Two of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s most senior aides pressed the Guardian newspaper to hand over or destroy intelligence secrets leaked by Edward Snowden, political sources said on Wednesday.
News that Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood and National Security Adviser Kim Darroch were involved drags Cameron into a storm over Britain’s response to coverage of leaks from the fugitive U.S. intelligence contractor — a response that left even its U.S. ally talking of the importance of media freedom.
Cameron, on holiday in Cornwall, made no immediate comment.
The government says its intelligence agencies act within the law and that the Snowden leaks, which revealed U.S. and British surveillance of global communication networks, threaten national security.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said on Tuesday that he had been approached weeks ago by “a very senior official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister” and by “shadowy Whitehall figures,” a reference to London’s government district.
Rusbridger said he had been told the paper would face legal action if it refused to destroy or hand over data from Snowden.
Later, two intelligence agents oversaw the destruction of hard drives at Guardian offices, but Rusbridger said this would not stop reporting as there were copies elsewhere in the world.