London: The government took more than three weeks to act on authoritative information about the whereabouts of a collection of secret intelligence data leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, despite now claiming the information risks “grave damage” to the security of British intelligence and armed forces, the Guardian said on Friday.
Guardian News and Media’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, hit back at Downing Street’s claims made in the high court that it “urgently” needed to access leaked intelligence data seized at Heathrow this month from the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on US and UK mass digital surveillance programmes.
Rusbridger said that on 22 July, two days after the Guardian complied with a government request to destroy computer hardware containing encrypted GCHQ files from Snowden, a former CIA employee, executives at the newspaper directed the UK government towards the New York Times and ProPublica, US publishers with whom the paper had shared secret material from GCHQ.
It took a further 23 days until the British embassy in Washington contacted Jill Abramson, the US paper’s executive editor, by phone about the data.
A meeting followed the next day. Since then there has been no further contact with the New York Times, the Guardian said.
On Friday in the latest stage of a high court challenge by David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, over the legality of his detention for questioning on August 18 as he carried leaked data through Heathrow, Britain’s deputy national security adviser, Oliver Robbins said in a written submission: “We urgently need to identify and to understand the entirety of the material … in order to assess the risks of sensitive intelligence sources and methods and the threat to intelligence agency staff should their identities or details of their operational tradecraft be obtained by hostile actors.”
But Rusbridger said government delays in following up further UK intelligence files in New York “belied the picture of urgency and crisis painted in court”.
“The government wanted the judge to believe that they have at all times behaved with the utmost urgency because of a grave threat to national security represented by newspapers working responsibly on the Snowden documents and their implications for society,” he said. The Guardian