This morning we had news that Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and leader of Britain’s ‘liberal’ party, sanctioned the move by GCHQ to force the Guardian to destroy the hard drives holding the Edward Snowden leaks. And I mean destroy – with a hammer. This came hot on the heals of the revelation that the Home Secretary knew of – if did not approve – the plans to stop and question David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow, as did David Cameron. What made him a suspect worthy of being held under terrorism legislation? Being the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist working on the Snowden story. Miranda was carrying information for Greenwald; this was quickly confiscated. The additional eight hours of unnecessary detention seems to have been designed purely as intimidation. Rightly, Miranda is threatening legal action.
Journalists and civil rights activists are worried; the Twittersphere is abuzz with indignation. But the general public is unfazed. In my opinion, the Home Secretary’s job should be in question, yet she was happy to defend her not-decision on camera. She knows that, politically, she is safe. How is this possible?
We have, en masse, forgotten how hard we fought for our freedoms. We have forgotten that, just like the Russians or Zimbabweans of today, our journalists once risked their lives for the truth. We take for granted the trappings of liberal democracy because it seems to us that they have always been there. ‘Sure,’ we think, ‘the Guardian is suffering a bit of state-sanctioned intimidation. But it won’t become routine.’
Who’s to say? We should not be so sure that these things do not happen more often. We all know that celebrities stop journalists from printing gossip by gaining injunctions in the courts. We don’t know – indeed, there is no way of knowing – if the government has its own super-injunctions covering up some dirty secrets. And with secret courts becoming more common here and across the pond, we should be getting more worried, not less. In this age of mass fear, we are signing away rights as if they hold no value. We need to open our eyes; we need to see that, in some ways, we are living in a police state.
Now I am not a conspiracy theorist or paranoid about being watched by CCTV. I am simply unwilling to accept a political and security apparatus which is geared to defend itself over the rights of the people it is supposed to serve. Journalists have a bad name, but we need them – much more than the spooks – to keep us safe. Stand with us on this, before you regret not making your voice heard.