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Miranda and Climategate

The Guardian has got itself into a bit of a pickle over the Miranda affair, with editor Alan Rusbridger trying to justify his newspaper's possession of the leaked Snowden intelligence material on public interest grounds. He does seem to have resiled from this position, however: in an article yesterday he explained how he was persuaded to destroy some PCs containing the illicit material. Evan Davis and Malcolm Rifkind discussed these issues on the Today programme this morning, and a transcript appears at the Guardian:

MR: I think Mr Rusbridger, in the article he wrote yesterday about the destruction of his hard disk, is on relatively weak ground. He clearly did not dispute that he had no legal right to possess the files or the documents that were being discussed.

ED: Nor did Damian Green.

MR: Hold on a moment. The question was whether he handed them back to the government or whether they were destroyed, and he chose the latter option. Now clearly, if he thought that what he was doing was perfectly lawful, that he was perfectly entitled to have these documents, he would have told the cabinet secretary or whoever it was to go and get lost, and ‘take me to court if you don’t like what I’m doing’. But he didn’t do that. He knew perfectly well that if you have in your possession documents which were originally stolen, you’re on pretty dodgy ground.

ED: Well, you're not, are you? It's an accepted fact in this country that leaked documents - you can always call them 'stolen', it's a very loaded word - but Damian Green had stolen documents from the Home Office, didn't he? He did not steal them, but he had stolen documents. What is the difference?

MR: Hold on a moment. We are talking about documents which were official secrets, which were classified as official secrets, both in the US and in the UK, and Mr Rusbridger clearly knew that. He knew that he had no lawful authority to possess these documents. And that is why he, at the end of the day, cooperated and destroyed the information that he had. GCHQ - I don't know yet, we will find this out - if GCHQ were in his basement supervising this, well clearly he must have invited them in, because they had no lawful authority to come in without his invitation.

It's interesting to recall the Guardian's attitude to the leak of the Climategate material, which was very definitely "stolen" in their opinion. How things change!

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Reader Comments (41)

Dominic Raab MP has an article on the DT website comparing and contrasting David Miranda and Caroline Lucas, asking whether they are victims or criminals. Interesting read.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:12 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Yeah this is a good point. There are plenty of examples of Guardianistas decrying the outrage of "stolen" climate documents on the flimsiest of evidence. 'Stolen' is clearly just a variable designation deployed by them however they want best to suit their ideological needs.

This editorial - surely endorsed by Rusbridger - called them stolen. They are enormous hypocrites.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

Also in relation to climategate, both Miranda and I had our laptops impounded on the strength of 'anti-terror' legislation in relation to 'stolen' information. Neither of us were charged with anything.

The Guardian stands by its public interest defence of its possession of the Snowden material, and Snowden's whistleblower status, while it published a scurrilous piece by Leo Hickman about me and the climategate whistleblower FOIA, which I had to threaten to go to law about in order to get (half heartedly) corrected.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

There is a post at Biased BBC making the point about the Guardian's double standards re climategate / Snowden, with reference to the Rog Tallbloke incident.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:29 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

MR - the Establishment's Establishment-man par excellence - says you shouldn't tell anyone what the Establishment is up to. Yes, very convincing.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

Lucky there was only one copy of the documents..

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda Klapp

I avoid the BBC news as much as I can but they will insist on inserting their wretched propaganda into Radio 3 of a morning. This morning's tone of absolute outrage in which it was reported that David Cameron was aware that plod had entered the Grauniad's offices was quite amusing.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

That would be the Guardian that showers praise on this employee....

I have long ago given up being surprised or shocked by the amount of hypocrisy we tolerate from our leaders, "opinion formers" and betters.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

The Guardian's hypocritical pusillanimity over leaks has deep roots, as those who know the name Sarah Tisdall will remember.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil D

Watching the HD's being crushed on TV last night, I wondered how anyone would know they were the right ones? I've got loads of old ones lying about and they do look rather similar...

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Ask a Guardianista the following: Which is more important -- the contents of Snowden's material, or the way it was gathered and disseminated?

Then ask them the same question about the Climategate mails

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Edward Snowden said leakers (The New York Times) should be “shot in the balls”. People that extreme don't change.

The Guardian stopped doing real investigative journalism around 25 years ago. Does anyone really believe Alan Rusbridger is a million dollar a year whistleblower ? This is the man, who like Greenwald supported the Iraq / Afghanistan wars and advised readers to vote for Nick Clegg, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterH. Hoedrum

Sauce for the gander indeed. Rog Tallbloke and Rusbridger each did what they had to in order to get the police out of the building. It would indeed be welcome if Rusbridger acknowledged the clear public interest in the publication of both sets of documents - the Climategate files and the Snowden files.

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterColdish

Was the destruction of these PCs a criminal act? Destruction of evidence/perversion of the course of justice? There seems to be a current case on rather similar grounds?

Aug 21, 2013 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

I've posted elsewhere of my belief that this whole episode was ‘engineered’ by the Guardian's editor.

The story has subtly changed since his first screaming accusations that the government destroyed the Guardian's computers. Since then it has become GCHQ ‘supervised’ the destruction of computers, and only this morning has transitioned into…
On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian's King's Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored.

This is a very different story to what was originally claimed. It's starting to look an awful lot like he engineered this scenario in order to be able to say, “they destroyed our computers".

I've also just seen, though I've yet to see confirmation of it, that the picture the Guardian released of the supposedly destroyed MacBook is not in fact a MacBook.

Could get interesting.

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Rusbridger said British intelligence wanted him to destroy the material and oversaw it. I am sure they could have found a Guardian colleague to do it and saved themselves the taxi fares.

Do BH readers believe the Guardian has been open, decent, fair and honest in its coverage of global warming ?

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterH. Hoedrum

The Leopard In The Basement

I agree with the drift of what people are saying on this thread but in fairness the editorial you refer to actually says the emails were "leaked". From memory the Guardian only used "stolen" very early on in the affair. I guess they had their reasons for changing.

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

@Aug 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

This is the most important finding of Sir Muir Russell's report into emails stolen from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, which was published yesterday.

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

The pic is looking fishy.

Why not show everything?

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Leopard in the Basement

Yes, I know. But that phrase is wrapped up with a statement about the Russell Report so it's not clear (I assume deliberately) who is making the "stolen" claim. Lower down the piece, where is is more obviously Guardian opinion, it says: "only on the process exposed by the more than 1,000 emails leaked to the media shortly before last year's Copenhagen summit"

They have it both ways.

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan Kennedy

@Aug 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan Kennedy

Sorry it is clear to me they take responsibility for all the words they use in their editorial and the narrative they lay out is that the emails were stolen from UEA CRU and then leaked to the media.

There is only one way to read that. ;)

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

The Guardian are the Deciders and they shall be charged with determining which leaks are for Good and which are for Evil.

Aug 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDGH

Leopard in the Basement

I went back and looked at the Russell Report. The word "stolen" was (I think) used by at least one member of his committee, but the Report itself avoids it, using the term "hacked," which implies illegality. There is rather quaint footnote against "hacked" saying that they don't have a view on the method. The Report claims the emails were made public in an unauthorised manner - which is correct, although uninformative. So, now I think about it, this Guardian piece was actually putting the word "stolen" into Russell's mouth. Not that I imagine he'd object.

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

@Aug 21, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

Sorry I normally don't get involved in minor quibbles over grammar or spelling because mine is so bad, but to be utterly clear here the Guardian were *not* putting words into Russell's mouth or wrapping anything within anything else!

They would have said "alleged" or "he said", or numerous other things. This

"...Russell's report into emails stolen from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit..."

is the Guardian editorial voice asserting, as a prior fact, that there were some emails stolen!!

Russell is reported to be reporting on these emails after this alleged "fact"

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

I'm puzzled as to why (in at least one account) and in some pix in the media it was deemed necessary to destroy motherboards and a Macbook. Would destruction of the HDDs not have been sufficient. Is it a Mac thing?

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterfilbert cobb

This is a true story. I once had that Alan Rusbridger in the back of my cab. The fare came to £5, he handed me a note and said 'keep the rest'. I looked down and saw a brand new £12 note. What a gentleman.

He gets paid £450,000 a year to edit a bankrupt newspaper. He must be really good at his job.

The newspaper, its Sunday sister, the Observer, and their digital operations recorded operating losses (before tax and exceptional items) of nearly £37m in the year to April 2011, up from £32.5m the previous year. A still bigger loss is expected to be announced for 2011-2012. Andrew Miller, chief executive of the paper’s parent company, Guar­dian Media Group, warned staff in 2011 that the company “could run out of cash in three to five years” and repeated in February this year that the financial position was “not sustainable”.

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

As The Register article I linked to above explains, some of the items in the picture that the Guardians editor said were the remains of a MacBook Pro, come from other bits of computers. The large green circuit board doesn't seem to be from a MacBook.

Aug 21, 2013 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Moi? Cynical? It was a wonderful photo op to show the agents of the state brutalising hardware. This isn't a full story but then it's been a long time since facts trumped narrative at the Graun. They suffer from selective outrage and would have more credibility if they had been anti Levenson or just a tad interested in the contents of the Climategate emails.

Aug 21, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLjh

I disagree with the Guardian on a lot of issues - Climategate is only one of them - but have to agree with them on the importance of the Snowden material, as I agreed with the importance of the Climategate I material. Snowden got it illegally but what he exposed is a recipe for '1984" under the guise of anti terror "legislation".
Anybody here wants to be spied upon 24/7365 by his/her own government or co-government (US/UK)? Nothing to fear if nothing to hide? Why are the NSA en GHCQ hiding so much and are there now secret courts if there is nothing to fear? Al this infrastructure can, will be and is being misused. Anti terror spying should be done targeted and after court approval.

Aug 21, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAntonyIndia

Another take on the hypocrisy of the Guardian, as they are now crying foul over police behaviour which they encouraged against the tabloid papers.

Aug 21, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAsmilwho

AntonyIndia: As a reader of John Loftus and Mark Aarons way back I have a lot of sympathy. We must be vigilant about all threats to our freedom. In the end it comes down to the individual conscience and quality of those in key positions, as Thatcher seems to have believed, based on the testimony of her senior civil servants on her death. No amount of institutional rejigging will make up for the truly rotten egg.

Aug 21, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Rusbridger is asking £2.500 for ready made interview of 7 minutes.

Aug 21, 2013 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterHoi Polloi

'First they came for the Climategate whistleblower; and we cheered them on. Then they came for us...'

Poetic justice, perhaps?

Aug 21, 2013 at 7:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Peacock

Miranda gave up his passwords when they threatened him. When they tried that on me, I pointed out they had a warrant to search the inside of my house, not the inside of my head. Granted though, the powers under the two terror laws used are different.

Anyone finding themselves in a situation where passwords are being demanded should shut up until their lawyer arrives. In this situation, Miranda was told he didn't have the right to have his own lawyer. At that point I'd have given them the finger and taken the three months on the chin.

Aug 22, 2013 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Great advice from the 'coalface' Rog. We may all yet need it.

On Snowden and Miranda I especially value Matt Ridley's determination not to rush to judgment in The Times this morning (paywalled):

I am not usually an indecisive person who sees both sides of a question. But the case of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and David Miranda versus the British and US governments has me swinging like a weathervane in a squall between liberty and security. I can persuade myself one minute that a despicable tyranny is being gradually visited upon us by a self-serving nomenclatura and the next that proportionate measures were taken by the authorities to protect British citizens from irresponsible crimes perpetrated by self-appointed publicity seekers.

Such indecisiveness does not seem to afflict most of my fellow columnists elsewhere in the media. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to stick up for indecision. On behalf of those of us struggling to decide where justice lies, let me follow Boswell and “throw our conversation into [this] journal in the form of a dialogue”...

That's a rational position from the rational optimist for me because we don't know the quality of the hidden actors involved - in line with the point I made about Margaret Thatcher's approach yesterday.

What we do know is that the climate/energy science/policy nexus has allowed those with very little character or none to gain positions of great responsibility. A big reason for the Augean stables to be cleaned, whatever it takes, including in the process an end to the double standards of the bien pensants at the Guardian.

Aug 22, 2013 at 8:02 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Under UK law, ignorance of the law is not a valid defence. However, I think you may have the right to know what the potential penalties are for refusing to comply. So although Miranda was told he didn't have the right to his own lawyer, and that he didn't have the right to silence, he did perhaps have the right to ask what the price of non-compliance was.

In his situation I would have asked that, and on being told it was three months in prison, I'd have told them to get on with it. The way to deal with bullies is to call their bluff. They'd have then had to prosecute for refusing to divulge passwords under section 7 of their terror law in court, where Miranda's lawyer could have scored some nice points on the fact that the police knew Miranda isn't a terrorist before they detained him. Misapplication of terror laws against citizens is a creeping authoritarian tactic, they need to be resisted before such behaviour becomes entrenched as normal procedure.

Aug 22, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

I don't wish to over-praise anyone but that is amazingly helpful Tallbloke. Next time they come for me it's your crib sheet I'll have in my back pocket. We also owe you for standing up when it counted, lest such creeping police statism became 'entrenched as normal procedure'. Why doesn't Alan Rusbridger buy you lunch some time? You obviously got on well with his friend David Leigh. I wonder if David Rose can set it up.

Aug 22, 2013 at 10:41 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Thanks again, Rog Tallbloke.

Aug 22, 2013 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterColdish

Richard Drake @10.41

Leigh retired in April, fair enough, he's 67. But the smell lingers on.

Civil liberties is traditionally one of the left's beats. But with snoopers like Leigh at the Graun, and generally right leaning libertarians aghast at the state secrecy and surveillance revelations, everything is a mess in the middle now. That's why I'm backing UKIP and standing as one of their candidates. It's a party composed of decent ordinary people who are more ethically upstanding than creeps like Leigh, Huhne, and Yeo.

Aug 22, 2013 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Roger: I've been wanting to raise the issue of UKIP. I respect your decision and those of others around here and further afield, from Monckton to the widow of Peter Shore. Is Ben Pile a member or just a contractor? What of Phillip Bratby, who was so effective in Ben's film about wind power? I lose track.

On the other hand, as we try to assess whether UKIP is really viable, what are we to make of Will Gilpin's critique in the Telegraph this week? I tend to follow Lord Tebbit in arguing for change in the Tories in response to UKIP gains. I think Lord Lawson has been playing the same game, albeit in his different style. Not an easy one to judge for parties, candidates or voters.

Whatever, I agree about the 'Mess in the middle' - an excellent title for a discussion thread, if anyone wanted.

Aug 22, 2013 at 2:36 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The way I see it is I'd rather vote for a party of ordinary well motivated and honest people than any of the parties consisting of incompetent college kids, spinmeisters, presentation gurus and policy fakirs. If it has teething troubles with some of the personalities involved that's no big deal so long as everyone realises that whatever happens, if we're voted in, UKIP will get us out of the E.U.

All else follows from that. Sensible energy policy rcovering our own resouces from our own sovereign territory. Consequent real recovery of the economy rather than the money printing and manipulation currently used to make a false recovery.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

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