25 September, 2022


Guardian Says Britain Made It Destroy Snowden Material

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 U.S. and British surveillance programs.

Alan Rusbridger - The Editor, the Guardian

Rusbridger says he spoke to senior Whitehall officials about this.

Q: Did this go straight to Number 10?

Yes, says Rusbridger.

Q: And they said destroy the material or give it back to them?

Yes, says Rusbridger. He told them that the Guardian had other copies of the material abroad. That is why the paper was prepared to comply with the demand for the UK version to be destroyed.

That’s it. The interview is now over.


The detention of David Miranda at Heathrow is continuing to generate a fierce debate, in the UK and around the world, about terrorist legislation, the role of the state, and the rights of journalists, and others, to associate freely and to disseminate information. I’ll be rounding up all the best comment from the papers and from the internet, as well as reporting on any fresh developments.

Here’s are four items to start with.

• The Guardian’s splash explaining why Britain is under pressure to give a proper explanation as to why Miranda was detained.

• The Metropolitan police saying that the use of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act to detain Miranda for almost nine hours was “legally and procedurally sound”.

• Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor, explaining how “shadowy Whitehall figures” threatened the Guardian with legal action because of the revelations from Glenn Greenwald, Miranda’s partner, about the security services in the US and in the UK, and about how this led to hard drives being destroyed in a Guardian basement.

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “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. 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.”

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ 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.

Follow the live coverage via Guardian

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Latest comments

  • 0

    No Press Freedom in Britain?

    Can’t call a spade a spade?

    “”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 U.S. and British surveillance programs.”

    • 0

      The people in power have the right to call a spade a fucking shovel!

    • 0

      Here Sri Lanka has a marketing opportunity

      Occupy the moral high ground.

      Grant asylum to Snowden in SL on freedom of speech & humanitarian grounds.

      Why not? Anton Balasingham lived and died in the UK. While providing guidance to LTTE terrorists. His wife still lives there very safe and in comfort.

      Publish Snowden leaks in state run “high quality, impartial” Daily News in SL.

      According Rajapassa clan SL has 5 star democracy. Let us prove it to UK.

    • 0

      Guardian to destroy Leaked material…….What a joke. Now they in the hands of many and are available all over the world.

      many will be published slowly but steadily.

  • 0

    That’s what one calls ‘editing’ or edited.!

  • 0

    So much for the freedom of press & free speech these mfs preach us!!!

    It is not only them…..it’s their agents in Sri Lanka and in diaspora.

    Who said such acts are indicative of a failed state?

  • 0

    These are the countries that try to uphold Human Rights in the third world, while denying Right to Information in their own country. So holding the CHOGM in Sri Lanka with all the glaring VIOLATIONS of Human Rights is only helping the Violators to continue without bringing them to book. What Justice? What Democracy?

  • 0

    If this had happened in Sri Lanka, the newspaper editor would been ‘disappeared’ or shot dead for publishing such a thing. In any case, in this country,it would not have been some un-named, ‘shadowy Whitehall figure’ covertly talking to the Editor, but rather, some great hero politician would be publicly threatening the Editor as a ‘traitor’.

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