Further to last week's post, here's an op-ed from former editor of The Independent, Chris Blackhurst, who says he would not have published the Snowden leaks, for two reasons. The first is that he doesn't think it is a particularly big story:
With the Snowden leaks I find myself speculating – as I did with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks – as to whether I am getting too old and losing the plot as a journalist. But, as with WikiLeaks, will someone please put the boasts about size and volume on one side and tell me: where is the story?
If it’s that the security services monitor emails and phone calls, and use internet searches to track down terrorists and would-be terrorists – including, I now read, something called the “dark net” – I cannot get wound up about it. At Kings Place, home of The Guardian, they will say my judgement is a mess. Never had any, they will probably sneer. Far too cosy to the powers-that-be, they might add. In which case, guys, uncurl your lips and explain what it is, exactly, that the NSA and GCHQ, are doing that is so profoundly terrible?
The second reason:
If the security services insist something is contrary to the public interest, and might harm their operations, who am I (despite my grounding from Watergate onwards) to disbelieve them?
Regarding the first reason, others have made the convincing case that the Snowden leaks reveal behaviour by US and allied intelligence agencies that is no more morally troubling than phone-tapping. But still, I'm surprised that an experienced editor would find nothing newsworthy in the revelations about the sheer scale of the NSA's data-mining efforts. And even if the NSA has done nothing wrong, there is surely something to be said for the fourth estate pointing out the potential for future abuse of the NSA's electronic snooping capabilities.
As for the second reason, it's surprising to hear such credulity from a seasoned journalist. No, it is not Mr Blackhurst's role to automatically disbelieve the government when it warns him that the leaking of information will compromise national security. But it is his role to subject such claims to scrutiny, given that governments have a natural tendency to conflate their own interests with the national interest, and tend to withhold information that might be prejudicial to them.