Obtained Emails Show NSA Officials Knew In Advance Of GCHQ's Plans To Destroy The Guardian's Computers

from the nice-press-freedom-you-got-here...-it's-be-a-shame-if-something-happened-to dept

Last year, in a move simultaneously symbolic, thuggish and completely futile, GCHQ officials forced The Guardian to destroy computers "containing" Snowden documents. The fact that the documents were also housed elsewhere (including at two American newspapers) mattered little. The point was simple: we can get to you. In the service of "national security," the GCHQ came down on the journalistic entity with something straight out of the Running A Dictatorship For Fun And Profit handbook. Exact words deployed: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write more."

NSA officials notably refused to comment on the GCHQ's actions, perhaps hoping critics would view the silence as disapproval or, at the very least, pointedly not condoning the hardware destruction. The White House publicly condemned the destruction, stating that it was "hard to imagine" this sort of thing happening domestically. That was just the PR front, apparently. Documents obtained by the AP show that NSA officials and administration staff were not only notified in advance of the GCHQ's plans, but also offered their support of this action.

General Keith Alexander, the then director of the NSA, was briefed that the Guardian was prepared to make a largely symbolic act of destroying documents from Edward Snowden last July, new documents reveal.

The revelation that Alexander and Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, were advised on the Guardian's destruction of several hard disks and laptops contrasts markedly with public White House statements that distanced the US from the decision.
GCHQ's attempted prior restraint found support from the upper levels of the NSA. Presumably, officials knew how empty the effort was (what with documents having been spread to the New York Times, ProPublica and others), but that still didn't stop at least one official from greeting the GCHQ's plans with enthusiasm.
An email to Alexander from Rick Ledgett, now deputy director of the NSA, has the subject line "Guardian data being destroyed", and is dated 19 July, a day before the destruction of the files. Most is heavily redacted, but Ledgett remarks: "Good news, at least on this front."
Ledgett has a bizarre definition of "good news." All this move did was confirm that the GCHQ cared more about pretending it could somehow regain control of the situation than it did about freedom of the press. These obtained documents show the NSA's top men think the same way. Given these two countries' close surveillance relationship, this news comes as a bit of a surprise (considering earlier administration statements) but certainly not as a shock.

When one "free world" country applauds another's low-rent thug tactics (even in secrecy), the message is clear: the public needs to be taught not to question things above its pay grade.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    >Implying that the 5eyes aren't colluding on /everything/ at this point

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    David, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Futile?

    Last year, in a move simultaneously symbolic, thuggish and completely futile, GCHQ officials forced The Guardian to destroy computers "containing" Snowden documents.

    I have my doubt that we are talking about "completely futile" here. Those computers handling highly sensitive data will have had to be replaced. The replacements will be newer and equipped with up-to-date hard- and software. Hard- and software that the NSA knows how to deal with, and likely ordered via a supply and delivery chain that the GCHQ has its hooks in.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    NSA Officials Knew In Advance Of GCHQ's Plans To Destroy The Guardian's Computers

    I would hope so. With all of the communications they are collecting throughout the world, you would expect them to know a few things in advance.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:26am

    Official Announcement

    WE ARE NSA. WE ARE GCHQ. WE ARE ONE.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    TheOldHippie (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:28am

    Now I get it...

    "the public needs to be taught not to question things above its pay grade."

    That's the heart of the matter. To them (corporations as well as the government) we are only sheeple to be manipulated.

    If someone stands up, well, an example must be made.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Roger Strong (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Hard to Imagine

    The White House publicly condemned the destruction, stating that it was "hard to imagine" this sort of thing happening domestically.


    True, that. It's "hard to imagine" a domestic raid without an armored vehicle, flash-bang grenades being used, people being slammed to the floor with assault rifles pointed at them, and a dog being shot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:50am

    You got off light this time. Next time it's your head. Let this be an example and the hint-hint of a threat to everyone.

    Because eventually, we'll have the legal authority, or just the power, to walk in and unceremoniously shoot you in the head for being a mild annoyance to us.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

    Yet another lie from government officials. Add it to the mountain of lies we already know about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 1:33pm

    i swear we seem to be verging on just becoming random.

    i'm think of a name change in the interest of truth and justice. how about the random states of advertising. try to get the others to go along with the continental name, north advertising. central and south america can stick with their names.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 1:46pm

    Okay, now we know who the enemy is. Time for a full-on extermination campaign. We need to make it so toxic to even think of bringing this shit up again that to do so means political death and mayhem for all involved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    rapnel, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Official Announcement

    The Unicunt

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    UK's Hypocrisy, Jul 11th, 2014 @ 4:35pm

    Julian Assange (Wikileaks)

    If only the Snowden files had emerged before Wikileaks superjournalist Julian Assange went to London! The UK has spent millions of dollars to surround the Ecuador embassy with London police 24/7 for years, while the very same London police fake London's rape statistics and push back hard against London's large numbers of actually-raped women when they go to the London police to try to file charges. The UK cannot be considered a free country any more - sad but true!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    techflaws (profile), Jul 11th, 2014 @ 11:15pm

    The only effect of this "largely symbolic act" was making look even more like assclowns (hard to imagine, I know).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2014 @ 7:19am

    This supports the notion that many have that we should never relinquish one bit of out second amendment rights. Afghanistan proves that super powers can't over throw a nation of well armed patriots.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 12th, 2014 @ 9:10am

    Re: Hard to Imagine

    you forgot the grenade being thrown at a baby, a man beaten to death and a woman shot while trying to surrender.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Padpaw (profile), Jul 12th, 2014 @ 9:11am

    Re:

    They already do that. They just say the officers feared for their lives by the people being restrained on the floor.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 12th, 2014 @ 11:34am

    Re: Futile?

    All the Guardian would have to do is send someone down to their nearest (okay, maybe not the nearest) electronics store to buy some laptops in person. There's no way method interdiction can get to that. They would have to somehow know where they're going and what they plan to purchase their in order to intercept it. Not feasible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Jul 12th, 2014 @ 9:19pm

    Silly rabbits.

    The GCHQ wasn't after the hard drives.

    They wanted to remove the extra chips placed on all the Guardian's computers via special ops, before some busy body do-gooder group could examine them and realize they had some of the earlier versions of the top secret NSA spy-chips attached to them.

    NSA was informed of the move to "destroy" the "hard drives" because, at that time the spy-chips were not remotely destroyable. Because they belonged to the NSA, GCHQ was telling them "they (GCHQ) were covering their (NSA) asses".

    That was indeed "Good News" to the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Cerberus (profile), Jul 13th, 2014 @ 6:38am

    Re: Re: Futile?

    Another (conspiracy) theory that has been offered is that the GCHQ-NSA had installed hardware backdoors in the systems of the Guardian and wanted to destroy the evidence. It sounds a bit far fetched...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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