The Guardian reportedly forced to destroy hard drives of leaked NSA files or face government legal action
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
On July 20, the Guardian was reportedly forced to either surrender their hard drives containing National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Edward Snowden or destroy them. They chose the latter, according to the paper.
The Guardian has been responsible for publishing many of the leaks, helping reveal everything from PRISM to massive GCHQ spying operations. The leaks have also helped jettison NSA surveillance back into the public eye and forced individuals in Washington to address the practice.
It is not all that surprising then to learn that a senior editor for the Guardian along with one of their computer experts used grinders and other tools to ruin the devices on which Snowden’s leaked files were stored.
Despite the editor, Alan Rusbridger, telling British government authorities that other copies of the files existed outside of the country and that the Guardian did not control all of them, “the government insisted that the material be either destroyed or surrendered,” according to the paper.
The destruction was reportedly watched by GCHQ technicians who took photographs and notes but “left empty-handed.”
According to the Guardian, the first attempts by UK authorities to stop the reporting on the leaked NSA files began just two weeks after the first story was published about the secret court order which forced Verizon to give the U.S. government all of their customers’ records.
Initially, the paper reports that the senior British officials who showed up at their officers were cordial while making it “clear they came on high authority to demand the immediate surrender of all the Snowden files in the Guardian’s possession.”
After paper held on to the materials and continued publishing more articles about NSA and GCHQ surveillance over the next three weeks, officials made contact again.
This time around, they took a more harsh approach, according to the paper, saying, “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”
Pressure continued to intensify after the Guardian reportedly continued to hold on to the documents until, “the threat of legal action or even a police raid became more explicit.”
“We are giving active consideration to the legal route,” the paper was reportedly told at one point.
Eventually, they agreed to destroy the material after talking to government officials.
“But it was largely a symbolic act,” the Guardian reported. “Both sides were well aware that other copies existed outside the UK and that the reporting on the reach of state surveillance in the 21st century would continue.”
The White House has made moves to distance itself from the destruction of the materials.
“It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate here,” White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said on Tuesday, according to the Guardian.
While the U.S. has “greater legal protections for journalism than the UK does,” according to the Guardian, “Earnest did not say such destruction was impossible to imagine.”
Indeed, as the paper points out, it has happened in the past, though the documents were “inadvertently released and disseminated classified material.”
“This is police-state stuff,” Ryan Chittum wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review. “We need to know the American government’s role in these events—and its stance on them—sooner rather than later.”
For now, Washington is tight-lipped on the matter. Earnest wouldn’t criticize the British government and said since they only know about the incident through what has been publicly reported, it is hard to “evaluate the propriety of that.”
It would be quite surprising if the White House really knew nothing beyond what was reported in the Guardian, especially since the UK and U.S. are such close allies and have both been cast in a bad light by the leaks.
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