NSA had overseen disposal of Snowden data at The Guardian

SurveillanceThe Associated Press has obtained a series of redacted emails and other documents which indicate that US intelligence officials knew beforehand about British intelligence agents’ effort to destroy data in possession of UK newspaper The Guardian. The emails shed light on the fact that former National Security Agency director General Keith Alexander had been briefed on the plan days before GCHQ analysts oversaw the covert destruction of a laptop at The Guardian’s offices in London, UK.

On July 19, 2013, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger consented to destroy the data and the laptop it was stored on instead of handing it over to GCHQ. This response was seen as a follow-up after British officials had increased pressure on the newspaper using threats of police raid and prosecution under the Official Secrets Act of the United Kingdom. The AP documents obtained from the NSA under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that Richard Ledgett, then director of NSA’s Threat Operations Center, and one anonymous member of the NSA’s “Media Leaks Task Force”, had replied in an email to Alexander, hours within of Rusbridger’s confirmation to the destroyal of the data; the email was headed “Guardian data being destroyed.”

Ledgett wrote then “Good news, at least on this front” and forwarded an email from one of the redacted sources. In his turn NSA director Keith Alexander relayed the infromation to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; “Jim- Here is the report I got.”

A day later, on July 20 2013, only a few hours after the destruction of the Guardian laptop and its contents, Clapper was briefed verbally by Alexander on the operation. He sent a thank-you e-mail to Alexander as a reply to the original e-mail thread.

One month later, on August 20, during a White House press briefing, press secretary Josh Earnest replied to a number of questions regarding on whether the US government had been foretold about the destruction of the data stating “I’ve seen the published reports of those accusations, but I don’t have any information for you on that… The only thing I know about this are the public reports about this.”