This is why people think the news media is stupid: A spy agency intercepts a communication between diplomats and posts it on YouTube, and the news media acts as if it's an immaculate interception.*
"Someone" - clearly Russia, clearly on behalf of the Russian government - posted an intercepted conversation between U.S. officials on the Ukraine crisis on YouTube. (You can hear it here.) The idea was clearly to embarrass the U.S., and was part of the ham-fisted campaign to keep the Ukraine from aligning itself with Western Europe.
The conversation isn't anything you wouldn't expect, though the fact that one of the diplomats uses an un-diplomatic four-letter verb has given a few headline writers something to focus on. But the people writing about it seem utterly clueless about what governments and spy agencies do.
Here's AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee trying to make sense of it:
The practice of eavesdropping on the phone calls of other governments — even between allies — was the first diplomatic fallout from the publication of documents taken by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden. The documents he took and that were published in such newspapers as The Washington Post, the New York Times and The Guardian showed that the United States listened in to the phone calls of allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel was outraged, and part of the U.S. response was that such practice is common on both sides around the world.
"Fallout"? A result of Snowden???? What??? There was never any spying before Snowden defected to Russia????
The BBC can't decide if the conversation was hacked . . .
An apparently hacked phone conversation during which a senior US diplomat disparages the EU over the Ukraine crisis has been posted online.
or bugged . . .
An apparently bugged phone conversation in which a senior US diplomat disparages the EU over the Ukraine crisis has been posted online
. . . though at least they do hint that hey, maybe it was the Russians who were behind it. You can't really expect too much, since when listening to the conversation they can't correctly report what they heard.
The NY Times at least calls the conversation "intercepted," but the slant of its story toward Russia makes it seem like the reporter started with a Russian press release in hand.
In the end, it's just another reminder of how limited the sources of our information are, and how easily they are manipulated.
As for the "leaked" conversation itself - it will have zero effect on anything happening in the Ukraine. Although I am impressed anytime anyone uses the F word correctly.
* I like the idea of using YouTube as an instrument of government policy, but that's not exactly new.