While the Guardian is targeted by the state for publishing Greenwald’s articles exposing mass surveillance of its citizens, with few public figures coming forward to defend the paper, in Germany the response is different.
A campaign is under way to offer whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum and the weekly magazine Der Spiegel has published Snowden’s Manifesto for Truth a week after it was revealed that chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile had been bugged by the United States.
Green Party deputy Hans-Christian Ströbele last week met with Snowden in Moscow, where he is holed up following Russia’s granting of temporary asylum.
Snowden’s statement warned that the NSA and its counterparts were setting the political agenda. “At the beginning, some of the governments who were exposed by the revelations of mass surveillance initiated an unprecedented smear campaign. They intimidated journalists and criminalised the publication of the truth,” Snowden writes.
"Today we know that this was a mistake, and that such behaviour is not in the public interest. The debate they tried to stop is now taking place all over the world.”
A growing number of public figures are calling for their country to grant Snowden political asylum. They include: leading Christian Democrat (Angela Merkel’s party) Heiner Geissler, writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger; actor Daniel Brühl, novelist Daniel Kehlmann, entrepreneur Dirk Rossmann, feminist activist Alice Schwarzer, German Football League president, Reinhard Rauball and musician Udo Lindenberg. Writer Ferdinand von Schirach has praised Snowden’s action, saying it is a citizen’s duty to disobey an unjust state.
Enzenberger has compared Snowden’s predicament with that of Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky, the original “man without a passport”, who during the 1930s was finally offered asylum in Mexico while on the run from Stalin’s assassins.
Meanwhile, in Britain, if you’ve been leaked some information about the state’s covert activities against its own citizens and you plan to publish some articles about it, you can fall foul of anti-terror laws because you “are promoting a political cause”.
That’s the chilling implication of the justification put forward by the Metropolitan Police for detaining David Miranda at Heathrow for nine hours last August. Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has used material supplied by whistleblower Edward Snowden to expose mass surveillance by British and American spy agencies.
Section 7 of the 2000 anti-terror legislation is drawn so widely that it can catch anything in its net. Purportedly aimed at militant Islamists promoting their cause online and in pamphlets, it was pointed at Miranda when he arrived in Britain.
In documents referred to prior to this week’s judicial review of his detention, the Met had it both way in their justification for holding Miranda. First, “intelligence” is cited that Miranda was “likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security”.
Then the police say that disclosure of the material “is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause”. On those grounds alone, the alleged actions fall within the definition of terrorism, the “justification” adds.
Astonishing but true.
This framing, as Greenwald has warned, equates legitimate journalism with acts of terrorism. It is therefore a huge threat to the very notion of free speech and investigative journalism. Not only that, it is based not on any evidence of alleged criminality but on the security forces “judgement” on what a targeted individual could do or “have the potential” of doing.
Once more the notion of “pre-crime”, foretold in the Tom Cruise’s sci-fi film Minority Report, comes back to haunt.
So much so that Conservative MP Dominic Raab has broken ranks with his political masters, Home Secretary Teresa May and Prime Minister David Cameron by questioning police tactics. Their total backing for MI5 Chief Andrew Parker and GCHQ spooks is fronted by Tory backbencher Julian Smith, who has accused newspapers who publish Snowden’s revelations of “treason”.
The repercussions of Miranda’s arrest show that the ConDemns, with the connivance of the non-opposition in the form of One Nation Labour, will stop at nothing to ensure the illegal and criminal activities of its surveillance state.
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