LONDON (AP) British agents oversaw the destruction of an unspecified number of the Guardian newspaper's hard drives in an apparent bid to keep the fruit of Edward Snowden's leaks safe from Chinese spies, the newspaper's editor said Monday.
Alan Rusbridger made the claim in an opinion piece published on the Guardian's website, saying that a pair of staffers from British eavesdropping agency GCHQ monitored the process in what he called "one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history."
He said the hard drives were torn apart in the basement of the Guardian's north London office with "two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction ... just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents."
It was not clear exactly when the incident occurred. Rusbridger gave a vague timeline, suggesting that it happened within the past month or so. Guardian spokesman Gennady Kolker declined to comment further, and messages left with GCHQ after working hours were not immediately returned. An operator at the intelligence agency's switchboard said no one was available until Tuesday.
Rusbridger said the destruction was the culmination of weeks of pressure on the Guardian by British officials, with government agents demanding the return or destruction of Snowden's material. Its publication has revealed the extent of the United States' surveillance at home and abroad, and sparked an international debate over the limits of such surveillance.