Monday, August 19, 2013

UK destroys The Guardian's "Snowden" hard drives

Just as we are absorbing yesterday's news that Glenn Greenwald's domestic partner was detained at London's Heathrow Airport for 9 hours under Schedule 7 of the UK's Terrorism Act while they asked him all about Greenwald and whistleblower Edward Snowden ?!?! ... comes this column today from the Guardian's Editor-in-Chief, Alan Rusbridge :
David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face

In it he describes how two months of visits from "senior government officials" demanding he hand over the Edward Snowden material culminated in an ultimatum a month ago :  
"..hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more." 
And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two Government Communications Headquarters security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement ..."
 "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro."
Extraordinary. This is tantamount to the Inquisition taking away Galileo's pencil.
Thumb drives and crowd sourcing be damned! The truth will only revolve around whatever the surveillance state says it is.
Rusbridger : 
"It felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London."
The smashing of the Guardian's hard drives and the detention of Greenwald's partner under UK terrorism laws is not about containment or security or catching members of alQaida, is it?  It's about laying down fear of the state into any reporter or publisher who would embarrass them. 
"One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government's detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks."
So the UK gave the US a heads up on Miranda?
Yeah, well, good luck with your whole confiscating the pencils thing.

Related : Did Canada spy on journos at the Toronto G8/20 summit?

1am Update : Most of the over 1600 comments under the Guardian editor's article are both outraged at the gov's actions and grateful for the editor's courage, but hundreds of them challenge the Guardian on two questions to which Rusbridger occasionally responds :

1) Why didn't the Guardian publish news of this hard drive smashing immediately?
Rusbridger: "we had our reasons. can't go into everything."

and 2)Why didn't the Guardian force the gov to take them to court rather than capitulate, thereby driving the gov's actions into the open?
Rusbridger : "UK would have gone to law (as threatened). From that moment the court would be in charge of the Snowden material. The penalty for destroying it or refusing to hand it over could be extremely punitive. I mean, unlimited fines - not jail ."

As to why Rusbridger buried his lede 9 paragraphs into the article : "sorry, couldn't help that"
the destruction of the data? : "er, well, not quite. We destroyed something... of which we had had least two other copies."

And most interestingly, why didn't the gov confiscate the drives to inspect them instead of destroying them?
Rusbridger : "They never touched the hard drives, so, no they got nothing from them. I don't know what they know..."


West End Bob said...

Excellent post, M'Lady! Sent it to the "peeps" in The Excited States.

It appears the guv'mints of the world are showing their hands, and they ain't pretty.

Sure hope the sheeple start payin' attention soon before it's too late . . . .

Dana said...

It's already too late, Bob.

It's a pretty good time to be in the last third of a life all things considered.

I would wish the next generation well but I don't get the sense they have a clue what's at stake and I don't think they would understand what on earth I was talking about.

Gawd but we're a stupid fucking species.

West End Bob said...

Gawd but we're a stupid fucking species.

Ain't that the truth, Dana ? ? ? ?

thwap said...

They're not even pretending anymore. It's straight-out intimidation and thuggery.

Anonymous said...

Not surprising really, A year ago the U.S. Justice Department subpoenaed two months worth of records for 20 telephone lines, including AP bureaus, as well as personal phone lines belonging to AP journalists and the journalists were not told by their employers that they were being spied on.

Interesting that the Guardian editor's column about the hard drive smashing doesn't mention it in the headline and he doesn't introduce it until 9 paragraphs in.
(So good for you for finding it!)

Alison said...

Anon : See update to post. Editor Rusbridger responds to readers' questions.

Boris said...

Yep, thuggery, but also desperation. The "allied" security apparatus set up since 9/11 is so bloated and uncontrollable that it can't help overstepping itself, and also spring random leaks. There are millions of people with all sorts of access to secrets. Most are obedient for one reason or another, but it only takes a few to question what they're doing and then act. The internet is infinite and makes it so easy to copy/paste/send/CC/BCC etc. The result is frustration by the people in charge because they can no longer reliably control the release of information or the actions of their own intelligence services. So they do stupid things like detain the partner of a journalist in an airport, which further confirms their inadequacy and creates a whole new spiral of problems.

Anonymous said...

"This is tantamount to the Inquisition taking away Galileo's pencil."

Heh. Exactly.

Blog Archive