Nick Clegg’s office speaks out on Miranda detention and destruction of Guardian data

nick clegg by paul walterA spokesperson for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the press:

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.

The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.

It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian’s ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.

We also understand that Nick Clegg was not informed in advance of the detention of David Miranda.

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98 Comments

  • State thuggery preferable to legal action? I can hear the smell from Oxford, and it’s putrid.

  • This whole affair is deeply troubling. One of the primary reasons that I’m a supporter of the party is to safeguard hard won civil liberties. Frankly, the surveillance state both in the US and Britain seems to be growing without any political or judicial oversight. The Lib Dems cannot stand by while the police intimidate and harass anyone connected to journalism. If an individual has broken a law then prosecute but don’t deploy this secretive and unaccountable process citing that evasive and all encompassing term ‘national security.’ Political embarrassment does not justify application of anti-terror laws to journalism.

  • Richard Marbrow 21st Aug '13 - 11:18am

    In a world that relies so much on computers and science it is genuinely worrying that our leaders do not understand even basic things about computers and science.

    Given how easily data can be copied, and given that the Guardian still has access to the data, the actions taken can’t be thought to have removed the possibility of the data making its way into the wrong hands (leaving aside the arguments about how secret it should be anyway).

    This shouldn’t be a complicated concept but it seems that for a frightening percentage of the cabinet it is beyond them.

  • Philip Welch 21st Aug '13 - 11:25am

    This is not good enough. I do not want a leader who does not object to the use of police and the civil service to intimidate people who have upset the government.

  • “On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.
    The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian’s freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.”

    Are these really the same politicians who tied themselves in such complicated knots over the Leveson proposals, in order to devise a system where there would not be even the appearance of political interference with the freedom of the press? It’s just bizarre.

  • Sounds like trying to make it look like we are on both sides at once… Nick agreed with the destruction of the data KNOWING that there were several other copies the Guardian had stashed beyond our jurisdiction elsewhere? Did he not raise the obvious objection? It seems absurd to me that our security services are chasing ‘information’ (by it’s nature a slippery thing in an information age) which MIGHT be of use to terrorists, rather than focussing on catching the terrorists themselves, who DEFINITELY want to attack us. Could it be that the real motive is not to secure us against terrorism, but to punish those who would dare to expose the excesses of the security services themselves?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Aug '13 - 11:32am

    If I were Nick Clegg, I’d also be kicking off big time about the fact that the Home Office had cut me out of the loop on numerous recent occasions.

    On the quiet word from Jeremy Heywood vs legal action, I’d have preferred the Courts, I think, to give it some distance from the Government.

  • I’ve been a longtime follower of the party from Australia, and am really gobsmacked by the silence of this issue.

    That the destruction of this data was actually approved by Clegg is sure to be more damaging to the party than anything that’s come before. This is a slap in the face to both the social AND classic liberals of the party – which makes what’s written above all the more baffling.

  • Clegg must go !

  • “reasonable request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a threat to national security if it fell into the wrong hands”. It has already fallen into the wrong hands !. It is inconceivable that the Russians did not see the data as the price for giving Snowden sanctuary and the same probably is true of China when he was in transit in Hong Kong: What the Guardian possessed must be common knowledge in countries outside Britain – the Guardian has not claimed it to be a “scoop” exclusive to them, so why the heavy handed approach by officials acting on behalf of our government ?

  • But Alan Rusbridger has said that they have all the material outside the United Kingdom in any case so surely smashing up some hard disks here is irrelevant. If there really is a threat to National Security (on on some of this they may of course have a point) isn’t it the job of the security chiefs to go to court to deal with the situation not take tokenistic action?

  • “Nick agreed with the destruction of the data KNOWING that there were several other copies the Guardian had stashed beyond our jurisdiction elsewhere? Did he not raise the obvious objection?”

    The pointless nature of the action shouldn’t distract us from the fact that it was intended to bully a newspaper into destroying information it wished to use for journalistic purposes, by the government applying direct pressure rather than through the courts.

  • Surely, this is a betrayal of basic party principles? I do hope that conference will be able take on the Party Leadership on this issue and on many others too.
    Quite frankly, I am fed up of the principles to which I subscribed to when I joined the Party slowly being eroded away .

  • The party inheriting the traditions of Lloyd George and Mill etc which I’ve been a member of since inception finally gets into government and promptly forgets its main purpose. I am horrified at the failure to act on this first order political issue. Of course Clegg must go – such bad judgement, there’s nothing ‘preferable’ about direct media interference from no 10, it’s shocking – but also the parliamentary party needs to develop a backbone and rediscover its support of individual freedom and visceral opposition to intrusive state power.

  • Hilarious. Yet another reason why I’m no longer a member.

  • David Edwards 21st Aug '13 - 12:04pm

    Really? It is inconceivable that this is an acceptable situation. The only ‘crime’ here is the exposing of the levels of which UK citizens actually have NO civil liberties any more.
    At the whim of government, or government sponsored bully boys, any semblance of civil liberties are stripped away and ‘the word from on high’ is simply imposed,

    The Guardian/GCHQ episode was farcical.

    The Miranda detention was diabolical.
    I have to use the word inconceivable again; it is inconceivable that Miranda is a terrorist.
    Lord Falconer, the main architect of that highly dubious ‘terrorist’ law agrees.

  • Is anyone actually suprised by this?

    Outraged yes, but suprised?

  • Clear Thinker 21st Aug '13 - 12:35pm

    The Guardian claims that the data is secure. But if you have data on a hundred computers it’s less secure than if you have data on just one. So destroying data on some of the computers can indeed have a benefit for security.

    Destroying data does not mean destroying hardware, it means over-writing information that is recorded on hardware. An analogy would be recording silence on a tape that was previously used to store music.

  • Richard Thomas 21st Aug '13 - 12:42pm

    Presumably the ‘wrong hands’ about which authority is so preoccupied belong to the British people? We are clearly not entitled to know such things as the data our Government collects about us and its umbilical relationship with the US intelligence services to the point of their subsidising us to do their dirty work.

  • Clegg’s comment sounds like he supported the tokenism of destroying the hardware. It’s a bit of a mealy-mouthed fence-sitter of a statement.

  • Clegg really has to go, he’s making the party completely unelectable.

    Even if, for whatever crazy reason, most of the general public are not bothered by the GCHQ/tempora/NSA findings and the resulting treatment of the Guardian and its journalists (and the DA-notice) I’d be amazed if there any Lib Dem voters who are comfortable with this.

  • James Harvey 21st Aug '13 - 12:52pm

    Time for me to leave the party I think. It doesn’t appear to be liberal in any meaningful way any longer. A shame: three years of power seems to have been all it takes for our core raison d’être to be abandoned.

  • Clear Thinker 21st Aug '13 - 12:55pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Iain Donaldson. I follow the White House line on this, “Today the White House … said it was ‘difficult to imagine’ them demanding computer hardware was destroyed”. It does seem pre-historic, but the destruction of data doesn’t. The modern terrorist is or will soon be a hacker, and hackers know that the more targets there are, the more likely it is that someone has left a guard or firewall down.

  • The only way to destroy the data is to destroy the hard drive.

  • Clear Thinker 21st Aug '13 - 1:10pm

    Surely that’s not true, Dean! Can you not simply over-write the hard drive with zeroes, then turn the computer off? There is surely some software to do it? The turning off destroys the data in “memory”. Sure data can be transferred to memory sticks and other places, but if the Guardian allowed that to happen willy-nilly they could hardly claim that they were keeping the data secure.

    If the Guardian were serious about data security, they should have had location lists, procedures, password protections, authorized users, etc and a whole lot of sophisticated hackerphobe controls to ensure proper security of sensitive information. But so far they have been deafeningly silent on their security system, or lack thereof.

  • Paul in Twickenham 21st Aug '13 - 1:11pm

    Book burning is almost always symbolic- it would be very unusual if the burning destroyed all extant copies. But of course book burning is about sending a message, doesn’t it?

  • Dean… no. As Rusbridger has already made clear, the data was also held elsewhere.

  • @Clear Thinker
    The modern terrorist actually appears to be the partner of a journalist who is embarrassing our governments by doing his job and letting us all know that we are being spied on all day every day.

  • Clear Thinker

    No, even if the data has been “deleted” and overwritten it is still possible to recover it or parts of it.

    Banks and Government departments regularly damage the hard drive by opening them up and pouring paint directly onto the disk and the disk head as a way to dispose of old hardware.

  • Jonathan Hunt 21st Aug '13 - 1:28pm

    If you had read this in a Le Carré novel, or seen it in a Bond movie or early episode of Spooks, you would have called it far-fetched for the cabinet secretary to go round to put the frightners on a newpapers editor under threat of preventing any further publication. Where was M? Why not lunch in his club?

    What seemingly was sensitive was the need to protect their own arses. The arses in this instance include Cameron, Haig, May, Hayward and, sadly, Clegg. This puts his continuing position as leader in even greater doubt, as most posts here have indicated.

    We have had to put up with so much in this coalition: disastrous austerity economic policies compared to those countries adopting essentially Keynsian polies, such as the US; right-wing social engineering disguised as welfare reform; and betrayal of our basic, bedrock beliefs in liberty, freedom of express and a free press and concern for human rights.

    What we need to be told now is: What did Clegg know, and when did he know it?

  • I disagree Dean. It is certainly a quick way, but there are military grade disk erasing programs which run several passes of writing crap data over existing data. But they do take hours and hours to run in most cases. The photo, of course, looked like a MacBook Air though anyway so they ought probably to have microwaved the SSD card and be done with it.

  • Cllr David Becket 21st Aug '13 - 2:21pm

    Lord Falconer, who introduced the bill, has said that the police had no right to detain Miranda.
    Our liberal (sic) leadership has come out with the type of non statement we are getting used to. A statement that enables them to sit on the fence for ever. This is one reason why we will crash in 2015. True liberal activists will not turn out to work their socks off for the party this has become.

  • Nick Barlow 21st Aug '13 - 2:48pm

    So we’ve come to the point where the leader of the Liberal Democrats thinks it’s ‘reasonable’ for the Cabinet Secretary to make requests that newspapers destroy data in the name of ‘security’, when the only organisation to have actually had a problem keeping this data protected is a government? What happened to the Nick Clegg who would rather go to jail than carry an ID card?

  • Maggie Smith 21st Aug '13 - 2:53pm

    Perhaps this is enough to make people in the LibDems feel some shame about this coalition?

    finally?

    Possibly?

    BTW the technicalities of erasing the data on a hard drive is absolutely irrelevant when there are copies of that data elsewhere. If this was a gesture then I’m afraid it’s badly backfired and you guy is in the firing line, why? Is what he has done any more reprehensible that what David “I’m on my hols …again” Cameron has done? No in itself, the problem is what NC has done is a million miles further from what would be expected of him from his party than what Cameron’s party (and the population) expect of him. You expect Cameron to pull some stunt like that (especially given parliament is out for the summer) the shock is proportional, I’m far more shocked by NC than Cameron on this.

    Despite the glaring hypocrisy over their attitudes to the press post Leveson, how the press must remain unfettered, how regulation must be as light touch as possible and then this.

    Defend it all you like. It’s always going to look bad. Defending it just makes it look a whole lot worse.

  • While I agree with most of the posters here, but let’s also bear in mind that the Guardian has form for losing large amounts of encrypted secret leaked data before. The Guardian managed to accidentally leak the whole Wikileaks archive:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14743410
    Regardless of exactly whose fault that sorry saga was, the fact was that the Guardian had access and the files leaked. I wouldn’t trust the Guardian to hold data any more than the Government.

  • “Is it possible that in fact, the Guardian themselves chose to smash up something physical to provide a nice picture, rather than simply wipe the hard drives in question?”

    It doesn’t sound like it, judging from the Guardian’s own report of what happened:
    Talks began with government officials on a procedure that might satisfy their need to ensure the material had been destroyed, but which would at the same time protect the Guardian’s sources and its journalism.
    The compromise ultimately brought Paul Johnson, Guardian News and Media’s executive director Sheila Fitzsimons, and one of its top computer experts, David Blishen, to the basement of its Kings Place office on a hot Saturday morning to meet two GCHQ officials with notebooks and cameras.
    The intelligence men stood over Johnson and Blishen as they went to work on the hard drives and memory chips with angle grinders and drills, pointing out the critical points on circuit boards to attack. They took pictures as the debris was swept up but took nothing away.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/20/nsa-snowden-files-drives-destroyed-london

  • I can clearly see why the guardian destroyed the hard drives – as the data was stored elsewhere, it was the easiest thing to do to stop legal action and to prevent sharing their data with the government. I can’t however see why it was in the public’s interest to have the data destroyed in the first place.

    Destruction of a copy in one location will just mean that the data will be shared with a wider audience to ensure there is a copy, increasing the likelihood of it getting into the wrong hands.

    The government really doesn’t seem to understand technology or the flow of data at all, and the party seems to stay quiet in policies which should be our USP.

  • “The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action.”

    No Nick. This is WHY we have a legal process. If you don’t see why it is a terrible idea for the security services to be sent into a newspaper offices, on the say so of a Government official, to smash up their computers then you shouldn’t describe yourself as a liberal and you are certainly unfit to lead this party.

    So what do we do about it?

  • Liberal Neil 21st Aug '13 - 3:39pm

    “What happened to the Nick Clegg who would rather go to jail than carry an ID card?”

    Indeed.

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Aug '13 - 4:14pm

    “UK citizens actually have NO civil liberties any more.”
    “we are being spied on all day every day”

    I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight, I really don’t.

    On the issue of the destroyed hard drives, it’s clear that both sides knew full well that the action was purely symbolic. The Guardian were happy to go along with it because it allowed them to take photos of smashed circuit boards which it knew would get all the tin-foil-hat-wearers agitated. It’s very difficult to see what the government was hoping to get out of it. The government’s actions come across more as impotent bumbling than “state thuggery” – thugs don’t tend to leave it for two weeks, turn up for a chat, then go away for three more weeks before taking anything resembling proper action.

  • David White 21st Aug '13 - 4:21pm

    Oh, Nick Barlow, your comment is both apposite and wonderful.

    Am I alone in feeling that Mr Clegg’s inability/unwillingness to say something himself indicates a cavalier attitude to the British people and, in particular, to concerned members of his political party?

    The press release was bullsh+t and Clegg is a moral c+ward.

  • “I don’t know how I’m going to sleep tonight, I really don’t.”

    The thing is, though, that most liberals do tend to care about civil liberties as a matter of principle, even if they themselves are not likely to be under any immediate threat. You can try to ridicule them as “tin-foil-hat-wearers”, but it’s not much of a substitute for argument.

  • Deeply saddened 21st Aug '13 - 4:38pm

    The one distinctive value Liberals and Liberal Democrats have protected over many decades is that of Civil Liberties.We can argue about economic and even defence policies but not about protecting our rights and obligations as free citizens. Where else can the ordinary folk of the UK seek a party that “puts freedom first” ? Liberalism is committed to this and many of us have fought all our lives for these values. Are we to say now it is not we who have left the party but the party that has left us ? I personally will never dream of abandoning MY party and its values but we must be prepared to defend those values whenever and from wherever they are threatened. We are Liberals first and we were Coalitionist second – for how much longer can toe the Coalitionist line ?

  • @liberalneil
    The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

  • Tony Greaves 21st Aug '13 - 4:46pm

    Please can we have our party back?

    Perhaps I will go to Glasgow after all.

    Tony Greaves

  • Clear Thinker 21st Aug '13 - 4:47pm

    Can we try to think a bit more clearly? :-) It’s surely a waste of time people quoting principles just to prove they’re more liberal than liberal can be? None of the “principles” mentioned so far seem anywhere near relevant to actual events.

    It’s clear that Bradley Manning should not have been given anything like 35 years – a more relevant punishment would have been a verbal admonition followed by immediate release. The real culprit was the person or agency who put such a young, impressionable guy into a position of being able to access such a huge amount of such highly sensitive information. Likewise, the real culprit in the Snowden case is the person who authorised his access to sensitive data.

    So these cases are about oversight in the intelligence services, and in his Sky interview Rusbridger makes the key point that the Guardian’s purpose is. precisely, to address issues about oversight . One of these issues is obviously about “clearing” people for access to sensitive information.

    As Jonathan Hunt writes on a different thread, all this is about protecting guilty parties, and as Rusbridger seems to indicate, the guilty parties are not so much the politicians, but the people who do incompetent personnel vetting, and the people who appoint those people.

  • Sadie Smith 21st Aug '13 - 4:54pm

    Entirely agree that this is a junk response to something serious.
    This is supposed to be from our Party’s Leader.
    Nick should know that the Home Office can’t be trusted.

  • David Blake 21st Aug '13 - 5:39pm

    I despair of our party, or rather its ‘leader’. I’ve been a member for 41 years, but I really am beginning to wonder whether it is my political home.

  • Your party has been hijacked by the Orange Bookers. If you think they’re even vaguely interested in freedom of speech and civil liberties, then you have a whole world of pain to come.

    This is, regrettably, what the Lib Dems have become as a political force. A cypher for the Tory party, unable to disagree on an issue that everyone with an ounce of sense would see is one of the basic core Lib Dem issues.

    The longer you remain in coalition with the Tories this pretence will go on as you shed members, voters and sympathy from the public.

    If you’re members, it’s your call.

  • Maybe the main purpose of the vapid statement was to engender party unity ahead of conference. On that it seems to have, nearly at least, worked :)

    And I do have to disagree with Clear Thinker’s last post – the guilty parties are those who have allowed the “intelligence and security” state to get to the position it has. And that is down to politicians over generations. Bentham, Proudhon and Foucault amongst others have warned us for centuries!

  • Where oh where is the Liberal voice in Government ….or in the land. Come on lets have a real Liberal Party again, what has happened….. where are the Liberals.

  • I’m immensely encouraged by the response on here. As I walked to work this morning I reflected that Nick Clegg has become Cameron’s version of Patti Hearst, a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. I have immense admiration for the way he’s conducted himself with respect to all the hatred that has been directed his way over the past three years, but none for his political skills. He has to go. And to those who have said on this thread that they can no longer remain in a party that takes the line that Clegg has taken: this is our party, not Clegg’s. If the Liberal Democrat Party did not exist it would be necessary to invent it.

  • What has this got to do with whether or not you are an economic liberal? In fact, it is those who are enamoured of big state intervention who must accept the risk, or rather inevitability, that that state will want to know as much about us and what we do as possible.

  • Martin Caffrey 21st Aug '13 - 6:18pm

    You need somebody like Massimo Tartaglia to ‘convince’ Mr Clegg to see the error of his ways.

  • “A spokesperson for Nick Clegg has released the following statement …”

    Is the Nick Clegg that likes to write to members on a regular basis the same as the one now hiding behind a ‘spokesperson’?

    “the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data…”

    It’s the bully-boy tactics of tyrants down the ages.

    “a preferable approach to taking legal action.”

    Free and open government means taking legal action in plain sight, not having “shadowy” figures make threats.

    a precautionary measure to protect lives and security.”

    Security was compromised long before Snowden by the vast scale of online spying. With thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of staff involved it’s a racing certainty that some of them will be using NSA and GCHQ systems for nefarious purposes – stealing commercial secrets, blackmail and worse. As we have seen security was laughable to the extent that it appears that, even now, the spook-masters don’t know what was taken. Snowden and the Guardian have done an immense public service by blowing the lid off this sorry story.

    Clegg needs to face a motion of no confidence at Conference. Then perhaps his best friend Cameron can elevate him to the Lords.

  • A Social Liberal 21st Aug '13 - 7:26pm

    I think it is now time to begin the process of replacing Clegg.

  • William Elliot 21st Aug '13 - 7:40pm

    If Govt. was a Labour majority, I could belive this happening.

    If Govt. was a Tory majority, I could belive this happening.

    But when the Liberal Democrats are in power, in coalition, I expect them to be the checks & balances against oppresive state corruption. Vince Cable talked of having the “nuclear option”, the power to bring down the coalition if they weren’t listened to. This is happening on your watch and with your authority, you had the power to stop it and instead, you seem to approve it.

    Forget tuition fees, NHS reform, mismanagement of the economy, this failure to protect the press freedom from the abuses of the state, this is where you fail your core support most.

    Which side are you on?

    It appears you’re on the side of the NSA/CIA and against principled journalists.

    I see comparisions between this & Watergate, a corrupt Govt. is involved in illegal surveilance, a source (DeepThroat/Edward Snowden), passes confidential files to a journalist (Woodward & Bernstien/Greenwald) , the Govt. is toppled for its widespread corruption & illegality, or it destroys evidence held at the Washington Post/Guardian, arrests the wife or spouse of the journalists, to intimidate and stop that journalist exposing the full extent of the illegality.

    And the Lib Dems, in power, showing us what they can achieve when they have power.

    It seems, power corrupts…

  • Now that Theresa May has made her position clear, I think Nick Clegg really does need to stop waiting for David Anderson to report and tell us what Nick Clegg thinks. Should schedule 7 be used against people who are not suspected of being terrorists or not?

  • I am not a member of the Lideral party but I voted for them at the last e;ection because they were the only party to say they were going to try and reign in the increasing threats to our civil liberties. They then produced “The Coalition: our programme for government” which among other things said “3. CIVIL LIBERTIES
    We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.” I see no evidence of this party carrying this promise out.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Aug '13 - 9:31pm

    I agree that neither of these instances were good and both should be condemned. However it worries me that we put so much energy into issues that most of the electorate couldn’t care less about.

  • Call me old fashioned and maybe slow to the world of liberal politics, but isn’t it the duty of Clegg and his happier, sunnier, fluffier (yellower) side of the Coalition to question and hold in abeyance the more conservative (small c) and authoritarian instincts of his blue shirted colleagues?

    I may be a bit slow at times, but why hasn’t Clegg deployed some kind of liberal minded thinking to at least engage in debate about Snowden and his very real information about the NSA and GCHQ abuses of our cherished (and very hard won) liberties? At the very least he could be ‘concerned’ – as everyone seems to be ‘concerned’ about the junta in Egypt killing their own citizens? No?

    I can only imagine that it would enhance Clegg’s position to take a positive and humanist stance on this. It can’t be right in our democracy to allow the security services to deploy the most draconian of terror laws against the family of journalists, intimidate the editor of the Guardian and smash up property ‘to send a message’ (Scarface style) and to support a Home Office statement that makes implied threats against people (the electorate, no less) who condone any other point of view on the matter.

    Surely this is an inversion of the British spirit; the ideal of fair play, the very rights and freedoms we fought two bloody wars for? Just look at the reaction from Russia and Germany to see this inversion spelled out in print.

    ‘roo

  • Reading the original Guardian statement, I do get the impression that this display of data destruction is more to do with being seen to do something in a way that makes it potentially very difficult for any one to legally take this matter further – such as requesting extradition of UK nationals or authorising further searches of the Guardian’s UK offices, without hard evidence. Be interested in a legal opinion on what this means with respect to such matters rather than just focusing on the act of data destruction.

  • This isn’t a left-right issue. I’m on the economic right of the party by most standards and I find the leadership’s actions and comments on recent events extremely troubling.

  • Stuart Mitchell 22nd Aug '13 - 8:04am

    It looks like the Guardian are just as digitally ignorant as the Government. They are seeking an injunction to stop the security services accessing Miranda’s data, despite the fact that (a) the Guardian claimed all this data was so well encrypted as to be uncrackable, and (b) the security services have had plenty of time to do what the Guardian did and send copies to friends abroad.

  • Quite funny to see the response to Clegg’s statements in the media.

    The Telegraph says “Nick Clegg refuses to back detention of David Miranda”, while the Independent opts for “Nick Clegg backs Prime Minister over David Miranda detention”.

    To be fair, the Independent article appears to mention only Clegg’s statements on the threats made to the Guardian. Perhaps a case for “sending the boys round” to the Independent?

  • @William Elliot
    “Forget tuition fees, NHS reform, mismanagement of the economy, this failure to protect the press freedom from the abuses of the state, this is where you fail your core support most.”

    I don’t see thousands of people rioting about this in the same way I did with tuition fees.I don’t see a sharp decrease in Lib Dem polling as I did with tuition fees. I doubt this will have any impact on the polling figures whatsoever, even if it has a dramatic impact on Clegg’s support within his party.

    The small numbers of voters that have been attracted to Clegg’s brand of Lib Demery in coalition tend to be ex-Torys who, on the whole, claim to be economically liberal but are also authoritarian. The reason for this is obvious – ‘economic liberalism’ to them is a means by which they can protect their wealth whilst claiming it’s about something else more egalitarian. It’s not surprising that such people are authoritarian as well, for the same reason.

  • Peter Cooper 22nd Aug '13 - 10:55am

    I’m very troubled by Nick Clegg’s statement and by implication his complicity in this attempt to chill legitimate free speech and reporting on a spying scandal in the United States. I am unaware of any warrant issued within the UK for the collection or destruction of stolen material or information, which seems to imply that a number of extremely doubtful actions have taken place, primarily with the purpose of stopping reporting on the issue.

    Further, what appears to be a witting failure to understand the nature of digital information (easily duplicated) indicates a very limited capability to govern in the modern age and the authorisation to enact a kind of auto da fe of a Macbook device in the basement of the Guardian newspaper offices is quite astonishing and very ill-fitting in a modern liberal democracy, let alone one governed in coalition with a party that proclaims liberal values.

    I can only conclude that the whole farcical exercise is due to a weird kind of Stockholm Syndrome of the Liberal-Democrats as soon as they entered Whitehall – willing golems now of the deep state who whisper in their ears that their principles must be sacrificed for a false dream of a 100% secure state.

  • Peter Chivall 22nd Aug '13 - 11:04am

    It’s obvious that Cameron in recent months has decided that Nick Clegg has no wish or ability to block anything he wants to do to – either to appease his backbenchers and financial backers (contrast the statements of Eric Pickles over planning rules for ‘fracking’ vs. wind farms) or to reassure the US security services and their satraps in the Home Office. One of the ironies is that when he was elected Leader, Nick repeatedly talked about ‘Liberals’ and ‘Liberalism’, never about Liberal Democrats – I was annoyed, but thought ‘at least the Liberal tradition will be safe, even if the Orange Bookers water down our commitments to local government, financial reform etc’.
    From his limp-wristed response to the Tories’ hate-fuelled round-ups of brown and black-skinned commuters at Tube stations on the pretense of seeking illegal migrant workers, to this latest abrogation of his duty as a Leader of a Party in the Liberal tradition, the choice is clear – Nick Clegg must choose now. He can either be Deputy Prime Minister in a Coalition with a rampant Conservative Party which has torn up the Coalition Agreement in all but name – or he can be Leader of the Liberal Democrats. He cannot any longer be both – and please tell us at the beginning of Conference so we can get on with the business of rescuing our Party.
    BTW @Tony Greaves – please come to Glasgow. I’ll buy you a pint, and so will hundreds of others.

  • Dave G Fawcett 22nd Aug '13 - 12:14pm

    Like Tonyhill I am encouraged by the response here. I had briefly considered resigning when this story broke, but I have no-where else to go so I will stay and fight to get back the kind of party I first joined when Jo Grimmond was ‘marching his troops towards the sound of gunfire’.

  • Michael Parsons 22nd Aug '13 - 1:36pm

    “On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.” It already is, surely!
    I suggest it is a moral and democratic duty to leave this anti-liberal Party and await further opportunities elsewhewhere if they arise: if they don’t, what is to gain from still being tied to Clegg’ tail?

  • Steve Griffiths 22nd Aug '13 - 3:01pm

    Tony Greaves

    “Please can we have our party back? ”

    Well if you get it back then I’ll return and once more “march towards the sound of gunfire”, as I suspect will others. I can see no real reason to return at the moment with the current (lack of) Leadership.

  • Perhaps I’ve been worn down by 3 years of coalition, but I don’t feel particularly outraged about Nick going along with the idea of civil servants having a quiet word with the Guardian, which I imagine has been going on since time immemorial.

    We should certainly challenge intelligence advice when it matters, such as WMD in Iraq, but having a quiet word with the Guardian about intelligence concerns doesn’t sound like a major breach of anybody’s human rights.

    But the reality of coalition government is that there are no secrets any more, and plenty of enemies looking to confuse the issues by linking the decision on the Guardian with the Miranda affair, so I suspect that Nick will need to take a tougher approach from now on.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Aug '13 - 5:05pm

    “BTW @Tony Greaves – please come to Glasgow. I’ll buy you a pint, and so will hundreds of others.”

    Hm. A good reason for not coming, I think!

    Tony

  • In 2010 several thousand innocent people were detained for 9 hours on Westminster bridge in freezing conditions. Not only was the scale of that outrage much large, given the numbers involved, but the vast majority of those people had not committed a crime and were not under suspicion of committing a crime.

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/19/police-kettle-risk-crush-hillsborough

    I can’t remember there being much outrage about it on here at the time, despite the fact it was a far greater breach of civil liberties than the Miranda affair.

  • Stuart Mitchell 22nd Aug '13 - 6:33pm

    The police claim they have found “thousands of classified intelligence documents” in Miranda’s possession.

    If this is true, where does it leave the Guardian’s claims that all this data was encrypted and completely crackproof? Were the Guardian completely careless with this data, or are the security services not quite as technologically inept as many posters here claim they are?

    @Steve
    Hear hear. Didn’t the police once kettle a load of kids to prevent them protesting outside Lib Dem HQ? I don’t remember too many objections from Lib Dems at the time.

    And what of the hundreds of thousands of people held under schedule 7 before? Why was nobody outraged by that, even though 99.9% of them were probably engaged in far more innocent activities than Miranda. Are Guardian journalists and their boyfriends/couriers some sort of higher form of life than the rest of us, deserving of more rights?

  • Stuart Mitchell 22nd Aug '13 - 6:44pm

    @Chris
    The trouble is, too many liberals think that hyperbole is the best way of showing how much they care about civil liberties. The two examples I quoted were fully deserving of ridicule. The more people exaggerate, the more difficult it is to have any sort of reasoned debate.

  • John Broggio 22nd Aug '13 - 9:28pm

    @ Stuart Mitchell

    It’s obviously passed you by but in http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/david-miranda-interview-detention-heathrow, para 2 David Miranda states “In his first interview since returning to his home in Rio de Janeiro early on Monday, Miranda said the authorities in the UK had pandered to the US in trying to intimidate him and force him to reveal the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.”

    So the Guardian is correct to say that the files/computers were encrypted but also it is correct to say that the police (their invisible friends etc) can read them because they know the passwords.

  • John Broggio 22nd Aug '13 - 9:48pm

    And from further down: “They got me to tell them the passwords for my computer and mobile phone,” Miranda said. “They said I was obliged to answer all their questions and used the words ‘prison’ and ‘station’ all the time.”

    Apologies for the tone of “It must have passed you by”; I meant it in the context of there was such a flurry of articles that Miranda’s divulging of passwords could easily have been missed, not as a sarcastic put-down.

  • Stuart Mitchell 23rd Aug '13 - 6:53pm

    @John Broggio
    You’re right – I knew that the police had ASKED for his passwords, but not that he had actually handed them over.

    But if that is what happened, my point stands: If the Guardian are reckless enough to send such a man around the world carrying both the data AND the passwords, then the Guardian’s data security measures are every bit as bad as I suggested, if not worse. If it was this easy for the British police to get him to divulge the passwords, it would have been just as easy for any foreign agent. Any encryption is only as secure as its password or key.

    It’s quite apt that this man is called Miranda, given the farcical nature of the Guardian’s operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they also have a Laurel & Hardy working for them.

  • David Wilkinson 24th Aug '13 - 12:58pm

    Clegg in action, good job we not got secret courts.
    A sad state of affairs when a Lib Dem leader rolls over and has his tummy tickled by the Tories and the Spy Masters.
    The sooner he goes the better.

  • @colin

    Nick Cohen hates us and did even before the coalition. Why should anyone believe a word he says about the Lib Dems anyway? If you get your views on the L ib Dems from Cohen it’s no wonder you think as you do.

    Try some less biased sources before making comments like this.

  • Brian Paddick 25th Aug '13 - 7:55pm

    What are the facts here? David Miranda was allegedly given classified, stolen, sensitive material to convey between a filmmaker in Berlin and his husband, a Guardian journalist based in Brazil. The material is allegedly of concern to the UK and the USA so he flies via London, Heathrow. Sorry but I would not put my husband at risk in that way and whoever I sent, I would have chosen a different route i.e. not via the UK or the USA. So how sensitive is the material? The police say it could have put lives at risk but they would say that wouldn’t they? We need independent verification of the risk the data posed. The nearest we are going to get is David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation. I am not in a position to judge how independent he is or what access he will be given to the material. So let’s say, hypothetically, if the material got into the public domain or the hands of terrorists, it could have put lives in danger. Well, as Alan Rushbridger already told the security services, the Guardian keeps copies of such data in different jurisdictions, so it was highly unlikely that Miranda was carrying the only copy. (By the way, I think the reason Rushbridger agreed to the destruction of the laptop he had was because he had no use for the information on it, so the ‘freedom of the press to publish’ issue did not arise.) You could argue that the more copies in circulation, the greater the risk or that even if there were other copies, it was important for the security services to know what the Guardian had (so they could put contingency plans in place in case the data did get into the hands of ‘the enemy’). OK, so there could be a case for such action but was it legal? That is what we want the courts to decide and Miranda has taken the first step along that path. I do not know what the courts will decide but I have a series of concerns. First, whatever Miranda was, he was not a terrorist. Second, he was only a courier, so even if seizing the hardware was necessary, where is the justification (in terms of necessity and proportionality) for detaining him for the maximum period of nine hours allowed under anti-terrorism legislation? Third, my reading of Schedule 7 is that it was designed to allow the interception of suspected terrorists who were attempting to enter or leave the UK. Miranda never technically entered the UK as he was in transit through Heathrow. Those regular travellers will recall the big signs at Heathrow Airport that declare that the line of passport control desks is the “UK Border”. Miranda was intercepted when he stepped off the plane. Yes, we need to protect ‘national security’ but we have to do it within the law and if the law is wrong, we need to change it but we cannot have agents of the state doing whatever they like no matter what the law says. Should Nick Clegg have said more? Well, if the courts decide the police did have the power and the data Miranda was carrying could have put lives at risk, he should be saying something very different (that the law needs to be changed) than if the police acted illegally. If he said one thing, strongly and forcibly, and the facts turned out to be different, he would appear foolish. He may not be your cup of tea but he’s not stupid.

  • Clear Thinker 25th Aug '13 - 8:29pm

    Thanks for that Brian, it does open up some interesting avenues. But while it is good to look at many angles, you seem to be making some pre-judgments:

    > Miranda is wise – wise enough to avoid the Heathrow transit area
    > Miranda was not a terrorist – how would the police have known that? don’t they have a duty to investigate?
    > Miranda was “just” a courier – how would the police have known? Is 9 hours sufficient to determine this, let alone too long? Should we automatically believe Rusbridger? Does Rusbridger even know for certain what his reporters are really up to?
    > Rusbridger agreed to destroy because … – this is rather speculative!
    > Nick Clegg knows what’s going on

    I agree that it’s really quite peculiar to have a QC making a ruling which seems essentially to be a statutory interpretation – isn’t that a matter for one of the higher courts to decide, rather than a single “expert”? And if the law is sufficiently unclear that the police can end up using it inappropriately, isn’t that partly the fault of the law makers?

  • “I agree that it’s really quite peculiar to have a QC making a ruling which seems essentially to be a statutory interpretation – isn’t that a matter for one of the higher courts to decide, rather than a single “expert”?”

    You should read Anderson’s letter to the Home Secretary announcing his review:
    “The final determination of any legal issues is of course for the courts. My purpose, rather, is to provide independent scrutiny of the manner in which this important counter-terrorism power was used on this occasion, and to identify any lessons that should be learned for its future operation.”
    https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/detention-of-david-miranda-announcement-of-independent-review/

  • From that article:

    Unless a politician knows what he wants to do, he (and it’s nearly always a he with the Lib Dems) will be overwhelmed by office. The civil service will take over and follow its own agenda. In the case of civil liberties, bureaucratic rule means the security establishment imposing ever more authoritarian measures. It takes bloody-minded men and women to slap the permanent government down. But Lib Dems see themselves as nice and reasonable centrists who believe in consensual politics. They have not been brought up to fight.

    This is absolutely the problem, but in all three parties not just the lib dems.

  • “Should Nick Clegg have said more? Well, if the courts decide the police did have the power and the data Miranda was carrying could have put lives at risk, he should be saying something very different (that the law needs to be changed) than if the police acted illegally.”

    Surely the Act is clear enough. It says that a person can be questioned under Schedule 7 only for the purpose of determining whether he “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”. Nothing to do with carrying information that could put lives at risk.

    Has anyone seriously suggested that the criterion in the act applied to David Miranda? If it didn’t, how could the police have been acting lawfully?

  • Mickft, Gareth Epps,

    I happen to share the view that Nick Cohen often writes overwrought nonsense. However, your ad hominem attack is unreasonable. Most of what Cohen says about the Lib Dems makes good sense.

    Cohen points out that we used to act to keep politics honest. We used to be more truthful than our opponents. We used to condemn cant, dishonesty, false arguments and corrupt practices by Left and Right alike. We don’t any more. That’s a pity. Cohen, on this occasion, is right.

  • David White 26th Aug '13 - 5:06pm

    Better late than never, eh, Boss Nick? And better anything than something convincing.

  • David Allen 26th Aug '13 - 6:16pm

    Gareth, no, I’m not a great fan of Cohen’s as I said, so I certainly wouldn’t keep a file of references. It’s just that … I think the particular piece which “Colin” linked to, happened to mostly make good sense. I think people should read it, ignore the byline, and decide whether it makes sense to them.

    As far as I’m concerned, if Adolf Hitler had written a piece (about how to paint houses, say) which I thought made sense and was worth reading, I would say so. I wouldn’t insist on painting things with an oily rag, just because Hitler had used a brush. … Have I gone on long enough now?

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