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.