3 December 2013 — RT
Officials from the UK intelligence agency GCHQ raided the Guardian newspaper’s London officers back in August in search of hardrives containing data leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said the officials wanted the Guardian to destroy all the information from Snowden despite the fact the data had already been disseminated to different news organizations around the world. Rather than working to correct the growing surveillance state lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic are dragging their feet and exploring methods to crack down on the press, The Guardian in particular, journalist Tony Gosling told RT.
Rusbringer is set to give evidence to an MP committee investigating counter-terrorism activities on Tuesday. The Guardian’s editor has criticized the UK government for its intimidation tactics and said the US and UK are making work increasingly difficult for journalists.
RT: Authorities are convinced that The Guardian is damaging British national security, should they be allowed to get away with it just because they’re journalists?
Tony Gosling: Well they’re not getting away with anything. What they’re doing is informing the public on criminal activity done by our own intelligence services, GCHQ particularly, because other newspapers and people including the BBC in particular haven’t been doing it over the past few years. They’ve come up with some fantastic quotes in the Guardian over the last couple of days to describe for example how the GCHQ and the NSA have risen without trace. What’s happened is this massive security state has been created in this country without any approval by Parliament and by no approval even by MPs. What we’ve seen is a massive organization now being put together. What we’ve got now is a very strange situation isn’t it? Intelligence services, even though they completely failed us on Iraq and in other ways, have risen in power. Their budgets after the Cold War are doubling and yet our own armed forces are being pared down. The danger of all this of course is that you’ve got information overload. They’ve got information on everybody, including our own military. So if someone opposes them from within Parliament or even senior officers within our own military they are able to character assassinate these people and take them down. They are becoming an extremely dangerous organization.
RT: What about the newspaper itself The Guardian? It’s still printing whatever it wants – is it really being influenced in any way? Is it being scared off by what’s happening?
TG: Well, what we’ve had is legal threats. This is actually what is very chilling, at least it certainly can be on newspapers and it is. If lawyers are worried that newspapers will be given massive fines for telling the truth about these matters then this really ties up the paper and they will actually avoid doing those stories. The interest here is making sure the public realize just what an enormous intelligence gathering operation is being created here. Let’s remember what they’re doing. They’re collecting our passwords for example, our bank passwords, and what I’d like to see in front of this committee is the people from GCHQ, the nameless anonymous spooks who have actually been breaking the law by hacking into our personal lives. I’d like to see them in front of the committee today.
RT: Well you are raising all of these concerns which of course we know about being released to British newspapers, of course The Guardian, and yet Scotland Yard has said its looking into whether the newspaper has broken British law. If the paper refuses to yield just how far do you think the government could go? Would it attempt to close them down perhaps?
TG: Well of course this accusation that they’ve broken the law is being thrown around willy-nilly over the last few months, ever since Edward Snowden came out with these revelations. This is absolute rubbish I’m afraid when in front of the Intelligence and Security Committee the bosses of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ were giving their evidence, we were asking them for any kind of evidence that there’s been any kind of threat to national security and do you know what they said, ‘Oh we can’t tell you it’s secret.’ This is no real evidence they don’t have any real evidence. They’ve been caught out acting criminally and they’ve got no proper oversight whatsoever of our intelligence services right now. We’ve got this chap Malcolm Rifkind who is supposedly looking into all of this but then he gives the intelligence services the questions he is going to ask them beforehand. I wonder is he giving Alan Rusbridger a full list of questions before he brings him out to ask him beforehand? I don’t think he’s playing fair this Rifkind and he’s simply got to go. That’s the only way we’re going to get some oversight on the massive – what I call information vampires – at the heart of the British intelligence service and let’s not forget they have grown massively since the Cold War. They’ve given us bogus information on Iraq etc. and we’ve got to have some proper oversight otherwise we’re going down the George Orwell, Big Brother route.
RT: Just how much is the British government being influenced by Washington?
TG: Massively. We’re getting massive payments as well from Washington. The National Security Agency and the GCHQ have also been caught putting spyware on half a million people’s computers. This again is criminal illegal behavior and what they’re doing rather than addressing this is actually digging in. They’re saying ‘no it’s not happening’ and they’re massively in denial. What about some answers from the intelligence services about the death of the cryptographer, and there are other cryptographers that have died as well, Gareth Williams. They’re trying to tell us that there was nothing to see there, this guy killed himself. He clearly didn’t, he was the victim of a professional heist. These are the kind of answers we’ve got to see from these intelligence chiefs and its absolutely ridiculous to see the parliamentarians starting to interview the messenger. Shooting the messenger is what they’re trying to do today and they’re not going to succeed.
RT: Just finally, concerning the messenger, couldn’t the government going after the messenger – in this case The Guardian – actually be a good thing and bring attention to the struggles of people like you, journalists trying to do their job?
TG: Well I think The Guardian has risen to the fight wonderfully. They’ve produced a massive supplement including quotes by the inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee where he says, ‘get your hands off my baby.’ What he’s doing of course is drawing attention to the fact that much of what GCHQ and the NSA have been doing – after we’ve seen these Snowden revelations which many of us suspected beforehand but now we’ve got concrete proof – is they’re actually making the internet very difficult for people to use in any kind of confidential or private manner. That is extremely dangerous, that needs to be rolled back and the Parliament and British government have got to be doing that over the next few weeks otherwise there will be no privacy in this country. All the MPs and other people, police and et cetera, all their passwords will be hackable. That I am not prepared to accept and I don’t think anyone here in Britain is prepared to accept us going down that route.
Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.