A senior British government official demanded the destruction of files held by the Guardian newspaper related to the US National Security Agency’s mass monitoring of phone and internet use, the newspaper’s editor said.
Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian which this year revealed a mass surveillance programme by US authorities, wrote late last night that two months ago he was contacted by an official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister.
“There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on,” he said. “The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.”
Downing Street was not available for comment.
The detention has been condemned by the Brazilian government while the Labour party has called for an inquiry into why terrorism powers were used.Mr Rusbridger was writing after the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who interviewed Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency who exposed the programme, was detained at Heathrow for nine hours under the Terrorism Act.
In a comment piece for his newspaper, Mr Rusbridger said the official had said if the material was not handed over or destroyed, the government would try to stop the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route. He said two GCHQ security experts had tried to destroy hard drives at the newspaper.
The Guardian editor vowed to continue to do “patient, painstaking reporting” on the Snowden documents but said the reporting would not be done from London.
Mr Greenwald warned the government yesterday that he would expose its spying secrets, saying Britain would be “sorry” for the detention. In Brazil, where he met David Miranda, his partner, off a flight from London, he said the incident would make his reporting more aggressive.
Mr Miranda said he was quizzed about his “entire life” while detained at Heathrow on Sunday and had his mobile, laptop and other equipment confiscated.
In June, the Guardian published a series of stories by Mr Greenwald based on interviews with Mr Snowden. Mr Snowden has since found temporary asylum in Russia.
Read more at The Financial Times.