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No.10 owns the Guardian: ‘You’ve had your fun, now return the documents’

21st Century Wire says…

So much for press freedom.

We are now told David Cameron’s government at No.10 Downing Street said to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger: “You’ve had your fun, now it’s time to return the documents”.

Only after threat of a ‘major government lawsuit,’ Rusbridger then allowed special branch police, along with two ‘supervisors’ from GCHQ, into the basement of the Guardian’s head offices in North London where they proceeded to destroy hard drives and computers. Welcome to the Big Society.

Is this merely ‘matador’ journalism on the part of the powerful Guardian media group?

Earlier this week, 21st Century Wire was highly critical of the Guardian’s decision to cave in to government intimidation, and saw Rusbridger’s decision as a dangerous precedent in the history of press and media in the UK.

Quite disingenuously, Rusbriger claims, “I was happy to destroy it, because it wasn’t going to inhibit our reporting”. The point here is Rusbridger didn’t “destroy it” as he claims (or did he?). Much worse in fact, he allowed government operatives to enter the premises and destroy it. Clearly a move in his, or the paper’s interest, but not necessarily in the public’s interest.

By openly allowing the government to physically force its way into a media organisation, it seems that the Guardian has shot an own-goal in terms of the epic match between repressive regimes and the free press in the 21st century. Rusbridger says he made his decision because it meant his own paper ‘could continue reporting on this story’. Perhaps he was simply unable to see the bigger picture.

Even the window washers, waiters and taxi drivers know that when it comes to the double standards of domestic spying, the government has not a moral or legal leg to stand on, and a legal battle would means that gov’t middle managers and operatives being forced to lie and perjure themselves in court (as US operatives did during Watergate) in order to cover for higher-ups. The public support would be overwhelmingly in favour of the paper in any court case. So how come the Guardian doesn’t know this?

Whereas a blogger, or individual publisher, would likely be shut down and squashed under the weight of a legal onslaught by the state, this is a battle the Guardian – who already has the best lawyers money could buy, could actually win. By not going the distance with the government in, or out of court, we believe that the Guardian has just squandered a valuable opportunity to win a much-needed victory against a secretive state which has drifted beyond the pale in its drive to “master the internet”, and thus, spy, track and control society digitally.

What would have happened back in 1972 if the Washington Post’s then Executive Editor Ben Bradlee had caved into similar threats and intimidation over the Watergate scandal reporting his paper was doing at the time. It’s not a case of history looking unfavourably upon such a decision – it risked history not even mentioning it, because a totalitarian police state would have erased its existence in history altogether.

The difference between the days of Bradlee and the days of Rusbridger couldn’t be more stark. The Post’s editor recalled the 26-month scandal as the “most intense moment of all our lives”, but celebrated his own role as a source of the “best-kept secrets” in Washington journalism at the time. He gave nothing away and future generation have thanked him.

Maybe the Guardian realised, as Rusbridger said, “Once it was obvious they were going to law, I would rather destroy the copy than hand it back to them”, that their government has written its own laws to protect illegal or unconstitutional activities, and therefore is above the law of the land – a battle which the paper could never win in a court system plastered over with executive orders and national security statutes. If that’s the case, then it should be incumbant on the Guardian to begin campaigning from the rooftops about this decrepid state of affairs – publish and be damned as they say.

Oh, how far we’ve drifted from the days of Woodward and Berstein in this new century.

RT reports…

This week, the British newspaper which spilled the beans on the NSA and was in turn forced to destroy materials provided by Edward Snowden, came clean on why it gave in to government pressure. The Guardian editor said London threatened legal action to stop the paper from reporting the sensitive leaks altogether, so they agreed to destroy the original data, which had nevertheless already been copied. RT’s Tesa Arcilla reports.


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