Parliament may charge Guardian under Terrorism Act for publishing Snowden leaks

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The Guardian is being investigated by the British parliament to see if it violated Section 58A of the country’s Terrorist Act for publishing former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden’s documents on the NSA and British spy agency GCHQ.

The law states that you cannot publish information about “members of the armed forces or intelligence services.” Parliament is concerned that the Guardian may have information about British spies tucked in the Snowden leaks, according to Reuters. If the publication wrote a story including any of these documents or supplied them to partner publications — the Guardian has been working with the Washington Post and the New York Times on its articles — then it could be subject to criminal offenses.

Editor Alan Rusbridger gave a testimony before lawmakers in Parliament, defending the publication and his actions. Rusbridger says the Guardian has redacted and protected any names mentioned in the leaked documents it publishes. He stressed that the publication has neither published nor lost control of any of the names involved.

Furthermore, he explained that the Guardian has only published one percent of the documents it received from Snowden. Currently, the Guardian has only published 26 documents. He said the publication actually has 58,000 in a protected system.

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick explained that the government will be looking closely at the Guardian’s actions to determine whether further action on its part is necessary. Committee member Michael Ellis stressed that just communicating this kind of data would be a major issue, even if it wasn’t publishing.

As Reuters’ notes, Watergate scandal journalist Carl Bernstein said this finger-pointing at the press may be an attempt by Parliament to distract people from looking harder at how GCHQ performs its surveillance.