Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Britain Botches Up Big Time: Greenwald 1, UK 0; Back in DC, Uncle Ben Still Can't Find Rice Bowl

Glenn Greenwald meets his partner David Miranda at Rio de Janeiro International Airport on August 19, 2013 as Miranda arrived from England, where he was detained for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport under Britain's Terrorism Act.


I wanted to note this ugly event on Sunday at London's Heathrow Airport and Glenn Greenwald's response ...

Quoting from The Guardian article itself (with associated links that I've color-coded in no particular way):

"The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda , who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.

Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

Since 5 June, Greenwald has written a series of stories revealing the NSA's electronic surveillance programmes, detailed in thousands of files passed to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Guardian has also published a number of stories about blanket electronic surveillance by Britain's GCHQ, also based on documents from Snowden."

Full article link is here


For this part, Greenwald wrote a scathing critique in The Guardian online. Here is an excerpt:

"This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

"If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President's plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it's so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.

Greenwald subsequently threatened / promised to release more information on Britain's spying apparatus.


On a personal note, it bothers me to see the British government behave this way. I am a big Anglophile -- I love so much about that country (having both visited and briefly lived there). I am even a fan of the Royal Family.

But the UK's government has a real dark side to it. Owing, I believe, to the lack of an actual written constitution; the deeply entrenched societal class differences (in America, we pretend everybody is middle class); and the legacy of "The Troubles" involving Northern Ireland, there is a definitely a latent authoritarian element in the British national government. You can get in trouble for saying / writing things in the UK that in the U.S. even in 2013 are clearly protected speech under the First Amendment.

As for Prime Minister David Cameron and his absurdly named "Coalition" government -- it sounds as dumb saying in in that context as it did during the Iraq War and the American "Coalition" consisting of Britain and some random South Pacific island country -- he really is a crummy and vapid prime minister in all kinds of ways.

Andrew Sullivan on Sunday blasted Cameron for what the British government did to Greenwald's partner. You can read about that here.

On another political commentary note ... I wonder what Benjamin "Ben" Wittes has to say about the David Miranda episode.

The back story is that Ben Wittes -- a former editorial writer for The WaHoPo in the 1990s and early 2000s -- put in place a "policy" whereby he refused to participate in any Brookings panels (or any such D.C. think thank intellectual circle-jerk nonsense) if Greenwald was invited.


Because Greenwald said mean things about him.

How arrogant and self-deluded is that for someone who was an editorial writer for the flippin' Washington Post -- pontificating "anonymously" about whatever -- and even today is a D.C. pundit masquerading as a legal scholar? It also shows how thin-skinned editorial writers can be when they are subject to criticism.

Ensconced at the Brookings Institution, he serves as a kind of in-house legal pundit and stooge of, by, and for the Washington Consensus crowd. He was originally known for his obsession on all the bogus Clinton scandals of the 1990s (Whitewater, anyone?), culminating in the Lewinsky farce when the WaHoPo wrote paeans to Ken Starr (never divulging the huge conflict of interest the Graham Family had, plus there was the weird moral puritanism of the D.C. punditry.

But in the post-9/11 era (during and after his WaHoPo editorial writing days), Wittes offers a steady stream of excuses and apologies for the Empire and its ever-metastasizing military-industrial-surveillance-drone strikes-at-random state. You can find Ben Wittes's self-important musings on his Law Fare Blog, to which I have no interest in linking.

As for Ben Wittes refusal to "engage" Greenwald, let me just utilize a turn of phrase that Wittes himself used as an editorial writer: "Having failed to make the case ..."

Well, in that spirit, Uncle Ben, allow me to say, having failed to make the case that Greenwald gives a damn about your "policy" of refusing to debate him at Brookings Panels, just stay focused what you do best: legal pundit lapdog to the corporate oligarchical over-class.

As for Greenwald, he is actually making a real positive difference in the affairs of this world with a type of advocacy journalism that Wittes and the rest of the "professional centrist" Washington Consensus crowd are simply incapable of grasping. Nor can they understand (tools of a corrupt and waning "Establishment" that they are) that this is exactly why the time of their ability to influence anything is already past.


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