NSA leaker Edward Snowden – speaking through The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald – has now alleged that the UK government intentionally leaked information to the media with the purpose of justifying the government’s claim that Snowden’s leaked documents could present a danger to the public’s safety if disclosed.

Greenwald’s partner David Miranda sued the UK government last week in an attempt to halt any further inspection of materials seized during his recent detention at London’s Heathrow airport.  During that court proceeding, an attorney representing the Metropolitan police described the data seized from Miranda’s equipment to the court as “highly sensitive material the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety,” and that there were “tens of thousands” of pages of digital material.

On Friday, The Independent then ran a news story in which it revealed that the UK runs an internet monitoring station in the Middle East as part of its counter-terrorism surveillance activities.  The article noted that, while it would not reveal the location of this station, the information is contained in Snowden’s leaked NSA documents.

From The Independent:

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 has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.

The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.

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. The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.

The Independent article also pointed out, “there are fears in Government that Mr. Greenwald – who still has access to the files – could attempt to release damaging information.”

Undoubtedly, concerns of the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) were heightened after Greenwald promised to publish many more documents, including on England’s surveillance activities, adding, “I think they will be sorry for what they did.”  Greenwald made those statements in response to the detention of his partner.

Snowden tells The Guardian: UK government now leaking documents about itself

Shortly after The Independent published its article, Snowden – speaking through Greenwald – hit back by alleging that the UK government itself leaked the information about the Middle East monitoring station to the media.

From The Guardian, under Greenwald’s byline:

The Independent this morning [Friday] published an article – which it repeatedly claims comes from “documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden” – disclosing that “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.” This is the first time the Independent has published any revelations purportedly from the NSA documents, and it’s the type of disclosure which journalists working directly with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have thus far avoided.

That leads to the obvious question: who is the source for this disclosure? Snowden this morning said he wants it to be clear that he was not the source for the Independent, stating:

I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent. The journalists I have worked with have, at my request, been judicious and careful in ensuring that the only things disclosed are what the public should know but that does not place any person in danger. People at all levels of society up to and including the President of the United States have recognized the contribution of these careful disclosures to a necessary public debate, and we are proud of this record.

“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. The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act.”

In other words: right as there is a major scandal over the UK’s abusive and lawless exploitation of its Terrorism Act – with public opinion against the use of the Terrorism law to detain David Miranda – and right as the UK government is trying to tell a court that there are serious dangers to the public safety from these documents, there suddenly appears exactly the type of disclosure the UK government wants but that has never happened before. That is why Snowden is making clear: despite the Independent’s attempt to make it appears that it is so, he is not their source for that disclosure. Who, then, is?

To be clear, The Independent article does not say that Snowden was its source regarding the UK internet monitoring station.  It says, “information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden.”

Oliver Wright, editor for The Independent, denied any allegation that the government was the outlet’s source in a tweet he posted on Twitter. (h/t Latin Post)

Greenwald indicates in his article that very few could be the source of The Independent’s report, saying, “the class of people who qualify is very small, and includes, most prominently and obviously, the UK government itself.”

Perhaps.  But freelance journalist Joshua Foust, who covers counterterrorism and foreign policy, speculates there could be yet another possibility, in his third option.

When you think about it, there are three possibilities for where these documents came from:

  • Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras, or David Miranda handed them to the Independent.
  • The UK leaked its own compartmented espionage program, exposing and thus nullifying its effectiveness, to “discredit” somehow a guy who has already leaked and therefore damaged other programs.
  • A new party, unknown to us, also has control of said documents and is spreading them to new outlets. This would also imply that, contrary to their constant public assertions, Team Greenwald-Poitras has lost control of their cache of source material.

Foust goes on to elaborate on why the UK government being the source of the leak might not seem as feasible a theory as many would immediately assume.

Greenwald, naturally, has a theory. He writes that Snowden claims the UK government itself leaked the documents. Greenwald then goes on to concoct some preposterous theory amplifying this idea, as if Whitehall would deliberately undermine its own nascent intelligence operations just to score some minor point against Edward Snowden. Contrary to Greenwald’s claims, exposing a compartmented program located in a sensitive country does not, actually, help them — in fact, by exposing sensitive operations in a sensitive location it does the very harm that necessitated classifying the program to begin with.

Greenwald, Snowden, very noticeably, does not deny that he is the source of these documents, he just conflates the US and UK governments (yet again: they’re different entities with their own decisions to make, dude!), and waves his hands a lot.

This entire saga is becoming more complicated by the day.

Regardless of who leaked this latest information, it would appear that The Guardian camp no longer have as much control over the information as they once had.

On Friday, yet another news outlet was brought into the mix, when The Guardian also announced that it would be partnering with the New York Times “to work on the GCHQ documents provided by Edward Snowden.”

Things seem certain to get even more interesting in the coming days.