With Guardian facing reporting restrictions, rival UK paper outs latest Snowden scoop

With Guardian facing reporting restrictions, rival UK paper outs latest Snowden scoop
By David Meyer
Aug 23 2013

The UK lacks free speech laws, which appears to be why The Independent rather thanThe Guardian has been the conduit for the latest Snowden revelation regarding a Middle East spy station.

The British government pressured the country’s Guardian newspaper into limiting its surveillance coverage, another UK paper, The Independent, has revealed.

Late on Thursday, The Independent published a scoop, derived from Edward Snowden’s leaks, about a secret British surveillance base somewhere in or near the Middle East. The paper has not previously published any new Snowden information, with The Guardian — which has worked closely with the former NSA contractor — being the only British newspaper to have done so.

There is no right to freedom of speech in the UK, even though European law supposedly guarantees a right to free expression. Without claiming any inside knowledge of what went on, it appears to me that the British press is now playing pass-the-parcel with the Snowden information in order to get around this fact.

“Agreed to restrict”

The Independent story maintains that, when UK intelligence services forced The Guardian to destroy a computer apparently containing Snowden data (a largely symbolic gesture as the data is replicated elsewhere), they also got Guardianeditor Alan Rusbridger to agree “not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security”:

“As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents.

“The Government also demanded that the paper not publish details of how UK telecoms firms, including BT and Vodafone, were secretly collaborating withGCHQ to intercept the vast majority of all internet traffic entering the country. The paper had details of the highly controversial and secret programme for over a month. But it only published information on the scheme – which involved paying the companies to tap into fibre-optic cables entering Britain – after the allegations appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. A Guardian spokeswoman refused to comment on any deal with the Government.”