Aug 21 2013
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood was directed by the Prime Minister to contact the Guardian about the classified material handed over by Edward Snowden, it has been reported.
The intention was to spell out the serious consequences of continuing to publish material about UK and US intelligence operations, the Independent said. Earlier, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed his newspaper had destroyed a hard drive containing a copy of the secret documents under the supervision of GCHQ officers following sustained pressure from Government.
The fresh claims about Number 10's role followed earlier confirmation by Home Secretary Theresa May that she had been briefed in advance about the possible detention of David Miranda, partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow Airport.
The Home Office and Metropolitan Police have insisted the actions of officers at the airport were proper and Mrs May today said it was vital officers retained operational independence. And a spokesman said Number 10 was "kept abreast of the operation in the usual way" but denied any political involvement in the decision, adding: "The Government does not direct police investigations."
In a BBC interview about the detention of Mr Miranda, Mrs May said: "If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists, which could lead to a loss of lives, then it is right that the police act and that is what the law enables them to do."
But the Home Secretary, who has come under pressure to explain how much the Government knew about the planned detention of Mr Miranda after the White House said it had been given a "heads up", said there were safeguards in place to make sure such arrests were conducted properly.
She told the BBC: "I was briefed in advance that there was a possibility of a port stop of the sort that took place. But we live in a country where those decisions as to whether to stop somebody or arrest somebody are not for me as Home Secretary, they are for the police to take, that's absolutely right that they have their operational independence and long may that continue."
She went on: "We have a very clear divide in this country, and I think that's absolutely right, between the operational independence of the police and the policy work of politicians. I as Home Secretary do not tell the police who they should or should not stop at ports or who they should or should not arrest. I think it's absolutely right that that is the case, that the police decide who they should stop or not and whether they should arrest somebody or not. That's their operational independence. I'm pleased that we live in a country where there is that separation."
Mr Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 as he changed planes on a journey from Berlin to his home in Brazil. He claimed he was held for nine hours by agents, who questioned him about his "entire life" and took his "computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory card - everything".
Schedule 7 applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allowing officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. Its use has been criticised by Mr Greenwald - the reporter who interviewed American whistleblower Edward Snowden - as a "profound attack on press freedoms and the news-gathering process", and has sparked concern on the use of terror laws.