Orders To Destroy Guardian Hard Drives Came Directly From PM David Cameron

from the and-now-the-nation-is-more-secure-than-ever! dept

More details continue to emerge on the UK government’s two recent anti-journalist actions. The Guardian reports that the order to (pointlessly) smash up Guardian hardware came from the top.

A spokesman for Clegg made clear that Heywood was acting on the authority of both the prime minister and his deputy. The spokesman said: “We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

“On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the deputy prime minister thought it was reasonable for the cabinet secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.

“The deputy prime minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.

“It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.”

So, let’s get this straight. The UK government “understands the concerns” about its recent actions, but apparently wouldn’t change a thing if it had to do it all over again.

The usual justification presents itself repeatedly: security uber alles.

The government forced (statement says “request” but we know how these things work) the Guardian to destroy hard drives containing content that was “a serious threat to national security” but still existed elsewhere. The government knew this and still forced the issue and then has the temerity to claim the pointless show of force was about “safeguarding security.”

Look at how many times that empty word shows up in this brief statement.

“…serious threat to national security…”

“…taking the necessary steps to safeguard security…”

“…a precautionary measure to protect lives and security…

None of this was “necessary” or “precautionary.” It did nothing. The data that might “threaten national security” is still out there. The government knows because its own defensive statement says the action “wouldn’t impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles.” It was pure muscle-flexing. This security-heavy statement pretty much says precisely that while expending many more words.

There’s also this:

The deputy prime minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action.

Awesome. The government would rather throw its weight around than pursue any sort of process that might have allowed the Guardian to dispute the order. How telling. How utterly and vilely telling. Of course the government felt this “approach” was “preferable.” Screw the adversarial process. We’ve got the nation’s “security” at stake. Everything else is secondary, including the public’s outdated ideals about a free press and a government willing to respect the rights of its citizens.

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Comments on “Orders To Destroy Guardian Hard Drives Came Directly From PM David Cameron”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I wonder if the Guardian could have resisted and pursued the legal route. It would be a very interesting case and a kind of thermometer of how bad censorship and lack of freedom is in the UK. I wonder if they thought about it.

Cameron and Obama should nuke the entirety of Afghanistan, Iran and whatever country they think that hosts terrorists to ensure “national security”, right? After all, it’s being used to justify all sorts of Human Rights violations, what’s a little genocide to protect our precious security? I’m sure they’d get the Nazi Seal of Approval.


mrong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m guessing it was just easier to let them break a single hard drive which in no way contained the only copy of whatever data they had. I mean I make pretty reliable backups and most of my data is pictures of my cat. So I imagine if I had some super secret documents I’d probably make a backup before going through customs.

But yes it would have been, though I don’t blame them.

Noah Callaway (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Alan Rusbridger (editor in chief of The Guardian) has said that a prolonged legal challenge would have impacted their reporting more than destroying the hard-drives. They chose to comply with the “slightly pointless task” because they had other copies and it wouldn’t really affect their reporting.


Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I wonder if the Guardian could have resisted and pursued the legal route. It would be a very interesting case and a kind of thermometer of how bad censorship and lack of freedom is in the UK. I wonder if they thought about it.

Yes, they said they thought about it, but realized going the legal route would have resulted in injunctions that blocked them from reporting — so doing the totally symbolic thing of destroying the hard drive, continuing to report from NY, and then talking about the destruction seemed more effective. Probably true.

HaveSomeIntegrity says:

Re: Re:

If the Gaurdian fought a legal battle on this, all of the data would need to be handed over to the courts to rule on. The government would LOVE this to be the case, so they could push back the dates of the ruling for years, meanwhile the Gaurdian wouldn’t be allowed to report further on any data surrended, even if it was simply a copy.

hkdharmon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In an interview, the editor of the paper said they preferred staying out of court because the court could have decided that all the data was secret and they would not be allowed to even use the copies. That is, the judge could have ordered him to not discuss the data, as the UK does not have a 1st Amendment like the US. He said he actually preferred having the hard drive destroyed as it did not keep him from reporting from elsewhere.

YouareaHypocrites says:

Re: Re:

The reason why the world keep justifying wars is because people like you.

Take a little break and analyze what would happen if the USA would used nuclear power.

1. If you used Nuke-clear power countries like China and Russia would automatically counter attack.

2. By nuking any country you not only destroy the land with radio active isotopes but the cloud would travel the globe (and guess what you would end up with terminal cancer and die 20 year later).

Melly says:

Re: Response to: Ninja on Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 7:59am

The Guardian editor actually addressed that-he said if they pursued it legally it would preclude them from continuing to publish the info. Since he knew there were backup, he authorized the destruction of the computers in London. That’s rather wise, at least IMHO. Now the whole world sees what Cameron is capable of.

Atkray (profile) says:

Cameron: That’s a nice little newspaper you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it.

Guardian: Umm ok?

Cameron: Fall on your… ah, I mean destroy your hard drives.

Guardian: But we are using them.

Cameron: I could get a court order but if I have to do that I’ll take everything, now be a good chap and destroy your hard drives.

Guardian: done.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“It is said that investigating police found amounts of sulphur and potassium nitrate which are some of the main ingredients needed to make gunpowder.”

Notice the word “amounts”..no specifics so it could be anything from kilograms to nanograms.
Hell the sulphur and potassium nitrate could have come from a poorly cleaned toilet based solely from that article.

Secondly you’ll notice how child-abuse gets lumped into the mix…well if they don’t believe us about terrorists anymore perhaps some paedophilia shoved in there will help?

Finally, its the Daily Mirror…which once ran a picture of an action man doll claiming it was a soldier that had been kidnapped whilst on duty in Iraq (so not the most believable source for anything).

Anonymous Coward says:

the UK appears to be doing similar to the US, creating a society that is afraid of it’s government. a society that doesn’t have a government that wants to help and promote the people and the country but one that revolves around fear. how can any country that is supposed to be based on democracy, on privacy and most importantly, on freedom, lose it’s way so much and so fast? forcing a reporting service like this is ridiculous! it shows it has things to hide, it shows that it has been up to no good and it shows it wants those things to remain out of the peoples’ knowledge. when the statement came out about anyone that was against the detaining of Miranda was condoning terrorism, it’s trying to justify the whole disgraceful debacle. i thought the UK had more balls than this and could stand on it’s own. seems i was wrong!

Dave (profile) says:

“On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the deputy prime minister thought it was reasonable for the cabinet secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.”

Did no one think to tell this idiot that the destruction of ONE set of records was absolutely pointless and would serve only to anger the people it was being done to? Something like “Awakening a sleeping Giant”, perhaps? As Clemons once said “It’s not wise to anger people who buy printers ink by the barrel.”

The “wrong hands”? Meaning someone who would publish it and show the world thet they are somewhat less than honest and forthright? Those “wrong hands”? I soitainly hope so – the sooner the better. IMHO, the only danger is in showing them to be the liars, cheats, and thieves they are. Personal security? Maybe. National security – not so much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You forget that politicians are old farts that have no idea about technology and are not in touch with the public at large, they then consult with over paid ‘experts’ who are about the same age and have the same education level, this all leads to some of the worst choices and most ridiculous actions. Oh and many laughs from us.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You’d be solving the wrong problem, there’s plenty of people much older than them who understand tech fine.

No, what should be put in place is ‘competency/knowledge tests’, where a politician/judge has to pass a mid-level knowledge/competency test on a subject before they are allowed to make any laws or rulings affecting it. Don’t know anything about computers? You’re forbidden from proposing, making suggestions, or voting on any laws that affect them until you learn.

Just like in any other job where you have to prove you know what you’re doing before they let you have at it, politicians/judges should have to prove they know the subject at hand before being allowed to write laws or make judgements affecting it.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

“He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish”. WOW! Really? How can you claim to protect the media’s freedom to publish when you order them to destroy documents that do NOT endanger national security of anyone.

Is the UK really concerned that Al Qaeda could reveal the existence of another top secret NSA spying program? The UK really needs to seriously think things through before they act on impulse.

The British government taking orders from their masters in the U.S. Government? lols Clegg and Cameron are both idiots.

ioconnor (profile) says:

What Would James Bond Have Done?

I just finished watching most of the old 60s James Bond movies on Netflix. I can’t help but think of what a modern day James Bond would do? Take retirement and live as far away from these politicians as possible? Would he change his citizenship?

Possibly he died and Spectre won. That would explain this and many other things…

Adam Bell (profile) says:

These fiascos are all predicated on fear of the unknown so pols try to instill fear in everyone so theirs will seem normal. In spite of the complete failure of any of this spying and fear mongering to have yielded a useful result, the pols are mostly afraid that they’ll get blamed for the next bombing and they don’t know what to do about it. Further, since they don’t understand any of the technology they’re afraid of that too. Somehow, in their uninformed minds, the Internet is directly responsible for all their problems.

Jan Bilek (profile) says:

security uber alles

Exactly, “security uber alles”. What is surprising to me is that security is used as some kind of absolute argument, like it’s some kind of absolute value that justifies anything. What about other values? Where is the line and why is there no discussion about it? When I read a story about TSA agents stripping down a dying old lady to make sure there is no bomb in her diaper I just think that I would rather risk dying in a terrorist attack than live in a society that needs do that to feel safe.

At what point does reasonable safety turns into cowardly society?

Me creative says:

For starters lets make one thing clear: the UK government is a company whose biggest ‘clients’ are the wealthy and nobility. This is what they mean when they refer to ‘national’. Any endeavours (such as meddling in other countries affairs, fracking/oil prospecting etc) are at their benefit mainly. We the people get a what we can, a trickle down from the main sponge. Let us stop presuming democracy exists and that we have true representation – we’re wasting time and grey cells. Imagine UK as a boat – we are the slaves rowing it but ultimately whatever our masters do abroad will affect us: we will all sink. I just wish they would stop dicking around with other boats. For a group of people to take certain militant actions is either an act of aggression or retaliation for aggression – terrorism generally falls into the latter. IMHO the Cold War never really ended (or WW2 for that matter), just that the battlefield and the weapons have changed (and the players). Speaking of which, anyone who remembers board games like Risk? Well imagine having a hybrid of that with Monopoly..

‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ and the ignorance/naivety of the masses will breed inactivity for years to come.

As for data: there are people prepared to die who report on moral discrepancies around the world. This scaremongering by the puppets Cameron et al is confusing at best.

?We build but to tear down. Most of our work and resource is squandered. Our onward march is marked by devastation. Everywhere there is an appalling loss of time, effort and life. A cheerless view, but true.? – Nikola Tesla

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