Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, has warned of the “danger” that all reporters face in the wake of the detaining of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport.
In an editorial published on the Guardian’s website, Rusbridger gave details about receiving phone calls from a “very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister”. Rusbridger was told to hand over evidence provided by Edward Snowden, the man behind the leaks that have led to wide-ranging claims of the American government’s surveillance of civilians.
Rusbridger writes: “The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: ‘You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.’ There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it.”
Rusbridger’s protestations that the majority of Snowden-based reporting was coming out of the Guardian‘s New York offices – where it is protected by the First Amendment – were allegedly ignored. Instead, Rusbridger tells of how two “GCHQ security experts” oversaw the “destruction of hard drives in the Guardian‘s basement”.
Despite this, Rusbridger maintains that his newspaper will “continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents”, although that will no longer take place in London.
These events lead Rusbridger to a stark conclusion: “The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it.”
He goes on to warn those who “denigrate” Snowden or “say reporters should trust the state to know best” are set for a “crude awakening”.
“One day it will be their reporting, their cause, under attack. But at least reporters now know to stay away from Heathrow transit lounges.”