“There’s No Need To Write Any More.”

Do you like living in a free society with some degree of democracy, political accountability and press freedom? Elements within the U.S. and British governments (and doubtless others) want to take that away. This just in from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger:

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.”

Also, this:

Britain was facing intense pressure on Monday to give a detailed explanation of the decision to detain the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald after the White House confirmed that it was given a “heads-up” before David Miranda was taken into custody for nine hours at Heathrow. As the UK’s anti-terror legislation watchdog called for a radical overhaul of the laws that allowed police to confiscate Miranda’s electronic equipment, the US distanced itself from the action by saying that British authorities took the decision to detain him.

More here and here and here. This is like stuff communist China would do. The times are getting worse, people. Thank God we’ve got people like Edward Snowden to blow the whistle on governments that break laws, reporters like Glenn Greenwald to write about them and newspapers like the Guardian to publish it all. You can’t fight back without information.

(Oh! And the U.S. wants to put another whistleblower who released details about political and military crimes in jail for 60 years. And criminals like Dick Cheney and George Bush, who spearheaded an illegal invasion that wasted trillions and murdered hundreds of thousands, enjoy not insignificant public support and sleep on the softest sheets. They’ll never answer for their crimes.)

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

37 thoughts on ““There’s No Need To Write Any More.””

  1. Starting to realize that the mob tends toward fascist behaviour; people are essentially fascist. Give them leeway to act ignorant, selfish, racist and rude and most do. Education doesn’t even help anymore. I guess that’s what wars are for.

  2. Hypothetical: A “whistleblower” releases all material related to US nuclear program. Locations, security procedures, everything, to a foreign journalist who reports on it including highly classified details that had never before been reported. Should the US apply pressure on the foreign government to reclaim the stolen data? Is the “whistleblower” a hero or a traitor? Why?

    Also, as the editor of a newspaper you should likely avoid saying things like “Thank God we’ve got people like Edward Snowden to blow the whistle on governments that break laws”. The US didn’t break any laws. That you and other leftists don’t like the laws that exist neither invalidates them nor negates their existence. Should such laws exist? Well that’s an interesting debate, this isn’t. Snowden knew full well what he was doing and what the consequences of his actions would be, if he didn’t he wouldn’t have high tailed it for a non-extradition country before allowing The Guardian to publish their story.

  3. @Jason Correct me if I’m wrong, because, although I am aware of the Snowden whistleblowing situation, I do not know the details of everything he released. My understanding is that Snowden’s information did not release any details of US operations, forces, locations or any information that could specifically compromise US security. He released information on the techniques, etc. that the US government was using to spy on its own citizens. To me, that is a completely different situation to what you described. If anyone released that type of information to the world, any country would rightfully call that person a traitor and prosecute them accordingly.

    It appears to me that Snowden has pointed out the potentially illegal acts of his employer, which is pretty much, in my opinion, the definition of whistleblower and as such, he deserves protection from prosecution not persecution.

  4. We now live in the 21st century, a country’s methods of conducting electronic intelligence gathering are the new nuclear secrets.

    If his goal is to expose wrongdoing and have the system changed, why run? He’s intelligent enough to know that he’d be a cause célèbre and championed by the left leaning folk. Guaranteed a limitless defense fund and represented by an army of the absolute best lawyers in the world. What good is he doing cowering in Russia? Did he make America any more secure with his actions?

  5. Go jump in a lake, Jason. Your comments are buffoonish, and I don’t appreciate being told what I should and should not write by someone who supports detaining journalists.

  6. I think of all the people in the world, the one in the best position to know how Edward Snowden would be treated once he’s caught up in the U.S. security apparatus and what his chances for a fair trial are is Edward Snowden.

    Also, “We now live in the 21st century, a country’s methods of conducting electronic intelligence gathering are the new nuclear secrets,” is just silly. You can assert this but that doesn’t make it true.

    You must be able to see that leaking information that could embarrass some government officials or potentially maybe put some personnel in a tight spot is categorically different from leaking information that could directly lead to the deaths of millions of innocent civilians. The difference in scale is enormous and makes these acts completely different things. It’s infantile to argue that they’re equivalent.

  7. Interesting thought, Jason. However, I’m pretty sure that electronic intelligence gathering (EIG) in this situation is not exactly equivalent.

    He didn’t release info on the EIG details of foreign surveillance only domestic. I also think that those techniques are NOT that unknown to any country that the US would deem necessary to spy on. I suspect that, having inside info on this particular community, he understood quite rightly that no amount of “cause celebre” would keep him out of federal detention. I’m also pretty sure that running to Russia didn’t help him, but, what’cha gonna do?

    I think that the Guantanamo Bay facility is all the proof one needs to show how much influence the “left leaning folk” and “absolute best lawyers in the world” have on the intentions of the US military complex.

  8. Oh, and Stephen….three fingers of single malt scotch first thing in the morning…every day. Works wonders on stress levels

  9. Stephen: Stop acting like the cops arrested some local beat reporter on BS charges for printing an unflattering story. The Editor of The Guardian is certainly intelligent enough to know there’d be some blow back from printing classified information stolen from the US government. Also, you’ve presented zero evidence here of actions upon a journalist by anyone but the Brits.

    The goal of intelligence is to prevent attacks from happening. People who plan attacks use electronics to do so. It’s not particularly helpful to the intelligence gathering community to have every lefty newspaper editor in the world devoting page after page, day after day to the minutiae of how the government knows that on Sunday you called your Aunt Sally and the call lasted 4 minutes. That’s it. That’s all they know. Not if Aunt Sally answered the phone or Uncle Tom did. Not what you talked about. That’s the big trampling of personal liberty that’s turning the US into a Fascist Dictatorship. They don’t give a shit that you called your Aunt Sally. What they care about is the guy that called someone who is a known financier of terrorists 6 times in the last 8 weeks, who then called 3 other people repeatedly after making those calls. If those are the people that get caught by that sort of intelligence gathering then I’m fine with the government knowing I called my Aunt Sally.

  10. Riandras: Am I happy that I live in a world where a place like Guantanamo exists? Not really, but the people currently still being held there didn’t exactly get there accidentally.

  11. Alrighty then, we’ve moved on from the whistleblower/traitor argument to brand new territory. Awesome!

    In principle, I agree with you, Jason. I am not a fan of terrorist activities being carried out with impunity on any country’s soil. These guys should be found and dealt with WITHIN THE CURRENT LAWS OF THE COUNTRY THEY RESIDE IN. The problem arises when the tactics used to apprehend them circumvent or actively disregard (break) those laws, which is, I believe, the problem Mr. Snowden revealed.

    I think the security forces within the US have the option to approach the government or judicial system or whatever to get permission to “break” the law, but I also understand that those hoops take time to jump through and in many cases the authorities don’t have that kind of time to spend. I get that. Then they need to change their system to allow them to do what they think is necessary to protect themselves. This, unfortunately, would also have to be revealed to the public at some point and therein lies the problem. The public wants protection AND they want privacy. I really don’t think they can have both.

    The NSA broke the law. Literally thousands of times. Snowden revealed that. Now, he’s in Russia. Something is wrong with that picture and I don’t think its Snowden. Well, maybe the Russia part.

  12. Timing is everything. I didn’t see your reply to me before I submitted. Moving on…

    No, they didn’t. And perhaps they all deserve to be incarcerated. But you know where this is headed…

    We may never know whether or not they deserve to be there, because they are beyond the reach of “justice”. No trials, no evidence presented for all (or any) to see. No reasons given other than the ones the military come up with.

    Believe me, I HATE it when criminals get off on technicalities. I see it as a travesty of justice. I would rather see the person who illegally obtained truthful evidence be prosecuted and have the evidence accepted than have it thrown out, just because it was illegally obtained. Truth is Truth, however it is obtained. But the proper rules HAVE to be in place and they HAVE to be followed otherwise its a dictatorship and those don’t usually end well.

  13. The subtext to the stories cited in the post is that doing the right thing should never have any negative consequences. It doesn’t take a deep reading of history to disabuse oneself of that naive notion. Broken record, me, but Daniel Ellsberg copied and leaked what became known as the Pentagon Papers after a careful consideration of what could happen to him, and he was prepared to take whatever came. His admiration for the resisters of the war in Viet Nam, who were ready and willing to go to prison, to undergo dishonorable discharge from the armed forces (a huge disadvantage in seeking employment), and generally to suffer great disruption of their lives for the sake of principle, would not let him do any less than they. He did not run, though he knew that the US government was going to throw the book at him.
    Ralph Nader, back in his heyday, knew that he would be spied on, vilified, and subjected to harassment and honey traps by the industries he called to account, but he carried on, and without whingeing. Oskar Schindler did not have a fairy-tale life after his heroic saving of Jews during WW 2; he was broken, under suspicion, dogged by failure, and reduced to penury. And on and on and on.
    Running, and furthermore running from one corrupt government to seek asylum with another just as corrupt, devalues what would otherwise be a righteous act.

  14. Robin Hood fled into Sherwood Forest so that he could fight a guerilla war against Prince John.

    You can put stoic surrender up on a pedestal all you want but there’s something to be said for retreating into the wilderness so you can fight another day.

  15. Jason bringing it. Right or wrong, or different shades of both, his reward for starting a debate is being told to go jump in a lake (insult circa 1987)

  16. Paul: it’s interesting that you would choose as an example of your preferred heroism a character whose identity and actions fall within the realm of myth. Walt Disney strikes again.

    Bronymous: insults are the last resort of those who either have no leg to stand on, or who are too darned lazy to engage.

  17. I’m just intrigued by people who prefer pretend heroes to real ones.

    There is no defence for gratuitous rudeness.

  18. Oh my goodness, Barb! Mythical heroes will ALWAYS trump real ones….real ones are, well…real. They can be flawed, broken or even downright distasteful. Mythical ones are practically perfect in every way.

  19. Also…I know I read this somewhere. It may have been a book of fiction, therefore not something actually attributable to a living being, but the sentiment, I think, is accurate.

    In China, you can often see two people arguing violently in the street over some misdeed, perceived or real. They will shout and yell, with red faces and strained necks but never will you see them actually come to blows. The reason…the first one to throw a punch admits that he can no longer intellectually defend his position and must resort to violence to win.

    May or may not be true, but I like the message.

  20. Barb, I was wondering if you could clarify your comment a little for me. Are you of the opinion that Mark Felt’s leak of information relating to the Watergate Scandal was “devalued” by his escape of consequences through remaining anonymous for over 30 years?

  21. The Prairie Bulldog strikes again! Steve cultivates a gruffly anti-guff persona on this blog. He’s Huxley to Dechene’s Darwin. Barb’s regular chastisement continues to have no effect. In this case, Jason set the tone early by using “leftist” in a clearly pejorative manner.

    Based on Jason’s first comment, he appears to either believe that leftists are in favor of all leaks, regardless of consequence, or that the Snowden (or Manning leaks) are analogous to his hypothetical. I don’t think it’s entirely unfair to characterize either belief as “buffoonish”. In answer to his question, my response (though obviously I don’t speak for all leftists) is “depends”. I’m willing to provide a more detailed answer, but only if Jason gives a detailed answer to his own question, with only one tiny change: replace the US with Iran.

  22. Thanks for that, Brad, but you should have chosen clarity over brevity and not characterized my comparison as the inspiration for Mr. Ellsberg’s article :-). All joking aside, it’s a good article, written by a modest and honourable man who is moved to respond to what he believes is an unfair comparison, and to give Mr. Snowden the benefit of the doubt. He describes very well the differences between the United States of the Viet Nam war era and that of today. Some of those differences could be expanded upon, but I’ll pick one: the nature of the Viet Nam conflict and the opposition to that war.

    The war in Viet Nam was conducted in that country, with some slopover into Laos and Cambodia. North Viet Nam had two objectives: the removal of foreign troops from South Viet Nam, and the reunification of the country under the Communist government out of Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh City. The Viet Cong did not seek to destroy America: they wanted America and its allies off their soil and out of their affairs. America’s objective was to contain Communism, first by advising and supporting the armed forces of South Viet Nam and then, when that proved for various reasons less than successful, by engaging directly in combat with the forces of the North. At no time was the war taken to American soil itself; that lack of a direct threat to the homeland was an important factor in the opposition to the war. Even the Tet offensive of 1968, bold and shocking as it was, was not a direct attack on America per se, simply on its occupying army. The North Vietnamese had a formidable military force, fighting on its own turf; confident it would win, it confined its use of terrorism to the South Vietnamese, and engaged American combatants as equals in the field.

    “Why are we in Viet Nam?” was the question asked by opponents of America’s involvement. It’s a faraway country, no real threat to us; it’s driven the French out, so why should we jump in; this is really a war of national liberation; the South Vietnamese government we’re supporting is undemocratic and rife with corruption, its army unmotivated; we’re expending more and more lives and money apparently to little effect; the war is a distraction from problems at home, such as racism and poverty; this is more about our “honour” and saving our inept generals’ butts than it is about defeating Communism; this war is killing and maiming a disproportionate number of our poor youth; our armed forces are being exposed to a hotbed of illicit drugs; we aren’t fighting to win; we can’t tell the good guys from the bad over there; we don’t understand how to fight a guerrilla war; we’ve been led down the garden path for years by Republicans and Democrats alike; the war is dividing our country almost as badly as the Civil War did – all were sound reasons for opposition, and as the war went on with no end in sight, more and more people across the spectrum became war resisters. Critical mass was forming, and it was critical mass that helped Daniel Ellsberg continue to do his work while awaiting trial. The government-sanctioned illegal wiretaps and the break-ins at his therapist’s office, not to mention Watergate, eventually freed him from his charges.

    As Mr. Ellsberg has said, it’s a different situation now. I agree. The threat is directly on American soil; the enemy could be anybody; and there’s more tolerance in America now for allowing the authorities to do what they have to do to win this very different kind of war. That is sad, but perhaps it was inevitable. I still can’t agree that Mr. Snowden’s flight was the right thing to do; his efforts are concentrated not on revelations but on asylum, so he’s as good as in custody right now, and of all places to go, Russia?

  23. Brad: it took me some time to write in response to your Ellsberg link, so in re: Mark Felt, aka Deep Throat, there’s good reason to believe that he leaked, not on moral grounds, but out of pique because Patrick Gray got the job that he thought he should have had. Now let me throw a question back to you: do you think that Felt’s supervision of the notorious COINTELPRO operation devalued his leaked information on Watergate?

  24. Brad: Yes, I used “leftist” pejoratively as that’s how I feel. The leftist agenda of demanding that everything that government ever does be open and transparent is ridiculous and in no way conducive to providing security, it does the exact opposite. However, if someone has those beliefs and takes being called a leftist as an insult that says more about them than it does me. Personally whenever someone calls me a Right Wing Nut Job I take it as a compliment.

    My feelings on security don’t change based on my like or dislike for the regimes in charge. If an Iranian intelligence officer leaked top secret information I would feel he was a traitor to his country as well. i wouldn’t be unhappy about it or anything, but ya, he’d still be a traitor.

  25. “Editor tells local man to jump in lake, sparks most interesting debate on his site in months, film at 11” :)

  26. Oh, just noticed the Bradley Manning reference in the original article, Stephen. He leaked 700,000 documents. Were they all detailing war crimes?

  27. It all comes down to your valuation of civil liberties vs. security. Personally, I could care less if the govt tracks my cell if that means they’re also tracking the cells of people who want to blow other people up. Others may not feel that way, and that’s their right – both sides have valid points.

    It should come down to govts setting the legal parameters and following them. Not sure exactly what happened in this case as I haven’t read up on it extensively, but apparently they’ve been overstepping their boundaries. This is something that should be pointed out and corrected, but airing it this way also is not 100% correct either (not sure what is,but that’s the perk of being an anonymous commenter), dangerous info could be put out there – its all good praising them as daring rebels, but what if some of that info led to soldiers at war dying because of sensitive info being leaked? Both sides are right and wrong to some degree, but not admitting that loses credibility for both sides.

  28. An argument can also be made that our growing obsession as a society with security at the expense of civil liberties has become a default position to compensate for our lack of interest in making much of an effort to address long-standing geo-political problems that exist in many areas of the world and, closer to home, gross disparities between haves and have-nots in our own communities.

    If you’re part of the military-industrial complex it’s good for business — like the private prison companies in the U.S. who lobby politicians to continue the War on Drugs so they can have a steady stream of “criminals” to incarcerate in deplorable conditions for heinous acts like possession of a joint. If you’re truly interested in justice and human well-being, and long-term solutions to problems of crime and terrorism in our world,… not so much.

  29. Great points. On a related note it’s funny that we’re so concerned about privacy and our civil liberties, but more and more we’re consciously putting information out there through social media that has resulted in less privacy for the individual than ever before. Through Facebook, instagram, Twitter, linkedin etc. pretty sure you can find a lot of people’s (especially people who have no awareness or regard for privacy settings) contact info, pictures, biography, contacts, personal opinions with a few quick searches. But this is digressing from the current debate, bro.

  30. I’ve slept on it, and thought about it, and I just want everyone to know that Jason should definitely go jump in a lake.

  31. He may be “socialist”, but that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong in this discussion.

Comments are closed.