WRAPUP 2-Guardian says Britain made it destroy Snowden material
(Adds Miranda quotes, police defending detention, edits)
LONDON Aug 20 (Reuters) - The British authorities forced the Guardian newspaper to destroy material leaked by Edward Snowden, its editor has revealed, calling it a "pointless" move that would not prevent further reporting on U.S. and British surveillance programmes.
In a column in the paper on Tuesday, Alan Rusbridger said the "bizarre" episode a month ago and the detention at London's Heathrow airport on Sunday of the partner of a Guardian journalist showed press freedom was under threat in Britain.
London's Metropolitan Police defended the detention under an anti-terrorism law of David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, saying it was "legally and procedurally sound".
Miranda, a Brazilian who was in transit on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro where he lives with Greenwald, was questioned for nine hours before being released without charge minus his laptop, mobile phone and memory sticks.
"This law shouldn't be given to police officers. They use it to get access to documents or people that they cannot get the legal way through courts or judges. It's a total abuse of power," Miranda told the Guardian after returning home.
Greenwald was the first journalist to publish U.S. and British intelligence secrets leaked by Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who is wanted in the United States and has found temporary asylum in Russia.
Greenwald, who has met Snowden and written or co-authored many Guardian stories about U.S. surveillance of global communications, vowed to publish more revelations and said Britain would "regret" detaining his partner.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday that while the United States did not ask British authorities to detain Miranda, Britain had given the United States a "heads up" about plans to question him.
A U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of Miranda's detention was to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.
"WE WANT THE STUFF BACK"
Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the Guardian had published several stories based on Snowden's material, a British official advised him: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back."
Rusbridger said the paper was threatened with legal action by the government unless it destroyed or handed over the material from Snowden.
After further talks with the government, two "security experts" from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the secretive British equivalent of the NSA, visited the Guardian's London offices.
In the building's basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverised. "We can call off the black helicopters," one of the officials joked, Rusbridger said.
"It felt like a particularly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age," the Guardian editor said.
"We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents. We just won't do it in London. The seizure of Miranda's laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald's work."
A GCHQ spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Metropolitan Police, London's police force, defended its decision to use an anti-terrorism law known as Schedule 7 to detain Miranda.
"The procedure was reviewed throughout to ensure the examination was both necessary and proportionate. Our assessment is that the use of the power in this case was legally and procedurally sound."
The opposition Labour party had raised questions over how police could justify using anti-terrorism legislation to detain Miranda. Brazil said the use of anti-terrorism legislation to detain him had "no justification".
One of Britain's leading human rights lawyers, Michael Mansfield, called the episode "a disgrace" and an example of "sheer unadulterated state oppression".
During Miranda's trip to Berlin, he visited Laura Poitras, an independent film-maker who was the first journalist to interact with Snowden. Poitras co-authored stories based on Snowden's material for the Washington Post and the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The Guardian said Miranda was ferrying materials between Poitras and Greenwald and the paper had paid for his flights.
"It is clear whey they took me. It's because I'm Glenn's partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection. But I don't have a role. I don't look at documents," Miranda said. (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Andrew Osborn, Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge in London; Editing by Peter Graff)
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