UK Prime Minister Urges Investigation Of The Guardian Over Snowden Leaks; There Shall Be No Free Press
from the chilling-effects dept
While freedom of the press is fairly deeply engrained in the US, that’s not so true elsewhere — and that became abundantly clear with the absurd theatrics of UK officials forcing the Guardian to destroy a computer in the basement for no reason at all. And now UK Prime Minister David Cameron is ratcheting things up, urging Parliament to investigate The Guardian to see if it broke any laws:
David Cameron has encouraged a Commons select committee to investigate whether the Guardian has broken the law or damaged national security by publishing secrets leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
He made his proposal in response to a question from former defence secretary Liam Fox, saying the Guardian had been guilty of double standards for exposing the scandal of phone hacking by newspapers and yet had gone on to publish secrets from the NSA taken by Snowden.
I’ve read that statement over and over and over again, and I still don’t see what the double standard is. Both involve reporting on things of public interest, which, last I checked, is exactly what news organizations are supposed to do.
Then it gets even more bizarre, with Cameron arguing that the above-mentioned computer destruction somehow “proves” that the news organization knew it was breaking the law.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Cameron said: “The plain fact is that what has happened has damaged national security and in many ways the Guardian themselves admitted that when they agreed, when asked politely by my national security adviser and cabinet secretary to destroy the files they had, they went ahead and destroyed those files.
“So they know that what they’re dealing with is dangerous for national security. I think it’s up to select committees in this house if they want to examine this issue and make further recommendations.”
That’s a plainly ludicrous interpretation of what happened. First, it wasn’t a “polite” request, but there was a very clear implied threat to the Guardian if it didn’t comply. Second, using oppressive censorship on the one hand to argue in support of further oppressive censorship on the other hand isn’t exactly a winning argument.
In the end, what Cameron is doing is making it clear that the UK can have no free press. It can only have stenographers. When the government threatens to have you investigated for reporting on the excesses of government, you’ve created massive chilling effects, and guaranteed much greater corruption and abuse, as you’ve wiped out a key factor in keeping those things in check. Cameron’s statements reflect poorly on the wider UK and its supposed belief in free speech and a free press.