Tag Archive for the Guardian
Journalists and their associates have a proud history of making life difficult for the state. David Miranda’s detention is the security service’s latest attempt at fighting back.
It’s a cliche I know, but I’m currently gripped by ‘All the President’s Men’, the book Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein published detailing the Watergate investigation.I never went to journalism school, so it seemed event more important than it might otherwise have been to read the painstakingly in-depth account of the risky investigation into the shady activities of President Nixon’s CRP and Whitehouse. Self-education and all that.
In that book, the intimidation put on Woodward, Bernstein, their editors and their sources is quite clear. They were savaged and mocked by government power structures, and constantly feared surveillance and arrest. Sound familiar?
It was worrying to hear of David Miranda’s arrest over the weekend. Miranda, as everyone now knows, is the partner of campaigning legal journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has broken the stories around the NSA files leaked by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.
At first it looked liked they had just detained Miranda as a way of intimidating Greenwald, but now it appears Miranda was picked up, under terrorism legislation, with encrypted thumb drives containing some of the files on him in Heathrow.
Either way, he was hardly stopped for overdoing it on duty free fags and booze.
David Allen Green gives excellent legal analysis of the legal situation. He concludes:
If the questioning, detention, and search of Miranda was for a purpose other than to determine if he was a terrorist, then it was unlawful.
He also highlights how exceptional the length of time Miranda was held for was:
According to the official report on use of terrorism powers, only 0.06% of detainees are held for more than six hours. This is not surprising given the limited scope of the question to be determined. It seems 97.2% of those detained are freed in less than one hour.
For someone to be detained for almost the full nine hours is exceptional. Even the “watchdog” for anti-terrorism legislation has called it “unusual”.
David Miranda was detained from 08:05 until 17:00, five minutes short of the nine hour maximum detailed by the Schedule 7 laws under which he was held. The NSA leaks are exceptional so I can understand that any questioning may take a while, but pushing the time limits of detention seems totally unnecessary and little more than blatant intimidation.
The security forces, not unreasonably, want to stop further stories on PRISM, GCHQ involvement, and state surveillance. However, as Bill Thompson so brilliantly puts it:
Miranda may have been carrying digital copies of secret documents made available to Laura Poitras and his partner Glenn Greenwald, but that does not make him a credible suspect in an investigation into terrorism, except to a paranoid state whose laws have been written to allow the security services unfettered power to detain and investigate anything they consider threatening.
The whole scope of the security services and the state has grown beyond recognition under the guise of ‘counter-terrorism’, and it is now trying to use that to clamp down on legitimate public interest journalism.
For all GCHQ and the NSA know, we are all happy to have them look in our email inboxes so long as we know about it. Or perhaps the realise that PRISM has gone a bit too far and don’t want the whistle being blown any further?
The security state wants us to believe that if we have got nothing to hide we have nothing to fear, but brand those who apply the same logic to them as terrorists and traitors.
In all the analysis of Lord Justice Leveson’s report into press ethics there has been one rather uncomfortable truth that has been ignored.
The key point of the story by The Guardian that shut the News of the World was incorrect.
If you don’t believe me, ask The Guardian themselves. Here is the correction that they had to print on the original story:
The following was published on 12 December 2011 in the corrections and clarifications column: An article about the investigation into the abduction and death of Milly Dowler (News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during police hunt, 5 July, page 1) stated that voicemail “messages were deleted by [NoW] journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive.” Since this story was published new evidence – as reported in the Guardian of 10 December – has led the Metropolitan police to believe that this was unlikely to have been correct and that while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive, according to a Metropolitan police statement made to the Leveson inquiry on 12 December.
A few things need to be stated here, less anyone misunderstand my intention. News of the World journalists did hack Milly Dowler’s phone when she was missing, eventually to have been discovered to be murdered by Levi Bellfield. This is cruel, immoral, disgraceful behaviour and The Guardian were right to report on it as part of their investigation. It is an outrageous breach of privacy, but in all likelihood this foul conduct did not give the Dowler family the mistaken hope that their daughter was still alive. Instead, it is quite likely that the phone company automatically deleted Milly Dowler’s old voicemail messages, not journalists.
The Guardian published their deletion claims as part of a front page splash. The apology appeared only in the corrections column, instead of being the equally prominent correction they demand from others.
Lord Justice Leveson referred to the Dowler story specifically:
“The fact remains that the NoW hacked the phone of a dead schoolgirl called Milly Dowler. The revelation of that story rightly shocked the public conscience in a way that other stories of phone hacking may not have, but it also gave momentum to growing calls for light to be shed on an unethical and unlawful practice of which there were literally thousands of victims. In that context, whether or not NoW journalists had caused the ‘false hope’ moment is almost irrelevant.”
I totally disagree with his characterisation of the false hope moment as “irrelevant”. How can it be? We were all horrified at the thought that Sally and Bob Dowler had wrongly been given hope that their schoolgirl daughter was alive, because of the misconduct of journalists. When we found out that the privacy of murdered Sarah Payne’s mother have been violated, and her phone hacked, the outcry was not the same. This shows the emotional tug of the “false hope” claims, and significance that they had for public feeling towards the News of the World.
The revulsion we all felt at the suffering of the Dowlers is ultimately what did for The News of the World.
For Leveson to say that had the comments on deletion been “couched in more cautious or less certain terms [it] may not have been capable of criticism at all” is ridiculous. Indeed, a police report said we may never know the truth about the deletion of Milly Dowler’s phone messages. In the original story they had said that “the messages were deleted by journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages.” That story now has to have the aforementioned correction at the bottom.
Why did The Guardian print their claims as fact originally?
The phone hacking and other vile tactics that went on on Fleet Street were rightly investigated. Media practises clearly need to change. However, it would serve us well to remember that what prompted the closure of an 150 year old British paper, and cost good journalists their jobs, was an inaccurate story run by a paper that wants to be the moral bastions of us all.
Having scanned the article online, the final paragraph did rather catch my eye:
I don’t like to be presumptuous, but this seems to be a reference to my post yesterday, revealing the presence of Liberal Left over 24 hours before the Guardian. Indeed, I am the only Lib Dem to have reacted with anything that could be referred to as ‘disdain’, and yesterday’s story focussed on groups Labour links, specifically mentioned by Mr. Wintour in the article. However, there is no named reference or link to this blog. It is to my mind almost the same as using a quote of mine, and I rather think Mr. Wintour should, if he did indeed read this post, now get in touch and include a link and a credit.
In other news Liberal Left have finally got a website live. Looks rather rushed, wouldn’t you say?
It was the story that changed the phone hacking affair, and resulted in the shutting of a newspaper, and the loss of 300 journalist jobs:
Except today the story bylined to phonehacking hero Nick Davies and his colleague Amelia Hill has a rather interesting footnote added to it:
The Guardian got a crucial bit of this key story wrong. Not only that, but they are are hardly making a big deal about apologising for the fact. To have made such an error, and then think a footnote apology is good enough, is not only rather pathetic from the Guardian, but the height of hypocrisy. This is the paper that has been crusading for higher standards from the evil tabloid press remember, and they would not accept these kind of actions from anyone else.
Head of Media Dan Sabbagh has been quick to point out that Milly Dowler’s phone was still hacked, an undoubtedly despicable act, but that the police mistakenly thought that the messages that gave her parents false hope were deleted by people working for the News of the World. The Guardian are shifting the blame onto the police that they have consistently run stories criticising and fought with, yet still decided to believe when running this story.
Those people who have tied themselves so tightly to the anti-tabloid and anti-Murdoch agenda pursued during the phone hacking saga are determinedly treading water, saying that hacking the phone is bad enough. They have only a partial point. The Guardian should not be exempted from the high standards they are demanding from others.
The Guardian have set themselves up as the moral high ground for all media, but this error shows just how misguided and dangerous that is.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox has finally resigned, after days of speculation around his bizarre working relationship with close friend Adam Werrity. He will be replaced by Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond, who is in turn replaced by Economic Secretary to the Treasury Justine Greening.
The first thing to note is that I am shocked it has taken so long for Fox to resign, although it does seem now that the days of endless stories and speculation were too much. As is so often the case with the old media, it is the continuous drip of stories that now brings people down, not often the initial hit. The Guardian, it should be noticed, have hounded Fox doggedly.
Secondly, I am delighted that the Prime Minister has chosen to promote not one, but two talented young women in this forced mini reshuffle. As said, Justine Greening will now join the Cabinet as Transport Secretary, and she will be replaced by Chloe Smith. (Greg Hands will take up Smith’s job as an Assistant Whip). Both these women are highly capable, and the promotions mark a good move towards a more gender balanced Government, that is being achieved on merit not tokenism.
Earlier this week it looked like Dr. Fox might survive, as Prime Minister David Cameron called a stay on his execution by waiting for Civil Service reports into the incident. I can’t help thinking though that this was an effective way for Cameron to keep clipping the wings of his right wing rival without looking liked he’d pushed him, in order make sure he’d return to the backbenches severely discredited. Fox appears not to have been pushed by No.10, but I would argue Cameron’s strategy has ultimately worked. Various online commentators have noted that the those promoted are pretty loyal to Chancellor George Osborne, and there is no doubt that the Government is now very much is the Cameron/Osborne mould.
As is the norm these days, Twitter spread the news of the resignation and appointments instantly, with most of the story’s participants currently trending, and people discussing the issues online.
As the mess of the Fox hunt is cleared up, Chris Huhne, and particularly Oliver Letwin, must be cackling into their Friday evening drink.