New York Times editor Jill Abramson confirmed this weekend that UK officials had tried to convince her to hand over secret documents, which had been leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, after they found out the Times was working with the Guardian newspaper to sift through the materials.
Abramson told the Guardian she was approached by the UK embassy in Washington directly following the announcement that the Times was collaborating with the Guardian on the story, which included embarrassing revelations of the UK's GCHQ and their involvement in the global data mining and dragnet surveillance tactics of the NSA.
"They were hopeful that we would relinquish any material that we might be reporting on, relating to Edward Snowden. Needless to say I considered what they told me, and said no," Abramson told the Guardian.
The Guardian continues:
The incident shows the lengths to which the UK government has gone to try to discourage press coverage of the Snowden leaks. In July, the government threatened to take legal action against the Guardian that could have prevented publication, culminating in the destruction of computer hard drives containing some of Snowden's files.
Abramson said the spectacle of angle grinders and drills being used to destroy evidence in a newspaper basement was hard to conceive in the US, where the First Amendment offers free speech guarantees. "I can't imagine that. The only equivalent I can think of is years ago when the New York Times was enjoined by a lower court from publishing the Pentagon papers, but the supreme court came in and overruled that decision. Prior restraint is pretty much unthinkable to me in this country."