The New York Times was asked by British authorities to destroy classified intelligence files leaked to the media by former national security contractor Edward Snowden, Reuters reports.
According to the report published Friday afternoon, the executive
editor of the Times was approached by a senior official at the British Embassy earlier this month and was asked to purge any
files her paper had received about UK intelligence from Mr. Snowden.
The editor, Jill Abramson, responded to the Britain’s request
with silence, sources told Reuters journalist Mark Hosenball.
The Times has not verified the allegation, but UK officials
reportedly made a similar request earlier this year to the
The Guardian, which along with the Washington Post first
published leaked intelligence attributed to Snowden, reported
previously that they used power tools to break a collection of
computer drives and other data devices at the paper’s London
office on July 20 upon demand from the UK’s GCHQ intelligence
Two days after those machines were rendered useless, Guardian
editor Alan Rusbridger said he alerted British authorities that
the Times and the independent, investigative journalism outlet
ProPublica had received copies as well. According to Rusbridger,
it took officials more than a month to approach the Times about
the files, and ProPublica was reportedly never contacted at all.
British authorities did not admit to the latest allegations
regarding an incident at the Times, but a spokesperson at their
embassy in DC said, “it should come as no surprise if we
approach a person who is in possession of some or all of this
The spokesperson made sure to address to Reuters the latest
incident in the Snowden saga, which has taken twist after turn
since the Guardian and Washington Post first began publishing
leaked files on June 5 of this year. Earlier Friday, it was
revealed that the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn
Greenwald had in his possession a trove of encrypted British
intelligence documents when he was apprehended last month at
London’s Heathrow airport.
“We have presented a witness statement to the court in Britain
which explains why we are trying to secure copies of over 58,000
stolen intelligence documents – to protect public safety and our
national security,” the spokesperson said.
Those documents, a senior UK security advisor told London’s High
Court, were accessed by intelligence officials because
Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, carried with him a sheet of
paper that on it contained the passcode necessary to decrypt the
The documents were taken from Miranda while he was en route to
Brazil, where he lives with Greenwald.
“I can confirm that the disclosure of this information would
cause harm to UK national security,” Oliver Robbins, the
deputy national security adviser for intelligence, security and
resilience in the Cabinet Office, said in court papers released
Friday and obtained by the Guardian.
“The fact that … the claimant was carrying on his person a
handwritten piece of paper containing the password for one of the
encrypted files … is a sign of very poor information security
practice,” he said.
According to Reuters, the Guardian’s Rusbridger said the latest
claims from the British government with regards to the national
security concerns surrounding leaked documents contrast with the
lackadaisical approach to investigating the Times and ProPublica.
“This five week period in which nothing has happened tells a
different story from the alarmist claims made” by the British
government, he said in reference to the Miranda court documents.