Ten reasons why conservatives should take Edward Snowden seriously

Snooping shouldn't be a conservative principle. In the US and elsewhere, the right understand that

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

Towards the end of last year Tom Stoppard gave a rather brilliant PEN/Pinter lecture on freedom of expression which was, in part, a kind of love letter to the place which has been his home since 1946: ‘There is no country in the world I would rather be living in, no country where I would feel safer.’

Later in the same lecture he listed his own ‘obsequies over the England we have mislaid’. The list began: ‘Surveillance, mis-selling pensions and insurance. Phone hacking. Celebrity culture. Premiership football. Dodgy dossier. Health and Safety. MPs’ expenses…’ And so on, before underlining his own personal mantra on human rights: ‘A free press makes all the other freedoms possible.’

I found myself nodding at all three themes of the lecture. I too can think of no country in which I’d rather live. There are things happening in the country which are dismaying, if not positively alarming. And no freedom is possible without a free press.

It had not struck me that these positions could be thought incompatible until about ten minutes into an appearance before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee a few weeks later when the chair, Keith Vaz, asked me: ‘Do you love this country?’

Edward Snowden Speaks To The GuardianEdward Snowden Photo: Getty

One paper reported the question caused me ‘visible discomfort’. I was certainly surprised. Was it really unpatriotic to believe in the necessity of a strong intelligence service; to be deeply concerned at some aspects of its operations; and to assert the duty of journalists to stand aside from power in order to scrutinise it?

In America, the Snowden revelations have stirred up a momentum for reform that crosses political divides. Fox News and the libertarian right have made common cause with liberals to push back on mass state data collection and storage which they view as potentially dangerous and unconstitutional.

The right in Britain has so far been more muted. The Conservative members of the Home Affairs Select Committee showed zero interest in any of the issues that have surfaced over recent months, preferring to try to prove criminal behaviour by the Guardian — or exposing at the very least a possible breach of s8 (16) of FedEx’s terms of carriage. One tweeter was impelled to ask: ‘What would Conservative giants, like Burke, Disraeli, Churchill, think of the today’s minnow Tories talking about FedEx parcels not liberty?’

Before the last election it was, notably, Tory MPs and peers — together with many Lib Dems — who spoke up for liberty and against an overweening surveillance state. David Cameron, Chris Grayling and Dominic Grieve all forensically dissected Labour proposals for building ever bigger state databases. David Davis, Dominic Raab and Rory Stewart are among the current crop of Conservatives who do keep a watchful eye on the formidable technologies now deployed. When Parliament has recently been given the opportunity to vote on potentially intrusive behaviour by the state — as with the so-called Snoopers’ Charter — it has consistently rejected it.

But there is something about the incantation of ‘national security’ that turns heads and extinguishes debate. In the same week as Stoppard’s fierce defence of a free press a respected former editor of the Independent wrote a piece under the headline: ‘If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest, who am I to disbelieve them?’ — which might actually be a useful question for first-year journalism students. The former editor would not, he said, have published the Snowden disclosures. Other British journalists have simply avoided the subject altogether.

I do not, incidentally, believe the frowning disapproval of those who vow they would never have touched the stuff. It is unimaginable to me that any editor I have ever known would actually have declined to look at any of the Snowden material or — having looked at it — would have voluntarily taken a Black and Decker to their own computers and published not a word.

It’s been suggested to me that the widespread silence — in the UK, but nowhere else: the rest of the world is in the midst of bubbling debate — reflects a general crossness with the Guardian over Leveson. The Guardian washed Fleet Street’s phone-hacking laundry in public. That led to Leveson. Leveson was bad. Therefore…

But I also find that hard to believe, if only because the British press as a whole is currently trying to persuade sceptical politicians and the public that it can be trusted to regulate itself. If our editorial leaders can’t distinguish between journalism that needs to be defended because it is of public importance and journalism in which there is no public interest, then self-regulation cannot possibly succeed.

It seems more likely that some people can’t get beyond a straight binary choice between privacy and security. Even this acknowledges that there are at least two competing public interests which must be weighed by someone. But as the Snowden disclosures have continued, it’s become apparent that there are several significant issues which need to be added to be considered and balanced. Here are some of them:

Consent. Should citizens be allowed to know about the new technologies which have been deployed since the beginning of this century to collect, store and analyse every byte of their digital lives?

Parliamentary approval. Should MPs have had a say before these new mass databases and collection techniques were implemented?

Legality. Most of the laws under which this activity happens were passed in an age of crocodile clips and copper wires. Is it right that analogue laws should be stretched to cover digital spying?

The private sector. Much intelligence nowadays piggy-backs on the capabilities of private technology and telecom companies. How many of these companies went beyond what they were legally required to do? Do their customers and shareholders have a right to know how their information is shared behind users’/subscribers’ backs and on what legal (or voluntary) basis?

The integrity of the web itself. There is evidence that the basic security of the digital platforms used by all of us has been weakened for the benefit of the NSA. Cryptologists, business leaders and privacy experts have been appalled to learn about what the NSA and GCHQ have been up to. Do Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s views on the web count as much as the spies’?

The risk to the digital economy. US and UK digital entrepreneurs are gravely concerned at a potential backlash against western tech companies which, it’s estimated, could cost them tens of billions of dollars over the next few years.

Relationships with friendly governments and institutions. The US has also promised to stop spying on other allies through membership of some international civil institutions. When is it right to spy on our friends — and do we mind when they spy on us?

Has everyone in the intelligence agencies told the truth and behaved legally within their own frameworks? Several members of Congress doubt this. Declassified documents released from the Fisa courts show repeated violations by the NSA. The recent Gibson report on rendition implied that our own agencies had been less than frank with Westminster’s Intelligence and Security Committee. The former Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, found in 2010 that MI5 had deliberately misled Parliament and had a ‘culture of suppression’ that undermined government assurances about its conduct.

Privacy. The collection of billions of digital and telephonic events a day represents the most staggering potential invasion of privacy in history. Security advocates paint this in a benign light, saying that it is merely ‘metadata’, which they compare to old-fashioned phone billing records. Privacy experts vigorously dispute this and say that metadata gives a near-complete picture of an individual’s life. What are the implications for medical, financial, journalistic, legal and sexual records and general individual privacy?

Proportionality. Is there convincing evidence that bulk data collection and storage is necessary and proportionate? Security chiefs insist yes. At least three US intelligence oversight senators say they haven’t seen such evidence. Ditto a federal judge. President Obama’s own review panel expresses outright scepticism.

There is, finally, the question of security of information. Giant American databases have quite spectacularly leaked twice in the past four years (Manning and Snowden). Given that it appears to be impossible to keep the state’s most secret secrets secure, why should we trust any state database with our most private information?

So there are many interesting and important issues now revealed. We currently rely on secret courts and secret committees. But how can voters judge how well they’ve addressed the issues listed above — if (in some cases) at all?

Just before Christmas the story took two remarkable turns. First, a (Bush-appointed) judge in Washington found that the NSA’s ‘almost Orwellian’ mass collection of Americans’ data was probably unconstitutional. The next day Obama’s own review panel came out with a list of 46 sweeping reforms of the NSA, and all the leading US tech companies had a meeting with Obama to express their alarm at what they were learning.

Snowden himself is not a liberal but a libertarian conservative. He had come to have grave fears about the potential power of the state power for what he termed ‘suspicionless surveillance’. He had little confidence that politicians were being fully and honestly informed about that power — or that they were adequately equipped for the role of oversight. And so he went to a free press in order to blow the whistle.

The former Conservative chief whip Lord Blencathra (David Maclean as was) said of Snowden in October: ‘He is the first leaker I have ever felt sympathy for or felt had a potential justice behind what he was doing.’ Maclean felt he’d been kept in the dark while scrutinising the parliamentary scrutiny of the data communications bill. Last week the libertarian blogger Guido Fawkes described Snowden as a hero and demanded a pardon. Slowly, it seems, British conservatives are waking up to the significance of the issues at stake.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Alan Rusbridger is editor of the Guardian.

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Show comments
  • TheGazman_gary

    the USA should stand down spying and encourage other countries to respect privacy- the right of all humans. better to concentrate on rebuilding the country responsibly. The system is top heavy..

    • Hans Olo

      With regards Gary, your comment assumes that there are at this point Sovereign nations. The United States of America is a publicly traded corporation increasingly owned and leveraged by a private bank we here in the USA call the federal reserve. While it may be true that the vile folk who engineer the global socioeconomic and sociopolitical matrices may now headquarter in the USA, they certainly are not American, so to speak. The American populous en mass are property of the corporation now, as are the Brits, the French, the Soviet etc. The Bank is running things and owns our nations through monetary policy, i.e. The federal reserve buying tens of billions of dollars worth of mortgage backed securities a month for years on end. Additionally, the federal reserve has been propping up the corpse of the global economy with as many tens of billions a month in publicly traded corporation corporate buy backs. The federal reserve, being neither federal nor a reserve, is our central bank, and is subsidiary to the same Bank as your central bank in Brittan. Congratulations dear servant in law, we are both of us owned by the bankers that run The Bank. Our USA officially fell the moment the FED opened its doors. The root of the problem is far more insidious, and sees those at the root potentially centuries ahead of the ‘unwashed masses’ from a technological standpoint, but that is beyond the scale of this reply if not certainly pertinent to a greater understanding of the world in which we live.

  • gram parsons

    please do not give this man a platform again

    • David Kay

      indeed. in the good old days he may well have found himself swinging from the gallows for publishing enemy propaganda and aiding the enemy.

      The only reason his rag is still in business is because the BBC buy so many copies and advertise all their jobs in it. They both make Pravda look right wing

      • Lena Helena

        Oh absolute rubbish, and bravo Mr Snow den. Perhaps at last we will learn the truth about these appalling royal secrets that the sycophantic royal press wish to remain hidden from public view. It was The Guardian that democratically campaigned to get that deplorable twat Prince Charles political lobbying letters in to the public domain. More power to your righteous elbow Mr Rusbridger.

        • David Kay

          in the good ole days, you would have been swinging from the gallows as well for saying that

          god save the queen

          • Lena Helena

            Silly reply David Kay – a typical righty answer. You are presumably a bring back hanging oik. Why do you advocate undemocratic hereditary privilege? Cameron and co in perpetuity!! – oh dear me.

          • David Kay

            dont be ridiculous. Camermoron would be the 2nd person i executed, Tony BLiar being the first. Traitors and socialists like them two deserve to die. Vote UKIP 😉

          • Lena Helena

            You have missed the main point, that you applause hereditary privilege – why? Consequently, would hereditary privilege as far as Farage and UKIP be acceptable to you?. Moreover I support Independence for Scotland, or do you consider that a form treason as well, in which case I and a large percentage of Scots are bracketed together as perpetrators of “treason” – shallow thinking on your part Mr. Kay.

          • David Kay

            my goodness Lena, you dont understand what it is to be Right wing do you. I want rid of that socialist parasite called Scotland simply because, it will be the end of the Labour Party in England. And that means the end of socialism in my country. What cuold be more patriotic than wanting to rid society of socialism?

            Me shallow? i think not my dear! Im hoping every Scot does their duty and votes for Englands freedom.

            regarding the point i missed. Im a loyalist not a parliamentarian. If a civil war broke out, id be on the Queens side. But while the Queen wants use to live in a parliamentary democracy, i’ll vote UKIP. But she only has to give the word and i’ll do a better job than guido 😉

          • Lena Helena

            Well at least we agree on something, except I see Independence as a liberated Scotland from an appalling Westminster parliament. Where I disagree is on the balance of socialism in England, which regrettably at the moment is so mild as to be totally ineffective. On the other hand we do not live in a parliamentary democracy, it is a myth; how can we when we have a non elected HOS who is in a position of enormous power in perpetuity. It is encouraging to here via Independent Australia News IA on the web, that Brenda Battenberg supports an Australian republic. Good on yer old girl!!

          • David Kay

            julia gillard was a republican and the patriotic ozzies booted her out of office. Or was it because she was a socialist killing her country with her environmental lunacy. Either way, it got rid of a socialist nutter

            Tony Abbott. Now he’s my kind of leader. Sending his representatives to the Climate Change Moonbat Festival in Poland saying Australia would never agree to anything that was socialism masquerading as environmentalism. The world needs more leaders like him

            But socialists never think theres enough socialism. You wont be happy until the world becomes one happy socialist utopia. Thats called communism, and i’d rather nuke the planet than let that happen

          • Lena Helena

            Yes Julia Gilyard was a Republican but she lacked the courage to actively campaign for it, and that was one of the reasons why she is no longer the PM. As for the Tory Abbot – Nuff said, although regardless of Abbott’s pro monarchy idiocy OZ will be a Republic within the next decade. It may well be that the effect on other pro monarchies with a small p, will follow suit i.e the domino effect. Why you would want to exterminate the rest of the world to achieve your distorted political ideology is weird to say the least. Strange to think that Britain supported Stalin in the second world war to save Britain from the lesser of two evils, well perhaps yes from your perspective??

          • David Kay

            i take it youve never been to a socialist country. i was posted to berlin from 1988-1990. i visited the east many times, socially and on flag tours.

            my first time in the east what shocked me as a young 18 year old soldier was that people were still using horse and carts to get around. it was like going back in time 50 years. My initial impression was that whole place was dull and could do with a coat of paint. Compared to west germany, east germany was a backwards country

            The day after the wall came down i went on a flag tour in east berlin. At that time, east germans still needed an exit visa (that they got from the post office) to get out via check point charlie. this was just a formality and was dropped not long afterwards. At every post office, there were queues of about 50,000+ waiting to visas to get out while they could.

            They thought the DDR woud close the border eventually, and then if they tried to get out, they got shot. Lots of people died trying to escape that socialist hell hole, such was the appeal of the teachings of Marx.

            At check point charlie itself (i went in the evenings when off duty), for days, there was a huge traffic jam of dodgy eastie beastie cars made from compressed cardboard along with masses of people streaming through it. People that lived under socialism couldnt wait to get out

            In the army, when the enemy is about to over run you, you call artillery down on your own poistion. your going to die anyway, so better your own people kill you than the enemy, plus it will also wipe out the enemy. This principle applies on a global scale if socialism tried to take over the world. Rather than live under a regime like North Korea, i’d nuke the planet, and take the commies out with me.

            Churchil said he would make a pact with the devil in order to beat the german socialists. The irony is he made a pact with even more evil socialists

    • Cymrugel

      and while you are at it, stop giving a platform to the ridiculous Delingpole.
      There is nothing sillier than a well off posh chap from London writing articles bellyaching about how hard done by and put upon he is.
      The man is a crank with little understanding of real life for the majority of people in this country.

      Why the Spectator and the Telegraph employ a man who is a cartoon harrumpher who seems to regard anyone not in his social class as semi-human I cannot imagine.
      He appeals to the nastiest,. most reactionary most socially blind section of your readership.

      • ADW

        The thing about Delingpole is that he is moderately posh and moderately well-off, but wishes he was rather more of both. Hence he is always toadying around the big boys whilst trying to show he can jeer and bully with the best of them. His real problem, though, is that he writes about science without knowing anything about it, which is all very well when he has been fed some correct information like the East Anglian screwball, but which leaves him looking like a berk when he laps up something that is palpable nonsense, eg that book by Ian Plimer. He also isn’t quite funny enough or quite good enough at writing to be in the top echelon of hacks.

        • Baron

          Oh dear, ADW, you the judge of science, are you? presumably ‘global warming science’, right?

          Listen up, please.

          When do trees grow faster (their rings being fatter)? Is it when the weather is warm and wet, or is it when the weather is hot and dry?

          If your answer is the former, as it should be, tell Baron why is the precipitation variable missing from the original tome by the ‘scientists’ who penned the original submission for the IPCC, the one that contained the hockey stick? Why is it the tree ring thickness is taken as a proxy for temperature only, and not temp cum rainfall?

          • ADW

            Jesus Baron I wasn’t trying to define the entire canon of climate science (a bit much for one comment), but point out that whereas Delingtroll is all over the East Anglian shysters like a cheap suit, he cheerfully ignores the hopeless string of errors in his hero Plimer’s shoddy nonsense.

            For what it is worth, I am very sceptical of the IPCC, but it does the cause no good to say that because Plimer arrives at a conclusion you agree with his manifestly awful errors can be ignored. In fact, quite the opposite.

          • Baron

            Apologies, ADW, the barbarian’s in a foul mood today, the pissing weather, the gout, the Rusbridger’s piece in the Spectator …, but he’s calming down. Peace?

          • ADW

            No problem. I suspect you might find greater agreement with the post I left below reminding Rusfilcher about the best response to his incredibly self-indulgent piano guff …

          • Baron

            Yup, ADW, right on the nail, but he’s one of those who can self-indulge, is he not?

            How did we get here, just in journalism, ha?

          • ADW

            Thanks – well, I don’t know why I’m surprised or expected anything else re Rusflicher. He is only acting like the Communist Party heads his paper so ardently supported throughout the Cold War …

      • Baron

        Here you go wrong, my blogging friend, the man, James, has done more than almost anyone else to lampoon the AGW ecochondriacs, and for this alone he can do almost anything he likes, and we should still be grateful.

    • black11hawk

      Everyone should be allowed to express their view, if you disagree with it then convince others through reasoning rather than calling for the other’s argument to be censored.

      • Baron

        black11hawk, you either disingenuous, blind or both, one can hardly get one’s point of disagreement across if one is censored. As Cymrugel observes above, you either toe the line on CiF, or you get kicked out.

        Baron backs gram’s point except he believes the only platform the man should appear on is the one with a guillotine on top, the bigger one, not the one for removing one’s tonsils.

  • David S

    You tart, Rusbridger. When they came for the Sun, where were you? Your idea of freedom of the press and freedom from surveillance is freedom for you and your friends, and the devil take the rest of us. There is no clearer indicator of your stance on personal liberty than the ruthless moderation on the ironically titled “Comment is Free”

    • Cymrugel

      I have had comments routinely deleted and been expelled several times from CIF and now find my new avatars routinely shut down.
      I am not a troll, follow the rules of the platform and , regarding myself as being of the left on a variety of issues.
      Nevertheless, I have been censored and expelled on issues including Islamism, immigration, abortion, sexuality and defence.
      There is no moderation on CIF – only censorship, yet the most appalling insults, libels and freakish assertions are left unmoderated as long as the posters subscribe to the Guardian line.
      The Guardian has ceased to be a newspaper of the left and is now northing more than a talk sheet for people with a very narrow range of views and opinions.
      Essentially unless you live an upper middle class life in London and are preoccupied with personal lifestyle and sexuality issues it has nothing to say to you.
      A sad end to the newspaper of the late great James Cameron.

    • Baron

      Quite, David S, this fustian vomit only shows that if one learns the right words, uses them in the right order, one can turn a malodorous turd into anything, even a high minded justification of thievery.

      and this:

      “The Guardian washed Fleet Street’s phone-hacking laundry in public?” Arghhh. How about: The Guardian washed the old Australian phone hacking laundry in public”.

    • JabbaTheCat


    • victor67

      Why should he support the Sun. Its not serious journalism, unless you regard raking through dustbins and hacking phones as such?

      • David S

        There were already criminal laws against hacking phones. There was no need for a massive expensive public inquiry – it should have been a criminal investigation as it would with any other alleged crime.
        The Sun was made a special case, and treated differently from law firms, insurance companies and other newspapers, with the Guardian cheering from the sidelines, and worse still as Adro says actively supporting State control of the press.

        The nadir was when Hacked Off, an unelected group that refuses to name its supporters, was granted a private meeting with the leaders of all three parties that resulted in the drafting of the Royal Charter – a shamefully undemocratic and illiberal act, and one which Rusbridger supported, presumably as a way of getting at the hated News Corp.
        PS Cymrugel you are right to correct my erroneous use of the word moderation when as you have pointed out it is censorship.

        • victor67

          Yes that “ultra powerful” group made up of parents of a murdered child and bereaved relatives of squaddies (whose phones were hacked) killed in wars supported by the multi-millionaire newspaper owners .
          There is no free press in the UK. Murdoch, Rothermere and the Barclays serve the corporate elite and their political wing the Tory Party.

          • David S

            Why the inverted commas around “ultra powerful”? It’s not a phrase I used. The parents and squaddies were used by Julia Middleton of Common Purpose, High sorry Hugh Grant, John Prescott and the others involved with the Media Standards Trust to provide a sympathetic front. The “corporate elite” is well represented on the MST, as well, with Board members from NM Rothschild and Morgan Stanley in the MST board until recently.

            Murdoch, Rothermere and the Barclays serve nobody but themselves. Their power comes from the number of newspapers they sell, which in turn reflects what people want to read. The latest figures show Murdoch 32%, Rothermere 23% and the Barclays 7% of the UK market, with Rusbridger’s Guardian at 2.3%, and an influence out of all proportion to its readership numbers because of its cosy relationship with the BBC.

            In total there are 6 daily newspaper groups plus numerous weeklies and a complete world of blogs. The fact that you hate the Tories does not stop this being a free press.

      • Weaver

        Who decides what is “serious” or not. Me? You? Suppose I don’t regard MR Rusbridger or any of my political opponents as sufficiently “serious”. The

        Freedom of speech means freedom for EVERYONE. Or it doesn’t mean anything at all…

        • victor67

          Its not curtailing freedom by stopping the sleaze bags at the Sun , Mail and Express digging dirt on the rich and famous and their political enemies. Decent journalists on the right have nothing to worry about.

          • David S

            Not sure how to answer that without falling foul of Godwin’s law. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, eh?

          • Weaver

            Damnit, Victor, that’s what they always say. You’re smart enough to see the problem; “First they came for the Jews, etc. etc.”

            Anyway, just because someone is a sleazebag does NOT deprive them of the right to free speech.

  • Hippograd

    Snooping isn’t a conservative principle — it’s a principle, conscious and otherwise, of people who like mass immigration and the inevitable disasters that follow, which provide an excellent excuse for the surveillance state. The difference between Alan Rusbridger and a neo-con is that a neo-con knows what he’s doing when he supports open borders.

    • Baron

      Baron was going to make a similar point when his eyes hit the sentence on snooping as solely (?) conservative principles, is glad you’ve made it Hippograd. Which man of the conservative leaning has ever suggested snooping as a principle of conservatism?

  • zanzamander

    Please tell me you didn’t pay this millionaire socialist lefty anything to write this. The bad piano player is already doing ok milking the Guardian, he doesn’t need any help from the Spectator’s poor subscribers.

  • GeoffreyMortonHaworth

    These four talks by Eben Moglen, a Columbia Law Professor, give the most coherent account of the issues that Snowden has raised that I have yet come across: http://snowdenandthefuture.info/index.html

  • Adro

    Alan, though I agree with much of your sentiment, is your position not undermined by your crusade for the Royal Charter and regulation of the press, which this very magazine has rightly refused to sign? You argue that freedom of the press is the basis of a free society, and yet you purportedly support the most intrusive state oversight of our news Britain has seen in hundreds of years. Now the royal charter isn’t a totalitarian diktat, but it represents a step in the wrong direction. I would have thought you would have recognised that rather than throwing your lot in with the mob at Hacked Off – a half baked group of politicised revenge-seekers, who want to do over the parts of the gutter press who they feel have wronged them over the years, at the expense of journalistic freedom.

    • Baron

      Excellent point, Adro, and be it a lesson for you. Never just listen to what one’s saying, look at what he’s doing. It’s the deeds that should inform your judgement on people, words only mislead. .

  • ADW

    Morning Alan. I assume you are being decent enough to read through the comments, even though they will inevitably include a few indecent ones.

    Thought I’d remind you of what the CIF mods have been anxiously deleting for a while over there. Fortunately, free speech is in better health on this site, as reflected by the fact it refuses to sign the idiotic charter. It is also reflected by the fact that when Rod Liddle publishes something about black violence, with reference to a particularly brutal assault, you at the Graun get far more upset about Liddle’s unfortunate turn of phrase (if it was all that unfortunate) than the attack he was writing about or the parlous state of the black community and its unfortunate contrast with the much more successful Indian or Chinese communities.

    Anyway, back to the CIF mods, here’s the thing they kept chopping out of all those self-indulgent piano threads you compelled the editors to run a while back:

    “Afternoon Alan – I’m a member of Guardian staff, posting anonymously.

    As you know, it’s a tough time for your journalists at the moment – especially for those of us way down the food chain: the production grunts, the desk-bound, the ones who actually produce the content.

    We’re working harder and harder (because we love the papers), coping with dwindling resources and morale, we’re badly mismanaged, and trying to cope with the life-changing threat of compulsory redundancies – all a result of the company’s long-term financial illiteracy and lavish excess at the top.

    So I just want to say thanks for the series of articles – three now, isn’t it? – about learning to play your Fazioli piano. They’re brilliantly timed, and I know they’ll lift spirits. We always wondered how you filled your days, how you spent your fortune. Now we know.”

    Assuming you’re still with us Alan, just a final thought. Isn’t it funny how the Graun has been a microcosm of British society at large – excess creamed off at the top whilst those below are expected to do ever more with less? Certainly it’s been the story of every company since crony capitalism replaced the Soviet-lite disaster of the 1970s, with executive pay proportionately many times what it was for most of the C20, with no discernible improvement in performance. I had thought the Graun might be different, but hey, welcome to the real world I guess.

  • ReadingOldBoy

    “or exposing at the very least a possible breach of s8 (16) of FedEx’s terms of carriage”

    And they only got Capone on tax evasion, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

  • CrestovaWren

    There are two aspects to Snowden’s actions:

    1. The disclosure of NSA activities in relation to US citizens etc that go beyond its proper mandate.

    2. The disclosure of the monitoring of the activities of countries – and indeed drug cartels – which are, frankly, our enemies.

    If the NSA is going beyond its domestic ambit then Snowden’s revelations are interesting and important.

    However, when it comes to the revelation that the US is spying on China, drug cartels…. well, the disclosure of that information combined with Snowden’s flight to China and then Russia was essentially treason. There’s no national interest in the disclosure of that information, and unless you genuinely believe that Putin’s Russia is a better system than the USA, I can’t understand how anybody would do anything other than condemn it.

    The Guardian should have taken the same stance – failing to do so indicates that, basically, it really does prefer Putin’s Russia to the US and UK!

    • gram parsons

      of course he prefers putins russia,its in very DNA.
      do they not consider it the true “motherland”.

    • Winston Smith

      Spying on friends like Germany? The NSA works for the American people, and the majority of us want to know what they’re doing in our name.

    • ButcombeMan


  • zakisbak

    caused me ‘visible discomfort’ –
    It caused me unfettered joy to see you so accurately described.
    Your paper is solid propaganda,your cif a byword for naked censorship.

    Your rag has a long history of fifth columnism,no wonder it was the KGB’s favourite.

    Snowden could have ran to the US press;his refuge in surveillance shy peace loving Russia tells us all we really need to know about him and his supporters,(a bit like your other grass mate,currently residing in the freedom loving Ecuadorian embassy).

    Enjoy your immense wealth by the way.

    • JabbaTheCat


  • Peter Stroud

    The phone hacking scandal was made more scandalous by the guardian’s efforts. There were, obviously, some worrying aspects: but the reason why the whole matter was blown up into a major scandal was due to the Guardian. The law could have taken its course, and some journalists would have been brought to book. But the dawn raids, and numerous arrests were due to Leveson. And Leveson was due to Cameron’s panic at the Guardians’s disclosures. Now the press will, in the long run, face government interference. Press freedom will be jeopardised.

    On the matter of Mr Snowdon. Sorry Mr Rusbridger, this man must have signed the US’s official secrets act requirements. He has disclosed many damaging secrets, and you have aided him to do so. He should be prosecuted, and so should you.

    • mrsjosephinehydehartley

      With respect, the infamous dawn raids couldn’t in all seriousness been due to Leveson, who is just a man who happened to chair a judicial public inquiry.

      I shouldn’t worry about the position of the press in relation to the Royal Charter and it’s independent management. This very independence will surely be available to everyone concerned when appropriate or necessary to uphold the freedom of the press..even in the face of executive effects gone haywire.

    • Winston Smith

      Snowden took an oath to the Constitution of the United States, which trumps all other earthly obligations. Honor the Constitution or honor a secrecy agreement? That’s easy.

  • Weaver

    Fair enough, Rusbridger, I’m with you on this one. The libertarian right upholds its principles.

    But you should have been more robust on defending the tabloids and confronting the ridiculous Royal Charter. Not happy about your attitude there.

  • Winston Smith

    Those who love America respect & admire Edward Snowden. The political party scam is part of The Problem that created the monster he exposed.

  • serguei_p

    Personally I am more worried about recent development when the police is going after those who committed “thought crime” on Twitter.

    The fact that some people think it is OK to jail people for wrong Twit while at the same time admire Edward Snowden probably means that it is not the freedom from the State that they really care about.

  • Firey Hooks

    Here we find disgraced philanderer Bill Clinton lecturing Hussein Obama about honesty: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2013/11/the-obamacare-lie-that-cant-be-fixed-99843.html

  • What a very weird spin to put on the facts, Mr Rusbridger. It’s not just the right who stayed quiet in the UK. So did the left, apart from the Guardian – does anyone remember Yvette Cooper denouncing mass surveillance?

  • Littlegrayman

    Has Snowden got anything good on Blair?

  • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

    The Guardian, a fetish for consenting adults of perverse tastes.
    It will be a dead print paper soon, look at the circulation stats.

  • Eddie

    Indeed, but the main issue in the UK now is the police (who want to boost arrest stats) pursuing anyone who has ‘offended’ others on Twitter, Facebook or on emails. Easy meat arrests.
    I know three people whose sons have been arrested for that – two for emailing ex-girlfriend and telling them what they were (nothing wrong in that) – these vindictive minxes then deliberately do not reply to entrap their former boyfriends. Oh power feels good eh girls? But you play with fire.
    Funny though that those so ‘offended’ never seem to block the people on Twitter, Facebook or email – which is easily done. Buy hey, maybe they simply love their victim status plus the sympathy plus the drama plus the compo.
    Being offensive should not be a crime. Saying things online should not be either – with perhaps the exception of inciting violence and terrorism (buy funnily enough the police ignore the masses of Islamic hate-mongering out there in the name of ‘diversity’.
    We must defend freedom of speech and expression against the idiot plods who are keen to create a police state (though they only seem to arrest those who offend women and ethnics – and boy are the police desperate to play the pc liberal good guys these days; any white man making a complaint will be told to f off and stop being a wimp).
    Freedom of speech and expression are NOT right wing things – they are human rights fought for by all by challenged the church and the monarchy over many centuries in Britain. We are trashing our heritage every time we allow the police to arrest someone for stating their opinion online.

  • ButcombeMan

    Rustbridger has been wrong all along and has participated in a leftist plot to undermine the free world. Ever wondered why Snowden is hiding in Russia? The Russians must be laughing at us.

    The institutions which use electronic contact data in the UK have always been incredibly careful about compliance with the law. What they do represents no threat to innocent people.
    Most younger people now need to be more worried about the data gathered by Google. Apple, Facebook, Microsoft even Tesco etc
    It has been like that for a long time but Rustbridger never kept up. He is flogging the wrong horse.

    Intelligence work has been described as (and is) like looking for a needle in a haystack. There are no resources in the UK for it to impact on the innocent.

    If you are going to look for a needle in a haystack, you must first secure the haystack.

    Maybe the reason the British have shown astonishing sang froid (despite Rutsbridger trying to keep the pot boiling in his failing organ) is that the British as a nation intuitively understand this. They know there is no evidence of abuse.
    Rustbridger gets childishly upset because HE does not know or understand everything.

    What he has shown is that he cannot be trusted. He is an enemy of our society.