MPs question Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s patriotism over Edward Snowden leaks

 

Media Editor

In scenes reminiscent of a McCarthyite hearing or an Old Bailey trial, the editor-in-chief of The Guardian, was on Tuesday asked to prove his patriotism and accused of having broken Britain’s terror laws.

Alan Rusbridger found himself the subject of extraordinary questioning during a heated session of the Home Affairs Select Committee as MPs probed the circumstances surrounding the newspaper’s disclosure of secret security files leaked by American whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

In an unusual start to the hearing, Keith Vaz, chair of the committee, demanded to know if Mr Rusbridger loved the United Kingdom.

“You and I were both born outside this country,” the Yemen-born MP told the editor, who was born in Zambia when it was a British colony. “I love this country, do you love this country?”

Having said he was “slightly surprised to be asked the question”, Mr Rusbridger responded: “Yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of a democracy and the nature of a free press.” He said that the “freedom to write and report” was “one of the things I love about this country”.

The most aggressive of the questioners was Michael Ellis, the Conservative MP for Northampton, who went for the editor with all the gravitas of a prosecuting counsel, accusing Mr Rusbridger of being a criminal.

“Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere, didn’t you, yes or no?” he demanded. “”Do you accept from me that that is an offence, a criminal offence under section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000?”

Adopting a grave tone, Mr Ellis, a qualified barrister, went on to accuse the editor of outing as homosexual members of GCHQ, Britain’s secret listening service. “Do you accept that information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even the sexual orientation of persons working in GCHQ?”

Mr Rusbridger replied: “You have completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ?”

“They shouldn’t have to be outed in your newspaper,” said Mr Ellis.

The editor observed that the paper’s report that GCHQ had its own gay “Pride” staff group was merely repeating information that existed on the website of gay campaigning group Stonewall. During his evidence, Mr Rusbridger repeatedly stressed that the paper had never identified any member of the British security services in its reports based on the leaked material.

Mr Ellis persisted, arguing that the Guardian’s handling of Snowden’s 58,000 files had also compromised GCHQ members who had gone on staff trips to Disneyland in Paris. “Your evidence has lost me,” Mr Rusbridger replied.

Edward Snowden has claimed his disclosures were in the public interest (Getty) Edward Snowden has claimed his disclosures were in the public interest (Getty)
The editor was accused of having broken the law, compromising the identities of intelligence staff, by transferring unredacted files overseas. He told MPs that the paper had drawn on only 26 of the Snowden files, which he said had all been destroyed under the watch of two GCHQ officials in a formal ceremony using “Black & Deckers”.

The editor told MPs that the only leak of information had been the original one from the National Security Agency and he called for greater debate on oversight of the security services in the UK. He argued that the Snowden material had been leaked to four countries. “The thought that this material wouldn’t have been published is ridiculous,” he told the committee. “Shooting the messenger is the oldest diversionary tactic in the book.”

Asked if The Guardian was under investigation by the police over its handling of the leaked files, Mr Rusbridger told MPs: “I don’t know.”

Mr Vaz revealed that the head of the security service MI5, Andrew Parker, who has criticised The Guardian for handing a “gift” to terrorists, is to be called to address the committee in open session.

Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Senior Account Executive / Account Executive

£25 - 30k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are looking for an Accoun...

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Resourcer / Junior Recruiter

£15-20k (DOE) + Benefits / Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright R...

Web Designer / Digital Designer

£25 - 40k (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Web Desig...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments