The United Kingdom may have detained Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda and destroyed company hard drives at The Guardian in order to get at classified documents taken by Edward Snowden, but it turns out that the country was much gentler in its approach to The New York Times. So gentle, reportedly, that The Times was more or less able to ignore a request to destroy the data Snowden leaked.
On Friday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote that the U.K. took three weeks to reach out to the American paper after learning that it had limited files from Snowden's leaks:
It took a further 23 days until the British embassy in Washington contacted Jill Abramson, the US paper's executive editor, by phone about the data. A meeting followed the next day. Since then there has been no further contact with the New York Times, the Guardian said.
That's useful information for The Guardian to put out there, since British authorities have claimed that its heavy-handed interventions in Guardian business pertaining to the documents are out of an urgent concern for national security — in part because Greenwald's partner Miranda was, reportedly, carrying a password on a piece of paper. Meanwhile, Reuters has even more details on the British Embassy's request to The Times:
The British request, made to Times executive editor Jill Abramson by a senior official at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., was greeted by Abramson with silence, according to the sources. British officials indicated they intended to follow up on their request later with The Times, but never did, one of the sources said.
The Embassy didn't give Reuters any further details, but a spokesperson did say that such a request "should come as no surprise if we approach a person who is in possession of some or all of this material," adding
We have presented a witness statement to the court in Britain which explains why we are trying to secure copies of over 58,000 stolen intelligence documents - to protect public safety and our national security.
The Times, by most accounts, does not have all of the files in Snowden's leaks on hand, and neither does ProPublica, another late entry into the small circle of publications working directly with information from Snowden. What they do have, however, is definitely of interest to the U.K.: documents pertaining to the British Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, responsible for the country's signals intelligence (SIGNIT). BuzzFeed got a statement from Greenwald outlining who has what. "Only Laura and I have access to the full set of documents which Snowden provided to journalists," he said, adding:
The New York Times and ProPublica have only the portion of the archive relating to GCHQ. That is a small subset of the documents. [The Washington Post’s] Bart Gellman also has only a small subset of the documents, though the number is substantial and relate to NSA.
Meanwhile, Miranda filed a lawsuit this week in British court over his 9-hour detention.