Good piece by Nick Davies on the Stockholm Syndrome that enslaves our politicians to the spooks whom they nominally control.
Ignore for a moment the vexing sight of journalists denouncing their own worth. Set aside too the question of why rival newspapers might want to attack the Guardian’s exclusives. Follow the argument. Who should make the judgment?
The official answer is that we should trust the security agencies themselves. Over the past 35 years, I’ve worked with a clutch of whistleblowers from those agencies, and they’ve all shared one underlying theme – that behind the screen of official secrecy, they had seen rules being bent and/or broken in a way which precisely suggested that the agencies should not be trusted. Cathy Massiter and Robin Robison, for example, described respectively MI5 and GCHQ pursuing politically motivated projects to spy on peace activists and trade unionists. Peter Wright told of MI5 illegally burgling its way across London “while pompous bowler-hatted civil servants in Whitehall pretended to look the other way”. David Shayler exposed a plot both lawless and reckless by MI5 and MI6 to recruit al-Qaida supporters to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi.
All of this was known to their bosses. None of it should have been happening. But the agencies in whom we are invited to place our trust not only concealed it but without exception then attacked the whistleblowers who revealed it.
Would we do better to trust the politicians who have oversight of the agencies? It’s instructive to look back from our vantage point, post-Snowden, to consider what was happening only two years ago when the government attempted to introduce new legislation which came to be known as the snooper’s charter. If the oversight politicians are as well-informed as they claim, they must have known that this was in part a cynical attempt to create retrospective legal cover for surveillance tools that were already secretly being used, but they said nothing. And when parliament refused to pass that law, clearly indicating that there was no democratic mandate for those tools, they still stayed silent…