US and British authorities have launched what amounts to a war on reporters who dare to reveal the facts about agencies like the NSA.
The main target is The Guardian, the British newspaper that has published many stories based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. U.S. and British authorities are engaged in what appears to be a pattern of harassment directed against the newspaper, its offices, reporters, and even their loved ones.
Attempt to Seize Computers
On July 20, agents from the Government Communications Headquarters, (GCHQ) the British equivalent of the National Security Agency, appeared at The Guardian’s London offices and demanded access to computers – but gave the newspaper the option of destroying them. Instead of letting them see the computers, a Guardian editor and an IT technician smashed the hard drives.
The GCHQ agents were trying to seize the computers under the pretext that they contained classified information. Under a British law called the Official Secrets Act, security forces can seize any record that contains classified data.
The agents’ actions appear to be harassment because GCHQ already knew that The Guardian had sent copies of all of its information about GCHQ and the NSA to the United States’ Guardian bureau.
British authorities made another attempt to seize files on Aug. 17 when they detained David Miranda at London’s Heathrow airport, as Off The Grid News reported. Miranda is Greenwald’s partner, and he was held by the London Metropolitan Police for nine hours and questioned extensively about his activities.
Police seized all of Miranda’s electronics in an attempt to find encrypted files. Miranda was flying from Germany to Brazil and had to transfer at Heathrow. Authorities were tracking him and apparently believed he had met with a colleague of Snowden’s in Germany.
The Miranda detention has created quite a stir in both Britain and Brazil. Authorities apparently used a British law called the Terrorism Act to justify their actions.
Critics in Britain have said that Miranda’s detention may have been illegal.
Obama Was Given Heads Up
President Obama’s deputy press secretary, Josh Earnest, told the press that the White House was given a heads up about Miranda’s detention.
In other words, President Obama knew that authorities in another country were about to violate the rights of a citizen of yet another country. Miranda is a citizen of Brazil; that nation’s foreign minister is even promising to appeal to international authorities. The Brazilians think that the British may have violated international law or treaties by detaining Miranda.
Earnest said the White House had learned Miranda was on the flight from an airline passenger list.
US authorities would have been barred from trying to seize data from journalists by the First and Fourth Amendments. Ironically, The Guardian actually sent the data it obtained from Snowden to the US to keep it safe from the GCHQ, Guardian editor in chief Alan Rusbridger said.
It’s Not Just The Guardian
The Guardian is only the latest news organization to be targeted in the name of “National Security.” The Justice Department covertly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records for Associated Press (AP) offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Conn.
The records covered April and May 2012, when AP reporters were working on a story about transparency in government. The Justice Department also obtained records for the telephone in the AP’s office in the House of Representatives. The records would have enabled federal agents to determine who was calling reporters and whom reporters were calling.
“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” said AP President Gary Pruitt. “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
Pulitzer Prize winning AP journalist Melissa Mendoza stated that the Justice Department’s actions had a chilling effect on journalists.
One has to wonder how long the media’s love affair with Obama will last if the assault on freedom of the press continues.