Rusbridger’s inquisition: Another scene of the ‘theatrical’ spying saga by UK officials
Glyn Moody: I think what we are seeing is theater to a
large extent, in that the UK government is trying to present
things in a certain way for appearances. So for example right at
the beginning of this saga we saw some government people march
into the Guardian and demand that computer hard disks be
destroyed with hammers and drills, this was despite the fact the
Guardian told them that the documents had been copied and
were all around the world. For the sake of theater the government
wanted them destroyed. You mentioned that meeting before the parliamentary committee a month
ago, which was the “unprecedented interrogation” it was
RT:They told us how damaging some of these disclosures had been.
GM: What we learnt afterwards was that they were told the questions beforehand. It was pure theater, there was no real interrogation going on there and what we’re seeing now is the naughty schoolboy Alan Rusbridger being hauled up before the headmaster to explain himself, its theater again.
RT:Now you use the word theater, but obviously of course, there is nothing light hearted about this and internationally right now, there are a lot of people watching saying the UK defends the freedom of the press, what is happening, are we damaging our reputation here?
GM: Absolutely, the UK government is engaging in this theater for political purposes and is ignoring the real issues here and therefore is beginning to look really quite absurd to the outside world. So instead of addressing the fact that GCHQ along with the NSA are actually spying on everything we do online 24 hours a day and storing large amounts of that, they are starting to say: ‘Never mind about that, look, there’s a squirrel!’ We are going to talk about security. In other words, we don’t address the problematic issues.
RT:That is really interesting because there are two debates here aren’t there? There is the issue over the surveillance and scope of that, what these people are doing in the name of national security. And then of course you’ve got the issue of the freedom of the press going on right now.
Were you shocked by the revelations that you’ve seen in the Guardian newspaper? Are they public interest, is it really stuff that we really needed to know?
GM: I have been a computer journalist for 30 years and I thought I was pretty cynical but I was taken aback by what has been going on. I knew this was technically possible bit I did not believe anybody would actually do it. To actually, effectively download the internet in real time and analyze it, because given that we’ve fought off things like the communications data bill, where they were talking about storing just a small amount, we actually fought them off. But in the meantime they’ve been doing this on a far larger scale.
RT:Why such a high profile campaign, why have we seen the Prime Minister commenting on this? Why are we seeing the editor of one of the main newspapers in the UK quizzed by MPs right now?
GM: As I say I think its theater and I think its theater for internal consumption, and I think David Cameron wants to play the tough guy. He wants to show ‘I’m really strong’, ‘I’m really tough on terrorism’, ‘I’m not going to put up with these journalists leaking our national secrets’, but the rest of the world is saying ‘well hang on there’s a serious debate that needs to be held here’. President Obama has said ‘you’re right there’s a debate we need to hold’, but David Cameron is saying ‘we’ll forget about the debate, we’re just going to talk about security because that’s the really important thing’. And I think that’s what’s really troubling is that he won’t address the central issue.