UK Parliament Questions Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s Patriotism In Anti-Terrorism Hearing

UK Parliament questions Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism in anti-terrorism hearing

Photograph of the debating chamber of the British House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, London, looking north-east. | Author: UK Parliament | Used under the Parliamentary copyright | Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:House_of_Commons.jpg
Photograph of the debating chamber of the British House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, London, looking north-east. | Author: UK Parliament | Used under the Parliamentary copyright | Source: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:House_of_Commons.jpg

On December 3, 2013 the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger had to testify before the House of Commons of the British Parliament  in a hearing on anti-terrorism.

One of the rather stunning questions asked by Chair Keith Vaz was whether Rusbridger “love[d] this country [the UK].”

Rusbridger replied:

We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. 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, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things [emphasis mine].

With us or against us – the excluded middle

Behind the questioning of Rusbridger’s “patriotism” because he, as a journalist, does not agree with the government’s national security narrative, lies the logical fallacy of the excluded middle. Either you agree with total surveillance of the world’s citizens in the name of national security or the terrorists win.

The possibility that there might be excesses in the surveillance architectures of the so-called Global War on Terrorism (there are!) , that much of what is being done in this area has probably more to do with gaining illegitimate advantages through economic espionage, or that there might be approaches that actually help fighting terrorism without eroding civil liberties does not occur in this line of thinking.

An uninformed citizenry cannot correct its government

The elephant in the room is this: Had it not been for Snowden, we the people of the world would never have known about the extent of surveillance against innocent citizens. Democracies rely on an adversarial press to keep the government in check.

Since the summer of 2013, the Guardian has been releasing articles based on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, exposing the indiscriminate mass surveillance by the American NSA, the British GCHQ, and other intelligence agencies of the world’s citizens.

Read, see, and hear more:

[Audio and article] “Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger appears before MPs – live coverage.” (Paul Owen, Guardian, 2013/12/03) – Summary of the hearing and an audio recording can be found here.

Highlights from Guardian editor’s Parliament hearing.” (Kristen Hare, Poynter.org, 2013/12/03) – Many more questions to and answers from Alan Rusbridger.

MPs question Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism over Edward Snowden leaks.” (Ian Burrell, The Independent, 2013/12/03)

The progressive talk show The Young Turks reports on the hearing here:

 

 

Glenn Greenwald Interview On BBC HARDtalk

Glenn Greenwald Interview on BBC HARDtalk

On November 28, 2013, journalist Glenn Greenwald, known for reporting on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden, gave an interview to BBC HARDtalk, a format known for tough questioning that does not accept standard talking points.

The interview takes place at a time when the UK government, partly under pressure from the U.S., tries to attack the Guardian newspaper, i.e. shoot the messenger, for exposing the NSA’s and GCHQ’s blanket mass surveillance of the world’s citizens.

Read more:

Britain targets Guardian newspaper over intelligence leaks related to Edward Snowden.” (Washington Post, 2013/11/29)

NSA Spies On Pornography Consumption To Discredit Islamists

NSA Spies On Pornography Consumption To Discredit Islamists

Telecommunications equipment in one corner of a small data center. Contributed and licensed under the GFDL by the photographer, Gregory Maxwell. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Datacenter-telecom.jpg
Telecommunications equipment in one corner of a small data center. Contributed and licensed under the GFDL by the photographer, Gregory Maxwell. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Datacenter-telecom.jpg

According to a report by the Huffington Post, the Snowden leaks reveal that the NSA attempts to gather data about the pornography consumption habits of radical Islamists. This information is then used as kompromat in order to discredit these actors inside their respective communities.

According to the article, this is seen as a rather benign way of derailing radicalization efforts.

Still, it makes one wonder whether Islamic extremists are the only target of this strategy. My guess is that it is not. I speculate that the whole point of the NSA’s mass surveillance is to gather compromising materials on everybody, just in case.

And the article mentions a historical precedent in this regard, coming from another intelligence agency: the FBI, especially under J. Edgar Hoover. It is noteworthy that by no means were only actual threats to society at the receiving end of this kind of surveillance, but also legitimate emancipatory projects, such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

While the NSA’s blanket mass surveillance is a scandal in itself, the potential for repressive action against legitimate democratic forces in society should alert everybody.

While I do not have the slightest bit of sympathy for the religious radicalizers that are discussed in the leaked document, the trajectory of a panoptic state that potentially knows every intimate detail of its citizens’ private lives is undeniably anti-democratic in spirit.

Read more:

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’.” (Adriana Usero and Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post, 2013/11/26)