Nick Davies writes: In the last few days, two national newspapers – the Times and the Mail – have suggested that the Guardian has been wrong to publish material leaked by Edward Snowden on the specific grounds that journalists cannot be trusted to judge what may damage national security.
Ignore for a moment the vexing sight of journalists denouncing their own worth. Set aside too the question of why rival newspapers might want to attack the Guardian’s exclusives. Follow the argument. Who should make the judgment?
The official answer is that we should trust the security agencies themselves. Over the past 35 years, I’ve worked with a clutch of whistleblowers from those agencies, and they’ve all shared one underlying theme – that behind the screen of official secrecy, they had seen rules being bent and/or broken in a way which precisely suggested that the agencies should not be trusted. Cathy Massiter and Robin Robison, for example, described respectively MI5 and GCHQ pursuing politically motivated projects to spy on peace activists and trade unionists. Peter Wright told of MI5 illegally burgling its way across London “while pompous bowler-hatted civil servants in Whitehall pretended to look the other way”. David Shayler exposed a plot both lawless and reckless by MI5 and MI6 to recruit al-Qaida supporters to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi.
All of this was known to their bosses. None of it should have been happening. But the agencies in whom we are invited to place our trust not only concealed it but without exception then attacked the whistleblowers who revealed it. [Continue reading…]