And so it came to pass that, after all the hot air generated by a variety of misinformed and agenda-driving pundits, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger appeared before the Home Affairs select committee to be lightly grilled on such pressing topics as whether he used a Black and Decker to trash those computers, if he loves his country, and whether he would have told the Nazis that Enigma had been cracked.
That last is not a joke: we have public servants who are prepared to ask the most blindingly stupid questions to little purpose other than to get themselves a little more attention. But let’s cut to the main event, whether “agents’ names” have been “muled abroad”, which of course must mean they have been placed in danger. Sadly for those expecting shock revelations, there, er, weren’t any.
Rusbridger was quite firm in his reply: “We have never used a single name ... We have published no names and we have lost control of no names”. And none of the files made available to the Guardian has been “given to bloggers”, one of the more fanciful accusations made by former Tory MP Louise Mensch, whose representative in Parliament, Julian Smith, was to be disappointed this afternoon.
The Guardian’s editor also pointed out that “there is not an editor on earth who would have ‘handed back’ this information”. Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and the Washington Post had copies, so the idea that bullying the Guardian would have prevented publication was utterly fanciful. And he had communicated with those in charge of the DA Notice (pre-publication censorship) system.
Rusbridger confirmed that “Yes, with every story bar one we have consulted them, he says. With that one story we feared prior restraint. He has spoken to Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance, secretary of the DA committee, since. He said nothing risked life”. So much for all the screaming denunciation in part of the press about putting lives in danger.
But what about Andrew “Nosey” Parker’s assertion that the Guardian’s revelations had damaged “national security”? “The problem with these accusations is they are vague, not rooted in specific stories ... but it's impossible to assess because no evidence has been given”. So the spooks have made their claims without bothering to pony up any evidence to back it up.
Please everybody - look at ME ME ME!!!
And that, folks, is just about that. The likes of Mark Reckless (remember him?) have made colourful accusations about what offences the Guardian may have committed, Julian Smith may be muttering about treason, and Louise Mensch is, as ever, screaming “look at me”, but Alan Rusbridger has cleared that hurdle with ease. So now the next bout of spinning and knocking copy will no doubt commence.
Pity the spooks can’t be subject to the same grilling, isn’t it? Just a thought.