Lately a lot of the Edward Snowden-inspired NSA spying revelations haven’t really blown insiders away— after all, spies are paid to spy.
Regardless of which camp you seem to fall into (Team Edward/Team NSA), Parliamant’s grilling of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger finally confirmed the fatal mistake the paper made in its flurry to publish secrets: FedExing documents to the New York Times that among other things contained the unredacted names of (quite possibly countless) GCHQ covert agents.
From the Guardian’s own account of the exchange:
Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?
Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.
Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.
Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.
Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58A of the Terrorism Act, 2000?
Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.
Rusbridger insists they did not lose control of the names.
Mr Rusbridger said he had not redacted the names of spies from the documents before sending them, but the newspaper used ‘military-grade’ encryption to safeguard the files.
It doesn’t take a lawyer to know that compromising the names of covert agents is totally illegal. Aside from illegal, it’s reckless to both the cause of national security and the cause behind the Guardian’s journalistic crusade against state surveillance.
Exposure is deadly. Covert agents now have to be pulled back from duty, and others scheduled for deployment can no longer go. Their contacts are under risk as well, so it’s not just Western citizens this breach threatened.
While the Guardian rightfully seeks to expose surveillance misconduct and actively seeks to avoid forcible muzzling under the government’s blanket “national security” concerns, it doesn’t add to its credibility to be mailing documents unredacted across the pond.
FedEx is decidedly not the most airtight way to send highly classified materials, and even Edward Snowden advised the journalists to practice prudence when deciding how to disseminate the documents.
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