NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden tells Glenn Greenwald that he did not reveal classified information to China or Russia, his recent hosts, or that, as was reported by The New York Times based on the speculation of anonymous sources, his laptops were “drained.”
So that’s how this “China-drained-his-laptops” claim was created: by the New York Times citing two anonymous sources saying they “believed” this happened. From there, it predictably spread everywhere as truth.
Shortly thereafter, the New Yorker – under the headline “Why China Let Snowden Go” - told its readers: “His usefulness was almost exhausted. Intelligence experts cited by the Times believed that the Chinese government ‘had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong, and that he said were with him during his stay at a Hong Kong hotel.’” It was then repeatedly cited to demonize Snowden in venues such as DC gossip sheets, right-wing outlets, and diaries at Democratic Party sites.
But there was never any evidence that this was true. The NYT decided to publish this incendiary claim in a news article based purely on rank speculation from two anonymous sources. Obviously, Snowden’s denial is not dispositive and shouldn’t be treated as such. But it is the only actual evidence on this question thus far.