Editors were asked not to publish information that may “jeopardise both national security and possibly UK personnel” in the warning issued on 7 June, a day after the Guardian first revealed details of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret Prism programme.
The D notice, which was marked “private and confidential: not for publication, broadcast or use on social media”, was made public on the Westminster gossip blog, Guido Fawkes. Although only advisory for editors, the self-censorship system is intended to prevent the media from making “inadvertent public disclosure of information that would compromise UK military and intelligence operations and methods”.
The warning was issued by defence officials in the UK as the BBC, ITN, Sky News and other newspapers and broadcasters around the world covered the surveillance revelations disclosed by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The leaks, reported extensively in the Guardian and also the Washington Post, have made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic for more than a week.
However, it is not clear what impact the warning has had on media coverage of Snowden’s revelations relating to British intelligence
The mere mention of his name chills politicians and his journalism has blown an icy wind through Westminster. Paul Staines is Guido Fawkes and Fawkes is the pen name of Britain’s most notorious political blogger, inhabiting the website order-order.com
This baby has form. We can call it a baby because the platform for journalism is young enough (set-up in 2004) and bold enough. When Staines had to present to the Leveson inquiry he shrugged his shoulders and answered back.
When he receives solicitor’s letters he often rolls his shoulders and laughs – the latest, for supposedly offending the wife of the Sultan of Brunai!
But this is a thinker more than ready to cause offence in the best interests of the best endeavour of journalism – getting to the truth and holding authority to account.
Holding that position is an empowering place for any journalist to be he says and order-order.com is free to do its thing because Staines can’t be sacked for saying the wrong thing, he’s the boss.
The son of a Dublin mother, Staines is an Irish citizen with a determined attitude. Order-order.com has taken a hammer to a few atoms but Staines admits there’s no great science behind their splitting.
The secret formula to attracting two million readers a month to his website is old school ethics:
“I’m with Kelvin McKenzie,” he says, referring to one of Fleet Street’s most notorious editors. “Keep the format simple, then amaze, amuse and entertain. It’s the ‘Gotcha’ attitude; make them angry, tell them something they didn’t know, or make them laugh and you got them. But you have to do it every day. Hopefully we do all three.”
Often dogged persistence is enough. Like in 2009, when Staines, writing under his non de plume of Fawkes, exposed a Labour party smear scandal, which went right to the door of Number 10. He rates that story as his most rewarding.
Then, Staines obtained emails written by the Prime Minister’s spokesman Damien McBride, where-in he proposed publishing a series of online slurs related to the lives of leading Conservatives.
His expose hit the Labour Party like a puncher’s right cross and brought an apology from Gordon Brown… in journalism, it’s where you want to be.
With every breaking political scandal, the popularity of his product has grown and his journey has roots in a “cantankerous and argumentative nature”. Qualities he celebrates as being typically Irish.
But there is arrogance and courage too. In the past Staines has defied super-injunctions because he never felt threatened by telling his unique brand of truth. And he says that if there’s a lesson in all of this, it’s been his accessibility.