Guardian Editor Says British Intelligence Agents Destroyed Their Hard Drives After Snowden Story

The Guardian Front PageThe GuardianThe Guardian front page revealing Edward Snowden’s identity.

In an opinion piece posted Monday afternoon to the Guardian website, editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger defended the Guardian’s acceptance of documents from Wikileaks in 2010 and his paper’s practices on the Edward Snowden story — including using reporter Glenn Greenwald’s domestic partner to ferry documents between Germany and Brazil.

He also issued a scathing indictment of the tactics of the British cyber intelligence arm, the Government Communications Headquarters.

In a particularly revealing moment, Rusbridger said he was contacted by an agent of the GCHQ, who said “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back,” referring to the classified material provided to the paper by Snowden.

Rusbridger said he asked the official if the British government intended to shut down the paper. The official said that in the absence of the handover or destruction of classified material, that was indeed the intention.

The Guardian gave in and the destruction began, as Rusbridger describes:

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.

Rusbridger’s piece comes the day after Greenwald’s domestic partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours when he transferred flights in London en route to Brazil from Berlin. Miranda was carrying documents pertaining to Guardian reporting and was stopped under a broad British anti-terrorism law called Section 7.

Rusbridger said he and the Guardian are undeterred by the tactics he alleges the British government employed.

“We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London,” Rusbridger wrote. “The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.”

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