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Still wondering why we need a stateless media entity like WikiLeaks? This is why

August 20, 2013

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5252613090_8db898f5bb_zIf it wasn’t already obvious that the U.S. government is targeting journalists as part of its ongoing war on leaks, it should be fairly clear now that Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald’s partner has been detained for nine hours in a British airport and had all of his electronics seized by authorities looking for classified documents like the ones Greenwald got from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. More than anything, this kind of behavior highlights the value of having a stateless, independent media entity such as WikiLeaks.

And if that wasn’t enough, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has written about an almost unprecedented effort by British authorities to force the newspaper to stop reporting on the government’s surveillance of its citizens — including the seizure and destruction of hard drives at the newspaper’s offices and warnings about future action if the reporting continues. Rusbridger said the paper will continue its work, but will do so from the U.S. As he described it:

“And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest.”

Moving to the U.S. may not be much of an alternative, however, given the American government’s recent behavior. U.S. authorities have said that Britain took the action they did against Greenwald’s partner, Brazilian resident David Miranda, without any direction from the Obama administration — under Britain’s Schedule 7 anti-terrorism law — although the U.S. government did acknowledge that British authorities gave them a “head’s up” about the detention and search. But should we believe this, knowing that senior security officials have routinely lied about their activities?

Given what has happened with Snowden, it’s entirely believable that the Obama administration asked Britain to take such action, or at least suggested that it would be grateful if it occurred. What’s especially depressing is how quick some defenders of the U.S. security apparatus were to argue that it was Greenwald’s own fault his partner was treated in such a way — as though targeting the families of journalists for unreasonable search and seizure should be considered routine.

As the Free Press and others have pointed out, the detention is just part of a much larger pattern of harassment that has been directed at journalists by the U.S. government over the last year — a pattern that includes veiled threats of prosecution against Greenwald and other journalists who have been involved in leaks, as well as the ongoing quasi-legal measures it has been taking against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Read more in Gigaon.

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