other falsehoods, and all sorts of shoddy journalistic practices, remain thus far unchanged.


© 2015 The Intercept / First Look Media

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  1. June 14, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Effing Presstitutes.

  2. bsbafflesbrains
    June 14, 2015 at 9:27 pm

    National Enquirer and The Times. Finally conformity in journalistic standards. #WhobutnotWhatWhereWhenorHow

  3. Alice X
    June 14, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    A clip from the excellent Metanoia Films series, Counter Intelligence

    The series is here:

    the clip is here:

    The CIA and Rupert Murdoch: An Australian Coup (Documentary Clip)

  4. dubinsky
    June 14, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Greenwald’s advocacy again plays fast and loose with the facts….. ” Just as the conventional media narrative was shifting to pro-Snowden sentiment in the wake of a key court ruling and a new surveillance law…”

    there is no “pro-Snowden” sentiment in the media”….the best of them remain conflicted….glad that Snowden leaked the NSA surveillance stuff but mindful of the other leaks and aligned with the LA Times in thinking that Snowden still has to answer or to stay in exile.

  5. Chris Maukonen
    June 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Yellow journalism. The color newsprint becomes the minute it hits the street.

  6. Hugh
    June 14, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    A) There probably aren’t 5 people who read the London Sunday Times in the US.

    B) Both the Russians and Chinese would have to have copies of the Snowden files. It is unlikely both would have been able to decode them and do so at the same time. It is also unlikely that they would share these materials with each other even if one of them had access and succeeded in decoding them.

    C) Is MI6 saying that the Russians and Chinese succeeded where MI6 and the NSA failed? On the other hand, if MI6 had done so, why didn’t it take measures to protect its agents and operations? Indeed, the Snowden files have been in the wind for 2 years now, so why didn’t MI6 act presumptively on its best guess or worst case scenario, oh say, 24 months ago?

    D) Isn’t this all just deflection from the recent Chinese hacks of the US government, which had no Snowden component to them?

    E) If Greenwald and Poitras had released the Snowden files a year ago to the web, we would be much better informed to judge MI6 disinformation campaigns.

    F) dubinsky is correct. If the Snowden narrative is changing anywhere, it is in public opinion, not the MSM.

  7. jane24
    June 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    In agreement with you, (and hence, I guess, dubinsky too), on the msm’s perspective on Snowden. I tend to see the “Sunday Times” article as British government propaganda aimed at swaying a population who are growing increasingly concerned about mass surveillance and, despite the recent general election, the policies of their government. The msm within the UK are just as willing to propagate government propaganda as are their counterparts in the US. Imo “quietly deleted”, rather than “retracted”, speaks volumes.

  8. Screwtape
    June 15, 2015 at 12:11 am

    The Times story is implausible, or at least misconstrued.

    If the names of the spies were in Snowden’s docs, and the US and UK gov’ts knew that to be the case, then those gov’ts would indeed have to proceed with their worst case scenario, i.e., that the Chinese, Russians, and everyone else also knew.

    Still, that worst case scenario would be only a prudent assumption rather than hard fact, unless some independent channel confirmed it as fact. Yet even without such confirmation, the agents would still have to be relieved for their own safety.

    The Times probably has no idea how much the Chinese and Russians have actually gotten their hands on. Who would have told such details to the Times, anyway, and why?

  9. dubinsky
    June 15, 2015 at 12:24 am

    quite agree that it’s the public who need to be convinced.

    not long after the story broke, tv shows had FBI officials and tv and newspaper reporters on Charlie Rose putting out the story that Snowden was a traitor….. I’m proud to say that my son, on behalf of the Guardian reporters who worked with Snowden and his material, appeared on the show and refuted that shit.

    if the public can’t be convinced that Snowden is malicious, he may be able to come home.

  10. PillBilly
    June 15, 2015 at 1:34 am

    That’s a good boy; pat yourself on the head for siding with the deceitful liars of the surveillance state.

  11. PillBilly
    June 15, 2015 at 1:38 am

    So, you’ll be glad when Snowden’s able to come home and be imprisoned forever like Bradley/Chelsea Manning?

  12. dubinsky
    June 15, 2015 at 1:38 am

    sorry, Pillsbury, but you are clueless about my view of Snowden’s revelations.

  13. Pluto
    June 15, 2015 at 1:41 am

    It’s really not that complicted. It’s just embarrassing.

    The revelations about the impact of Snowden on intelligence operations comes days after Britain’s terrorism law watchdog said the rules governing the security services’ abilities to spy on the public needed to be overhauled.

    Conservative lawmaker and former minister Andrew Mitchell said the timing of the report was “no accident”.

    “There is a big debate going on,” he told BBC radio. “We are going to have legislation bought back to parliament (…) about the way in which individual liberty and privacy is invaded in the interest of collective national security.

    “That’s a debate we certainly need to have.”

    Cameron has promised a swathe of new security measures, including more powers to monitor Briton’s communications and online activity in what critics have dubbed a “snoopers’ charter”.

    Britain’s terrorism laws reviewer David Anderson said on Thursday the current system was “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable”.

    He called for new safeguards, including judges not ministers approving warrants for intrusive surveillance, and said there needed to be a compelling case for any extensions of powers.

    Shades of Bush the Lesser and his Terrorism-Threat-O-Meter.

  14. karenjj2
    June 15, 2015 at 9:08 am

    gads! This is a coup under the radar for me.
    hummm. German natzi kids would be around mid-twenties or so in ’70s

    remember Nixon detesting Cheney at that time. Rumsfeld C’s protege and Bush Sr head of CIA, then ambassador to China, then VP Iran contra, then pres NAFTA, then Carlyle Group w Saudis. And how could we forget the Koch bros who’ve attained libertarian paradise in Kansas.
    PNAC did not start in ’92, it just codified the plan for the next generation ….

  15. karenjj2
    June 15, 2015 at 9:33 am

    G. 100% of world’s electronics have components manufactured by China. During bush junior’s admin (2005?), Intel Corp built an 8 billion dollar state-of-the-art chip manufacturing plant in China.

    Why does everyone assume that the chips produced by that facility lack backdoor coding?

    P.s. Coincidentally, 2005 is when bush juniors admin started the 3 T CONTRACTS written by the corps, for the corps: aka: TPP, TAIP and recently revealed TISA. In that fully nasty bit of work (even Voldemort be ashamed), “once a public service (like water and electric) is privatized, it cannot be brought back to public domain.”.

    Pity the UK and its formerly 350-yr-old Royal Mail privatized recently. And USPS that Boxer’s realtor husband has been selling off since obomba took office.

  16. karenjj2
    June 15, 2015 at 9:46 am

    kudos to your son!
    wow, speaking truth at the heart of media power is so extraordinary, absolutely delighted to hear about it ?

  17. June 15, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Isn’t that the cost of making all this stuff for cheap in China? They get to reverse engineer everything.

  18. karenjj2
    June 15, 2015 at 10:22 am

    “reverse engineer” ??? obviously if Intel built the plant there, Intel Corp gave all the engineering to the Chinese as well as trained the Chinese techs from top to bottom.
    Unlike the us, China’s policy is that anything on their soil is built, run and maintained by China’s workers.

  19. dubinsky
    June 15, 2015 at 11:12 am

    he’s part of the media, karen….. writes for the Guardian and used to write for fdl.

  20. karenjj2
    June 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    My kudos to him still stand even tho defending employer.
    Isn’t it remarkable how many superior journalists have been encouraged and published at Jane Hamsher’s firedoglake . And so many have gone on to their own successful sites, freelance and/or employment at fairly reputable publishers.

  21. dubinsky
    June 16, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    do you have some deep need to distort my views?

    or are you generally clueless?