As much as the U.S. Government has tried to appear uninvolved in the case of the Guardian Snowden file destruction, demanded by the UK government, it seems that the reality at the time was different. According to recently unearthed documentation, the former chief of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, did know that the British publication was planning to symbolically destroy documents it had received from the famous whistleblower. The destruction of the files from Snowden occurred in July 2013 and documents that have recently reached The Guardian indicate that both Alexander and the then head of national intelligence, James Clapper, knew about the publication’s intentions. Contrary to what the U.S. authorities wanted the public to believe, both officials were advised regarding the destruction of several laptops and hard disks from Edward Snowden.
This revelation comes after a request made under freedom of information laws by international press agency Associated Press. The AP thus got a hold of several email exchanges between the NSA and the White House, which prove that the Alexander and his co-workers were, in fact, very happy with the Guardian Snowden file destruction. According to press reports, the tone of the emails regarding this topic is nothing short of festive. One NSA employee involved in the exchange actually goes as far as to describe the upcoming destruction as “good news”.
The incident in question took place about a year ago, on July 20, 2013. At the time, three editors of the Guardian were forced to destroy all the copies of the materials they had received from Edward Snowden and were keeping stored in London. The event was supervised by two members of GCHQ personnel and came after a period of mounting political pressure in the UK. At the time, the Cabinet Office, as well as several intelligence agencies, had made legal threats against The Guardian and its partners. Back then, The Guardian, together with The New York Times and the non-profit news group ProPublicam were reporting breaking stories revealed by the materials that Edward Snowden had granted them access to.
After the destruction of the HDDs and laptops in question, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest came out with an official statement in August. According to Earnest, the incident was difficult to assess, but, in his view, it would be hard to imagine that anything similar could happen in the United States. Yet this statement stands in staunch contradiction with an (albeit heavily redacted) email to Keith Alexander, which was sent to him by the now deputy director of the NSA, Rick Ledgett. In it, Ledgett says “good news, at least on this front”. It’s also interesting to note that the email was sent on July 19, which is one day before the actual destruction occurred.