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Alan Rusbridger Got Asked Some Ridiculous Questions At Parliamentary Hearing

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LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Alan Rusbridger, the Editor of The Guardian newspaper, arrives at Portcullis House to face questions from the Home Affairs Committee on December 3, 2013 in London, England. Mr Rusbridger is due to face questions about his newspaper's decision to publish material leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which some have claimed to have been a threat to national security. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) | Getty

The questioning of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger by a parliamentary committee on Tuesday was a rather sorry spectacle from a press freedom perspective, but it was also a forum for some questions that defied belief.

Rusbridger was being interrogated about his paper's reporting on the Edward Snowden leaks—something which, in and of itself, was enough to cause alarm in newsrooms around the world.

The questioning did little to allay any of those fears.

Chairman Keith Vaz appeared to be winning the prize for "most startling question" when he asked Rusbridger, "do you love this country?" (The answer was yes.)

Conservative MP Michael Ellis, though, neatly stole that title from Vaz when he launched into a grilling of such snarling vituperation that Vaz had to angrily rein him in.

Ellis confused Rusbridger with a rant about an article which said that there was a gay pride group within Britain's intelligence services. It was unclear whether he didn't think people should know there were gay spies or whether he thought the members of a gay pride group would be unhappy if people knew that they were gay.

He also asked Rusbridger if, had he found out about the famous Enigma code in World War II, he would have passed that on to the Nazis. (In fact, it was the Nazis who invented the Enigma, but no matter.)

Ellis also was also concerned—very, very concerned—about the revelation that some spies went to Disneyland.

Another Tory MP, Mark Reckless (yes, that is his name), got very huffy about the use of FedEx to send documents through the mail.

Rusbridger handled all of these things with relative calm, informing his interlocutors that the Guardian would not be "intimidated" by the spectacle of a government body hauling a newspaper in to demand that it explain why it was allowed to practice journalism.

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