Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Says Anti-Terror Laws Should Be Used To Stop Investigative Journalism

from the wtf? dept

Plenty of people in the UK — including some of the most powerful — have expressed significant concerns about the decision to detain David Miranda and take all of his electronics under an “anti-terrorism law,” when (at worse) he could be called a journalism messenger for transporting key documents between reporters. However, it appears that the former boss of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Blair, doesn’t just support the detainment of Miranda, but is arguing that anti-terror laws should be expanded to cover investigative journalism, like the kind that Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras have been doing.

He suggested new laws were needed to cover those who obtained secret material without proper authority.

Of course, pretty much any journalist on the national security beat has ended up with “secret material without proper authority” at one point or another. It’s part of being an investigative journalist and uncovering the secrets that government officials like to keep secret. It’s also known as holding the government accountable — and apparently Lord Blair thinks that holding the government accountable in such a manner should be a crime.

Lord Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme: “The state has to have secrets – that’s how it operates against terrorists.

“It has to have the right to preserve those secrets and we have to have a law that covers a situation when somebody, for all sorts of wonderfully principled reasons, wishes to disclose those secrets.

“It just is something that is extremely dangerous for individual citizens to [make] those secrets available to the terrorists.”

Almost no one is arguing that the government should never have secrets. The problem is that they’re using those “secrets” to abuse their power, trample individual rights, and spy on everyone. There’s a pretty big spectrum between arguing that such unchecked power needs to be held accountable and “the government can’t have any secrets.”

And then, of course, there’s the insanity that unveiling government misconduct is automatically being seen as making “secrets available to the terrorists.” That’s ridiculous. Especially when you look and realize that really nothing that’s been released actually helps terrorists. All it’s really done is show how the government abuses their surveillance powers.

To argue, in response, that the answer is criminalizing investigative reporting is nothing short of insane.

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Comments on “Former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Says Anti-Terror Laws Should Be Used To Stop Investigative Journalism”

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

Hollywood is missing out on a huge market. Movies such as V for Vendetta should be recut and released from the status quo’s perspective.

In other words, there should be a Tyrant’s Cut where Adam Sutler wins and single-handedly kills V. A recut of the Matrix trilogy where Neo is killed by Agent Smith. And maybe a recut of Eastwood’s The Gauntlet where Clint and Sondra Locke are stopped and killed by the police.

Why is Hollywood ignoring this vast untapped market?

out_of_the_blue says:

Stop calling nasty little tyrants by medieval titles!

You serfs have lost most of the battle just by implying that they’re fit to rule because born inherently superior. Words mean things, and just that they regard “mister” as an insult is a good hook for Populist sentiment. I’m telling ya, The Rich are not reasonable and will not limit their quest for total power until actually pulled down. At least start “insulting” them by skipping titles. — Same goes for Congresscritters. — You guys are trying to fight a war without even calling the enemy names!

Anonymous Coward says:

"Almost no one..."

Well then, I guess I’m “almost no one” because not only should the State have no secrets, it should not exist.

The State is an immoral institution as it is based on the expropriation of property (i.e., theft/taxation) and holds a so called “legal” monopoly on the initiation & use of force/aggression/violence.

I prefer consensual relationships and voluntary exchange.

That One Guy (profile) says:

How about a compromise?

The government is allowed to keep classified stuff to itself, but in return it has to stop considering stuff that’s no more than embarrassing or that shows lawbreaking by the government worthy of classification, and only classify information that has real world consequences that could threaten life and limb(‘career and pension’ don’t count) if it got out, something that can be challenged by an independent, apolitical review board with actual powers to hold the government agencies to task.

The problem with the government saying that something being classified automatically means it’s important to national security or safety that it be kept secret, is that these days they classify everything that might make them look bad, or that they don’t want public, with the information that actually deserves to be classified a definite minority.

This has led the entire concept of ‘classified = vitally important to be kept secret’ to be considered more a joke than anything, so it’s hardly surprising that a journalist wouldn’t care too much about how classified a document is supposed to be, and only focus on what it shows to be happening.

And finally, another historical quote that seems rather fitting for this situation:

To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I actually think the opposite. “Pure” democracy often ends in disaster even in small scales. On a nation-scale, such an attempt would be utterly suicidal.

It is rather relevant, because a society is democratic if its populace is self-governed. The US is not self-governed, we have chosen individuals to govern us. Just because the Romans chose their emperor doesn’t make them a democracy either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

A state being a republic has no bearing on whether it is democratic or not, it means little more than that state does not have a monarch (which itself might or might not be an executive type position).
You get into tricksy territory when you claim a democratic state, as both countries are, is not true democracy. The two states are representative democracies which satisfies most people’s definition of a democracy.
Could they be better, more representative democracies? Absolutely and undoubtedly. Some for me of proportional representation in both and a sane parliamentary system in the US would be much better. But that something can be improved does not negate everything that it is and both states are democracies, their chosen wielders of executive power are all elected in mostly fair contests although the US has admittedly hiccuped on this for at least one notable position within the last fifteen years. The US is also prone to rather arbitrarily deprive individuals of their voting rights but as yet in insufficient numbers to radically change outcomes.

It seems that those most responsible in democracies are increasingly unwilling to accept any part of their responsibility for the messes their nations are in, but in the case of the UK and the US the primary responsibility for the actions of their governments acting in the name of the people still lies with the electorate. Only when sufficient of those electorates acknowledge and accept that will there be any hope of improvement.

Kal Zekdor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

A state can be considered democratic if every citizen has a full and equal part in every governing decision. I don’t know enough about UK government to comment more than anecdotally, but the US sure doesn’t work that way.

Ostensibly, we choose representatives to act in government on our behalf. In reality, however, there are no systems in place that guarantee (guarantee, not incentivize, as in re-election) that elected officials accurately reflect their constituents.

Anyone who seriously thinks that the US is truly a democratic state (or, indeed, ever was), needs to have a long hard think about the state of our government. We’re closer to a plutocracy than a democracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Under his tenure as police commissioner armed police stalked and abruptly shot an innocent man seven times in the head, suspected of being a terrorist. After the shooting he told the Home Office that the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) “be given no access to the scene at the present time”.

This is how he operates against terrorists and the secrets he wants prevent from leaking.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Terrorism and derivatives are words that are devoid of meaning right now. They will mean what the megalomaniacs in power think they should.

Maybe the solution would be to limit the amount of time anybody may remain in the Government to 2 or 3 terms then they could never run again? Same with open companies. Since they are in the market they should have oversight boards that would be refreshed regularly with individuals from the public that would be given the power to conduct such oversight? Food for thought.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Classification Control Project

Purpose: Reduce classified material (secrets).

Scope: All classified material, all agencies, all branches, military, other(s) ad infinitum, no exception via any privilege, rule, or law.

Highest whatever you want to call it classified (I am voting for SUPER_HOT_PENULTIMATE_UMBRA_EYES_ONLY_WITH_SHADES_OF_GRAY_CHARTREUSE_AND_PUCE). Has a ten year release date from first classification. Limited to a total of 1500 items at any given time. Requires pinky swear.

Second Highest whatever you want to call it classified. Has a 5 year release date from first classification. Limited to a total of 10,000 items at any given time.

Third Highest whatever you want to call it classified. Has a 2 year release date from first classification. Limited to a total of 15,000 items at any given time.

Fourth Highest whatever you want to call it classified. Has a 1 year release date from first classification. Limited to a total of 20,000 items at any given time.

Fifth Highest whatever you want to call it classified. Has a 30 day release date from first classification. Limited to a total of 5,000 items at any given time.

There shall never be more than 51,500 classified items at any time. Each item will be given an identifying token (for identification purposes only, not subject matter related) by which it will be tracked through the system, including the public identification of the classification requester. If you need a new highest, you have to reduce classifications of 4 things below, one of them becoming immediately public. The transaction will be immediately reported (not the information, but that the change took place with reference to the token number) to the general public, see below.

All other government documents (including anything more than 10 years old), reports, emails, investigations, declassified documents, etc. must be posted to the correct, universally accessible website within 48 hours of creation/receipt/release as in the case of a report or other collaborative object; example: where as the emails of that group are released ongoing within 48 hours of creation, where it will remain in appropriately indexed date and subject related archives, fully cross references, in perpetuity, the project itself may wait for normal distributions, like draft, final draft, working release candidate, final, within 48 hours of said distribution.

Failure to post any document in a timely manner shall be compensated with a fine of 10% of all involved individual(s) earnings for six months on first offense, 20% of earnings for 1 year on second offense, and 100% of earnings forever on third offense.

Participation in any cover-up or conspiracy to hide items that are in fact secret, but not included in the audit are treasonable offenses with a penalty of death, no appeal, no pardon, no exemption.

Have NSA use their new computing power to track all of the above in minute detail and report to their bosses, the People of the USA, oh, and the rest of the world, 24/7/365 or 356 with up to the minute information flows, time stamped with all possible meta data included, and on any and all violations of the above. The FBI shall spend 80% of its resources investigating NSA employees for possible conspiracies involving this statute or others. The other 20% will go towards ‘For the Children’ and ‘Because Terrorism’.

Be very careful what you want to classify, it will come back to byte you. Change the way you think about and treat others, then you won’t have such a need for secrets. There should never be a reason to hide whether you are offering a carrot or a stick.


Richard (profile) says:

Almost no one is arguing that the government should never have secrets.

Generally there are only three reasons for having secrets.

1. To increase the effectiveness of military equipment and tactics by denying the opponent knowledge and hence forcing him to tie up more resources than he would otherwise need to.

2. Because your deeds are evil.

3. To lock in the loyalty of your operatives by including them in the inner ring of privilege.

Only the first is justifiable – and only a fool would rely on it since history teaches that keeping secrets effectively for a long time is not really possible.

So, no, in an ideal world the state would not rely on secrets and shoudl try to avoid the need whenever possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well in all fairness, anyone who would think to trust the mouthpiece Reagan and those whose interests he served would do well to fear any action they suggested.

Unfortunately his speech writers threw up a fog which implied that only damage could come from governmental involvement and only good could come from letting the market decide what should and should not be done.

The poison in and leaking from the US and that is doing damage globally is that abandonment by government of their responsibilities and the advantages they load onto the small group of people with sufficient capital.
Government apparently is the only job, where a candidate who not only promises that they will not do the job they are a candidate for but that they will prevent any other better candidate or even one just more willin, to do the job, from doing it either.

Anonymous Coward says:

all these ridiculous ideas have stemmed from the USG! it’s a serious case of the government having a hell of a lot to hide and a hell of a lot to fear, when the truth gets out! there is hardly a country on the planet now that isn’t watching every citizen and every communication, except, of course, the ones that are actually needed to be watched! there’s gonna be a giant implosion before long! you wait and see! no country can continue to look at itself as democratic. it’s gone way past that now! i’m just waiting for the mass exodus to China. it’s soon gonna be safer there than anywhere in the so-called free countries of the west!

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