Independent of GCHQ?

When a newspaper report appears with four names in the byline, it’s either an indication that the depth of the reporting required a team, or perhaps the opposite — that the report was so suspect, no one person was willing to take responsibility.

Kim Sengupta’s lack of confidence in his own reporting in an “exclusive” for The Independent is evident in the fact that he felt it needed to be backed up with an op-ed. The op-ed itself, while filled judiciously with caveats, amounts to a resounding expression of confidence in the work of Britain’s intelligence services, its “highly professional” employees and their ability to protect the British people “against the ravages of terrorism.”

That GCHQ — Britain’s arm of the NSA which operates nominally under the authority of the British government — having built a massive surveillance center in the Middle East presents no moral dilemmas, according to Sengupta.

People would expect them to do so in a region enmeshed in so much turmoil, which had been the source, at times, of bombings in this country.

By “people”, Sengupta presumably means British people — not the people whose communications are being monitored. The fact that this center has been built with the consent of a host government that most likely is unelected — that presents no moral dilemmas? How about this one: that such a government will expect strong support from the UK and the U.S. if threatened by a homegrown democracy movement? Providing land for a massive GCHQ operation sounds like the kind of insurance policy that many an Arab autocrat would view as a sound investment.

Given that Sengupta positions himself as a fairly unambiguous cheerleader for GCHQ, why would he now being exposing some of its most sensitive operations? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that this is simply a case of: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Intelligence sources provided The Independent with enough details for the paper to stitch together an exclusive and in return the paper launched an insidious multipronged attack on The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden. The Guardian is presented as kowtowing to the demands of the British government, Greenwald as a potential threat to Britain’s national security, and Snowden as the purveyor of information that could put lives at risk — and all of this comes right at the time that Scotland Yard is conducting a “terrorism investigation into material found on the computer of David Miranda,” Greenwald’s partner.

At a time when journalism itself is under threat, it might not be surprising yet it is nevertheless depressing that there are so many journalists willing to sell out their own profession.

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3 thoughts on “Independent of GCHQ?

  1. delia ruhe

    I used to be a regular reader of The Independent — I though it was a pretty good paper, compared to the establishment trash we get on this continent — but now I wonder what or who it’s independent of.

  2. Paul Woodward

    I think its decline began when it switched from being a broadsheet to a tabloid. Why the physical form should have changed the content, I don’t know. The hope of gaining more readers on public transport perhaps.

  3. bobs

    Not being a conspiracy theorist, I don’t want to speculate about this, but… shouldn’t the fact that the Independent was bought 3 years ago by a Russian tycoon, ex KGB agent, enter the discussion?

    Russian intelligence services are notoriously fragmented into feuding chiefdoms. Lebedev would have the connections and the means to maintain a lot of influence within at least one of these chiefdoms. At the same time, one has to assume that Russian intelligence has copies of Snowden’s files.

    Not sure where this story is going. But the fact that the owner of the Independent is a former KGB guy should not go unexplored.

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