This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication - Western Union memo, 1876
THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER has reported that agents from UK spook agency GCHQ turned up at its offices and smashed some of its hardware.
The Guardian is following up after David Michael Miranda was held at Heathrow Airport for nine hours because of his relationship with journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Miranda was held in transit by UK Customs agents and questioned about Greenwald's reporting on US National Security Agency (NSA) internet surveillance in The Guardian newspaper based upon information provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that GCHQ demands began about two months ago, apparently at UK Prime Minister David Cameron's request, and ultimately ended with hammers hitting hard drives.
According to Rusbridger the people behind the calls wanted access to documents and reports that were mostly coming out of the newspaper's New York office and mostly written by independent journalist Greenwald, who happens to live in Brazil.
Apparently the fossilised mandarins sitting in Whitehall and the dense spooks working for GCHQ couldn't possibly get it through their heads that there were multiple copies of Snowden's material in many places, so destroying all copies at the Guardian's UK office would accomplish nothing.
"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 reported.
"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."
Rusbridger said that was the end of the Whitehall involvement, so we've checked to see if GCHQ was willing to chat about it. Although it's perhaps too much to hope that it might be embarrassed by this heavy handed exhibition of government oppression, it told us that it had no comment.
According to a report at the Guardian blog Miranda is mounting a legal challenge to his detention and taking his case to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission). µ
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