David Miranda, Picking Through The Issue

DM1There is considerable discussion of the detention of David Miranda and the lines are forming up.

On one side, those who seem to hate Glenn Greenwald and would probably justify any action against him or his partner, short of throwing them into Gitmo!

On the other, those concerned with the implications of the detention. I rarely find myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan but he sums up the wider issue of Snowden’s exposé:

“Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.”

Joshua Foust is having none of that, essentially arguing that it was legal and that is what government do. Therefore, there is not much to complain about. I feel that is a rather narrow perspective, particularly for a journalist.

Nevertheless he writes:

“So, this is complicated. The UK authorities were correct to question David Miranda, but they were stupid, wrong, and abusive to have held him for so long — and in doing so, they ruined any possible legitimacy their questions might have held. It was a needless own-goal.

There’s also a bit of historical literacy we should perhaps add to the discussion. Histrionics aside, most governments, and many more unsavory groups, treat secrecy very seriously — sometimes with deadly seriousness. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of his decision to help pilfer and distribute the treasured secrets of several governments, to do so openly, with such braggadocio, is not only arrogant it is misguided. This is not a game, especially to the governments being exposed, and casually involving a spouse to take a hit when he won’t risk it is a bizarre and troubling decision.”

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