The Guardian’s “treachery” and silence across the rest of the British media


8:30 am - June 21st 2013

by Septicisle    


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On Monday, the Guardian ran an extraordinary story, detailing how GCHQ had spied on delegates at two G20 summits in London in 2009. It made clear how even those regarded as allies had had their emails intercepted.

Justified on the grounds of defending “economic well-being”, a clause included in the Intelligence Services Act 1994, it was really something far more mundane: an attempt to gain any sort of advantage in the negotiations.

Considering how much the right-wing press love Gordon Brown, you might have thought that the Guardian’s revelations would have had a significant impact. But no. With the exception of a couple of follow-ups, it seems most of the rest of the media wasn’t interested.

Nor were they taken with the Guardian’s live Q&A session with Edward Snowden. With the exception of an attack piece in the Mail by Stephen Glover, nor has there been any real criticism of the paper for what Glover calls “treachery”.

Roy Greenslade wonders why this is the case. The most obvious answer, it seems, is that the D-Notice committee issued a polite note to editors after the first tranche of stories were given wide coverage. If ever there was an example of the warning off of editors from publishing anything else, quite clearly this it.

All the same, as Dominic Ponsford writes, this doesn’t explain why the media didn’t bother to follow up the Guardian’s stories. Once the Guardian had breached the order, which is voluntary, the information was in the public domain and so there was no reason for the rest of the media to continue to abide by the order, as indeed happened once the news of Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan became public.

It also can’t be that the Guardian is now viewed as beyond the pale, else the original reports on the NSA wouldn’t have been covered in the detail that they were.

It’s more, as we’ve seen, that the security services are the one part of the state that tends to get a free pass from both right and left. Where the left tends to have a blind side when it comes to the NHS and the right often seems to think the police can do no wrong, both seem to be overwhelmed by how “keeping us safe” trumps civil liberties and basic accountability every time.

William Hague in the Commons didn’t even attempt to seriously engage with the questions about how GCHQ worked with the NSA on Prism, he just said everything was hunky dory, and that was enough for both politicians and the press.

It is, as Greenslade writes, remarkable that the press that makes so much of its independence from the state and raises hell at the threat of regulation finds so little to worry about when it comes to the darkest reaches of government.

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
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Reader comments


It’s not that strange, as long as you understand that most of the media is first in the business of making money and, as a distant second, in the business of reporting the news.

To this end, it’s all about what content the editors imagine their audience wants to consume. Gotta generate those clicks…

“…remarkable that the press that makes so much of its independence from the state and raises hell at the threat of regulation finds so little to worry about when it comes to the darkest reaches of government.”

Again, not that remarkable. What the press has always wanted is to be able to print whatever it wants without interference, and generally that means celebrity-based gossip. This issue doesn’t affect their freedoms, only ours, therefore why should they care?

2. Richard Carey

People need to get out of this left versus right mentality and realise the state is going increasingly rogue.

Maybe it was because it wasnt that interesting or new a story?

UK spies on other nations – exclusive!

In short, we have ‘embedded’ media. Ultimately, they will toe the line if it guarantees access to those who wield power.

ian @1′s point is true enough, but that means that the real scandal is the silence of the little lambs at the BBC, which is not (supposedly) in existence to maximise profits. Its silence on this story and – even more worryingly – its silence (or skewing) on stories such as the dismantling of the NHS in England and the persecution of the disabled, chronically ill and unemployed by the DWP, JCP and ATOS shows that it no longer has any commitment to fulfilling its supposed remit.

5. Planeshift

“realise the state is going increasingly rogue.”

Couldn’t have been achieved without the co-operation of the internet giants though, many of whose senior management regularly socialise with the political leaders and officials running this.

Far better to think of it as an elite going rogue, rather than the state.

@Planeshift, former NSA staff are on the boards of Facebook and Google IIRC.

7. Richard Carey

@ Planeshift

“Far better to think of it as an elite going rogue, rather than the state.”

At this point it’s hard to draw a distinction between the two.

8. Charlieman

@OP, Scepticisle: “On Monday, the Guardian ran an extraordinary story, detailing how GCHQ had spied on delegates at two G20 summits in London in 2009. It made clear how even those regarded as allies had had their emails intercepted.”

I agree that the story and actions are extraordinary. GCHQ’s deeds were widely known if Snowden knew about them. Eventually the victims of spying would learn what happened. I suspect that the diplomatic damage is being underestimated and covered up (within government), which compounds the stupidity of the initial behaviour.

“The most obvious answer, it seems, is that the D-Notice committee issued a polite note to editors after the first tranche of stories were given wide coverage.”

The D-Notice may have been discouraging, but other UK newspapers didn’t have a lot to add to the story. The Guardian holds the keys to Snowden’s secrets so others could only rewrite or comment on the Guardian’s revelations. It was different in the USA because journalists had access to separate sources which allowed them to add to the Snowden NSA revelations.

During the cold war, every UK newspaper had a spook follower with sources in different agencies who could play off internal politics to get information. Or more cynically, every UK newspaper employed a spook. Given that newspapers have fewer staff and that Snowden speaks only to the Guardian, we’ll only get different stories if there are new leakers.

John: Well yes, but they rarely get caught doing it, or doing so simply to gain an advantage in negotiations that were likely to go the government’s way anyway. Katherine Gun’s leaking of the UK/US planning to spy on the other members of the security council prior to the Iraq vote caused far more of a fuss, although some of that was due to the attempt to prosecute her.

Seeing as the Graun’s now revealed the GCHQ is siphoning not just metadata but actual data through Project Tempora (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa), it’ll be interesting to see whether there’s a similar almost blackout from the rest of the pack.

Guardian has a story about spies spying. Wow, hold the front page. No matter what people might say about governments spying on their own, no one has a problem about governments spying on foreigners. Thats why we have governments – to protect us from other countries. Even extreme libertarians would agree with that. I don’t know why the Guardian thinks its such a major story.

11. Charlieman

@10. SadButMadLad: “No matter what people might say about governments spying on their own, no one has a problem about governments spying on foreigners. Thats why we have governments – to protect us from other countries.”

Book a weekend holiday with friends in a three bedroom villa or fake cottage. Ideally one with big key holes on the doors.

The holiday is about friendship, to yack about stuff and plan the next things in life.

If I peer through the big key hole or listen at a door, I destroy friendship. Even if s/he behind the door does not know that I was present, my lurking and distrust harms me. If s/he ever learns that I lurked, then I am doubly messed up.

“No matter what people might say about governments spying on their own, no one has a problem about governments spying on foreigners.”

Has anyone asked UK citizens?

“Thats why we have governments – to protect us from other countries.”

No, it is a justification for security agencies to adopt super legal powers of violence.

12. the a&e charge nurse

[10] ‘Thats why we have governments – to protect us from other countries’ – surely you meant to protect the financial interests of the power elite?

Despite the rotten stench emanating from News International D-Cam still went ahead and employed Coulson.
Jabba the Hunt was doing all he could to facilitate the BskyB take over (handing Roop >50% control of British media) yet instead of being held up for acting like the corporate placeman he was, he was instead rewarded, by overseeing the covert privatisation of the NHS.

The means to information is a means to control – as the likes of the dirty digger knew all too well given the stranglehold he had over our most senior politicos for so long.

According to Ed Snowdon the system of information gathering has become hopelessly corrupted in the US while tedious rationalisations are trotted out to justify such tactics – and now we learn our own agencies are playing exactly the same game.

Sometimes their devoted love of the little people makes we want to cry with happiness.

The Guardian news about Internet eavesdropping is revealing more and more: GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications

Exclusive: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal

It was very bad mannered of the predecessors of GCHQ at Bletchley Park to have listened in and decrypted the wireless traffic of Nazi Germany during WW2. That hastened the end of the war providing they kept very quiet about it least Germany changed its encryption systems for secret wireless traffic.

Something that emerges from Beevor’s history of D-Day (Penguin) is that De Gaulle’s Free French Forces based in Britain had very poor encryption systems – which was one reason Roosevelt and Churchill tried to keep De Gaulle out of the loop. As Beevor’s narrative goes, a British cryptologist went round to the HQ of the Free French in London and showed how their encrypted messages could be decrypted in front of their eyes.

Around 2000, there were numerous media reports in the news in Britain and elsewhere of Homing Pigeons getting lost and going missing. Of course, lots of conspiracy theories flourished about that — why all these recent efforts to restore Britain’s populations of falcons, kestrels and eagles? Even Ken Livingston described pigeons as “rats with wings” and ranted on about no feeding of pigeons in Trafalgar Square. But, at last, there is a credible scientific explanation for the missing pigeons:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184147.htm

14. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Isnt this really about the powerful maintaining their power in the context of an environmentally stressed world and peak oil.
In the same way that America has decided not to share the worlds oil and instead invade, undermine, and supplant regimes in the Middle East and Asia in an attempt to monopolise it,so too are the UK elites trying to undermine potentially radical elements within British society. Included in the list will be undoubtely, anyone that goes on a demo, social workers,doctors,legal practitoners,trade unionists and anyone associated with sharing the nations wealth in an equitable way. Any ‘left wing’(ie informative) publications or organisations will be similarly targeted. Clearly the Labour party will be fine. The British state is dedicated solely to the most powerful; big business,all security forces including espionage and the BBC so its no surprise that the latter trys to play the real news down.Democracy is no longer a suitable political carapace for what is about to begin.

“Isnt this really about the powerful maintaining their power in the context of an environmentally stressed world and peak oil.”

To ensure privacy, there’s the option of sending messages by couriers — as Bin Laden used to do until his demise in May 2011 — or by pigeons. But then shooter Peter Wilson won gold at the London Olympics for clay pigeon shooting. And Bin Laden got tracked down to his hideout in Abbottabad in Pakistan, because it had no phone or internet connections, which looked mightily suspicious.

I guess big corporations use powerful encryption technologies for their communications over the internet. That is not to say the messages can’t be decrypted, only that it could take a long time to do so. Private sources have told me that there is a site on the internet which sends out a continuous stream of characters, some of which are probably encrypted messages while the rest are randomly generated. Try breaking that.

“A BBC crew was detained and their video footage confiscated by the Chinese military during its investigations into a secretive cyber espionage group.

“Beijing correspondent John Elsworthy was among those detained by military personnel following the publication of a report by US cyber security firm Mandiant claiming to have pinpointed the home of the cyber warfare unit at a ‘non-descript’ complex in Shanghai.

“Elsworthy and his crew were stopped ‘pretty promptly from filming’ outside building, which was said to house one of the world’s ‘most prolific cyber espionage groups’, Unit 61398.”
http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/bbc-china-crew-detained-military-after-filming-cyber-warfare-headquarters

Btw reflect on how the Allies in WW2 successfully hoaxed the Fuhrer and the Nazi high command into believing that the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944 was a really a diversionary attack and that the real invasion at the Pas-de-Calais would be made by a completely mythical army, based in Kent under the command of General Patton.

Shortly after the Normandy invasion, the Fuhrer had a meeting with Japan’s ambassador to the Third Reich, who duly sent an encrypted message reporting back the substance to Tokyo. By the account in Beevor’s history of D-Day, a translation of the decrypted message was available in Allied HQ in two days. The Fuhrer had told Japan’s ambassador that the real invasion was to come at the Pas-de-Calais.

More Guardian news:

Snowden spy row grows as US is accused of hacking China

Whistleblower charged with espionage reportedly claims US authorities accessed millions of private text messages in China
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/22/edward-snowden-us-china

A timely reminder in the Guardian about an establised international Anglophone conspiracy with roots going back to WW2:

Twelve years ago, in an almost forgotten report, the European parliament completed its investigations into a long-suspected western intelligence partnership dedicated to global signals interception on a vast scale.

Evidence had been taken from spies and politicians, telecommunications experts and journalists. In stark terms the report detailed a decades-old arrangement which had seen the US and the UK at first – later joined by Canada, New Zealand and Australia to make up the the so-called “Five Eyes” – collaborating to access satellites, transatlantic fibre-optic cables and radio signals on a vast scale.

This secretive (and consistently denied) co-operation was itself the product of a mutual agreement stretching back to the first world war, expanded in the second, and finally ratified in 1948 in the so-called UKUSA agreement.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/22/nsa-leaks-britain-us-surveillance

18. So Much For Subtlety

10. SadButMadLad

I don’t know why the Guardian thinks its such a major story.

Especially as the Guardian has such double standards. It is happy to employ Richard Gott who was paid to spy for the KGB. They continue to employ him actually I believe.

They are just as happy to publish people who accepted money and gifts in kind from other Communist regimes – as is LC.

I also have no doubt that they would be happy to publish people like Zygmunt Bauman who was, after all, not merely a Political Commisar for Stalin’s puppet Polish Army, he moved into the Polish equivalent of the KGB and hunted down his fellow countrymen who objected to being colonised by Stalin.

So in Guardian-land, spying for the KGB is fine, listening to someone’s telephone calls from America is not. Weird.

During WW2, while the folk at Bletchley Park were breaking the German Enigma code, intended for secure radio traffic, with the aid of pioneering electronic computers, America broke Japan’s code, which America named: Purple. It is naive to suppose those skills and practices were promptly buried with the ending of WW2, especially since WW2 was followed by the Cold War and when we are now threatened by Jihadist terrorism on an international scale.

For info and insights, try: A brief history of codebreaking, at this link:
http://www.newscientist.com/special/unbreakable-codes

The hunt is now on for unbreakable codes.

“Where the left tends to have a blind side when it comes to the NHS”

Erm, what the actual fuck?

So Much for Subtlety: Nice try, but it doesn’t stand up. The man who fingered Gott was Oleg Gordievsky, who has accused others of being Soviet agents who weren’t, Michael Foot the most notable. Also there are numerous instances of hacks on other papers, and probably including the Graun, who were SIS operatives. They’re all in the same plague pit, to quote TTOI.

Chris: I meant as in always wanting to change the subject when a case of poor treatment or abuse turns up, ala Polly Toynbee. The NHS is great, but let’s not pretend it’s infallible, or that every time there are mistakes that it means the end of the organisation as we know it.

22. So Much For Subtlety

21. septicisle

Nice try, but it doesn’t stand up. The man who fingered Gott was Oleg Gordievsky, who has accused others of being Soviet agents who weren’t, Michael Foot the most notable. Also there are numerous instances of hacks on other papers, and probably including the Graun, who were SIS operatives. They’re all in the same plague pit, to quote TTOI.

Of course anyone who worked for British intelligence is not remotely in the same pit as someone who took money from the KGB. As Gott admitted. To quote Wikipedia:

In his resignation letter Gott admitted “I took red gold, even if it was only in the form of expenses for myself and my partner. That, in the circumstances, was culpable stupidity, though at the time it seemed more like an enjoyable joke”.

They gave him tens of thousands of pounds too so it was more than just expenses. As I said, the Left is fine with this. Never been a problem. And their moral corruption goes deeper as your equating of this with working for the West shows.

Which simply makes me wonder about Michael Foot.

23. Charlieman

@22. So Much For Subtlety: “They gave him tens of thousands of pounds too so it was more than just expenses. As I said, the Left is fine with this.”

SMFS, you have missed out on so much in life, especially an Aeroflot international flight during the 1980s. Only on Aeroflot would you have observed passengers trying to put a kitchen refrigerator into the overhead luggage locker. The cabin crew were 100 times more scary than any James Bond villain and the blokes were scarier. At Sheremetyvo airport, you might have consumed a cup of tea or limonad in complete darkness. I cannot imagine what went into the donkey dick sausages.

Crazy dude Richard Gott — he knew how to have a good time.

24. the a&e charge nurse

‘On Monday, the Guardian ran an extraordinary story, detailing how GCHQ had spied on delegates at two G20 summits in London’ – it looks like they are spying on whoever they please untroubled by meaningful checks or balances.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/jun/25/liberty-gchq-nsa-target-illegal

Was it TS Eliot who said, ‘where is all the knowledge we lost with information’?

SMFS, you confuse me. Taking money from any intelligence agency while working as a journalist abroad is in effect misleading readers. Of course Richard Gott taking money from the KGB isn’t fine. Neither though is working for the state while supposedly reporting independently. One is a greater an offence than the other, clearly, but both are unacceptable.

In news: “Germany’s justice minister has written to British ministers seeking information about allegations of mass surveillance by British intelligence.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23048259

Of course, the outpouring of comforting mantra from Cameron and others that what GCHQ does is “within the law” is totally meaningless, given the extent of the surveillance activities of the Metropolitan Police which are now being claimed and the previously reported abuses by local authorities of the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act of 2000 so as to investigate trivial offences.

The one comfort is that many of the convictions of terrorists over the last two years or so have probably resulted from intercepts in one way or another.

27. So Much For Subtlety

23. Charlieman

Crazy dude Richard Gott — he knew how to have a good time.

And took blood money to pay for it.

the a&e charge nurse

‘On Monday, the Guardian ran an extraordinary story, detailing how GCHQ had spied on delegates at two G20 summits in London’ – it looks like they are spying on whoever they please untroubled by meaningful checks or balances.

I am sorry but are you saying foreign heads of state are just the targets they should NOT have been listening to?

septicisle

Taking money from any intelligence agency while working as a journalist abroad is in effect misleading readers.

No it isn’t. It is if it influences your work. But many journalists do outside work. The question is whether or not there are consequences for your work and for other people. Telling Western intelligence agencies what they want to know is not influencing your reporting, or it shouldn’t be, and it is a morally good thing to do. The KGB does not pay for neutral information. And any involvement with genocidal totalitarian regimes is morally unjustifiable. There is a difference between helping freedom survive and taking money ripped from the gold teeth of the executed.

Of course Richard Gott taking money from the KGB isn’t fine.

It is for the Guardian and hence the broad British Left. He still works for them.

Neither though is working for the state while supposedly reporting independently. One is a greater an offence than the other, clearly, but both are unacceptable.

Working for a Western intelligence agency is not remotely like working for the KGB. You are committing a category error. You cannot even compare the two much less equate them. One is morally necessary, the other is morally reprehensible. It is like comparing rape with sex with your wife.

There are historic reasons for current German concerns about what GCHQ might have been up to lately:

Double Cross: The True Story Of the D-Day Spies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPFkC2A39Qs

After all there are those who really believe that some indiscrete remarks from Bundesbank officials prompted the frenzy of speculation that forced the Pound out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in September 1992. Try this report in the New York Times on 8 October 1992:

“Not that Dr. Helmut Schlesinger, the bank’s president, and his colleagues here do not admit to having made a few gaffes. His colleagues say that Dr. Schlesinger regretted public statements he made that started a run on the pound sterling in European currency markets last month, leading to three weeks of disarray in the financial markets as well as much public shouting and finger-pointing among European officials.”

The question is whether those gaffes were unintended. But on being forced out of the ERM, the Pound depreciated by about 25pc. By the final quarter of 1995, Britain’s standardised ILO unemployment rate was lower than that of France, Germany or Italy.


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