British prime minister David Cameron was placed at the center of the controversy surrounding his government's actions towards the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, as it was revealed that he was informed about the imminent detention of David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's partner, and that he approved the decision to try to force the paper to hand over materials given to it by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Downing Street told the media that Cameron was personally "kept abreast in the usual way" about Miranda's detention at Heathrow airport. Miranda, who was traveling from Berlin to Brazil, was held for nine hours and quizzed aggressively about Greenwald's work. His electronic equipment was confiscated. On Tuesday, lawyers for Miranda said they were set to take legal action against the British government over the detention.
The Guardian's Ewan MacAskill also tweeted that Cameron signed off on the decision to demand that the Guardian return any intelligence materials it had received:
Brit govt confirms Cameron approved effort to get Snowden docs from Guardian, claiming terrorists could have hacked into its IT system.
— Ewen MacAskill (@ewenmacaskill) August 20, 2013
The paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how "security experts" had come into the Guardian's offices and destroyed several hard drives after he refused to hand the files over:
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.