To put it in Navspeak, the egregious Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has really screwed the pooch. In testimony before a Parliamentary committee he admitted that (a) documents sent out of the country had names of British intelligence personnel on them, (b) he couldn’t be bothered to vet all the documents to ensure no names of intelligence agents were included in what he shipped out of the UK (to the NYT, specifically), and (c) paid Greenwald’s partner Miranda to mule the documents out of the UK (in stark contrast to his previous denials that the Guardian had paid Miranda). Blogger Louise Mensch covered the hearing in detail.
This is a big deal because it is a crime in Britain to transport the names of UK intel personnel out of the country. Even if it wasn’t a crime, it would be a very grave matter because it would put lives at risk, and would jeopardize British national security. Not to mention the national security of UK allies, including the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
His defense? That release of the Snowden material is self-evidently in the public interest, and that there is no evidence that UK intel people had been put at risk.
In other words, Alan Rusbridger, elected by nobody, and who claims he should not be accountable to anybody, and especially not to the British government or law enforcement, has appointed himself the final arbiter of what is in the public interest. What’s more, he claims to be able to know how people operating in the very clandestine world of intelligence cannot possibly be threatened by disclosure of their names. (I would note that even if individual agents do not come to harm, their disclosure can lead to the harm of those they have interacted with, or the undermining of operations that would have otherwise reduced the risk of actions that could harm UK national security, or the lives of innocent individuals.) (As Mensch notes, moreover, any individual whose name was leaked has suffered a severe career setback, as they are essentially undeployable in a covert role: something the Guardian understood when it came to Valerie Plame.)
And then there are the suck-ups who work for Mr. Rusbridge. Luke Harding (@lukeharding1968) is a very special case. Bravura performance? Get a room, please.
Harding is a special case because he co-authored a book on Wikileaks in which he-wait for it-blasted Assange for not redacting the names of individuals named in the State Department cables stolen by Manning and released-via the Guardian-to the world. So let me get this straight, Luke: Assange was treacherous, but Alan I Couldn’t Be Bothered to Redact Names Because There Were Just So Many Bleeding Documents Rusbridge is a hero bravely defending liberty and a free press before Parliament. Have I got that right? What is it? That was then, this is now? Or, is it that Assange screwed the Guardian, so you had to find a club to beat him with, but wouldn’t dare turn the same club upon yourselves? I guess I don’t qualify as a first rate intelligence by the F. Scott Fitzgerald definition, because I am having a really hard time of holding two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retaining the ability to function. And believe me, your criticism of Assange and your defense of Rusbridge are about as totally opposed as ideas can get.
Harding is also a special case because he wrote a book about his experiences in Russia that was very critical of the Putin regime and the FSB in particular. Yet he is mute on the subject of Snowden’s flight to Russia and control by the FSB, even though any sentient being without an axe to grind realizes that the greatest beneficiary of Snowden is Putin and the FSB that Harding claims to despise.
Luke Harding is the exemplar of a form of transitivity that characterizes the Guardian. Yes, it often writes things that are very critical of Russia and Putin. But its dislike of Russia pales in comparison with its hatred of the US and the UK government-at least the defense and intelligence establishments thereof. So when it becomes an issue of the US vs. Russia-as is the case with Snowden-all criticism and even questioning of Russia is silenced, and screeching about the US and UK government reaches a deafening pitch. In the Snowden matter, Ed’s complicity with and aiding and abetting of the FSB is never mentioned: indeed, anyone who suggests it is slimed as an NSA/GCHQ lackey. When the FSB follows Harding, or breaks into his apartment, now that’s important. That deserves a book! But when the Guardian’s pet project provides incredible aid and comfort to that very same FSB, nary a word is spoken. FSB? What FSB? This is all about NSA and GCHQ. Snowden is a crusader for freedom, even though he is a tool in the hands of a regime that is inimical to freedom. Following the party line. Jot and tittle.
So when push comes to shove, when there is a choice to be made, the Guardian-and Luke Harding-make it plain where their real sympathies lie. They deserve no respect and no credibility. And at least some-notably Alan Rusbridger-deserve the tender mercies of the law, with all the protections and procedures it affords him in the UK. If it were Russia, not so much.