For little more than a speculation-drenched hack job, Gordon G. Chang's article in The Daily Beast Friday boasted a strident title: "Snowden lied about China contacts," the headline proclaimed. But yet the piece -- which has angered the NSA whistle-blower's cadre of supportive journalists (myself included) -- is entirely devoid of fact.
Chang's suggestion is that Snowden has been in close working contact with the Chinese government, contrary to the whistle-blower's claim that "I have had no contact with the Chinese government... I only work with journalists.”
So let's look at Chang's evidence.
An unnamed source of Chang's claimed that Snowden "had at least one 'high-level contact' with Chinese officials" and that these officials prompted Snowden to give information to journalists at the South China Morning Post. Without substantiation, Chang states, "The disclosure of those addresses [Hong Kong and Chinese IP addresses that the NSA was surveilling] was not whistle-blowing; that was aiding China."
Chang's second claim (made, notably, in the passive tense) is that a Chinese reporter who is also a Communist Party member reportedly interviewed Snowden and then passed on documents to Chinese agents. "That reporter is suspected to have then supplied Snowden’s documents to Chinese agents." So even this speculation puts the onus not on Snowden but on the Chinese reporter, who is only "suspected" of passing on documents.
And while Chang notes that "evidence suggests that Beijing orchestrated Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong," he provides no such evidence to the reader.
This particular paragraph sits at the apotheosis of speculative, smear journalism, reflective of Chang's entire article:
At this point, allegations of Snowden’s shadowy involvement with Chinese intelligence in Hawaii remain unconfirmed, but the evidence suggests he lied about his dealings with Chinese officials during his stay in Hong Kong. That tells us he may have been more than just a “whistle-blower.”
So we have unconfirmed suggestions juxtaposed with weighty, unsubstantiated accusations. At best, Chang's account reads as fanciful, at worst, part of an ideological smear campaign against the NSA whistle-blower. The weakness of the article speaks for itself, but Chang's regular appearances on Fox News and The Glenn Beck program seem worth noting to situate the author.
Glenn Greenwald's critique of the article on Twitter perhaps put it best: