Whistleblower Edward Snowden has never spoken to the Independent to reveal a secret UK spying base in the Middle East, the Guardian claimed on Friday.

The Independent reported on Friday that Britain has a £1 billion secret Middle East-based listening post collecting emails, phone calls and web traffic on behalf of western intelligence agencies, giving Snowden as its source.

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has been Snowden's primary contact and confidant, said that the former NSA analyst suspected the UK government of releasing the story itself, to damage his credibility.

The Independent has furiously denied this claim, and pointed out the story was authored by veteran freelance investigative journalist, Duncan Campbell.

gchq

An aerial view of GCHQ Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the UK Government Communications Headquarters

The fallout has sparked a war of words between journalists from the two papers on Twitter.

Greenwald released a statement from Snowden on his Guardian blog, a few hours after the Independent story broke.

He quotes Snowden as saying: "I have never spoken with, worked with, or provided any journalistic materials to the Independent.

"It appears that the UK government is now seeking to create an appearance that the Guardian and Washington Post's disclosures are harmful, and they are doing so by intentionally leaking harmful information to The Independent and attributing it to others.

"The UK government should explain the reasoning behind this decision to disclose information that, were it released by a private citizen, they would argue is a criminal act."

Oliver Wright, Whitehall editor of the Independent and one of the authors of the splash story, told HuffPost UK: “These allegations are completely untrue.

"The Independent was not leaked story by the government or duped into publishing it by anyone. The lead byline is that of the highly respected freelance journalist Duncan Campbell, who has a 25 year track record of investigating state surveillance.

"Mr Greenwald did not contact The Independent before publishing his blog and does not appear to have any evidence to back up his assertions.

"He is now asking that we provide information about our sources for the story which, as journalist himself, he should realise that we will not do.”

In its original story, the newspaper claimed fears the site could be discovered was one of the reasons the Government asked the Guardian to destroy hard drives containing a copy of the Snowden files.

"As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents," the paper claimed.

Greenwald has since updated his blog to reflect the Independent's denial, but said questions were still unanswered.

Greenwald said: "The question is: who provided them this document or the information in it? It clearly did not come from Snowden or any of the journalists with whom he has directly worked.

"The Independent provided no source information whatsoever for their rather significant disclosure of top secret information. Did they see any such documents, and if so, who, generally, provided it to them?

"One would think that they would not have published something like this without either seeing the documents or getting confirmation from someone who has: the class of people who qualify is very small, and includes, most prominently and obviously, the UK government itself."

Greenwald is the partner of David Miranda, the Brazilian man detained for nine hours by Heathrow security, under the Terrorism Act, as he changed planes between Berlin and Rio de Janeiro, suspected of carrying documents between Snowden and filmmaker Laura Poitras, and Greenwald.

The Foreign Office has refused to confirm or deny the accuracy of the reports.

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