When 13 civil rights demonstrators in Northern Ireland were killed by British soldiers on 30 January 1972 (known as Bloody Sunday), The Guardian said that "Neither side can escape condemnation."(41) Of the protesters, they wrote, "The organizers of the demonstration, Miss Bernadette Devlin among them, deliberately challenged the ban on marches. They knew that stone throwing and sniping could not be prevented, and that the IRA might use the crowd as a shield."(41) Of the army, they wrote, "there seems little doubt that random shots were fired into the crowd, that aim was taken at individuals who were neither bombers nor weapons carriers and that excessive force was used".(41)
Many Irish people believed that the Widgery Tribunal's ruling on the killings was a whitewash,(42) a view that was later supported with the publication of the Saville inquiry in 2010,(43) but in 1972 The Guardian declared that "Widgery's report is not one-sided" (20 April 1972).(44) At the time the paper also supported internment without trial in Northern Ireland: "Internment without trial is hateful, repressive and undemocratic. In the existing Irish situation, most regrettably, it is also inevitable... .To remove the ringleaders, in the hope that the atmosphere might calm down, is a step to which there is no obvious alternative."(45) Before then, The Guardian had called for British troops to be sent to the region: British soldiers could "present a more disinterested face of law and order,"(46) but only on condition that "Britain takes charge."(47)
In 1983 the paper was at the centre of a controversy surrounding documents regarding the stationing of cruise missiles in Britain that were leaked to The Guardian by civil servant Sarah Tisdall. The paper eventually complied with a court order to hand over the documents to the authorities, which resulted in a six-month prison sentence for Tisdall,(48) though she served only four. "I still blame myself," said Peter Preston, who was the editor of The Guardian at the time, but he went on to argue that the paper had no choice because it "believed in the rule of law".(49)
First Gulf War
In the lead-up to the first Gulf War, between 1990 and 1991, The Guardian expressed doubts about military action against Iraq: "Frustration in the Gulf leads temptingly to the invocation of task forces and tactical bombing, but the military option is no option at all. The emergence yesterday of a potential hostage problem of vast dimensions only emphasised that this is far too complex a crisis for gunboat diplomacy. Loose talk of 'carpet bombing' Baghdad should be put back in the bottle of theoretical but unacceptable scenarios."(50)
First Gulf War Plaque, Stafford War Memorial
But on the eve of the war, the paper rallied to the war cause: "The simple cause, at the end, is just. An evil regime in Iraq instituted an evil and brutal invasion. Our soldiers and airmen are there, at UN behest, to set that evil to rights. Their duties are clear. ... Let the momentum, and the resolution, be swift."(51) After the event, journalist Maggie O'Kane conceded that she and her colleagues had been a mouthpiece for war propaganda: "... we, the media, were harnessed like 2,000 beach donkeys and led through the sand to see what the British and US military wanted us to see in this nice clean war".(52)
Alleged penetration by Russian intelligence
In 1994, KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky identified Guardian literary editor Richard Gott as "an agent of influence". While Gott denied that he received cash, he admitted he had had lunch at the Soviet Embassy and had taken benefits from the KGB on overseas visits. Gott resigned from his post.(53)
Gordievsky commented on the newspaper: "The KGB loved The Guardian. It was deemed highly susceptible to penetration."(54)
In 1995, both the Granada Television programme World In Action and The Guardian were sued for libel by the then cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, for their allegation that Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed had paid for Aitken and his wife to stay at the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, which would have amounted to accepting a bribe on Aitken's part. Aitken publicly stated that he would fight with "the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play".(55) The court case proceeded, and in 1997 The Guardian produced evidence that Aitken's claim of his wife paying for the hotel stay was untrue.(56) In 1999, Aitken was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice.(57)
The paper supported NATO's military intervention in the Kosovo War in 1998–1999. The Guardian stated that "the only honourable course for Europe and America is to use military force".(58) Mary Kaldor's piece was headlined "Bombs away! But to save civilians, we must get in some soldiers too."(59)
The Guardian senior news writer Esther Addley interviewing Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño for an article relating to Julian Assange in 2014.
In the early 2000s, The Guardian challenged the Act of Settlement 1701 and the Treason Felony Act 1848.(60)(61) In October 2004, The Guardian published a humorous column by Charlie Brooker in its entertainment guide, which appeared to call for the assassination of George W. Bush.(62) This caused some controversy and the paper was forced to issue an apology and remove the article from its website.(63)(64) Following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, The Guardian published an article on its comment pages by Dilpazier Aslam, a 27-year-old British Muslim and journalism trainee from Yorkshire.(65) Aslam was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group, and had published a number of articles on their website. According to the paper, it did not know that Aslam was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir when he applied to become a trainee, though several staff members were informed of this once he started at the paper.(66) The Home Office has claimed the group's "ultimate aim is the establishment of an Islamic state (Caliphate), according to Hizb ut-Tahrir via non-violent means". The Guardian asked Aslam to resign his membership of the group and, when he did not do so, terminated his employment.(67) In early 2009, the paper started a tax investigation into a number of major UK companies,(68) including publishing a database of the tax paid by the FTSE 100 companies.(69) Internal documents relating to Barclays Bank's tax avoidance were removed from The Guardian website after Barclays obtained a gagging order.(70) The paper played a pivotal role in exposing the depth of the News of the World phone hacking affair. The Economist's Intelligent Life magazine opined that...