After The Independent published a story Friday based on documents obtained by NSA leak source Edward Snowden, Snowden quickly disavowed any notion that he had worked with the newspaper.
So the question became: Who was the source of the leak, which revealed a secret UK surveillance base in the Middle East?
One theory, advanced first by journalist and former intelligence analyst Joshua Foust, is that the people originally in control of their cache of source material — journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and Snowden — have lost control of that material.
In a brief email to Business Insider, Greenwald rejected those suggestions, in part. He didn’t give a definitive “no,” but he suggested it would be “highly unlikely.”
“Everything is a ‘possibility,’ but I think it’s highly unlikely for multiple reasons,” Greenwald said in the email.
One of those reasons is that Greenwald and Snowden believe that the UK government had a hand in the leak to The Independent. Snowden asserted in a statement to Greenwald that the government did so to advance the notion that Snowden’s leaks have been harmful.
That reasoning, though, is exactly why Foust thinks it’s unlikely the UK government played a part in the leak. Why would the government intentionally harm itself to discredit Snowden, who has “has already leaked and therefore damaged other programs?”
More likely, Foust said, is that the web of information-holders could have spiraled out of control. In addition to Poitras, Greenwald, and The Washington Post’s Barton Gellman, Snowden also provided information to the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the South China Morning Post. Snowden has previously denied he provided any information to Russian and Chinese governments.
For his part, the editor of The Independent shot back at Greenwald and Snowden’s theory in a tweet Friday:
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