Monday, August 19, 2013


The deer on the Scottish island of Jura got some good news.  British Prime Minister David Cameron had to call off his plans to “stalk” them because of severe pain from a “phenomenally bad back.”

Hopefully, PM Cameron is hurting even worse a bit lower down because of the grotesque bit of stalking the counter-terrorism specialists of his Metropolitan Police pulled off at Heathrow Airport.  The deer in the terror cops’ headlights was David Miranda, a transiting passenger from Berlin on his way home to Rio de Janeiro with more future headline news from the files of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden he was delivering to his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Some secret warriors have certainly called Greenwald and his reporting partner award-winning documentary film-maker Laura Poitras a lot of nasty names.  But no one in their right mind could think of these non-violent practitioners of open-to-the-public investigative journalism as terrorists.  And when it comes to the man held and cross-examined for 9 hours, terrorist is a laughable label.  Even Snowden defies the terrorist tag.  His non-violent and public revelations have injured no one, except those whose lies and disinformation are meant to hide their own questionable use of official government power.

If breaking secrecy is a crime, and I think a case can be made that it is, Snowden’s was a misdemeanor compared to the crimes and abuses he has exposed. 

If an informed public is the absolute bedrock of democracy, then Snowden’s whistleblowing, mediated by the excellent journalism, focused interviews, and contextual background, provided by Greenwald and Poitras is among the biggest contributions of the last 50 years.

That's one reason why, for today’s London  newspapers, the Times, The Mail, The Telegraph, even The Mirror, not to mention The Guardian, this detention of an innocent traveler, suspected of no crime, threatening no persons save those frightened out of their wits by what might be in his bit of the Snowden files, is front page news. 

And the story is already showing what the news business calls, “legs.”  It will be with us for months.  Not only are opposition Labor Party leaders, Shadow Cabinet members and back-benchers demanding explanations from the police and PM Cameron’s government, but David Anderson QC, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, told the BBC’s Radio 4 that Cameron and Co. have at least 3 non-partisan things to worry about.  'The police, I'm sure, do their best,' The Guardian reported him as saying.

'But at the end of the day, there is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which can look into the exercise of this power, there is the courts, and there is my function.'

And it seems, the terrorism law monitor is functioning his ass off, already calling, The Mirror reported, for "'further 'safeguards' to be introduced to prevent the powers being abused in the wake of the case.
"He said Mr. Miranda’s treatment was 'unusual'.

"Mr. Anderson said: 'It seems to me there is a question to be answered about whether it should possible to detain somebody, to keep them for six hours, to download their mobile phone, without the need for any suspicion at all.
"'I hope at least it is something that parliament will look at.'"
Meanwhile, the editors at The Guardian are readying more headlines based on Greenwald’s reporting of Snowden’s revelations.  And an angry Greenwald says, now he will have a new target:  the UK.

“I’m going to publish many more things about England as well,” he is quoted in the NY Times. “I have many documents about the system of espionage of England, and now my focus will be there, too. I think they’ll regret what they’ve done.”
For 2 good reasons, (1) the Snowden information is likely to be good and valuable to anyone who cares about civilian control of national security politics, and (2) the escalation in this war to hide the truth was forced upon him, I say to Greenwald, “Go get ‘em, Tiger!”

By the way, if Cameron thinks the meaning of his police forces big mistake has gone unrecognized in the UK, let me quote a member of his home team, whose essay has gone global through the auspices of the NY Times: "Nick Cohen, a columnist for the conservative weekly The Spectator, wrote on Monday that the detention of Mr. Miranda was 'a clarifying moment that reveals how far Britain has changed for the worse.'

"Adding, 'The next time they try to tell you that the secrecy and attempts to silence legitimate debate are ‘in the public interest,’ do not forget what they did to David Miranda, because they can do it to you, too.'”

A final thought:  All of this could have been avoided, easily and completely, if anyone in the administration of American President Barack Obama had said, when given an official “heads up” by the Brits on what they intended to do to Miranda: “Gee, that’s a stupid idea.  Don’t do it.”

Instead, White House spokesman Josh Earley unashamedly told reporters, the whole thing was not America’s fault.  

“This is the British government making a decision based on British law on British soil about a British law enforcement action,” he said. “They gave us the heads-up, and this is something that they did not do at our direction, is not something that we were involved with. This is a decision that they made on their own.”

Josh, let me offer you an analogy.  Your puppy comes running happily up to you, wagging his tail, and proudly shows you your best friend’s best neck-tie half-chewed in his mouth.

The proper response is not, “Nice doggy.”  Any responsible pet owner would remove the tie, show it to the dog and in a memorable but not menacing tone, say, “No!  Bad dog!”

To do anything less makes you an accomplice, a willing accomplice. to your young pet’s foolishness.

In this case, of course, the terrorism-counterers of our oldest ally are not cute pups, but even old dogs must be prevented from new Stupid Pet Tricks.


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