With the decision to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow airport in London over the weekend, the British government demonstrated just how determined it is recover files leaked by Edward Snowden.
Here’s something else they’ve made clear: They have no idea how to do it.
In an astounding turn of events, the British government apparently sent two technicians from the GCHQ — the British answer to the NSA — to the Guardian‘s office to destroy hard drives that the agency believed contained leaked files — files that were of course stored elsewhere online and could hardly be destroyed by smashing a few computers. The Guardian has more color on the bizarre episode, which took place after the government threatened legal action against the paper:
On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian’s King’s Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other household tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored.
As they worked, they were watched intently by technicians from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed.
As Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote on Monday, “it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.”
Call it the Zoolander strategy of leak-enforcement.
Here’s how we imagine the encounter at the Guardian‘s office went down.
Just remember, GCHQ, the files are in the computer.
The NSA leaks’ big reveal; The scariest part of it all; Was China a good idea for Snowden? An Afghan attack, foiled; The Pentagon’s pals in Russia; John Allen to Brookings; And a little bit more.Gordon Lubold
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |