London, Aug. 20 (Reuters): The British authorities forced the Guardian newspaper to destroy material leaked by Edward Snowden, its editor has revealed, calling it a “pointless” move that would not prevent further reporting on US and British surveillance programmes.
In a column today, Alan Rusbridger said he had received a call from a government official a month ago who told him: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” The paper had been threatened with legal action if it did not comply.
Later, two “security experts” from the secretive Government Communications Headquarters had visited the paper’s London offices and watched as computer hard drives containing Snowden material were reduced to mangled bits of metal.
Rusbridger said the “bizarre” episode and the detention at Heathrow airport on Sunday of the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald showed press freedom was under threat in UK.
The nine-hour detention under an anti-terrorism law of David Miranda, Greenwald’s Brazilian partner, has caused a furore with Brazil, British opposition politicians, human rights lawyers and press freedom watchdogs among those denouncing it.
Greenwald was the first journalist to publish US and British intelligence secrets leaked by Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who is wanted in the US and has found temporary asylum in Russia.
Under mounting pressure to explain itself, Britain’s Home Office defended Miranda’s detention. “If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that,” it said.