Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Guardian-Edward Snowden Case: the Guardian Believes in Surveillance


Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian (which is the main leftist/ 'progressive' newspaper in the UK), will face questioning over his newspaper's publication of Edward Snowden's leaked documents, which were taken from the UK and US security services. Rusbridger will give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in December.

In terms of detail, The Guardian published information about how British security agencies monitor communications. The Guardian has of course said that the information it published is for the public good. It has also claimed that it is fighting against the 'surveillance society' and the British government's abuse of power. That is mainly hyperbolic rubbish. The Guardian, or at least most of its journalists, actually believe in state surveillance if the right people are being surveilled; just as it believes in censorship if the right people are being censored. (It also believes in banning parties, movements and demonstrations if the right parties, movements and demos are banned.) In this instance, the wrong people being monitored by the UK's security services were Muslims and, perhaps, a handful of leftist activists.

So this isn't an argument for or against the state's secret monitoring: The Guardian itself is not against such a thing. Given the right kind of government (a socialist/ progressive one), and the right kind of people to be monitored (the 'far Right', 'Islamophobes', people who commit 'hate crimes', the EDL, BNP, etc.), then The Guardian simply wouldn't have a problem. It's the fact that it is the wrong kind of government (a supposedly right-wing one) monitoring the wrong kinds of people (Muslims and leftists) which makes The Guardian fake its outrage.

(This piece isn't at all concerned with Edward Snowden's own political motivations, which seem less clear-cut than The Guardian's. In fact Snowden has been classed as a patriot by some in the US. Rather, my comments are about the British security services and their concerns.)

What got the goat of The Guardian was that various government agencies were able to tap into the Internet communications of Muslim terrorists and perhaps some leftist activists through GCHQ's Tempora program. Now it may also be the case that GCHQ can tap into everyone else's (i.e., yours and mine) Internet communications too. That would largely – though not entirely – depend on whether we are planning to blow up civilians or not. Despite saying that, I'm willing to concede that GCHQ may well abuse its power. In fact, all security services – especially those of leftist regimes – have done so throughout the 20th century and well before. It may also be said that the authorities are over-stressing the very real terrorist threat from a substantial number of Muslims here in the UK (as, for example, Will Self claimed on the BBC's Question Time).

The Guardian will claim that they are actually concerned with everyone's freedom from unwarranted surveillance, not specifically with the freedom of Muslims (or leftist activists and Guardian journalists).
Nonetheless, MI6 chief Sir John Sawers said that "our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee" over Snowden's disclosures to The Guardian and that "al-Qaeda is lapping it up". In fact various Islamic terror groups have admitted as much. Sir John also said that the "leaks from Snowden have been very damaging" and that they "have put our operations at risk".

In addition, the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, said – in response to The Guardian's political rhetoric and its various defences – that our security services defend rather than undermine freedom. Many Guardianistas (apparently they're all very sophisticated and highly moral beings) will no doubt laugh at this because it sounds a little naïve. However, it's The Guardian's responses and defensive moves which are truly naïve. Andrew Parker is not saying that our security services never abuse their position and never do things that have nothing at all to do with protecting our freedom and security. He is simply saying that the security services are designed to defend our freedom and security (amongst other things). This doesn't discount personal corruption, government duplicity or anything like that. As I said, every nation state has required security services and every security service has been to a lesser or greater degree corrupt or politically duplicitous.

But none of that is at the heart of The Guardian's problem. At the heart of The Guardian's problem is that it is the wrong kind of state (a capitalist/ right-wing state led by a Conservative government) doing the wrong kinds of surveillance (of Muslims and sometimes leftists). In actual fact I would say that the security services monitor the far Right (even when it ain't far Right) far more than they do the far Left; though I would also say that they monitor Islamic groups and Muslim individuals more than they do either the far Left or far Right, and understandably so!

MI5's Andrew Parker put more meat on the bones when he told us that his security service, along with others, had foiled 34 Islamic terror plots since the attacks in London on 7th July, 2005. Get your head around that: since 2005 there might well have been as many as 34 times 52 more terrorist murders in the UK, if it weren't for our security services.

British MPs have used more cautious or diplomatic words. For example, Conservative MPs Julian Smith and Stephen Phillips have called on The Guardian's editor, Mr Rusbridger, to tell us whether or not he "acted on every security concern raised by government" when he published the – until then – secret documents. My guess is that he didn't. After all, the government is a Conservative government and The Guardian has deeply despised the Conservative Party for more than 50 years (more than 190 years if you include The Manchester Guardian). And since the security services now work under a Conservative government, that may be all the information The Guardian requires when it comes to this matter.

More disturbingly, Julian Smith and Stephen Phillips want to know if The Guardian "directed, permitted, facilitated or acquiesced" in the transfer of the files obtained by Mr Snowden to anyone in the US or elsewhere. In other words, did The Guardian supply these secret documents to leftist/ progressive political activists/ groups and/ or Muslim/ Islamic groups?

Predictably, Mr Rusbridger's responses to these questions were examples of prevarication or political rhetoric. Specifically, one response – to a letter from 28 Conservative MPs – failed to "acknowledge the devastating assessment of the damage done to the national security of the United Kingdom".

To put all this in some kind of context. From the early 1920s onwards, there have been members of our (leftist) establishment – including those in the legal professions, spies, university professors, members of the Church of England clergy and, of course, journalists – who, for whatever reasons, preferred the system which was put in place in the Soviet Union to our own and who consequently worked towards the downfall of the evil capitalist system.

Iran's John Rees, of the Stop the War Coalition and The People's Assembly. .
Now that the Soviet Union is dead and communism has been shown – many times – to be a failure on all counts, that doesn't mean that leftists/ progressives have suddenly stopped being obsessive despisers of what they facetiously call 'capitalist democracy'. (Notably, the leaker of the secret documents, Edward Snowden, is at present seeking asylum in Moscow.) The progressive Left has simply shifted its focus, for example onto Muslims/ Islamists and their various causes. Some Leftists have even formed an attachment to the Islamic Republic of Iran (which is a contemporary substitute for China/ the Soviet Union/ Nicaragua/ North Vietnam/ Cuba). So, yes, it's the same old game as before but with different objects of leftist faith and hope.

In the good old days, one way of destroying the 'capitalist West' was to spy for the Soviet Union. Today the leaking of highly-secret documents seems like a suitable equivalent.

Let's face facts then: The Guardian would like to bring down the present Conservative government. In addition, most Guardian journalists won't be happy until we have some kind of socialist/ progressive/ collectivist state and society. So it was probably no coincidence that Mr Snowden chose to leak his secret documents to The Guardian. Bear that in mind when you think about this case.

Alan Rusbridger's bio:

Mr Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, is the son of G. H. Rusbridger, who was the Director of Education of Northern Rhodesia when Rusbridger was born. He was educated at Lanesborough Prep School and then Cranleigh School, a boys' private/ independent school. From there he went to study at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. He is married to the educationalist Lindsay Mackie, who was educated at the private St Leonards School. Alan Rusbridger is paid £491,000 a year by The Guardian (which is a perennially loss-making business).


Our security services shouldn't be given free reign. But even if our security services pop in to this blog... so what? They may learn something.

No security service would monitor everyone's communications. There would be no point and it would be too costly. In a democracy, there is far less surveillance than in a Leftist, fascist or an Islamic totalitarian state. (This is not a claim that US and UK democracies are perfect. Only totalitarians demand or promise/hint at perfection.)

People's views are on the whole harmless. It's what people are planning to do that matters. If opinions matter that much to GCHQ or MI5, then they don't need to secretly monitor us. They can read our blogs and websites in which every opinion under the sun is expressed. However, when activists or terrorists are planning to break the law, or blow people up, then I doubt they'd broadcast it on a blog.

People make out that it's all about censoring everyone's views and opinions; but I have my doubts. In the democratic market place, if people don't like those opinions, they will largely ignore them. In a dictatorship, on the other hand, what people believe can be very dangerous.

This is not to say that the security systems doesn't abuse their powers, but I don't think they care that much about what people believe - even if they believe silly or extreme things.

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