The Washington Post Dabbles in Orwell

In scrubbed piece about Edward Snowden, the Bezos Post offers a preview of how history will be re-written


A Monday story in the Washington Post entitled “Putin grants citizenship to Edward Snowden, who exposed U.S. surveillance’” began:

Russian President Vladimir Putin granted citizenship on Monday to Edward Snowden, a former security consultant who leaked information about top-secret U.S. surveillance programs and is still wanted by Washington on espionage charges.

The story added:

Snowden’s disclosures, published first in The Washington Post and the Guardian, were arguably the biggest security breach in U.S. history. The information revealed top-secret NSA surveillance as part of a program known as PRISM and the extraction of a wide range of digital information.

Snowden is America’s most famous revealer-of-secrets, and the way he’s talked about has evolved to an extreme degree in less than a decade, showing how quickly a story about security overreach can be flipped into an argument for more vigilance. The press, which once worked with Snowden in its proper role as a bulwark against government excess, is effectively an arm of the state now, as is shown again in this absurd episode.

This article began as an aggressive rewrite of history and the Post’s own views, but underwent numerous alterations after it attracted criticism online yesterday.

The original version of yesterday’s piece depicted Snowden solely as someone wanted for “arguably the biggest security breach in U.S. history,” noting he’d revealed “top secret NSA surveillance” in the form of the PRISM program, which was not characterized. Written by Mary Ilyushina, the piece quoted former principal deputy director of national intelligence Sue Gordon, who said Snowden’s decision to accept Russian citizenship “takes away any illusion that what he was doing [through his disclosures] was to help America.”

Gordon added: “Knowing what we know about what Russia perpetrates, to become a Russian citizen right now. I think it diminishes any patriotic argument that he might have made back then.” The argument that Snowden was “not a traitor” was left to be made via a quote of Vladimir Putin, taken from a documentary made by Oliver Stone.

Finally, Ilyushina also got a quote from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who said, “He exposed so much else that damaged foreign intelligence capabilities that had nothing to do with so-called domestic surveillance… What a great time to become a Russian citizen.” Ilyushina used her own words to note Clapper “acknowledged” that the bulk phone records program revelation “was perhaps justified given its focus on Americans.”


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