"They who can give up essential
liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety, deserve neither liberty
-- Benjamin Franklin 
| "All governments lie and nothing
say should be believed."
1. Guardian will not be
intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan
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
5. Snowden fallout throws in
stark relief US and UK notions
is another crisis file, as has been nearly always the case since June
10, when I first read about Edward Snowden.
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.
they may be a little more contemplative than is usual.
will not be intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan
Rusbridger tells MPs
starts as follows:
start with, an article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor in the
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.
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.
There also is this:
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.
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
"I feel that some of this
activity has been designed to intimidate the Guardian."
And there is this:
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.
In one curious exchange,
the committee chair, Keith Vaz, asked Rusbridger if he loved his
"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."
There is considerably more in the article.
2. Alan Rusbridger and the home affairs select committee:
the key exchanges
in an article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor in the Guardian:
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
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:
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
Rusbridger batted away MPs' bluster without raising a sweat
an article by Roy Greenslade - a British professor of journalism - in
I only quote the beginning:
Yes, quite so - and I am not
at all convinced "that freedom" will persist.
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
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.
We should look at the content of the
Snowden files – not
Next, an article by MP
Julian Huppert in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed - although I am
skeptical about the British government's thinking.
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.
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
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.
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
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