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article imageOp-Ed: Guardian editor defends paper before UK House committee

By Ken Hanly     Dec 4, 2013 in Politics
Yesterday( Dec. 3) in the UK, Alan Rubridger editor of the Guardian newspaper said that he had published only one per cent of all the material given to him by whistle-blower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Testifying before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, Rubridger denied that material he published put lives in danger and accused British authorities of trying to intimidate him from publishing news that was in the public interest. He also warned that national security was being used to stifle debate. The revelations in the Guardian in a series of stories written by Glenn Greenwald sparked a global debate on NSA spying as well as by British spy agencies. Altogether the Snowden files numbered about 58,000.
Recently when M15, M16 , and GCHQ officials gave evidence before the the intelligence and security committee, they were provided with the list of questions they would be asked in advance. Rubridger was not so fortunate or privileged.
Government and intelligence officials have been angered by the leaks and claim that they helped terrorists and compromised British security. The leaks also reveal the extent of surveillance and that some of it could be illegal and certainly raises questions about violation of citizens' rights to privacy. Somehow, it never seems to dawn on the UK authorities that they might be doing something wrong. All three UK spy chiefs said in October that Al-Qaeda and other terror groups were "rubbing their hands in glee" after the Snowden leaks.
Several Conservative politicians claim that the Guardian should be prosecuted for breach of terrorism laws. Rusbridger defended stories using the Snowden material in the Guardian as well as the Washington Post. He said that these stories prompted useful debate about the scale of intelligence activities and the limits of regulatory laws. Rusbridger said; "There is no doubt in my mind that newspapers have done something that oversight has failed to do".
Even the Director of National Security in the US, unlike UK officials, reluctantly admitted this positive role of the Snowden leaks: Director of National Intelligence and confessed liar to Congress, James Clapper, has now admitted that the debate over what the intelligence community has been doing, brought on by Ed Snowden's leaks, "needed to happen."
"I think it's clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen," Clapper told a defense and intelligence contractor trade group. "If there's a good side to this, maybe that's it."
In the UK hearing there were predictable and often outrageous attacks on Rusbridger. Michael Ellis, a Conservative asked if the Guardian would have passed on information to the Nazis in World War II. He also wanted to know if Rusbridger loved his country. To which Rusbridger replied: "I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question. But yes we are patriots, and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and the nature of a free press.''
Rusbridger said that the pressure on the Guardian would be inconceivable in the US where journalists were protected by the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech. However, US authorities seem no more friendly to Snowden than the UK authorities and equally consider him a criminal and have attempted to have him arrested and sent back to the US for trial.
Rusbridger noted that the UK top civil servant and some politicians have been calling for the Guardian to be prosecuted and a security agency had threatened to confiscate hard drives containing Snowden files. in what can only be called understatement Rusbridger said: "I feel that some of this activity has been designed to intimidate the Guardian, We're not going to be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly,''
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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