News / Europe

Guardian Says Britain Made it Destroy Snowden Material

Guardian newspaper front page, Aug. 20, 2013
Guardian newspaper front page, Aug. 20, 2013
Reuters
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 U.S. and British surveillance programs.
 
In a column on Tuesday, 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 (GCHQ)  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 London's Heathrow airport on Sunday of the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald showed press freedom was under threat in Britain.
 
The nine-hour detention under an anti-terrorism law of David Miranda, Greenwald's Brazilian partner, has caused a furor with Brazil, British opposition politicians, human rights lawyers and press freedom watchdogs among those denouncing it.
 
Greenwald was the first journalist to publish U.S. and British intelligence secrets leaked by Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who is wanted in the United States and has found temporary asylum in Russia.
 
Under mounting pressure to explain itself, Britain's Home Office, or interior ministry, 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 in a statement.
 
London's Metropolitan Police said Miranda's detention had been “legally and procedurally sound”.
 
Miranda, who was in transit on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro where he lives with Greenwald, was questioned for nine hours before being released without charge minus his laptop, mobile phone and memory sticks.
 
He had been ferrying materials obtained from Snowden between Greenwald and Laura Poitras, an independent film-maker based in Berlin who has also published reports based on Snowden material.
 
"Public interest"
 
“This law shouldn't be given to police officers. They use it to get access to documents or people that they cannot get the legal way through courts or judges. It's a total abuse of power,” Miranda told the Guardian after returning home.
 
The White House said on Monday Washington was given a “heads up” ahead of Miranda's detention but had not requested it.
 
Britain's opposition Labor party said on Tuesday that meant senior British ministers must have been involved.
 
Government ministers “need to explain who authorized the use of terrorism legislation in this case and what the justification was,” said lawmaker Yvette Cooper, the Labor spokeswoman on interior affairs.
 
Staff at the prime minister's office said they would not comment on the Guardian allegations because it was an “operational matter”. GCHQ also declined to comment.
 
Dunja Mijatovic, media freedoms chief at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 57-nation human rights and security watchdog, said she had written to the British authorities to express concerns about Miranda's detention.
 
“The detention can be interpreted as putting pressure on Glenn Greenwald after his recent reporting on security issues in the Guardian ... the whole situation sends a worrying message to any member of the media transiting through the UK,” she wrote.
 
Britain also came under attack from press freedom group Index on Censorship, which denounced the forced destruction of computers revealed by Rusbridger in his Tuesday column.
 
“Using the threat of legal action to force a newspaper into destroying material is a direct attack on press freedom in the UK,” the group's Chief Executive Kirsty Hughes said.
 
“It is clear that the Snowden and NSA story is strongly in the public interest ... It seems that the UK government is using, and quite literally misusing, laws to intimidate journalists and silence its critics.”
 
Rusbridger said the destruction of the computer material would not stop the Guardian from pursuing Snowden stories.
 
“It felt like a particularly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age,” the Guardian editor said.
 
“We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents. We just won't do it in London. The seizure of Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald's work.”

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid