Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog


  December
4, 2013
Crisis: Rusbridger * 3 + Snowden * 2
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Guardian will not be intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan
       Rusbridger tells MPs

  2. Alan Rusbridger and the home affairs select committee:
       the key exchanges

  3. Alan Rusbridger batted away MPs' bluster without
       raising a sweat

  4. We should look at the content of the Snowden files – not
       the messenger

  5. Snowden fallout throws in stark relief US and UK notions
       of liberty

  6. Personal
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This is another crisis file, as has been nearly always the case since June 10, when I first read about Edward Snowden.

As it happens, it is today the day after the Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger had to appear before a parliamentary committee, and the five files I found are all Guardian files.

Also, they may be a little more contemplative than is usual.

1. Guardian will not be intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan Rusbridger tells MPs

To start with, an article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the "staggering" scale of Britain's and America's secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said.

Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian "would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly".

He told MPs that disclosures from the files had generated a global debate about the powers of state agencies, and the weaknesses of the laws and oversight regimes they worked within.

"In terms of the broader debate, I can't think of a story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in courts and amongst NGOs," he said.

Yes, indeed - although it seems as if England is the country that mostly did not debate the issues involved, as will be seen from other articles below.

There also is this:

Rusbridger said the Guardian had been put under the kind of pressure to stop publishing stories that would have been inconceivable in other countries.

"They include prior restraint, they include a senior Whitehall official coming to see me to say: 'There has been enough debate now'. They include asking for the destruction of our disks. They include MPs calling for the police to prosecute the editor. So there are things that are inconceivable in the US.

"I feel that some of this activity has been designed to intimidate the Guardian."

Yes, indeed. And the fairly amazing thing is that these were the responses, rather than concern for tens of millions of totally innocent people who are spied upon, as if the fact that it can be done constitutes a permission for it being done.

And there is this:

In one curious exchange, the committee chair, Keith Vaz, asked Rusbridger if he loved his country.

"I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question," replied Rusbridger. "But, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.

"One of the things I love about this country is that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think and we have some privacy, and those are the concerns which need to be balanced against national security, which no one is underestimating. I can speak for the entire Guardian staff who live in this country that they want to be secure too."

I do note that the last paragraph is - in fact - quite conditional: There still is, to a considerable extent, "that freedom to write, and report, and to think and we have some privacy" - but how long this will remain to be the case is anybody's guess.

There is considerably more in the article.

2.
Alan Rusbridger and the home affairs select committee: the key exchanges

Next, in an article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor in the Guardian:

There are more points in the article, but I select four. The first is this:

The LibDem MP said: "In Germany there is huge interest in this subject, in the US there is huge interest ... why do you think there has been so little interest here ... what we have seen is attacks on the Guardian rather than parliament trying to work out what the rules ought to be. Why do you think that is?"

Rusbridger said : "Shooting the messenger is the oldest diversionary trick in the book. My experience is that when you speak to people and explain the issues, they are deeply interested. I can't think of any story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in the courts amongst NGOs.

Yes, indeed. Even so, it seems also to be the case that it still is under-discussed, if that is a word: It seems only the main papers that are read by intellectuals - or at least those with further education - pay much attention.

To show part of the mood of questioning by some MPs, here is the second point:

Choosing a historical comparison, the Conservative MP asked: "If you had known about the Enigma code in World War Two, would you have transmitted that information to the Nazis?"

Rusbridger: "That is a well-worn red herring, if you don't mind me saying so, Mr Ellis. I think most journalists can make a distinction between the kind of things you are talking about. I think we can make those distinctions."

Yes. Let's say this was a singularly stupid and offensive question.

There is also this third point on security:

MPs asked how the Guardian had sent documents abroad. Rusbridger insisted this had only done so with care, and that documents had been subjected to military-grade encryption in case they were intercepted – but that hadn't happened.

He then compared the focus on the Guardian with the complete lack of scrutiny about how Snowden had managed to copy 58,000 secret documents – and why 850,000 other analysts had access to the same material.

This is a good question, especially about the 850,000 further analysts who had access, although it will not be answered in England.

And there is this, as my fourth and last point:

Rusbridger: "I think there are countries, and they're not generally democracies, where the press are not free to write about these things, and where the security services do tell editors what to write, and where politicians do censor newspapers. That's not the country that we live in, in Britain, that's not the country that America is and it's one of the things I love about this country – is that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think."

My question is again: How long will this freedom last? I do not really know, but I can say this: If Ms Feinstein's motion gets accepted in the US, it will soon be over.

3. Alan Rusbridger batted away MPs' bluster without raising a sweat 

Next, an article by Roy Greenslade - a British professor of journalism - in the Guardian:

I only quote the beginning:

At the heart of the home affairs select committee's questioning of the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger over the NSA leaks was an age-old dispute about the nature of press freedom.

The MPs were split between those who understood both the theory and practice of a free press and those who, even if they accepted the theory, could not stomach the practice.

But the latter group got nowhere in their pursuit of Rusbridger because he, in company with any decent freedom-loving journalist, had no problem in justifying his trade.

What was remarkable is that the whole thing happened at all. With the British press having obtained the right to its freedom from political control in the 17th century, here was parliament calling a newspaper to account for exercising that freedom.

Yes, quite so - and I am not at all convinced "that freedom" will persist.

4.  We should look at the content of the Snowden files – not the messenger

Next, an article by MP Julian Huppert in the Guardian:

This starts as follows:

When I think of terrorists, newspaper editors aren't the first people who spring to mind. Yet today the editor of the Guardian was hauled before the Commons home affairs select committee – of which I am a member – and accused of breaching terrorist law.

Frankly, any such allegation highlights how ludicrously broad these laws are. But even then it is a ludicrous charge. Thanks to the work of Alan Rusbridger's team, key matters of public interest have been raised; and although progress has been slow, it has forced the three UK spy chiefs to appear before an open committee for the first time; a well-attended Westminster Hall debate on our intelligence and security services has taken place; and the government is beginning to think.

The Guardian has achieved what politicians and those responsible for oversight failed to do – spark a debate, and for that we should be grateful.

Yes, indeed - although I am skeptical about the British government's thinking.

5. Snowden fallout throws in stark relief US and UK notions of liberty

As the last article, one by Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian:

This starts as follows, with a relevant question that has not been answered well:

Usually it's the United States that declares itself the exceptional nation, but this time Britain's the odd one out. While Europe, the US and much of the rest of the world have been shocked, shaken and otherwise gripped by the unfolding story of the NSA files, Britain has remained steadfastly unstirred.

Yes - although I should add that in Holland I haven't seen much of a debate, although some has been said, and also that it seem to be mostly the papers and weeklies that write for higher educated persons that pay attention.

In any case, there is the obvious question:

What explains this contrast? An obvious answer is that Americans take privacy seriously. It's implicitly enshrined in the bill of rights, protected by the fourth amendment, which insists, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated …"

I don't know: In the US the questions about the NSA also seem not to fire many people, perhaps because most of the media do not seriously discuss them.

In any case, here is the conclusion of Freedland's article:

Without an individual victim, a human face, the NSA/GCHQ scandal has barely felt like a scandal at all. In the land of Magna Carta, it seems liberty can be eroded with scarcely a murmur.

Yes indeed.

6. Personal

Since I live in Amsterdam, my bicycle got stolen yesterday, and since I live in Holland, I should be under no illusions about the police: The complaint won't even be dealt with, since the Dutch police has very much to do in helping illegal drugsdealers and protecting the politicians who help these dealers. These tasks have vast priority over citizen's bikes.

I merely make the point here, and only remark that "Yes, I have the money to buy another one", but at this rate - three months for a fairly good but not new nor brilliant bike, until it gets stolen - cycling will cost close to two euros a day, merely for having the bike.

And this has been the case for at least 35 years now, I mean the enormous amounts of stolen bikes and the total non-existence of the Dutch police, for almost anything an ordinary citizen may want or ask that touches on the maintenance of his or her rights.

Anyway... it will be probably only next year that I can buy another bike.
---------------------------------
Note

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



       home - index - summaries - mail