Walter Pincus, 80, knows his way around a scandal. The columnist and former reporter at the Washington Post has written about Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandal, numerous intelligence-related affairs and has won the Pulitzer Prize. But he has been criticized, even by his colleagues, for being too close to the US government -- especially the CIA, for which he spied in his younger years.
But now, Pincus has truly embarrassed himself: Last week the Washington Post had to add a three-paragraph-long correction to a two-day-old Pincus column, invalidating its core claims. This was an unprecedented measure in the 136-year history of the American capital's most lauded newspaper.
Pincus had speculated that whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as the two people centrally responsible for publicizing the NSA revelations, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, had a political agenda and were surreptitiously "directed" by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pincus' "evidence" turned out to be demonstrably false, rendering the "corrected" column -- or what was left of it -- little more than malicious gossip.
Greenwald, who has been caught in the US media crossfire for some time, immediately protested against the "baseless innuendo" in an open letter. The Washington Post waited over 48 hours before correcting their blunder without comment.
A Growing Anti-Snowden Chorus
In his broadside against Snowden and Snowden's press contacts, Pincus was going along with both the government and the zeitgeist. A growing number of mainstream media outlets have been focusing their criticism on the leakers -- Snowden in Moscow, Greenwald in Rio -- instead of the content of their leaks. American headlines aren't being dominated by the latest details of the seemingly endless scandal, but by the men who brought them to light.