Given the prominent – and arguably, admirable – role that the Guardian newspaper has played in exposing some of the naughty, even allegedly criminal behaviours of certain Murdoch journalists in recent years, it is perhaps worth noting that the Guardian itself was not above obtaining sources of information that were obtained by breaking a few laws. Consider this article in Vanity Fair about the awkward, but also perhaps beneficial, relationship that developed between the Guardian and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
Remember, as the Samizdata comment thread regular “Llamas” pointed out the other day, that the sort of people who are condemning Murdoch journalists, and rightly so, are the sort who thought what a great thing it was that so much confidential information had been splashed all over the media due to WikiLeaks and its media users.
There are some double standards going on around here. And let’s not forget that governments, including such supposedly law abiding ones such as Germany, are not above using taxpayers’ money to obtain stolen information about private individuals’ bank accounts; or that governments have, allegedly, used harsh interrogation techniques (ie, torture) to obtain information, or snooped on private communications without a judge’s warrant, etc, etc. Now, such governments may argue, perhaps rightly, that they are acting in the public interest, and that News of the World hacks chasing after celebrity tittle-tattle are not. But who gets to decide here?
And here’s another thing: with police officers in the UK being accused of flogging valuable information on persons to journalists, it surely reminds us how dangerous it is to have created the Database State. By aggregating vast amounts of data in the way they do, the governments of Britain and other countries create an enormous temptation for bent public officials to sell that data. It’s going to happen, human nature being what it is. This is an angle that I hope pressure groups such as No2ID take up in the months ahead. We cannot trust governments, including liberal democratic ones, with our private information. That is a meme that deserves to gain traction from the Murdoch scandal, however it eventually plays out.