The Guardian, a major outlet for revelations based on leaks from former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, says the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed the classified documents or handed them back to British authorities.
In an article posted on the British newspaper's website on Monday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the newspaper 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's disclosure follows Sunday's detainment at London's Heathrow Airport under British anti-terrorism laws of David Miranda, domestic partner of US journalist and Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald.
Miranda, a Brazilian citizen in transit from Berlin to Brazil, said he was released without charge after nine hours of questioning but minus his laptop, cellphone and memory sticks.
Greenwald, who met face to face in Hong Kong with Snowden and has written or co-authored many of the newspaper's stories about US surveillance of global communications, vowed on Monday to publish more documents and said Britain will "regret" detaining his partner.
Rusbridger said that after further talks with the British government, two "security experts" from Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the ultra-secretive US National Security Agency, 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 pulverized. "We can call off the black helicopters," Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.
A source familiar with the event said Guardian employees destroyed the computers as government security experts looked on.
Rusbridger, in his article, said he told British officials that due to the nature of "international collaborations" among journalists, it would remain possible for media organizations to "take advantage of the most permissive legal environments." Henceforth, he said, the Guardian "did not have to do our reporting from London."
A source familiar with the matter said that this meant British authorities were on notice that the Guardian was likely to continue to report on the Snowden revelations from outside British government jurisdiction.
'HAD YOUR DEBATE'
Rusbridger said that in meetings with British officials,