The leading story in the Sunday Times over the weekend claimed that Russia and China had cracked the Snowden files and now had access to sensitive information including the names of foreign agents. It went on to say that British intelligence agency M16 had pulled agents out of harms way given the threat this posed. So far the story is only tied to a anonymous sources including senior officials in Downing Street. The question remains as to whether the accusations are true or if the story is part of a political move to muddy the waters ahead of the upcoming debate over surveillance in the UK.
This isn’t the first time the story has been floated as the Guardian reports that claims of agents being moved out of harms way came some 18 months ago in the UK. The claims went on to say that Snowden helped terrorists evade surveillance and in doing so had blood on his hands. While the claims are bold and grossly overstated the fact is that the UK and US have both acknowledged that no agents have been harmed which is a complete contradiction to the report 18 months ago. I suspect we will find the same to be true this time around.
Last week David Anderson released his report on surveillance in the UK. The 373 page report describes the current legal framework for surveillance as intolerable and undemocratic. That can’t sit well with David Cameron and those who want to further the reach of surveillance in the UK. Could the Sunday Times article contain false accusations in an attempt to help direct the upcoming debate on surveillance in the UK? Time will tell but I certainly think it’s a possibility.
There are a number of holes in the Sunday Times article. I suggest you read the Guardian article in which Ewen MacAskill asks some thoughtful questions. He also pokes holes in the Sunday Times story. As you might suspect the Wall Street Journal joins the Sunday Times point of view. In an article published yesterday they assume the details to be correct and continue to attack Snowden for his actions.
The Guardian points out one important argument that I think will help shed some light on the latest Snowden allegations. They mention that the United States isn’t responding to the alleged access of the Snowden files. Neither the White House nor any US intelligence agency is stepping forward to comment on the story. Since Snowden is wanted for espionage in the US it’s safe to say that if the government had reason to believe the files had been accessed they would be pinning it directly on Snowden.
Glenn Greenwald met with Edward Snowden in preparation to sharing numerous articles in relation to the Snowden files. Since the story broke in the Sunday Times he has written a rebuttal piece for the Intercept. Mr Greenwald calls the story no more than propaganda to scare the public with a government official hiding behind anonymity. Greenwald goes on to point out the fact that the Sunday Times has since removed a section of the story from the online version without any mention of a retraction. Read over the Intercept piece and decide for yourself.