UK Parliament Makes A Mockery Of Itself Interrogating Guardian Editor

from the sad dept

The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”

Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?

Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.

Perhaps equally ridiculous: after UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the destruction of Guardian hard drives, urged the Parliament to start this very investigation and flat out threatened news publications for reporting on government abuse, folks in Parliament have the gall to suggest that it’s Rusbridger who broke the law in sharing some of the Snowden docs with the NY Times? Maybe if Cameron hadn’t done everything he could to try to stifle a free UK press, the Guardian wouldn’t have felt the need to share documents with a competitor.

Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?

Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.

Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.

Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.

Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000?

Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.

And from there it took a turn to the bizarre as Ellis started talking about how Rusbridger might reveal that GCHQ agents were gay. I’m not kidding.

Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?

Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.

Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?

Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?

Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.

[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]

Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.

Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?

Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland … [CUT OFF]

There was much more in the hearing, with multiple UK members of parliament making statements that suggest that they are ignorant of a variety of things, including how encryption works and the nature of a free and open press.

But, really, just the fact that they’re spending time investigating Rusbridger in the first place, rather than looking more closely at what the GCHQ is doing, makes a complete mockery of the UK Parliament.

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Comments on “UK Parliament Makes A Mockery Of Itself Interrogating Guardian Editor”

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39 Comments
SolkeshNaranek says:

Relief

I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound relief that our U.S. Congress is not the only body of politicians with their collective heads jammed up their collective bottoms.

I suspect a lot more countries are also afflicted with politicians of this type.

It seems as if politics is a giant otherworldly magnet that attracts the idiots, the greedy, the spineless sellouts, and others of that ilk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Relief

The greedy is probably choosing more economically valuable jobs to pursue in the less overtly corrupt countries, but the rest is pretty much the definition of modern politicians.

Powerhunger hits the people who are unable to recognize their part of responsibility for failures. It often takes a strange worldview of sorts and lack of moral boundaries in areas most others would agonize over.

Anonymous Coward says:

what it proves is that they are not interested in what GCHQ or any other government or law enforcement agency of the UK or anywhere else in the world is doing, as long as it is kept secret and that if there is the slightest thing that the Guardian and/or it’s staff can be prosecuted for doing, that is gonna happen. these are typical of the actions that are taken in the USA and given exactly how far Cameron is prepared to go to please Obama and the entertainment industries, who are funding who has to be one of the worst presidents the USA has had for downright lying about what he will/wont do, what lengths he will/wont got to over anything, is anyone actually surprised? i just wonder what, if any, steps the UK press and public for that matter, will take when the prosecution comes about. and no doubt, that is what is gonna happen. the way the questions are being directed to make out that printing what the rest of the world knew is a treasonable offense is exactly the way the DoJ does things. ignore the facts and then make the crime suit the evidence, and lack of so let’s make it up as we go along, just to get a conviction. Cameron ought to be ashamed of what he is doing to the UK and it’s citizens, just to keep in the ‘good books’ of someone whose word isn’t worth the air used to speak it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Whether or not the GCHQ paid for trips to Disney in Paris and whether or not some of it’s agents are gay smacks more to me of the GCHQ worried it might get blackmailed like all this gathering data on everyone allows them to do; such as discrediting someone for their porn viewing habits.

It’s time to end this insanity on both sides of the pond.

That this investigation in going in this direction tells you someone’s nuts are in the grinder and they want out of it by finding a scape goat.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:

You mean, like a common citizen. The whole point of a surveillance and police state is that everybody is a prospective enemy of the government and should be treated as such.

The problem with that is, of course, that opposed to its citizens the government has no right to self-preservation.

It’s supposed to serve the people, not reign over them. That’s what being a republic is about. And even a constitutional monarchy is basically a republic.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“You mean, like a common citizen. The whole point of a surveillance and police state is that everybody is a prospective enemy of the government and should be treated as such.”

The government despises the concept of individual freedom because it is then impossible for them to control people. So, they institute mandatory programs which affect people on a large scale, such as the intrusion of security theater at airports and sporting events, and legislate laws under the false pretense of protection, tolerance and equality in order to infringe upon people’s rights. The goal is forced assimilation into a controlled collective from which the state means to exercise authority.

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

Duke (profile) says:

Politicians playing politics...

I watched most of the hearing, then my computer crashed and I couldn’t be bothered to watch the end; it was rather boring. For the most part it was just party politics.

The committee chair (Keith Vaz, Labour) was pushing for quotes to show the oversight system needed looking into; Labour don’t want more oversight, they just want the oversight committee chair to have to be from Labour.

Michael Ellis and the other Conservative went on the attack; trying to get Rusbriger to admit to breaking the law – even though at least one of them is a lawyer and should understand the subtleties involved. And Keith Vaz had to cut them off a bit, as it was clear they were talking mostly-nonsense in order to get a quote.

The only one really asking about surveillance was the Lib Dem (Julian Huppert) but even he seemed to mostly be focussed on praising the Guardian (which endorsed the Lib Dems at the last general election).

But that’s Select Committees for you; it seems the more attention they have the more party-political they get.

Matt says:

Why does the NSA have GCHQ data?

Shouldn’t the committee be asking why the NSA has this information on GCHQ? That is a bigger worry. (After the small matter of spying on the whole world, killnig fredom of the press etc).

The NSA could be using this secret data to manipulate GCHQ staff to provide information to the NSA that the UK government doesn’t want to share.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why does GCHQ hate Britain?

You GCHQ lot, you spy on Brits for a foreign power, that makes you traitors. Traitors to your country pure and simple.

You might have a few fellow apologist traitors in power, go cling to your Eric Honeker power figures.

YOU ARE STILL TRAITORS.

Your job is to protect the democracy from foreign spies, AND YOU CATASTROPHICALLY FAILED! How can you have ever handed any intercept over knowing it could potentially be full of political INTEL that could be used against Britain???

Once you let the power structure be run by the foreign power, you’ve lost control. That is what we have now. A lot of apologists defending SPYING ON THEIR OWN COUNTRY!

That was your work, there in GCHQ, that is what YOU did.

Anonymous Coward says:

GCHQ Gay Pride group

That gay pride group is not just interesting it’s VERY REVEALING.

Ellis thinks that ‘outing’ GCHQ gays is leverage against them. But these aren’t GCHQ files, they’re NSA files that Snowden leaked.

So Ellis is admitting that NSA has leverage over GCHQ!

“Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?
….because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?”

BUT THE SNOWDEN LEAKS ARE NOT UK LEAKS AT ALL. They are *NSA* leaks.

If Ellis is right and the Snowden docs show potentially damaging leverage, then NSA *had* that leverage!

Did GCHQ not even protect its own staff from foreign coercion???

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting, NSA leverages porn surfing

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/nsa-porn-muslims_n_4346128.html

Reading the rebuttal for NSA talking points, it mentions something I hadn’t read. That the NSA used porn surfing history as leverage against people (including some Americans).

Care to ‘fess up Vaz?

Do you love your country Vaz? Which country is that Vaz?

/disgust

Randy Zagar (profile) says:

On the "outing" of GCHQ members...

I don’t know how things work in Britain, but here in the US one of most important criteria for obtaining/keeping ANY clearance is that you not be “blackmail-able”.

An interesting response to those questions would have been:

If there were a secretly gay member of GCHQ, wouldn’t they pose an unacceptable blackmail risk, thus disqualifying them from having a clearance at all?

Simon Hudson says:

Please remember that the point of a committee hearing is to investigate a topic. The guardian is very much involved in the breaking of these stories so it is useful to ask them questions.

I think Mr Rusbridger did very well, I was impressed. I agree that people like Mr Ellis made a total arse of himself. On the other hand I think Dr Julian Huppert asked some very good questions about how Mr Rusbridger thinks the system should actually work and whether he has any advice for the committee.

I'm_Having_None_Of_It says:

Re: Re:

I advise the committee to look up the words “Patriot,” “Democracy,” and “Due process” followed by a crash course in UK and European history starting from 1066 and ending at today. We’ve gained and lost a lot in the last thousand-odd years and most of that is what we think of as freedom and what it is to be a citizen of a nation state.

Britain is a great nation with a glorious history. Are we really going to throw all that down the pan for a few pieces of silver to our Judas politicians? For the children? Because we’re afraid of imaginary threats even though we’re historically resilient and bloody good at dealing with real ones?

It’s time we called these people to account. Let’s all write to our MPs to make it plain that they won’t be getting our vote in the next election for as long as this shameful display of grovelling obeisance to Uncle Sam continues.

Slinky (profile) says:

To be or not to be.. Gay

IF You are a Journalist, we can?t have you to reveal the sexual preferences of employees inside the GCHQ, or the NSA for that matter. But IF You are the GCHQ or the NSA, then it?s absolutely justified and ‘constitutional’ to go ahead and scoop up all the private data from ordinary innocent citizens (including info about those who are gay), and then abuse and share that data between Government thirdparties.

I don?t care if the GCHQ are gay or not, but I do care about having a DEMOCRACY that is built by the people, for the people, and NOT by or for some government spy agency.

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