Attacks on the Guardian and press intimidation


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I can't say I was aware of what went on with this Guardian reporter but if what is being reported here is accurate it does seem troubling. Just more to be vigilant about.

The high cost of the attacks on the Guardian & escalating press intimidation

It’s been an infuriating few days for anyone who values the freedom of the press, as U.K. authorities resorted to the tactics of tyrants and thugs to squelch reporting that they simply don’t like.

In acts clearly calibrated for optimal intimidation, they have detained the partner of a journalist, threatened to shut down a reporting operation that has prompted a critical public debate over NSA spying and forced the destruction of a major publication’s hard drives.

It’s breathtaking in its audacity — and if it comes to light that the U.S. government took any part in organizing, encouraging or supporting these acts, it demands immediate Congressional investigations.

As it is, the escalating assaults on investigative journalism demand stronger protections for journalists and their sources. Otherwise this society will forsake its right to know what happens in the back rooms of a government purportedly there to serve democratic interests.

On Sunday morning, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, who broke most of the recent blockbuster stories about U.S. government surveillance efforts, was detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours under the UK’s broad terror laws. Authorities interrogated David Miranda without a lawyer, and confiscated his laptop, phone, memory sticks and other devices.

He was returning from Berlin, where he meet with filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has worked with Greenwald on the series of stories based on leaks from former security contractor Edward Snowden. Miranda is not a journalist per se, but has aided Greenwald in his reporting.

Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act grants authorities wide latitude to stop, search and question travelers through Britain’s airports and ports to ascertain any link to terrorism, with none of the usual checks and balances of the law. But it’s now only too clear that Miranda’s detention had nothing to do with terrorism, since they spent those nine long hours questioning him about the NSA reporting of Greenwald and the Guardian.

In his own story later that day, Greenwald stressed how unusual the circumstances of Miranda’s interrogation were, noting that “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders,” “most examinations, over 97 percent, last under an hour,” and ”only .06 percent of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.”

Using laws designed to ferret out suspected terrorists to detain a person aiding acts of journalism is a cut-and-dried abuse of government power, an act of intimidation that may well be illegal — and certainly should be.

“The detainment of Miranda was an outrageous attack on press freedom designed to send a message to Greenwald, Poitras and other journalists covering national security,” declared the media advocacy group Free Press.

It has launched a campaign calling on governments to halt the intimidation of journalists and their families. Appropriately, Miranda is threatening to take legal action.

An equally shocking set of revelations arrived on Monday, as Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger published a story disclosing that British officials have demanded the newspaper return or destroy all the materials leaked by Snowden. He wrote:

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK.

Rusbridger replied that modern media have the option of working in nations with the strongest press protections, adding that most of the reporting on the NSA stories was already happening out of New York. But he added:

The man was unmoved. 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 just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents.

Libertarians, privacy advocates and the press reacted to the news with shock.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute tweeted:

Seriously, say this out loud. A Western gov’t just raided a newspaper’s offices. To destroy their hard drives. WHAT THE ACTUAL F—?

The truly worrisome thing is that these are merely the latest attacks in the widening war on investigative journalism here and abroad.

As Free Press notes, the Justice Department has been caught spying on reporters at the Associated Press and named a Fox News reporter a “co-conspirator” in a leak inquiry.

A reporter at the New York Times and another at Fox News have been recently threatened with jail time for refusing to disclose their sources.

U.S. border agents have detained and questioned Poitras more than 40 times.

And while the Obama Administration has used strategic leaks to build support for the president and his policies, it has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information than all past presidencies combined.

It’s trite but true that a free society requires a free press that can shine a light on the actions and abuses of government, through the use of confidential whistleblowers and other means.

But veteran investigative reporters say the current climate has cast a chill across the journalistic landscape. Once reliable sources now refuse to step forward for fear of winding up the next Bradley Manning, the Wikileaks leaker who spent nine months in solitary confinement and faces decades in prison.

Here’s the high cost that American citizens pay for these policies: We’ll know less about what governments, businesses, lobbyists and other institutions are doing behind closed doors. The next Watergate, Pentagon Papers, lies of Big Tobacco, use of dangerously defenseless military vehicles, and gunning down of Reuters journalists by American soldiers will be far more difficult to bring into the public light.

The people of a democratic nation won’t get the chance to debate whether the NSA strikes the proper balance between civil liberties and security with its next PRISM-like program, relinquishing a decision that affects millions upon millions of Americans to a handful of government officials operating out of sight.

In short: Unless we demand stronger protections for journalists and their sources, we forfeit a victory to idiocy, incompetence, abuse and crime.

“I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like ‘when,’” Rusbridger wrote.
Kind of a bummer to see a topic of this magnitude drop to the bottom of the page.

Kudos to Cawacko for publishing this.