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Smashing Hard Drives: the Miranda - Snowden - Guardian Saga Continues
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Note: In my previous post called Smashing Hard Drives Editor Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian UK was quoted in his own paper saying that an unnamed "shadowy government group" came storming in and destroyed computers in the basement of the building. However, in an interview today with BBC Radio 4, he said Guardian "destroyed the material ourselves." In fact he said it to BBC, then says it twice in an interview posted on the Guardian website. Which version is true, yesterday's or today's? Are they victims of Government overreach or is this just Spin to get sympathy for Snowden?How much credibility can Guardian have going forward when they post hyperbole with incredible details one day, then roll it back the next day? And the reasons for holding onto this story for a month are rather lame - see Huff Post story below. Also Rusbridger also uses an incredibly tone-deaf phrase when he says that Snowden is "waving a red flag" at the world given the history of both China and Russia. #Derp
Guardian Editor Alan Rushbridger Interviewed by BBC Radio
Rusbridger told BBC Radio 4's The World at One on Tuesday that he agreed to the "slightly pointless" task of destroying the devices – which was overseen by two GCHQ officials at the Guardian's headquarters in London – because the newspaper is in possession of digital copies outside Britain.
. . . "It was a rather bizarre situation in which I explained to them that there were other copies and, as with WikiLeaks, we weren't working in London alone so destroying a copy in London seemed to me a slightly pointless task that didn't take account of the way that digital information works these days," said Rusbridger.
"Given that there were other copies and we could work out of America, which has better laws to protect journalists, I saw no reason not to destroy this material ourselves rather than hand it back to the government."
Rusbridger added that the alternative to destroying the computer hard drives would be "essentially surrendering control of that material" to the courts while fighting a lengthy legal case with only a small prospect of winning.
"It seemed to me fruitless to go through that exercise of fighting that case, which would have meant that we could not write about the Snowden material when there were other copies. So it's simply a matter of transferring our reporting to America," he told The World at One's Martha Kearney.
From Huffington Post
Rusbridger told The Huffington Post that he could not originally discuss the property destruction, which took place July 20 before two security experts from British spy agency GCHQ, for “operational reasons."
“Having been through this and not written about it on the day for operational reasons, I was sort of waiting for a moment when the government’s attitude to journalism –- when there was an issue that made this relevant,” Rusbridger said.
That moment came after Sunday's nine-hour airport detainment of David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist at the center of the NSA surveillance story.
“The fact that David Miranda had been detained under this slightly obscure schedule of the terrorism act seemed a useful moment to write about the background to the government’s attitude to this in general,” Rusbridger said.
Guardian Video about Smashed Computers, Miranda, and Snowden
From the Video ~ (My Transcript)
Rusbridger: The disturbing thing about the way they treated David Miranda was the use of this "Terror Act." And there's a little noticed section, schedule 7, which effectively suspends all the normal checks and balances which you would have if you were arrested in Heathrow car park. So in mainland Britain if you're carrying journalistic material you have checks and balances, you can go before a judge, you can argue about the public interest and public importance of that work. By doing it in this kind of stateless bit of Britain, a port or an airport transit lounge and calling it terror, they suspend all the normal rules. And I think that is why people have got disturbed by what happened on Sunday.
We've just seen Edward Snowden holed up in Moscow transit lounge, and I think there's a confusion in law as to where you are when you're in a transit lounge or whether ... whose laws are applied to you.
The British Government about 12-13 years ago actually created this "lawless bit of Britain" where anybody can be questioned for up to nine hours without access to a solicitor, and where all your belongings can be confiscated. And there's nothing you can do about it.
(Note: Guardian reported yesterday that David Miranda was offered a solicitor but refused.)
What is the Guardian's Position over David Miranda's Legal Action?
Rusbridger: The Guardian is supporting that action and we are supporting it in terms of financing it because David Miranda was acting on behalf of Glenn Greenwald at the time he was detained. So we support that action and I think it's a good thing to challenge that law and see why Terror and Journalism are being elided in this disturbing way.
David Miranda wasn't really "on assignment." He is Glenn Greenwald's partner. Glenn Greenwald's a very busy man and he assists Glenn in his journalistic work, and he was acting as a messenger or intermediary in a way that's difficult for Glenn at the moment because he's got a lot of work to be doing in Brazil, and I think he's also a bit nervous about traveling at the moment.
Was it wrong for the Guardian to pay a non-journalist to act as a courier this way, especially if he didn't know what he was carrying?
Rusbridger: Glenn Greenwald trusts David - he obviously does as his partner, and it was Glenn's decision and David's -- he's a grown-up adult. He wanted somebody he could trust and ... it was important that Glenn had somebody he could trust.
Why did you take the decision to destroy the files you had in your possession?
Rusbridger: We were faced effectively with an ultimatum from the British Government that if we didn't hand back the material or destroy it they would move to law. That would mean prior restraint, a concept that is anathema in America and in other parts of the world, in which the state can effectively prevent a news publisher from publishing. And I didn't want to get into that position. And I also explained to the UK officials that we were dealing with that there were other copies already in America and Brazil so they wouldn't be achieving anything.
But once it was obvious that they would be going to law, I would rather destroy the copy than hand it back to them, or allow courts to freeze our reporting.
Here's a Guardian MacBook Pro after dismemberment to the highest UK Government standards pic.twitter.com/TTY0llr46R
— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) August 20, 2013
Would handing over the material be seen as a betrayal of Edward Snowden?
Rusbridger: Well, I didn't think we had Snowden's consent to hand the material back, and I didn't want to help the UK authorities know what he had given us.
So, to me, I wasn't going to hand it back to the government and I was happy to destroy it because it was not going to inhibit our reporting. We would simply do it from America and not from London.
In what way did the Government put pressure on you?
Rusbridger: I think the Government were geniuinly torn and to begin with they were not heavy handed. They were reasonable conversations. It was a reasonable dialogue. All I can is that at some point something changed and that switched into a threat of legal action. I don't know what changed or why they changed. I imagine there were different conversations going on within the security apparatus, within Whitehall, within Downing Street, and at some point a message came to me that 'we'd had our fun' and that the time had now come to return the documents.
How do you think this whole episode will affect the way Journalists go about their work?
Rusbridger: I think anybody, any journalist, reading the Snowden revelations ought to realize that with the mass collection of millions and millions of emails, details of phone calls, texts, the business of reporting securely and having confidential sources is becoming difficult. And I think our further revelations will underline that. I mean, obviously this is a much bigger subject than just journalism. And it affects every citizen. But journalists, I think, should be aware of the difficulties they're going to face in the future because everybody in 2013 leaves a really big digital trail which is very easily accessed.
I hope what this will do is lead people back to read the stories that so upset them about the British state. There's been a lot of reporting about what GCHQ and the NSA are up to. And I think what Snowden is trying to draw attention to is the degree in which we are on a road to total surveillance. We're not there yet, but in these documents there is the state ambition to scoop up everything and store it all and to master the internet.
This is a language that's being used internally and Snowden essentially risked his freedom to wave a big red flag and say look, this is the infrastructure they're building.
And I think in America and in Europe (England?), countries (sp) which have recent history of what that counter-surveillance means, this is being taken very very seriously, and has started a big debate. And I think that the danger in the UK is -- we're a kind of blessed country, we haven't had that kind of recent history. The danger is we'd be a little bit complacent about what's being revealed.