British ‘Agents’ Raid Guardian Newspaper

British ‘Agents’ Raid Guardian Newspaper in Misguided Attempt to Stop Further Snowden Revelations

Posted by on August 20, 2013                                       /   Comments Off

    Category: Cover-ups   Tags: ,

hammer on hard drivehammer on hard drive

sage:  Following on from yesterday’s detention of the partner of the journalist who broke the NSA revelations, this sounds like the ‘authorities” are far more concerned with trying to keep their sordid secrets ‘secret’ from the public, not ‘Chinese spies’.

By Raphael Satter, AP – August 20, 2013

http://tinyurl.com/medwt9h

British agents oversaw the destruction of an unspecified number of the Guardian newspaper’s hard drives in an apparent bid to keep the fruit of Edward Snowden’s leaks safe from Chinese spies, the paper’s editor said Monday.

Alan Rusbridger made the claim in an opinion piece published on the Guardian’s website, saying that a pair of staffers from British eavesdropping agency GCHQ monitored the process in what he called “one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history.”

He said the hard drives were torn apart in the basement of the Guardian’s north London office with “two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction … just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents.”

It was not clear exactly when the incident occurred. Rusbridger gave a vague timeline, suggesting that it happened within the past month or so. Guardian spokesman Gennady Kolker declined to comment further, and messages left with GCHQ after working hours were not immediately returned. An operator at the intelligence agency’s switchboard said no one was available until Tuesday.

Rusbridger said the destruction was the culmination of weeks of pressure on the Guardian by British officials.

Shortly after his paper began publishing reports based on Snowden’s leaks, he said he was contacted by “a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister” who demanded the return or destruction of Snowden’s material. There followed a series of increasingly tough meetings in which officials demanded the Guardian comply. Eventually, he said, officials threatened legal action, and that’s when the editor allowed British agents into his basement.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron declined comment.

Rusbridger said the destruction wouldn’t curb the Guardian’s reporting, suggesting that copies of the Snowden files were held elsewhere and that reporting would continue outside the U.K. He added that British police’s recent detention of David Miranda — the partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald — and the seizure of the former’s laptop, phones, and other devices would similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

Snowden’s leaks — published in the Guardian, The Washington Post, and other publications — have exposed the details of the United States’ global surveillance apparatus, sparking an international debate over the limits of American spying. And as lawmakers debate reforms and civil liberties group go to court, journalists have been wrestling with the implications of mass surveillance.

Rusbridger said Monday that the spies were growing so powerful “it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources.”

Here’s Stephen’s post of Alan Risbridger’s full editorial:

Alan-RusbridgerAlan-RusbridgerDavid Miranda, Schedule 7 and the Danger that All Reporters Now Face

As the events in a Heathrow transit lounge – and the Guardian offices – have shown, the threat to journalism is real and growing

By Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian – August 19, 2013

In a private viewing cinema in Soho last week I caught myself letting fly with a four-letter expletive at Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times. It was a confusing moment. The man who was pretending to be me – thanking Keller for “not giving a shit” – used to be Malcolm Tucker, a foul-mouthed Scottish spin doctor who will soon be a 1,000-year-old time lord. And Keller will correct me, but I don’t remember ever swearing at him. I do remember saying something to the effect of “we have the thumb drive, you have the first amendment”.

The fictional moment occurs at the beginning of the DreamWorks film about WikiLeaks, The Fifth Estate, due for release next month. Peter Capaldi is, I can report, a very plausible Guardian editor.

This real-life exchange with Keller happened just after we took possession of the first tranche of WikiLeaks documents in 2010. I strongly suspected that our ability to research and publish anything to do with this trove of secret material would be severely constrained in the UK. America, for all its own problems with media laws and whistleblowers, at least has press freedom enshrined in a written constitution. It is also, I hope, unthinkable that any US government would attempt prior restraint against a news organisation planning to publish material that informed an important public debate, however troublesome or embarrassing.

On Sunday morning David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, was detained as he was passing through Heathrow airport on his way back to Rio de Janeiro, where the couple live. Greenwald is the reporter who has broken most of the stories about state surveillance based on the leaks from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald’s work has undoubtedly been troublesome and embarrassing for western governments. But, as the debate in America and Europe has shown, there is considerable public interest in what his stories have revealed about the right balance between security, civil liberties, freedom of speech and privacy. He has raised acutely disturbing questions about the oversight of intelligence; about the use of closed courts; about the cosy and secret relationship between government and vast corporations; and about the extent to which millions of citizens now routinely have their communications intercepted, collected, analysed and stored.

In this work he is regularly helped by David Miranda. Miranda is not a journalist, but he still plays a valuable role in helping his partner do his journalistic work. Greenwald has his plate full reading and analysing the Snowden material, writing, and handling media and social media requests from around the world. He can certainly use this back-up. That work is immensely complicated by the certainty that it would be highly unadvisable for Greenwald (or any other journalist) to regard any electronic means of communication as safe. The Guardian’s work on the Snowden story has involved many individuals taking a huge number of flights in order to have face-to-face meetings. Not good for the environment, but increasingly the only way to operate. Soon we will be back to pen and paper.

Miranda was held for nine hours under schedule 7 of the UK’s terror laws, which give enormous discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection with “terror”, as ordinarily understood. Suspects have no right to legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to seven days. Under this measure – uniquely crafted for ports and airport transit areas – there are none of the checks and balances that apply once someone is in Britain proper. There is no need to arrest or charge anyone and there is no protection for journalists or their material. A transit lounge in Heathrow is a dangerous place to be.

Miranda’s professional status – much hand-wringing about whether or not he’s a proper “journalist” – is largely irrelevant in these circumstances. Increasingly, the question about who deserves protection should be less “is this a journalist?” than “is the publication of this material in the public interest?”

The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: 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.”

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. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ 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. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but 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 seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But 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”.

We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.

Meanwhile,there’s also this spying-related story from New Zealand:

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

New Zealand PM Walks Out of Press Conference Amid Spy Bill Grilling

From RT.com – August 19, 2013

http://rt.com/news/new-zealand-pm-gcsb-surveillance-685/

Tensions are high in New Zealand over a new bill that would allow the country’s GCSB agency to conduct warrantless NSA-style spying on citizens. Prime Minister John Key, who was grilled on the bill at a presser, cut the meeting short and left early.

The country’s top official on Monday was showered with questions on the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) amendment bill, answering some of them, and effortlessly evading others. However, after less than 14 minutes of the presser, Key appeared to have lost patience with the journalists and walked off, leaving a question on privacy completely unanswered.

“Prime Minister, numerous legal jurors have informed us publicly that they disagree with you wholeheartedly, that you are taking broad powers, which would allow you to invade privacy…and you are saying that all those people are wrong…” a journalist said to Key.

“Correct,” the Prime Minister said before immediately interrupting the rest of the question by asking, “Is this a question buddy?”

He then indicated that the question contains the answer, thanked everyone, and left.

The New Zealand Law Society has published a submission opposing the GCSB amendment bill, in which it summarized citizens’ concerns and provided a detailed analysis of the absence of clear justification for several changes in the law.

The document particularly highlighted that “The Bill empowers the GCSB to spy on New Zealand citizens and residents, and to provide intelligence product to other government agencies in respect of those persons, in a way not previously contemplated,” saying that this is “inconsistent with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) and with privacy interests recognized by New Zealand law.”

During the media conference, Key also refused to answer a query regarding whether the GCSB would protect the country’s citizens – businesses or individuals – from warrantless spying by the Five-Eyes partners and their contractors, such as the NSA. The question was referring to a part in the new bill which would allow intelligence sharing with foreign agencies.

“We have the responsibility to protect the New Zealanders if we choose to…against credible threats,” Key responded, adding that he could only “admire” the questioner’s view on such an issue being a threat. However, he refused to share his own view on the subject.

More than 1,000 outraged New Zealanders on Monday packed Auckland’s Town Hall for a meeting to protest against the controversial GCSB bill. Speakers included opposition leaders, investigative journalists, and famous internet figures.

MEGA founder Kim Dotcom was among those openly expressing his opinion that the government is blatantly lying to the people.

“We’re being fooled into thinking this GCSB bill here is to protect us,” he said. “We have a prime minister in New Zealand who thinks he can just push this through with one vote against the will of New Zealanders,” Dotcom added.

Prime Minister Key recently made a remark in which he stated that the issue of quotas for snapper – a local fish variety – is far more popular with the New Zealanders than the GCSB bill.

“We got 124 submissions on the GCSB bill, and 30,000 on snapper,” Key said, adding that “people do not raise GCSB” at the public meetings he attends daily.

Following the statement, an angry group of anti-surveillance protesters brandished an effigy of a snapper with a human face that bore the Prime Minister’s features and left it at the doorstep of Key’s house. They also shouted slogans against homeland spying through megaphones.

Key, who previously stressed that citizens have the right to protest, responded by saying the demonstrators “definitely” crossed a line by staging the action.

Thousands of New Zealanders have been taking part in protests against the GCSB amendment, and many online activists have stepped up their efforts to raise the people’s awareness of the controversial bill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZRBv3hD7zA&feature=player_embedded

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