Being used as a conduit for the security services carries two very obvious risks for papers and their journalists: one, that their copy can appear so slanted as to make the hand behind it all too obvious, and two, the potential for embarrassment should they be found out. Both have now befallen the Maily Telegraph, and hapless home affairs correspondent David Barrett.
Questions to answer: Tony Gallagher
“Publishing Edward Snowden security secrets a ‘criminal’ act, says former terrorism watchdog” proclaimed the headline, followed by the explanation “Publication of stolen state secrets by the Guardian newspaper was a ‘criminal act’ and it is wrong to paint the newspaper’s journalists as ‘virtuous whistleblowers’, the former terrorism watchdog has said”.
On the face of it, this looks like a damning indictment of the deeply subversive Guardian, and enjoys the clear endorsement of Alex Carlile, a Lib Dem peer “who is also a leading QC” as Barrett reminds his readers. But a scan of the copy shows that this is merely rehashing disproven arguments and inventing “facts” to suit the narrative, as with all too much Telegraph content.
David Miranda “was found carrying 58,000 highly-classified British documents through at Heathrow airport in August” asserted Barrett. We don’t know: this is the official estimate by those still trying to crack the encryption on the electronic devices confiscated from Miranda. The Police “should have arrested him and launched a full investigation” according to Carlile. On what grounds?
We then read that “Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, warned the Guardian had handed a ‘gift’ to terrorists and a ‘guide book’ on the best way to avoid detection when plotting mass murder”. Whatever “Nosey” Parker did or did not say, the Guardian was not mentioned. And Carlile went way beyond merely observing and commenting on the affair.
“Mr Snowden has provided and the Guardian has published material that allegedly shows where and how the UK is functioning against terrorism”. No location previously unknown has been identified by the paper, and nor has anything relating specifically to terrorist surveillance. One might form the impression that Carlile was speaking for the spooks – and one would be dead right to do so.
Because it has now been revealed that “GCHQ assisted the Home Office in lining up sympathetic people to help with ‘press handling’, including the Liberal Democrat peer and former intelligence services commissioner Lord Carlile”. The Telegraph has used a GCHQ cheerleader as its main source. The copy was probably approved by the spooks as well. The Tel has been used, and I suspect they know it.
That’s another reason it’s no longer a paper of record. And that’s not good enough.
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