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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Attacking responsible journalists will only lead to more irresponsible disclosures

It's hard to see the detention of David Miranda and seizure of his data or the arrival of GCHQ spooks at a national newspaper's offices to witness the destruction of hard disks as anything other than a warning shot across the bows of anyone daring enough to handle leaked classified data in future.

Anti-terror laws are broad enough to get anyone or anything we want.  We can and we will get you.

Of course this won't stop the leaks.  History is littered with examples of people willing to put themselves on the line for government transparency.

Pioneers of political journalism such as William Cobbett served a prison term for objecting in print to actions of the government; others risked the Tower for standing up for public scrutiny of Parliament.

What it will do is make responsible journalists wary of dealing with leaked sensitive information, leaving the leakers with few options other than dump the whole lot on the internet; with no opportunity to redact or withhold highly sensitive sections that are not directly relevant to the issue at stake.

Of course the intelligence agencies of Britain and her allies with their tentacles seemingly into every corner of the internet  may well have a plan to wipe any such site off the face of the net.

But with quite a few well-motivated transparency fanatics out there willing to replicate and retransmit leaked data and I wouldn't bet my money on this plan being successful.

Each additional measure security agencies are forced to take to guard against leaks by renegade staff adds to the data handling burden, which in turn makes our security agencies less effective in their primary aim of defending us against truly evil forces.

So it really is in everyone's interests to see the leaks stopped... But not by force!


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