In front of the U.K.'s Home Affairs Select Committee, The Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger defended his newspaper's right to publish documents from the U.S. National Security Agency and the British GCHQ leaked by Edward Snowden.
Rusbridger patiently explained the right to free press to the Members of Parliament present, and accused the government of attempting to intimidate the paper into squashing what they have. "I feel that some of this activity has been designed to intimidate The Guardian," Rusbridger told those present Tuesday. And he added that the paper "would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly."
The U.K. has come under fire for detaining Glenn Greenwald's partner at an airport for nine hours and pressuring the paper to smash laptops containing leaked Snowden files. Additionally, Rusbridger said, senior government officials have pressured him privately to stop leaking files.
However, of the "staggering" number of files given to the paper by Snowden — about 58,000 files, he estimated — the paper only published “about 1 percent” of what they have. “I would not expect us to be publishing a huge amount more,” he said.
Government officials questioned whether The Guardian put sensitive government information in danger when passing files to The New York Times, whether that exchange was a criminal offense, and, at one point, whether or not Rusbridger loves his country.
"I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question," Rusbridger said. "But, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.
Rusbridger also used the Presidential defense. Many have agreed surveillance practices need further scrutiny and further debate — up to and including President Obama. "The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States," he said, "two vice-presidents, generals, the security chiefs in the US [who] are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have."
"If the president of the US calls a review of everything to do with this and that information only came to light via newspapers, then newspapers have done something oversight failed to do," Rusbridger said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.