'Sunday Times' story branded 'journalism at its worst'
An exposé claiming that the top-secret files leaked by Edward Snowden have been obtained by Russia and China has come under fire.
The story in 'The Sunday Times' claimed Western intelligence agencies were "forced into rescue operations" to mitigate the damage, and one UK government source claimed that Mr Snowden had "blood on his hands".
But Snowden confidante Glenn Greenwald has attacked the report as "journalism at its worst".
And yesterday, 'The Guardian' claimed that an allegation that the partner of the former 'Guardian' journalist Mr Greenwald met Mr Snowden in Moscow before being detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents has been quietly deleted from a report in 'The Sunday Times'.
In the original front-page story claiming Russian and Chinese authorities had gained access to the National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Mr Snowden, the paper reported that David Miranda "was seized at Heathrow in 2013 in possession of 58,000 'highly classified' intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow".
Those last five words were deleted from the online version by Monday without an explanation.
Mr Miranda was returning from Berlin, where he had visited the film-maker Laura Poitras, when he was detained at Heathrow for nine hours.
Mr Greenwald was the first to point out that the falsity had been dropped without any clarification.
He wrote: "The 'Sunday Times' has now quietly deleted one of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents. By 'quietly deleted', I mean just that: they just removed it from their story without any indication or note to their readers that they've done so (though it remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction). 'The Sunday Times' report quoted anonymous senior officials in No 10 Downing Street, the British home office and security services who said agents had to be moved because Moscow had gained access to classified information that revealed how they operate.
The erroneous allegation about Mr Miranda visiting Mr Snowden was first made in the 'Daily Mail' last September. The newspaper's website carried the allegation until 24 hours after 'The Sunday Times' published its story.
According to 'The Guardian', the editors' code of practice enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation states: "A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published."
A spokesperson for 'The Sunday Times' said: "There was an error in the copy regarding Miranda travelling from Moscow, which was amended in the online article as soon as it was pointed out and there will be a correction in this Sunday's edition."
The 'Daily Mail' said it had no record of anyone complaining about the article.
Mr Snowden, a former NSA contractor, handed over tens of thousands of leaked documents to 'The Guardian' in Hong Kong two years ago. He left Hong Kong with flights booked to Latin America but was stopped in Russia when the US revoked his passport, and has since been living in exile in Moscow.