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The Washington Post issued a rather remarkable correction late Wednesday on a column written earlier in the week by national security reporter Walter Pincus — one that Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has been challenging all week.
Pincus' column, entitled "Questions for Snowden," now appears with an exhaustive, three-paragraph correction at its top to set straight original errors and assumptions by Pincus. It originally suggested that NSA leak source Edward Snowden had taken a job with Booz Allen Hamilton to collaborate with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
In an open letter to Pincus on Tuesday, Greenwald took issue with this "baseless innuendo" — along with other fact errors in the piece, including an error that purported one of his columns had been written for the "WikiLeaks Press Blog."
Pincus also asserted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had "previewed" Greenwald's extensive reporting on the Obama administration's surveillance of phone and electronic communication data. There's no evidence Assange did so.
Here's the Washington Post's full correction:
A previous version of this Fine Print column incorrectly said that an article by journalist Glenn Greenwald was written for the WikiLeaks Press blog.The article, about filmmaker Laura Poitras and WikiLeaks being targeted by US officials, was written for the online publication Salon and first appeared April 8, 2012. Its appearance on the WikiLeaks Press blog two days later was a reposting. This version has been corrected.
A previous version of the column also asserted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, during a May 29 interview with Democracy Now, “previewed” the story that Greenwald wrote for the Guardian newspaper about the Obama administration’s involvement in the collection of Americans’ phone records. There is no evidence that Assange had advance knowledge of the story; the assertion was based on a previously published interview in which Assange discussed an earlier surveillance project involving the collection of phone records.The assertion has been taken out of this version.
The column also does not mention Snowden’s past work in the intelligence community. The lack of this context may have created the impression that Snowden’s work for Booz Allen Hamilton gave him his first access to classified surveillance programs.
In an email to Business Insider, Greenwald said he was mostly happy with how the Post had resolved the correction. But he added that it probably should have retracted the column, because it "barely makes any sense at this point."
"That's because the crux of Pincus' innuendo was false, so once you remove it, there's no narrative cohesion left," Greenwald said.
Indeed, the column still contains, for example, Pincus' "question" that asks whether Assange had advance knowledge of Greenwald's reporting on the NSA's collection of phone metadata — something that their correction counters.
"That said, I think the correction is quite thorough and does the most important job of illustrating what a shabby, reckless, error-strewn attack this was," Greenwald said.