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Guardian editor defends publishing NSA leaks

© UK Parliament

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-04

The editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Tuesday defended publishing leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, saying he and his staff were “patriots” passionate about the “nature of a free press”.

The editor of Britain's Guardian newspaper on Tuesday defended the publication of leaks by Edward Snowden, telling lawmakers under fierce questioning that the daily's staff were "patriots".

Alan Rusbridger gives evidence

Alan Rusbridger told a parliamentary committee that his newspaper had published just one percent of the files from former US National Security Agency contractor Snowden.

Britain's spy chiefs told parliament last month that the publication of the Snowden leaks by the Guardian and other papers including the New York Times had helped Britain's enemies,who were "rubbing their hands with glee".

"We are not going to be put off by intimidation but nor are we going to behave recklessly," Rusbridger told the Home Affairs Select Committee, which summoned him as part of its counter-terrorism inquiry.

"This stuff may be politically embarrassing but there's nothing here that is risking national security."

He noted that the editors of the Washington Post and New York Times newspapers in the United States had made the same decision to publish, adding: "So this is not a rogue newspaper."

‘We are patriots’

The owlish, bespectacled Rusbridger said he was "surprised" when committee chairman Keith Vaz asked him during the televised hearing: "Do you love this country?"

After a brief pause and a wry smile, Rusbridger hit back: "We are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of the democracy and the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.”

The revelations in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times and Germany's Der Spiegel are based on files leaked by Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Articles published over the last six months have shown that the United States and some of its allies, including Britain, were monitoring phone, email and social media communications on a previously unimagined scale.

Remaining files are ‘secure’

Rusbridger said that only around one percent of the 58,000 secret documents passed to the Guardian and other papers by Snowden had been published.

The rest were "secure", he said. He declined to reveal in public where they were kept, saying that he would write to the committee to tell them what they wanted to know.

The Guardian did not intend to publish many more, Rusbridger said, adding that files on Iraq, Afghanistan and other topics had remained off limits because they did not concern the core issue of surveillance.

Asked if the Guardian was responsible for revealing the names of intelligence agents, Rusbridger said the paper had "published no names and we have lost control of no names".

Ahead of the parliamentary hearing, Rusbridger tweeted a "v nice letter" of support from Carl Bernstein, the veteran US journalist who helped break the Watergate scandal.

Bernstein said the hearing appeared to be "an attempt by the highest UK authorities to shift the issue from government policies and excessive government secrecy in the United States and Great Britain to the conduct of the press".

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2013-12-04

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