The Guardian and Parliament

    The recent attempt to intimidate and pressurise the Guardian is an attempt to further muzzle an already compromised mainstream media.

    Mr. Rusbridger, who is appearing before the home affairs select committee over the impact of NSA leaks, was asked if he loved his country and told by one member that he had committed a criminal offense in sharing information with the New York Times.

    Reminiscent of McCarthyism, the parliamentary inquisition is one of the more sinister attempts by the security establishment to silence critical and independent journalism in Britain.

    The flood of extraordinary material released by whistleblower Edward Snowden has brought into light the largest surveillance programme conducted by any government in memory. The publication of this material has, for the first time alerted, the public to the disturbing dangers posed by spies claiming to act against “terrorism”, even though some of the programmes he exposed predate the War on Terror by a quarter of a century.

    What has emerged from the scale of the attack on the Guardian is the nervousness amongst the secret police that further 'secrets' will be published and their role in undermining democracy and dissent brought even more fully into light.

    The dangers ahead however are not limited to these attacks, but to the strength of the Guardian’s response. Apparently accepting the fundamental concerns of the intelligence organisations, Rusbridger assured them that he was “not reckless” and said that the Snowden disclosures were justified as they had prompted a major international debate.

    But what if they hadn’t prompted the debate he describes - would these revelations be of less value and importance? Would these documents not prove beyond any doubt a Stasi like expansion of state power into the private lives of tens of millions, and into the work of journalists even at the Guardian?

    The Guardian has also admitted that it has 'consulted' with the secret police, the White House itself, and The Cabinet Office on more than one hundred occasions. But in embracing the public interest defence in publication of the Snowden material, the public has no idea what has been removed, censored or abridged and for what reason.

    These acts are hard to square with demands for accountability and transparency.

    But however complicated the Guardian’s position might appear, government assaults on historic freedoms are now so fundamental and so pernicious that publication of evidence of mass spying is now an obligation. And one that is defended by all advocates of free speech, a free press and of accountability and transparency.