Today the British website The Register published a detailed expose of “above top secret” signals intelligence operations in the Middle East allegedly conducted by GCHQ, NSA’s British partner. This sensational leak, which appeared under the by-line of Duncan Campbell, is very detailed and unquestionably damaging to Britain and its intelligence partners. Although this data obviously comes from the haul of classified information stolen by Edward Snowden, as the author admitted, exactly how Campbell got hold of them is not clear, though he professed his own heroism for publishing them, asserting that other British media had refused to print a compromise this sensitive.
Business Insider today looked into the question of how Campbell obtained this very valuable information. When asked about this, Glenn Greenwald told them, “Snowden has no source relationship with Duncan (who is a great journalist), and never provided documents to him directly or indirectly, as Snowden has made clear.” For his part, Campbell flatly refused to illuminate how he got the information, when BI asked him. The Guardian would seem to be the obvious source here, but they, too, denied any role when BI inquired: “We don’t know who Mr Campbell’s source is. We have always been open and transparent about all of our reporting partners,” the newspaper’s representative said. All that’s clear at this point, as BI’s Hunter Walker put it, is: “the Snowden leaks have leaked.”
Nevertheless, the appearance of Duncan Campbell in the Snowden Operation in a big way (after a fleeting appearance last August) is important for several reasons, not least that he is the Grand Old Man of anti-NSA/GCHQ propaganda in Britain. Campbell has been an activist-cum-journalist in anti-secrecy (meaning, of course, anti-Western secrecy) causes for decades. He has been highly visible in efforts to expose and discredit NSA activities since the late 1980s, and a decade after that, Campbell was the lead activist-cum-journalist in the anti-NSA campaign known as “ECHELON” that swept Western Europe like wildfire for several years until the 9/11 terrorist attacks pushed it from the front pages. In addition to numerous articles in the media, in 2000 he wrote an alarmist and sensationalist study for the European Parliament regarding alleged NSA capabilities that depicted U.S. and Allied SIGINT as a serious threat to European privacy – while not offering any details about how, for instance, the Russians might be doing the same or worse.
The role of the Russians behind the “ECHELON” campaign of fifteen years ago was detectable by eyes wanting to see, just as with the Snowden Operation today. Many of the anti-NSA talking points employed by Campbell and others originated in an obscure book titled Radio-Espionage (Pадиошпионаж) by a couple shadowy Russian authors and published in Moscow in 1996. It was so subtle that it had the NSA logo right on the cover, and it was assumed by U.S. counterintelligence that the book had been authored with “help” from Russian intelligence. Similarly, several Western security services had questions about Campbell’s motivations, too, given his long history of involvement in activism against Western intelligence that worked to Moscow’s benefit and NATO’s detriment.
Did Duncan Campbell get this latest Snowden information from the Russians, then? That certainly cannot be ruled out, and that represents an angle that any counterintelligence officer would want to investigate. Now two anti-NSA propaganda operations, of different vintage, have joined forces, if not collided; exactly how and why isn’t clear yet. All that’s certain is that the repeated assertions of Glenn Greenwald that the massive data haul of classified documents stolen from NSA by Ed Snowden and given to activists like himself was safe and secure, have been shown to be utterly hollow.