Guardian editor: Government tried intimidation
By HADAS GOLD | 8/20/13 6:22 AM EDT
The British government intimidated The Guardian newspaper and destroyed material Edward Snowden provided on surveillance programs, editor Alan Rusbridger said Monday.
Writing in a column on The Guardian’s website, Rusbridger said that in June he was contacted by “a very senior” U.K. government official demanding the return or destruction of the material from Snowden. A month ago the tone toughened, Rusbridger wrote, when a government official told Rusbridger “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”
“There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it,” Rusbridger said. “I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. ‘You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.’”
Rusbridger said he was told if he did not destroy the material, the U.K. would move to close down The Guardian’s reporting through the courts. Despite telling government officials most of their reporting on Snowden was being done outside of the U.K., Rusbridger said British officials carried on with attempting to stop the reporting.
“And so one of the more bizarre moments in The Guardian’s long history occurred — with two [U.K. Government Communications Headquarters] security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in The Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. ‘We can call off the black helicopters,’ joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro,” Rusbridger wrote.
Calling the move a “a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism,” Rusbridger said The Guardian will continue reporting on the Snowden documents, just not in London.
Rusbridger wrote the column after David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the Snowden story, was detained for nine hours in London’s Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of Britain’s terror laws. Rusbridger said the detention of Miranda and the seizure of his electronic materials was just the next event in a long line of intimidation by the U.K. government.
“The detention of Miranda has rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments — while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden — are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance,” Rusbridger said.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/g ... z2cWJBMeTj