The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face | Alan Rusbridger

From the editor of The Guardian:

[…] The detention of [Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David] Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right. Here follows a little background on the considerable obstacles being placed in the way of informing the public about what the intelligence agencies, governments and corporations are up to.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint. Those colleagues who denigrate Snowden or say reporters should trust the state to know best (many of them in the UK, oddly, on the right) may one day have a cruel awakening. One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.

Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidation | Glenn Greenwald

At 6:30 am this morning my time - 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US - I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a “security official at Heathrow airport.” He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been “detained” at the London airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.”

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the “security official” called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official - who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 - said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. …

Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David. We spent most of that time contemplating the charges he would likely face once the 9-hour period elapsed.

According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders” (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, “most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour.” An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day - as every hour passed - worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consuls, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they feel threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if “Anything Happens” To Him

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian Newspaper journalist Snowden first contacted in February, told the Daily Beast Tuesday that Snowden “has taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published.” Greenwald added that the people in possession of these files “cannot access them yet because they are highly encrypted and they do not have the passwords.” But, Greenwald said, “if anything happens at all to Edward Snowden, he told me he has arranged for them to get access to the full archives.”

The fact that Snowden has made digital copies of the documents he accessed while working at the NSA poses a new challenge to the U.S. intelligence community that has scrambled in recent days to recover them and assess the full damage of the breach. Even if U.S. authorities catch up with Snowden and the four classified laptops the Guardian Newspaper reported he brought with him to Hong Kong the secrets Snowden hopes to expose will still likely be published.

A former U.S. counter-intelligence officer following the Snowden saga closely said his contacts inside the U.S. intelligence community “think Snowden has been planning this for years and has stashed files all over the internet.” This source added, “At this point there is very little anyone can do about this.”

The arrangement to entrust encrypted archives of his files with others also sheds light on a cryptic statement Snowden made on June 17 during a live chat with the Guardian. In the online session he said, “All I can say right now is the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.” [++]

A Statement on Rep. Peter King's Call for the Prosecution of Journalists | Freedom of the Press Foundation

[On Tuesday] night, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) publicly called for the prosecution of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for his recent reports showing that the NSA has been secretly collecting private data on millions of Americans. Rep. King’s appalling call for legal action against a reporter for doing his job is an affront to all journalists, and indeed, the First Amendment itself. Freedom of the Press Foundation condemns Rep. King’s comments in the harshest terms.

Rep. King has a long and unfortunate history of calling for the prosecution of journalists when media organizations print something he doesn’t like. Unfortunately for him, that is not how the First Amendment works.

Mr. Greenwald and Laura Poitras—both of whom are founding board members of this organization—as well as the many other journalists reporting on the NSA revelations in the past week, are following in the finest traditions of press freedom that this country was founded on.

The freedom of the press clause in the First Amendment provides wide latitude for journalists to publish truthful information in the public interest, even when—and in many cases, especially when—the government considers that information “secret.” This has been the established law of the land for decades, if not centuries. And any attempt to prosecute journalists for doing their job should be met with the appropriate scorn.

Rep. King has cited unspecified “national security” concerns for his suggestion that we upend the First Amendment. As Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black once wrote, “The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.”

There is no better example of Justice Black’s statement than today comments by Mr. King, who cited no specific example as to how Mr. Greenwald’s reporting has harmed the country in any way. Indeed, former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke wrote today that claims the recent NSA stories damaged national security are “laughable.” The only thing these reports reveal is what the government has been doing to millions of innocent Americans, in complete secrecy, for years.

We are supposed to know everything that the government does. That is why they are called The Public Sector, and they are supposed to know almost nothing about us. That is why we are private individuals. This has been completely reversed so that we know almost nothing about what the government does, it operates behind this impenetrable bureaucracy, while they know everything about what it is we are doing, with whom we’re speaking and communicating, what we’re reading. Glenn Greenwald (via vulgartrader)

The government has insulated its conduct from what are supposed to be the legitimate means of accountability and transparency—judicial proceedings, media coverage, FOIA requests—and has really erected this impenetrable wall of secrecy, using what are supposed to be the institutions designed to prevent that. That is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative. It really is the only remaining avenue that we have to learn about what the government is doing. And that is why the government is so intent on waging this war against whistleblowers, because it’s the only thing left that shines light on what they were doing. And those who want to stigmatize whistleblowing as illegal would have a much better case if there were legitimate institutions that were functioning that allow the kind of transparency that we’re supposed to have. But those have been all shut down, which is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative and the war on whistleblowing all the more odious. Glenn Greenwald on Bradley Manning: Prosecutor Overreach Could Turn All Whistleblowing into Treason

[For] full-scale control, it’s just as necessary for a government to shield its own actions from any transparency and scrutiny as it is to know everything which citizens are doing and saying. That’s the one-way mirror which all authoritarian regimes attempt to construct: those in power know everything about the conduct of those who are ruled, while those who are ruled know nothing about the conduct of those in power. Glenn Greenwald

[The] political faction that has long been derided for wimpy weakness (progressives) will spend the remainder of the year flexing self-admiringly in front of a mirror and basking in the war glory draped on them by all the deaths their leader has caused, while the country that is so petrified of its own shadow that it begs the government to monitor and surveil every last one of its communications will seize on these same deaths to feel purposeful, strong and proud. There is a direct correlation between the fear and impotence Zakaria bemoans and the fact that America’s greatest and proudest achievement over the past four years is its “success” in blowing people up from the sky or summarily executing them. The American character | Glenn Greenwald

A 2011 FOIA request from the ACLU revealed that just in the 18-month period beginning October 1, 2008, more than 6,600 people — roughly half of whom were American citizens — were subjected to electronic device searches at the border by DHS, all without a search warrant. Typifying the target of these invasive searches is Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual French-American citizen and an Islamic Studies Ph.D. student who was traveling from Montreal to New York on an Amtrak train in 2011 when he was stopped at the border, questioned by DHS agents, handcuffed, taken off the train and kept in a holding cell for several hours before being released without charges; those DHS agents seized his laptop and returned it 11 days later when, the ACLU explains, “there was evidence that many of his personal files, including research, photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched.” That’s just one case of thousands, all without any oversight, transparency, legal checks, or any demonstration of wrongdoing. Glenn Greenwald (via letterstomycountry)