Cameron behind UK's bid to halt Snowden reports: sources
By Andrew Osborn and Estelle Shirbon , ReutersLONDON--British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered his top civil servant to try to stop revelations flowing from the Guardian newspaper about U.S. and British surveillance programs, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
August 22, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
News that Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood had contacted the Guardian drags Cameron into a storm over Britain's response to media coverage of secrets leaked by fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said on Tuesday that he had been approached by “a very senior official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister” after his paper had published a series of exposes based on the Snowden material.
The sources named the official as Heywood, who is Cameron's most senior policy adviser. “The prime minister asked the Cabinet Secretary to deal with this matter, that's true,” one source told Reuters.
Government supporters say information leaked by Snowden, who has obtained asylum in Russia, could threaten national security. However, rights groups have accused the government of an assault on press freedom over a series of incidents.
These include the detention of a Guardian reporter's partner, and news that the paper had been forced to destroy computer files containing information from Snowden under threat of government legal action.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “We won't go into specific cases but if highly sensitive information was being held insecurely we have a responsibility to secure it.”
Cameron is on holiday in southwestern England.
The government had tried to distance itself from Rusbridger's allegation that the Guardian was made to destroy the computer hard drives, and from the detention of David Miranda, partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald who has led the paper's coverage of the Snowden leaks.
It has argued that these were operational security matters.
On Tuesday a White House spokesman said he could not comment on the destruction of Snowden material. But spokesman John Earnest said he could not see U.S. authorities destroying an American media company's hard drives to protect national security. “That's very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate,” he said told reporters.
Britain says its security agencies act within the law and that Snowden's leaks are a grave threat to national security.