Writing in response to yesterday's detainment of David Miranda, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, revealed that UK security officials had destroyed hard drives at The Guardian's office at some point in the past month.
The Guardian, which employs Glenn Greenwald and has been a major publisher of leaks from both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, had repeatedly been told by British intelligence officers to destroy the hard drives that held any leaks from Snowden.
Rusbridger said he received several warnings from UK intelligence, before they finally became fed up:
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."
Rusbridger repeatedly explained to UK officials that the hard drives contained information that was stored elsewhere across the globe, and could easily be reached by the Guardian. In fact, reporters for the Guardian had been flying across the world to safely deliver the information to other offices, without using the Internet (which, we can all safely assume by now, is being monitored). Still, UK intelligence came to the Guardian offices to destroy the hard drives anyway —
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 reiterated that no matter what Miranda was caught with yesterday at Heathrow, the Guardian's reporting on the Snowden leaks will not stop. It simply will no longer be done in London, where the government has shown that it is now openly hostile to journalists.