Since the Guardian’s NSA whistleblower source revealed himself yesterday, the newspaper’s staff — in particular columnist Glenn Greenwald — have received plaudits for their coverage, and rightly so.
However, the Guardian weren’t the only publication on the story. On Thursday the Washington Post also released their own story about the NSA, even including some of the very same slides on PRISM, the tool allegedly used by the agency to monitor vast amounts of the Internet. The story went live just before the Guardian story, Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post reports.
Barton Gellman of The Washington Post confirmed yesterday that Edward Snowden was in fact the same source for both newspapers, but wrote that the relationship had soured and Snowden had then turned to the Guardian.
Gellman reports that Snowden had first contacted the Post on May 16, but when The Post refused to publish all the PRISM slides and took time to consult with U.S. government officials, Snowden apparently balked:
Snowden replied succinctly, “I regret that we weren’t able to keep this project unilateral.” Shortly afterward he made contact with Glenn Greenwald of the British newspaper the Guardian.
However, Greenwald has denied this timeline:
Bart Gellman’s claims about Snowden’s interactions with me – when, how and why – are all false.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 10, 2013
In a later tweet, Greenwald said that he and Laura Poitras, a freelance documentary maker working with the Guardian, had been in contact with Snowden “since February.”
Another seeming contradiction is that the Guardian did not publish all of the PRISM slides, and Greenwald said he did not want to.
Strangely, Poitras has a byline on The Washington Post’s PRISM story too. Poitras’ exact role in this is unclear, but she clearly has an interest in government surveillance — last year she made a documentary for The New York Times about William Binney, another NSA whistleblower. She’s also won the “genius grant” from the MacArthur Fellows Program last year.
Poitras is currently working on the currently untitled part three of her 9/11 documentary series. On her website, the film is illustrated only by a picture of an NSA storage centre in Utah.
We’ve reached out to Gellman, Greenwald, and Poitras for clarification and will update if they respond.
UPDATE: Greenwald has spoken to the Huffington Post and clarified the beginning of his relationship with Snowden, repeating his claim that he was contacted before the Washington Post.
Salon’s Irin Carmon has spoken to Poitras who describes how she was first contacted in January.
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