Guardian will not be intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan Rusbridger tells MPs
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor, The Guardian
Tuesday 3 December 2013 12.34 EST
The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the “staggering” scale of Britain’s and America’s secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian “would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly”.
He told MPs that disclosures from the files had generated a global debate about the powers of state agencies, and the weaknesses of the laws and oversight regimes they worked within.
“In terms of the broader debate, I can’t think of a story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in courts and amongst NGOs,” he said.
“The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States, two vice-presidents, generals, the security chiefs in the US [who] are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have.”
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Newspapers around the world, from the Guardian to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, have done what our own parliamentary oversight committee and other oversight bodies failed to do: they exposed unprecedented surveillance being undertaken without the knowledge or approval of our elected representatives.
“Spies spy, but they should not be able to write their own rules, exploiting woefully out-of-date legislation to collect information on millions of innocent people.
“If the three intelligence chiefs had previously faced anywhere near as rigorous cross-examination then perhaps we would not have been so dependent on the Guardian and other newspapers to learn just how out of control surveillance had become.”
Yesterday the UN special raporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, announced he was launching an investigation into the surveillance programmes operated by GCHQ and the NSA.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of journalism can be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” Emmerson said. “Attacking the Guardian is an attempt to do the bidding of the services themselves, by distracting attention from the real issues.”