Tuesday, August 20, 2013

No freedom of the press in the UK

A free press is one of the cornerstones of a democratic state. The UK doesn't have one:

The Guardian, a major outlet for revelations based on leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, says the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed the classified documents or handed them back to British authorities.

In an article posted on the British newspaper's website on Monday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the newspaper had published several stories based on Snowden's material, a British official advised him: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back."


Rusbridger said that after further talks with the British government, two "security experts" from Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the ultra-secretive U.S. National Security Agency, visited the Guardian's London offices.

In the building's basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverized. "We can call off the black helicopters," Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.

A source familiar with the event said Guardian employees destroyed the computers as government security experts looked on.

(Original article here; the Reuters version is a tighter summary)

The Guardian is now forced to report on UK political issues from outside UK jurisdiction, to avoid government persecution. A democracy? I don't think so.

Meanwhile, the attitudes of those "senior government officials" exposed in the Guardian's story are explicitly anti-democratic. "You've had your debate" tells us volumes: they think that public debate is both subject to government-imposed time limits, and irrelevant. To them, it doesn't matter what we think; their policies will never change.

There is a name for this phenomenon: a "deep state". And it is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. If the UK wishes to become a democracy, it needs to root out this Deep State, and destroy it.