MI5 Concerns over 'The Guardian' Sending Top Secret Files. by Fedex; Newspaper Used Public Courier Firm to Post Data out of the Country

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), October 13, 2013 | Go to article overview

MI5 Concerns over 'The Guardian' Sending Top Secret Files. by Fedex; Newspaper Used Public Courier Firm to Post Data out of the Country


Byline: Robert Verkaik

THE Guardian newspaper sent tens of thousands of top-secret files containing the names of British spies to the United States by household courier FedEx, it was revealed last night.

The security risk is the latest to engulf the newspaper after the head of MI5 warned last week that publication of confidential data leaked by US fugitive Edward Snowden had caused huge 'harm' to the capability of Britain's intelligence services.

Last night, senior security figures lambasted the newspaper for using Federal Express to carry the encrypted files.

Former anti-terror law watchdog Alex Carlile QC said the decision may have put the lives of British spies in danger. 'I think it is astonishing that top-secret material has been placed in a public parcel delivery system,' he said.

Security chiefs are also understood to be 'very concerned' at the use of a courier company. One source said: 'Any leak like this is extremely concerning and part of that concern is the handling arrangements.' The data - from GCHQ, the Government's secret communications headquarters - was copied from the original Snowden cache on to a USB memory stick and sent by FedEx to a 'disguised' US intermediary in June this year. Measures were taken to ensure its safe passage.

He was told that if The Guardian was 'muzzled' he was to make sure the material was published on Pro-Publica, a not-for-profit New York website which publishes investigative journalism. Weeks later, GCHQ officials visited the newspaper's London offices to destroy computers and hard drives in the belief they had closed the security breach.

The decision to send the files by courier is believed to have been taken within days of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger returning from America, where he had been working with the Guardian's New York office on how to handle the fall-out from the Snowden leaks.

Mr Rusbridger has since admitted he was worried the Government would seek an injunction to seize the material, preventing any further publication of the Snowden files.

According to a report last week in The New Yorker, Mr Rusbridger sent a 'Federal Express package containing a thumbnail drive of selected Snowden documents to an intermediary in the US'. The magazine The Government only became aware that material may have been sent out of the country when Rusbridger met Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood and the Prime Minister's head of communications, Craig Oliver, at The Guardian's offices on June 21.

According to The New Yorker, Rusbridger hinted that the Government might be too late to prevent publication of further material.

On July 20, The Guardian gave permission for officers from GCHQ to destroy hard drives holding the secret files at its King's Cross offices. Two days later, The Guardian admitted to the Government that 'secret material' had been given to ProPublica and the Wall Street Journal. …

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