Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, wrote Monday that two British "security agents" affiliated with the U.K.'s intelligence agency entered the newspaper's office and destroyed hard drives in an effort to thwart reporting on surveillance programs disclosed by former government contractor Edward Snowden.
Rusbridger recalled that a little more than two months ago he received a phone call from a "very senior government official" who claimed to be serving as a proxy for British Prime Minister David Cameron. The call led to a pair of meetings during which the official demanded the return or destruction of the Snowden material. Then, a little more than a month ago, Rusbridger said he received a phone call "from the centre of government."
"You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back," the man on the other line purportedly told Rusbridger.
Rusbridger recalled the man saying later in the conversation, "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more." After Rusbridger explained that The Guardian could conduct its reporting on the surveillance programs outside the U.K., the confrontation grew even more intense.
The man was unmoved. 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.
Rusbridger's account was published after David Miranda, the partner of The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, was detained by London police Sunday in Heathrow Airport for nine hours. Greenwald has reported on the bulk of Snowden's revelations.
According to the AP, Miranda was detained under the Terrorism Act’s Schedule 7, the British law that enables security agencies to stop and question people at the border. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights, even though he is not an employee, but the newspaper confirmed that he regularly assists Greenwald on his reporting.
Following Miranda's detention, Greenwald vowed to "publish many more things about England, as well."
This post has been updated.