Shooting the messenger

by Daphne Liddle

SCOTLAND Yard last Tuesday confirmed that it is investigating whether the Guardian newspaper committed terrorist offences by publishing some of the leaked information supplied by former American National Security Agency (NSA) worker Edward Snowden.

This follows complaints by representatives of MI5, MI6, the GCHQ government electronic communications listening station when addressing the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC — appointed by David Cameron) last month — and some Tory MPs during a hearing by the parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee last week.

The documents leaked by Snowden — around 58,000 of them — reveal that the NSA has been routinely spying on millions of electronic communications by ordinary American people and other nationalities and is creating a massive database of information on millions of people throughout the world. The documents also revealed that GCHQ has collaborated in this.

This includes the private communications of other governments, many of the supposedly allies of the United States.

And there have been many very angry reactions by these governments, including Germany, Brazil, Spain and others. Many are now seeking to reform their communication systems to avoid using internet companies like Microsoft, Google and so on, whose databases have been plundered wholesale by the NSA.

Significantly the British government has not protested at all because it is party to the unauthorised mass snooping.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger last week, speaking to the ISC, vehemently defended his paper’s decision to publish a carefully chosen selection of the papers to make the world’s public aware that they are being spied on and refuted the idea that anything published could in any way have helped any terrorists.

He claimed that it was the security services that were out of control and exceeded their remit and that a worldwide public debate was urgently needed on what levels of surveillance are necessary or desirable.

Rusbridger countered the allegations that publishing the revelations aided terrorism, saying: “The problem with the accusations is they tend to be very vague and not rooted in specific stories.” He pointed to a series of senior officials in Britain and the US who had described the Guardian’s behaviour as incredibly responsible, insisting the Guardian was not a rogue newspaper, but acting in concert with other responsible newspapers to publish stories.

Tory MP Michael Ellis responded, saying: “It isn’t only about what you’ve published, it’s about what you’ve communicated,” — referring to the sharing of the leaked files with the New York Times.

Earlier this year police at Heathrow stopped and detained David Miranda for nine hours. He is the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who was instrumental in getting the leaked documents from Snowden to the Guardian, and who has since resigned and gone to live in Brazil.

Security service officers confiscated Miranda’s computer, mobile phone, and other devices, some of which allegedly held material related to Snowden’s disclosures. Later they visited the Guardian offices and ordered the destruction of some computer hard-drives, even though the information on them had already been shared with others, including the New York Times.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chaired the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing, asked the MI5 chief, Andrew Parker, to come and justify comments about the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden’s leaks from the NSA that the Guardian has endangered national security by publishing the leaks.

The select committee voted against allowing the spy chief to speak to them in private, since he has already spoken in public to the ISC.

This battle between the Guardian and the security services is likely to continue — between those who believe in sustaining a semblance of bourgeois democracy and those who want to use modern technology to impose a totalitarian state on us to protect the one per cent of insatiably greedy super capitalists and landowners from the 99 per cent of us who are now being impoverished and oppressed for their benefit.

But we can thank Edward Snowden the journalists of the Guardian and other papers for letting the world know the truth and dispelling illusions.

We in the working class must not be naïve; what the ruling class can get away with it will get away with and ultimately the only way to stop it is to overthrow the whole system and replace it with socialism.