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December 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

In a confrontation that had more to do with the issue of how to balance freedom of the press against the interest of national security than with specific allegations of journalistic misconduct, the editor of Britain’s Guardian newspaper appeared before a Parliamentary panel on Tuesday to answer questions about the paper’s publication of the Edward Snowden NSA documents. The editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how he had met with U.S. and British representatives more than 100 times about his newspaper’s publication of the Snowden material, visits, he said, that were “designed to intimidate” and which represented “prior restraint.” He described how the newspaper had been visited by government agents who destroyed Guardian computer disks with power tools and how it had to stand against British lawmakers who demanded the the newspaper be prosecuted for disclosing classified material. Indeed, several lawmakers on the panel repeated such accusations as they questioned Rusbridger, one of them asking whether Rusbridger loved his country. He replied, “I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question, 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.” Another MP, Michael Ellis, asked him whether he was aware that by sharing the Snowden papers with the New York Times a “criminal offense under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000” had been committed. Rusbridger responded, “You may be a lawyer, Mr. Ellis, I’m not.”