07/11/2013 08:53 GMT | Updated 07/11/2013 11:52 GMT

Glenn Greenwald V Evan Davis In Angry Today Programme Interview About Spying

Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald

Sparks flew when the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme pitted two heavyweights up against each other, as host Evan Davis grilled Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald.

Davis challenged Greenwald over his spying disclosures, which critics claim have damaged national security.

Britain's newspapers have been bitterly divided over the snooping revelations from renegade computer specialist Edward Snowden, with the Daily Mail branding the Guardian "the paper that hates Britain's enemies".


And on Thursday morning, it did not go down well when Davis asked about reports that jihadist websites were urging caution to users, not to give out information like phone numbers online.

"What is your source for that?" Greenwald replied.

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"Government officials go around whispering into the media, injecting whatever rumours they want, and then journalists who lecture other journalists about being responsible start repeating it on air.

"Tell me which specific websites."

When Davis could not name the specific website, he continued the attack: "You have no idea whether it's true or what they actually said.

"That's called fearmongering."

He went on to explain that "responsible journalism" entails not just "repeating baseless rumour".

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Davis cited the study that had made the claims, and asked about an article Greenwald had written which he said compared the Boston marathon bombing with US foreign policy.

"First of all I think you have completely distorted the article that I have written," came the reply, saying that Americans reacted to terror attacks in the same way as victims of drone attacks did.

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Asked why people should trust him on what should or should not be disclosed, Greenwald said: "It isn't me making these decisions about which documents should be published, I work with these things called, like, newspapers."

Expertise from lawyers and national security experts goes into any decision on publication, he went on.

The fallout made its way to Twitter, with Davis happy to retweet this barb:

greenwald davis

The row came as Britain's spy chiefs prepared for a rare grilling by MPs over the NSA and GCHQ spying furore, sparked by Greenwald's reports.