The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger defended the publication of information from intelligence files stolen by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in evidence to a British parliamentary committee.
Mr Rusbridger told the committee that The Guardian “would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly”.
He told MPs that disclosures from the files had generated a global debate about the powers of state agencies, and the weaknesses of the laws and oversight regimes they worked within.
“In terms of the broader debate, I can’t think of a story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in courts and amongst NGOs,” he said.
“The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States, two vice-presidents, generals, the security chiefs in the US [who] are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have.”
WE CONSULTED GOVERNMENT AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES, RUSBRIDGER
During an hour-long session in front of the home affairs select committee, Rusbridger also stated that The Guardian had consulted government officials and intelligence agencies – including the FBI, the Government Communications Headquarters, the White House and the Cabinet Office – on more than 100 occasions before the publication of stories.
He also argued that the site performed a public service by publishing the Snowden stories because such stories highlighted the weaknesses of agencies such as GCHQ and the NSA.
Mr Rusbridger said The Guardian had been put under the kind of pressure to stop publishing stories that would have been inconceivable in other countries.
In one exchange, the committee chair, Keith Vaz, asked Mr Rusbridger if he loved his country.
“I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question,” replied Mr Rusbridger. “But, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.
“One of the things I love about this country is that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think and we have some privacy, and those are the concerns which need to be balanced against national security, which no one is underestimating. I can speak for the entire Guardian staff who live in this country that they want to be secure too.”
The committee hearing coincides with The Guardian Australia and The Australian Broadcasting Corporation being widely questioned for revealing information from Snowden files that indicated Australia had tapped the phones of Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and members of his inner circle.