UK Government Smashed Guardian Drives In ‘Symbolic’ Bid To Stop Leaks

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

“Bizarre” moment as GCHQ experts oversee the destruction of hard drives

The Guardian has revealed the government destroyed a number of its hard drives, in a “bizarre” moment in the government’s attempts to stifle surveillance leaks.

The event occurred a month ago, after the government pressured the Guardian to hand over all the data leaked to it by Edward Snowden, according to editor Alan Rusbridger. He had already explained to the officials, who said they would go to the courts to get the material, the paper would continue to report, keeping information in other countries.

Glenn Greenwald“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,” Rusbridger wrote on the Guardian site.

GCHQ destroys hard drives

Then two GCHQ security experts oversaw the destruction of hard drives in the paper’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”, the editor said.

“Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London.”

David Miranda, the partner of the man responsible for reporting many of the leaks, Glenn Greenwald (pictured), was detained at Heathrow for nine hours over the weekend. His hard drives, laptop, phones and camera were taken, but Rusbridger said that would have “no effect on Greenwald’s work”.

“We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources,” he added.

British police have been called on to explain why they detained Miranda. The US has admitted it was told about the detention, but it did not influence UK law enforcement’s decision.

The Metropolitan Police has claimed the move was “legally and procedurally sound”.

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