UK Govt. Destroyed Journalists’ Hard Drives In Failed Attempt To Stop NSA Story

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The plot thickens. British authorities reportedly destroyed hard drives in an attempt to stop the Guardian from disseminating stories about classified mass-surveillance projects. Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger details how security experts from British intelligence agency, GCHQ, told him that the Guardian would have to either hand over their information or have their hard drives destroyed.

The revelation is especially damaging to British authorities after yesterday’s international incident, where they detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, in London’s Heathrow airport and confiscated his laptop and camera.

The story has an aura of dark humor, as the agents apparently didn’t understand that the Guardian could report on places outside of London and that a destroyed hard drive won’t stop information from getting out.

Quoting from the article in full:

“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.

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. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.”

Unlike the United States, Britain does not have a constitutional right to “no prior restraint.” Except under extreme circumstances, the government is forbidden from stopping the flow of information, even if they wish to prosecute journalists after the fact.

Still, the idea that destroying a hard drive would stop the spread of information is kind of silly. Twitter, of course, had the best reaction to this laughable ignorance