Editors on the NSA files: ‘What the Guardian is doing is important for democracy’

On Thursday the Daily Mail described the Guardian as ‘The paper that helps Britain’s enemies’. We showed that article to many of the world’s leading editors. This is what they said

In a democracy, the press plays a vital role in informing the public and holding those in power accountable. The NSA has vast intelligence-gathering powers and capabilities and its role in society is an important subject for responsible newsgathering organisations such as the New York Times and the Guardian. A public debate about the proper perimeters for eavesdropping by intelligence agencies is healthy for the public and necessary.

The accurate and in-depth news articles published by the New York Times and the Guardian help inform the public in framing its thinking about these issues and deciding how to balance the need to protect against terrorism and to protect individual privacy. Vigorous news coverage and spirited public debate are both in the public interest. The journalists at the New York Times and the Guardian care deeply about the wellbeing and safety of their fellow citizens in carrying out their role in keeping the public informed.
Jill Abramson, executive editor, the New York Times


The utmost duty of a journalist is to expose abuses and the abuse of power. The global surveillance of digital communication by the NSA and GCHQ is no less than an abuse on a massive scale with consequences that at this point seem completely unpredictable.

It is understandable that the governments of the US and Britain aren’t pleased that journalists, with the assistance of informants within government ranks, are exposing this abuse of power. It is a classic approach for governments to attack media that have the courage to publish such stories with arguments that they threaten national security or that they are supporting an enemy of the state. And it is a tragedy that media outlets aligned with governments are now accusing the journalists uncovering these abuses of “lethal irresponsibility”.

In terms of DER SPIEGEL’s position on this affair: With each story we have published, we have given both the NSA and GCHQ the opportunity to comment prior to publication and to alert us to aspects that could be highly sensitive. The NSA took advantage of this opportunity, GCHQ did not.

The material contains myriad evidence of terrorist investigations. However, for good reason, we have refrained from reporting on these specific operations.

It is the indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications that DER SPIEGEL considers to be a scandal — not the search for terrorists. As we stated, it is the media’s duty in a free society to report on these abuses.

Exposing the intensity with which intelligence agencies conduct surveillance on the Internet does not provide proof that such reporting in any way assists terrorists.

It is common knowledge that security agencies monitor telephones, and yet, terrorists still use them.

What is clear is that the surveillance conducted by the NSA and GCHQ goes far beyond anti-terror measures.

It is for this reason that SPIEGEL and numerous other media outlets around the world will continue to take their duty seriously and report when a security apparatus spins out of control and acts beyond its remit.

During our reporting on the Wikileaks-files I worked very closely with Guardian’s excellent staff. And today, I am even more proud of the cooperation with colleagues who have such a high professional and ethical standard. They stand for freedom of information. And freedom of information is what we need more than ever.
Wolfgang Buechner, editor-in-chief, Der Spiegel


Journalists have only one responsibility: to keep their readers informed and educated about whatever their government is doing on their behalf – and first and foremost on security and intelligence organisations, which by their nature infringe on civil liberties. The Snowden revelations, and their publication by the Guardian, have been a prime example of fearlessly exercising this journalistic responsibility.

In Israel, the media are subject to pre-publication review by a military censor of any news related to security and intelligence. Israeli editors are therefore relieved from the dilemmas faced by our British or American counterparts, who should judge what might harm national security. Nevertheless, we struggle endlessly to push back the walls of government secrecy and concealment and expand the scope of public debate.
Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief, Haaretz


The decision by Edward Snowden to leak to the media an important amount of top-secret documents showing the unprecedented reach of electronic surveillance was a historic event. It has raised major questions on the control of the internet, on the balance between counter-terrorism and civil liberties, on the oversight of intelligence activities by democratic institutions.

The debate is open, and all actors of public life are legitimate participants in it. The heads of intelligence services are entitled to voice their concern at the extent of the leaks, as ordinary citizens are entitled to ask what use is made, by whom and to what purpose, of private data collected from their daily life activities. Editors of media organisations are central to this debate. The Guardian, with whom, among others, Le Monde collaborated in the publication of the WikiLeaks cables, made the right decision to publish the documents released by Snowden. It did so responsibly, acting in the public interest, as we had done with the WikiLeaks documents, and more recently with the “OffshoreLeaks” documents.
Sylvie Kauffmann, editorial director, Le Monde, France


When a newspaper prints a story, or a series of stories, such as the Snowden case, the first attacks are always aimed at its editors and publishers. State or homeland security reasons are always claimed.

It happened when The New York Times and The Washington Post printed the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War in 1973, and it happened with WikiLeaks. Now, the object of criticism is the Guardian for having printed Edward Snowden’s revelations. What is sad, baffling and dangerous is that the attacks now come not only from governments but from other newspapers too. In doing so, they are ignoring their first and utmost obligation. The press must serve the citizens and comply with their right to have access to truthful and relevant informations when it comes to public affairs. Newspapers have many duties. Having to protect governments and the powerful from embarrasing situations is not among them.

The Guardian’s work in the Snowden case is an example of great journalism, the kind that changes history and the kind that citizens need more every day, in a world where the powerful are increasingly trying to hide information from their societies. The real danger is not in the so-called “aid to the enemy” denounced by the hypocrites, but in the actions of governments and state agencies that citizens cannot control. To fight it we need newspapers willing to do their job, rather than those ready to cheer on the self-interested deceptions of the powerful.
Javier Moreno, director, El País, Spain


I have just been reading Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes, which is heavily based on leaked and declassified government documents. Over and again, one is struck by how poorly Americans’ interests have been served by secrecy – and by the folly, misjudgment, and abuse of power that might have been prevented by public knowledge. One does not have to admire Julian Assange or Edward Snowden to recognise that their revelations, filtered by scrupulous journalists, have served the fundamental democratic interest of knowing what our governments are up to and how they may be abridging our rights.

The authorities seldom rate the public’s right to know very highly. Editors, by contrast, have an excellent record in handling the security concerns related to classified material. The New York Times withheld revelations about the NSA’s wireless wiretapping programme for a full year. Both the Guardian and the New York Times redacted or held back WikiLeaks documents that could have placed lives in danger. The Washington Post has been cautious and selective in publishing the Snowden material. Contra the Daily Mail, our best journalists very much are security experts, often with a better ability to make balanced judgments about disclosure than their security-cleared counterparts. Editors must weigh the potential security harm of public revelation again the certain damage to democratic accountability that comes from a public kept in the dark. It bears noting that in historical terms, the downside of disclosure has been very small, while the cost of secrecy has been enormous.
Jacob Weisberg, chairman the Slate Group


As an editor I am confronted every day with difficult questions about what to publish and what not to. A newspaper comes across documents from all kinds of sources but authenticity is only a necessary but not sufficient condition for disseminating the information these contain.

Sensitive information must pass a twofold test: is publication in the public interest; and will it put lives at risk. Governments and intelligence agencies may have access to more information than the average editor but they do not have a monopoly over the ability to correctly answer these questions.

Well before Edward Snowden came along, the editors of the Hindu have handled classified or sensitive information on a range of sensitive issues. Never has our newspaper behaved irresponsibly with that information. Those attacking the media on the NSA issue wilfully ignore the fact that what the Guardian, the New York Times, the Hindu and other newspapers around the world have published so far are details of snooping that is not even remotely related to fighting terrorism.

Osama bin Laden did not need Edward Snowden’s revelations about Prism to realise the US was listening in to every bit of electronic communication: he had already seceded from the world of telephony and reverted to couriers. But millions of people in the US, the UK, Brazil, India and elsewhere, including national leaders, energy companies and others who are being spied upon for base reasons, were unaware of the fact that their privacy was being compromised.

In the hands of an irresponsible newspaper, the kind of care the Guardian and others who are working from this material are taking may not always prevail. But as Glenn Greenwald said on the BBC, the only people who have been reckless with this material are those who acted irresponsibly in collecting it in the first place: the NSA and GCHQ.
Siddharth Varadarajan, editor the Hindu


It is really striking and bold to accuse journalists of being allies of terrorism simply for performing their professional responsibilities. And it is even more dangerous when, in the name of a “national interest”, censorship and concealing information is sponsored on the ground that journalists are not “security experts” to judge what can and should be published.

Limits are only determined by the editors’ responsibility in a political and legal system that might protect the right to freedom of expression on a democratic basis. The Guardian has already been subjected to procedures that claim to infringe its independence and to intimidate its editors and journalists. This pressure must cease immediately.
Ricardo Kirschbaum, executive editor, Clarin, Argentina


The Snowden affair, one day, will be understood as a historic milestone at which democratic societies began to realize that the political cost of new technologies still needed to be negotiated. Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, one of Germany’s last great intellectuals and certainly not a leftist, sees it as a transition to a post-democratic society. And had the Snowden files not opened our eyes to this transition already, the way how the current debate about these documents unfolds, certainly did.These revelations are not only about secret services, but just as much about all the new social touchpoints of every citizen who is equipped with a smartphone and online access: Who controls and analyses these touchpoints and why? Is it so difficult to understand that in a world in which – according to Eric Schmidt’s concise formulation – the digital self not only mirrors but substitutes our true selves, all these issues become questions of human rights?

President Obama’s Berlin declaration that he would welcome a debate about the right balance between security and freedom gave room for hope. And different from the distant military threats of the Cold War, are we now exposed to threatening systems which seem to function only as long as they are deeply interwoven and are interfering with a civil society’s private communication.

Before Snowden, we knew about this interference only theoretically. Since Snowden, we know about empirically as well.There is no indication whatsoever that those media organisations who reported about the NSA and GCHQ files have endangered our national security. None of the newspapers involved did create artificial drama as would have been customary in the 1980s, just to increase copy sales. None of the newspapers involved has questioned the duty and legitimate need of governments to prevent terrorism. No one has defended the ideology of terrorists or has even hinted at the idea that terrorism suspects should not be screened.

What the newspapers involved did discuss is the integrity of the very democracies that terrorists are trying to destroy. We all can feel and witness each other’s tangible shock and dismay about the complete loss of democratic control over systems and secret services which seemingly feel entitled to decide on their own who is a friend and who is an enemy of our civil societies. We saw Jimmy Carter’s deep concern. We saw how even an influential and staunchly conservative security expert such as Germany’s Hans-Peter Uhl of the Bavarian CSU party defined the NSA files as a “wake-up call” that was hinting at a dangerous merger of private industries and secret services. If a conservative security expert like Germany’s Hans-Peter Uhl ventures into such territory, we should realize that this affair is about much more than only a few powerpoint presentations. Publishing the Snowden files has by no means been an attack on our freedom and security, but a crucial prerequisite for freedom to exist in the future.
Frank Schirrmacher, publisher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany


There is a superficial appeal in the argument that intelligence “professionals” know better than editors what information must be suppressed, even if it has already escaped their control. Particularly in this time of terror, much of the public is impressed by that argument and so are American attorneys and judges, causing David Rudenstine of Cardozo Law School to name this the “age of deference.”

Such deference was evident also when the Pentagon Papers case reached our Supreme Court. The Chief Justice compared the papers to the “White House silver,” which, had it come into our possession we would have surely returned. Other justices felt that even if the Constitution prevented our being censored, we deserved to be prosecuted under Espionage statutes for aiding the enemy.

Arrogant though it sounds, the fact is that experienced editors and correspondents who deal daily in the subject matter of “national security” know better than most judges and prosecutors whether a given piece of information could seriously threaten lives or damage national defence. Moreover, if in doubt, we have usually asked officials to demonstrate the danger of publication and in a minority of cases accepted their argument. But we have demanded persuasive argument that distinguishes between a genuine threat and mere bureaucratic embarrassment or inconvenience.

Why, ultimately, does experience argue almost always in favour of publication? Because a secret once lost by government, even if important, cannot be “returned”. It can fly across the globe in an instant and even if momentarily suppressed, it must inform all those who have learned it as they in turn inform others. Even more persuasive is the reality that neither officials nor journalists can ever be sure of the consequences of publication: facts once distributed, like seeds in a garden, acquire a life of their own with consequences that can be salutary, malignant, both, or neither. So while intelligence agents perceive a professional duty to cloak all their deeds and knowledge, it is a newspaper’s duty to publish what it learns without presuming to predict a good or ill result. The tension thus created is probably the only tolerable way to proceed.
Max Frankel, former executive editor, The New York Times


Journalists have not only the right but a responsibility to challenge government – its behaviour, its reasoning and its assertion of fact. There will always be times when an editor has to rely on his own judgment in making decisions about what to publish and weighing the implications. Editors know these can be profoundly important decisions and they should listen with care to arguments from all sides, including government. Experience has taught scepticism.

Official secrecy doesn’t just cloak the national-security state; it hides everything from bureaucratic bungling and politicians’ peccadillos to catastrophically bad policy. Officials can be just as aggressive in discouraging journalists from ferreting out mismanagement and waste as they often are in trying to block sensitive national security stories. That shouldn’t keep editors from thoughtfully considering officials’ arguments and at times being persuaded to hold something back. But there is inherent, inevitable and – in the US, anyway – by-design tension between government and a free press that reflects the institutions’ different functions. A responsible editor’s bias must be towards publication and an informed public debate. Without sight of the facts, how can a democracy chart its course?
Marcus Brauchli, vice-president, Washington Post Company


It is journalism’s most noble duty to write about and to describe what exists in our world. Our second duty is to add context to and to comment and to evaluate that which exists in our world. If it is a journalist’s duty, however, to describe what exists, then this inherently implies the duty to write about those things and events about which certain humans and institutions do not want us to write about. This tends to be case whenever journalists write about the activities of secret services and it was the case during these last weeks when The Guardian, the New York Times or Süddeutsche Zeitung have written about the British secret services, most especially about GCHQ.

No secret service likes it when its methods are being discussed openly, which is understandable as long as a secret service focuses on its core duties, such as the surveillance of terror suspects. Once a secret service starts behaving like an octopus, though, with its tentacles reaching all across everyone’s life and putting whole societies under collective suspicion with everyone falling victim to total surveillance, then the societal contract has been broken. There is no justification for such violation. Yet it is fully justifies that journalists reveal such unlawful state action. This is what the Guardian has done. Nothing else.

To claim that the Guardian had shown “deadly irresponsibility” or that it was “helping the enemies” of the UK has no foundation and is appalling. To publish such claims means to slander those who consistently and carefully fulfill their journalistic duty to society.
Wolfgang Krach, deputy editor in chief, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany


The accusations of “irresponsibility” that The Daily Mail addressed to the Guardian sound familiar to my ears. La Repubblica repeatedly received this kind of allegations too, after the numerous investigative reportings that we published to reveal Silvio Berlusconi’s network of corruption, abuse of power and manipulations during the many years in which he was at the head of the Italian government. We have been accused too of publishing documents, official wiretappings and revelations that – according to Silvio Berlusconi and his supporters – should have been kept secret, confidential, hidden. But the role of a free press in a democratic country is to be the guardians – not the spokesmen – of power. Media is part of the check and balances system of an healthy democracy and they would betray their duty if they only reported what the power considers legitimate to reveal to the public opinion.

A responsible press knows the difference between to always publish everything, and to choose, select and verify the news before publishing them. This is what we did at La Repubblica and what the Guardian does. From the Washington Post with the Watergate case to the New York Times with the Pentagon Papers, the history of journalism is full of revelations that, according to the people in power, should have been kept secret, but later it has become clear that to publish them was a service to democracy, not a “lethally irresponsible” act. After all our newspaper, as the media of many other countries, reported the Guardian’s revelations. The Guardian is certainly not alone in this battle for the freedom of the press. A newspaper answers to public opinion, not to the government.
Ezio Mauro, editor-in-chief, La Repubblica, Italy


Intelligence agencies in the United States and elsewhere have acquired enormous capacity to monitor the communications of their countries’ citizens, residents, and those who live elsewhere. While the purpose is counterterrorism and other foreign intelligence, surveillance of such massive scale has sharply eroded the privacy that many citizens feel they are entitled to enjoy in a democracy that respects individual liberties.

Citizens in a democracy are given the right to decide for themselves how to strike the proper balance between privacy and national security. They cannot do so, however, unless they know what their government is doing. A highly intrusive surveillance apparatus has been built without public knowledge and public debate.

President Obama has said the current debate over the tradeoff between security and civil liberties is “healthy for our democracy”. There would have been no public debate had there been no disclosure. Media organisations like ours consult closely with intelligence agencies in an effort to safeguard sources, methods, and lives, even as we seek to fulfill a central journalistic mission: bringing transparency to a government that wields enormous power.
Martin Baron, executive editor, the Washington Post, US


In its reporting on the NSA stories, the Guardian has played a vital role in the global debate on how society in practice weighs freedom of speech and thought versus our common need for security.

Truths are at times inconvenient, but inconvenient truths are at times of the highest importance. This is such a case, and we strongly support The Guardians decision to publish these stories.
Hilde Haugsgjerd, editor-in-chief, Aftenposten, Norway


Back in 2006, Dean Baquet (who was then the editor of the Los Angeles Times and is now managing editor of The New York Times) and I (who was then executive editor of the New York Times) published a joint statement in our two newspapers addressing what was by then already a very old controversy: when is it acceptable for news organizations to publish secrets? We explained that these are excruciating choices made with great care, that as particular beneficiaries of democratic freedoms we take dangers to national security very seriously indeed, that responsible editors often (though for obvious reasons without fanfare) withhold information when we are convinced it could put lives at risk. The text is here.

In that piece, we quoted Robert G. Kaiser of The Washington Post, as follows: “You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America’s name, shouldn’t Americans understand how it is being waged?”

And that’s the question I would pose to citizens of free societies, and in particular to editors who join governments in denouncing the careful publication of secrets: which of the recent stories would you prefer not to know? Would you prefer not to be told how questionable intelligence led the United States and its allies into a misbegotten war in Iraq? Would you prefer to be ignorant of the existence of secret prisons, and the practice of torture? Would you really rather not know the extent of eavesdropping by governments or private contractors, and the safeguards or lack of safeguards against abuses of these powers? Democracy rests on the informed consent of the governed. Editors’ highest responsibility is to assure that it is as informed as possible.
Bill Keller, former executive editor, the New York Times


The attacks against the Guardian by both the government and representatives of the British press are unacceptable. What the Guardian is doing is both brave and important for our democracies. We fully support the paper.
Peter Wolodarski, editor-in-chief, Dagens Nyheter, Sweden


The freedom of the press is so precious that it cannot be restricted or compromised by the accusation of complicity with ‘the enemies’. This does not, of course, mean that newspapers can say whatever they want without any kind of control or any kind of responsibility. But from what I understand, the Guardian has carefully scrutinised the documents they received. This is important. In Italy we were very impressed with the time the Guardian took to publish these documents. It meant that you checked and scrutinised them. You cannot be accused of acting simply as a kind of post box. You received a lot of material and then you decided what was fit to print and what wasn’t.

In short, a judgement was made, and this cannot be underestimated.

I believe that this is the role of journalism in our society- to decide what is important- what is valid- for the public interest. Now, I can disagree perhaps with some documents you have published or some opinions that you have expressed but I cannot disagree with your freedom to do journalism. And journalism means taking on the responsibility of deciding what is important for the public interest. This is what newspaper editors have to decide. This role cannot be given to the government or the secret services.
Mario Calabresi, editor, La Stampa, Italy


The position of Neue Zürcher Zeitung on publishing sensitive material is always based on journalistic, ethical and legal considerations. We do not accept intervention by third parties – neither private nor by the government. We consider public interest higher than state interest as a principle, however, and respect our responsibility to safeguard professionalism in investigation, analysis and judgment – based on our core values as a quality brand.

It is clear that MI5 has by logic another agenda than the Guardian. In a functioning democracy, however, both sides are entitled to do their jobs within the framework of legality and their professional duties.
Markus Spillmann, editor-in-chief, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland


As journalists, we are responsible towards society, not towards state institutions. This differentiation is essential for the work of an independent press. A diverse media landscape and freedom of speech are constitutive elements of democracy.

Edward Snowden’s revelations serve to educate society about transgressions by the government and potential abuse of power. To withhold such information would be a betrayal of a free press and would destroy its credibility.

The protection of privacy is an element of human dignity and has been defined as such in the universal declaration of human rights in 1948. Since only a few decades, the policies of human rights are beginning to bear fruit. To a good extent, this positive development has been made possible also through our work, the work of a free press.
Stephan-Andreas Casdorff and Lorenz Maroldt, editors- in-chief, Tagesspiegel, Germany


It is with abhorrence that we have read today’s editorial in the Daily Mail attacking the Guardian’s coverage of Edward Snowden’s revelations and accusing its competitor of “aiding Britain’s enemies”. It effectively amounts to the accusation of treason.

We fully support the Guardian’s relentless disclosures of secret services’ abuses of power and widespread spying on citizens, domestically as well as abroad. For many months now, the Guardian has been subject to unprecedented pressure by the British government, in order to discourage its reporters and editors from pursuing such stories. We are convinced that, in this case, the national security argument is largely overused; since the revealed massive surveillance of people cannot be justified by the war on terror.
Piotr Stasinski, deputy editor-in-chief, Gazeta Wyborcza


In October 1962 German authorities arrested journalists from the newsmagazine Der Spiegel, including its founder and publisher Rudolf Augstein. After having published a cover story on the sorry state of the German armed forces – “Partially ready to defend” – they were accused of treason. Spiegel offices were closed. Augstein remained in custody for 103 days.

The so called “Spiegel Affair” became a cornerstone in recent German history. It changed the country. The public – and the courts – defended the principle of freedom of information and its importance for a democratic society.

And as of today fortunately German authorities have learned their lesson. Nobody would try to force German journalists to destroy computers in the basement. I follow the events in Great Britain with great concern. I was engaged in dealing with intelligence issues, secret documents for more than 20 years. I know how difficult it can be to make decisions about the publication of relevant information – and sometimes, in a very few cases, to take the decision to withhold information from publication. To uncover the (dirty) secrets of governments is an essential part of good journalism. Do journalists have to publish all and every secret? No. Journalists and editors need to weigh arguments. Journalists and editors have responsibility of their own. I am confident that journalists take this responsibility seriously.

Should we tell the names of sources, if their life might be endangered by being made public? No. Should we warn suspects, if we know, that authorities are after them? No. Should we report about the threat for our freedom being caused by he worldwide surveillance by intelligence services, the GCHQ or the NSA? We absolutely must.
Georg Mascolo, former editor-in-chief, Der Spiegel, Germany


In an era of big data and big surveillance, we need a public and global debate on the borderlines between national security concern and democratic transparency. By publishing stories about the Snowden revelations, the Guardian has made a significant contribution to this important debate. Citizens all over the world must ask themselves if democracies risk being harmed more than defended by a surveillance that is not only secret to the broader public but also seems to be out of democratic control. It is essential that the press engage in this debate and provides documentation to inform it.
Bo Lidegaard, executive editor-in-chief, Politiken, Denmark


Governments lie and keep secrets for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes it is to protect the public. Sometimes it is to protect the politicians and the officials who do their bidding, even when what’s being covered up is morally bankrupt or outright criminal. It happens again and again and again. Yes, governments need to keep some secrets. But secrecy takes hold as a value in itself, with corrosive effects. In western democracies, transparency is essential to secure the consent of the governed.

The Daily Mail apparently has absolute faith in the integrity and competence of its government on national security matters, despite the ample lessons of history. The Mail has a right to be the government’s toady. We’ll look elsewhere for actual journalism, which we still need.
Dan Gillmor, founding director, Knight Centre for Digital Media Entrepreneurship


Edward Snowden’s release of an unprecedented mass of classified material on the NSA’s and GCHQ’s mass surveillance programmes and technologies, and their publication by the Guardian, have triggered a lively and important debate round the world, including in India – a country that is directly affected by this surveillance. The debate is essentially about the limits of surveillance carried out amid whole populations, domestic and external, by intelligence agencies in the name of the global war against terrorism. It raises urgent questions about accountability, and the absence of adequate lawful oversight over the mass surveillance programmes.

As a former editor with some experience in investigating and exposing corruption and misconduct that the Indian state was determined to keep secret in the name of national security, I have the greatest admiration for the way the Guardian has handled the Snowden leaks. The moral courage, professional diligence, social responsibility, and editorial excellence that has gone into making this challenging mass of material, including technical information, accessible to general readers are in the finest traditions of public-spirited and impactful investigative journalism.

I am not surprised by the attacks, considering the level of importance, the magnitude, and the ongoing nature of the leaks. But for journalists to suggest that editors of newspapers, not being experts on security matters, are unfit to make decisions on publishing confidential material and must leave the whole field of surveillance and security to the state to handle as it thinks fit, under an impenetrable veil of secrecy, sounds to me like the worst kind of intellectual philistinism.
N. Ram, former editor-in-chief, the Hindu


The best way for government officials to avoid answering in public to embarrassing or illegal conduct is not to engage in it. Indeed, the free press has been the most reliable check on government officials lying to their constituents and violating their rights in the modern political era, at least since the Pentagon Papers revealed the deep deceit in American conduct in the war in Vietnam.

The free and responsible American and English press also have an appropriate tradition of taking seriously their governments’ concerns over physical safety and national security, which in some cases have themselves turned out to be overstated and deceptive.

Editors, government officials and citizens share an interest in ensuring that this important democratic tradition continues into a new media era shaped on one side by new access to undigested information and on the other by encroaching government controls. Readers and sources should expect that when a reporter learns of government misconduct, the default should be to inform the public, not to protect the government.
Ben Smith, editor-in-chief, Buzzfeed


Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinions, even if they are utterly absurd. A journalist calling the well documented and carefully researched exposure of serious governmental wrong-doing a “lethal irresponsibility”, of course, is such an absurdity: a professional forgetting the very purpose of his profession.

The Guardian did what newspapers were invented to do: to make well-reasoned editorial judgements – in this case to reveal an abuse of power by American and British intelligence agencies on a scale which most people would have regarded unthinkable.

In my 28 years as a journalist, I cannot think of a single topic that would have been more justified being debated publicly in a democratic society than Edward Snowden’s, Glenn Greenwald’s and the Guardian’s revelations of these last few months. The former editor of the New York Times once said, it’s not their primary task to deliver news but to provide judgement. The Guardian provided both and did it brilliantly.
Armin Wolf, deputy editor-in-chief, ORF-TV, Austria

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