back to article Guardian lets UK spooks trash 'Snowden files' PCs to make them feel better

GCHQ spooks reportedly rocked up at The Guardian's London headquarters and oversaw the destruction of some computer hardware - because the machines may have stored copies of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The move came after the newspaper's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger refused to comply with demands to …

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  1. b0llchit
    Big Brother

    Symbolism

    Symbolism can be a powerful weapon.

    It establishes an air of FUD to discourage. Nothing more, nothing less.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Symbolism

      Like ISPs being made to set-up porn filters

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Symbolism

      I'm worried this is getting completely out of hand. Even El Reg might be cruising for a bruising.

      It's reminding me strongly of "the dark actors playing games" just before the government murdered Dr. David Kelly CMG.

      Those dark actors are clearly very pissed off once again and now no one but them has any rights.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Symbolism

      A complete load of symbollocks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Symbolism

        "A complete load of symbollocks."

        Twelve months ago a lot of folks would have said something like that in response to claims that representatives of the NSA and GCHQ etc were recording the contents of our every phone conversation and our every email (on the basis that we are all potential terrorists, or it's just collateral damage, or whatever).

        Maybe Kelly was killed, maybe he wasn't.

        Either way, the "security" forces are now known to be way way way out of control. Some people may have suspected as much a year ago, now there's proof.

        1. streaky Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Symbolism

          "Twelve months ago a lot of folks would have said something like that in response to claims that representatives of the NSA and GCHQ etc were recording the contents of our every phone conversation and our every email"

          I'm not even slightly convinced that's true. Everybody knew about POTUS invoking executive privilege with regards to ATT + tap/trace which was enough to confirm the story.

          I don't think anybody knew they were quite so brazen or that GCHQ were so obviously breaking UK law - and boasting about it - though.

      2. Euripides Pants Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Symbollocks

        Hope that makes it into the OED!

  2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

    Little bit of a conundrum there for The Man from Whitehall. If it's not worth reporting on, it's not worth protecting, and vice versa.

    1. TheAincient
      Mushroom

      "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

      This really pisses me off, no-one has the right to determine when a debate is over, especially not the government.

      The whole thing sounds like someone had a hissy fit, and didn't think things through.

      Next thing will be 'D' notices (if they still exist), best of luck with that in our internationally connected world.

      1. SamCrawford

        Re: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

        The D-Notice was two months ago... http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/17/defence-d-bbc-media-censor-surveillance-security

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

        Next thing will be 'D' notices (if they still exist),

        They do and don't at the same time, bit like my cat.

      3. xyz
        Black Helicopters

        Re: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

        Basically dear chappies, democracy is over, everyone back to feudalism. I think the tipping point has been reached where "they" can just go "we've got you by the scroat" and don't really care about putting a public spin on anything anymore. The problem with a internationally connected world is that the man with the biggest fuck-off internationally connected data centre is king.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

      <profanity filter off>

      Arrogant prick.

      </profanity filter off>

      1. Vimes

        Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1319549/Judges-open-secrets-floodgates-as-paper-wins-MI6-book-battle.html

        Would make for an interesting court case if somebody did ignore and D notice and was repeating something previously reported elsewhere and abroad.

        1. myarse
          Black Helicopters

          Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

          I'm pretty sure that a D notice is voluntary, and just an agreement not to publish, produce ect. If the Guardian didn't agree there's not much that can be done except stuff like this.

          1. Psyx

            Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

            It is, and the idea of voluntary censorship as regards national security issues is a laudable one...

            ... when used in the right place, to protect operational security and save lives. Mis-using them to stifle public knowledge of the invasion of privacy and in vague sweeping terms is NOT the right way to use them and undermines the whole idea. They should be used very sparingly, not whenever an inconvenient matter is brought up in the media.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

        > Arrogant prick.

        I shall not invoke The Mustachioed One Who Shall Not Be Named, but "prick" does not cut it. We are far into leather coat territory here.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

          "I shall not invoke The Mustachioed One Who Shall Not Be Named, "

          Peter Mandelson?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: ""You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”"

            ""I shall not invoke The Mustachioed One Who Shall Not Be Named, "

            Peter Mandelson?"

            Excuse me but please treat the gentleman with the respect he deserves.

            That's Lord "Two Resignations" Mandelson to you, matey.

            Anyone got any green slime, and Milibandelson's itinerary?

    3. Rick Giles
      Black Helicopters

      "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more.”

      Thank God we still have the 1st Amendment here. At least, until they get rid of the 2nd one and then it'll be a free for all.

  3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Happy

    The truth is out there

    I never thought that (see title) would be true.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The truth is out there

      but repeating it is an offence under the official secret acts

      >that used to be an x-files joke, deeply distrubing that it is now a true statement

  4. AdamT

    In the context of someone saying "Now we want the stuff back" about a digital file I think we have to resort to mis-quoting Babbage: "I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a demand."

    1. Anomalous Cowshed

      Suggested equivalents:

      Smashing a sand castle whose detailing is found to infringe an original design

      Killing the messenger

      Welding the doors of the stable shut so that the horses that got out, er, whatever...

      1. AdamT

        Re: Suggested equivalents:

        Watching someone feed the offending document into a shredder as you all stand around in a room that you earlier wallpapered with photocopies of that document.

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Or expressed in a more low-brow manner on bash.org

  5. Rono666
    WTF?

    I want to know

    If i broke someones hard drive that's criminal damage, oh i get like when you kidnap some that's different to being arrested, country stinks and the Establishment has to go it's rotten to the core.

    1. Brian Morrison
      Stop

      Re: I want to know

      But you don't understand, the people from GCHQ (if indeed they were really _from_ Cheltenham) didn't do the destruction themselves, they simply watched it being done by the owners of the equipment which means that they are not guilty of any damage-related laws at all.

      1. despairing citizen
        Big Brother

        Re: I want to know

        Regardless of whether they did the job themselves or intimidated a 3rd party into doing it, the criminal damage charge should stick, just the same as you can be charged for assult without actually touching a person.

        In addition to the Crminal damage charge, it then becomes interesting under our Terrorism legislation, as anybody who undertakes criminal damage, or the threat of criminal damage, for the purpose of political, religous or idealogical goals is a terrorist.

        So whether this action was polictically motivated, or was genuinely done for a valid legal reasons, with appropriate judical authority, given law is a idealogical construct, we now have terrorists running GCHQ!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I want to know

      They smashed up the entire laptop circuitry. They really don't know how a computer works do they?

      What this will push reporters towards is putting documents online somewhere. Which really does run the risk of being leaked by hackers.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I am not sure whats more worrying that they were told to destroy the hard drives or that the people telling them to do that honestly thought that would solve the problem and there wouldn't be backups anywhere else.

    You can fit a lot of data on a micro SD card that could easily be taken in and out of buildings without being noticed (even if your are searched it would need to be a fully body search to find it)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I am not sure whats more worrying..."

      What's more worrying is that the government was legally able to stifle the Free Press.

      1. Nextweek

        Re: "I am not sure whats more worrying..."

        To be fair we never really had any legal protection on that like our American overlords do.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: "I am not sure whats more worrying..."

        Seeing as we've just read about it, they didn't do a very good job of stifling the press.

    2. 404 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      @Mark

      Crazy, isn't it? Using projection of force (a time-honored American tradition) to compel compliance in a world where data can be anywhere in it. Thuggish, meant more to prove a point than get anything useful done.

      Stereotypical government drone lack of imagination.

  7. Christoph Silver badge
    Joke

    They must have asked a consultant

    They used a special consultant to advise them on the destruction of unwanted computer files.

    A Ms Streisand

  8. Anomalous Cowshed

    Tips to make them feel better

    These days law enforcement agents are overworked. They need to be given a break. So here are our guidelines to citizens to help those who protect us all let off some steam, and "make them feel better"!

    If you get stopped by police for driving in the wrong lane / having a broken tail-light: let them puncture your tyres and smack the bonnet and windscreen with a jemmy, it will make them feel better!

    If you get stopped by your neighbourhood wardens for acting in a drunk and disorderly manner (walking across the street when the light is red): let them kick your head in and knee you in the stomach a few times, it will make them feel better!

    If you get audited by the tax man and he can't read your handwriting: let him seize you by the hair and thrust your head under water in the sink for a couple of minutes, it will make him feel better!

    If you get stopped by the security forces for being too tall / too black / being in possession of a camera / wearing a rucksack: don't move and let them just shoot you, your sacrifice will make them feel better!

    If you are accused by MPAA of downloading songs or films illegally from the Internet: let them take your family hostage and work them in the mines for life, it will make them feel better!

    And always remember, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear!

    Thank you for your cooperation

  9. wowfood
    Facepalm

    Wait a minute

    After reading all these articles I was incredibly confused by the arrest of David Miranda partner of Glenn Greenwald. For ages I legit thought that by partner they meant 'gay other half' and not 'works with him at the newspaper'. Been sat here thinking "Why would the guy keep this confidential stuff on his other halfs laptop? What the hell are they doing? Attacking his loved ones to get to him?"

    Please tell me I'm not the only one who made this mistake.

    1. wowfood

      Re: Wait a minute

      Additionally, I cannot help but see the guy from whitehall as the PHB, or see the entire situation roll out as a BOFH script.

      "I want you to delete all the information from your hard drives"

      "The information isn't on our hard drives, it's on the cloud"

      "But it could be on the hard drives right?"

      "Well yes, the same way it could be written down on a piece of paper in that filing cabinet."

      "So will you give us the iniformation on the hard drives?"

      "Okay, here is all the information on those harddrives regarding snowden" *hands over an imaginary box* "Would you mind signing this to show you recieved the documents?" *Holds out an imaginary pen and clipboard to sign*

      "Listen, I just want the information on those hard disks, would you stop being difficult"

      "Would you stop being ignorant? We do not have the information, we do not have it here nor there, we do not have it anywhere, we do not have it in our SAN, we do not have it whitehall man"

      "Look, just give us the information we want from those hard drives, or we'll wipe the lot of them."

      "WE DON'T HAVE THE INFORMATION!"

      "Fine, have it your way, boys wipe the hard drives."

      "Do you want to wipe the backups too?"

      "Nah, just the main drives should be fine."

      1. nichomach
        Thumb Up

        Re: Wait a minute

        One suspects that asking these people to stop being ignorant would be rather like asking water to stop being wet, but nevertheless an outstanding job there, well done!

      2. Rikkeh
        Facepalm

        Re: Wait a minute

        I get the feeling that the bods at GCHQ had got fed up of their tech-illiterate superiors' demands for them to "destroy teh files" and carried out their instructions to the letter, just to shut them up.

        1. SoaG

          Re: Wait a minute

          Indeed.

          I would not be at all surprised if many of the junior folks at a number of government agencies very much disagree with what's been coming out as much as the rest of us. However, they can't do anything about it without throwing their entire lives away as Snowden has. After all, everything from themselves and all their friends and families has been caught in the net too.

          So, when the higher-ups order you to go out and do something that you know will draw even more negative publicity to themselves and what they've been doing,you don't point out that they're making a PR disaster worse, you happily comply.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: SoaG Re: Wait a minute

            Or, alternatively, the Guardian could just be claiming a complete load of male bovine manure to hype their story and drive sales. "What'" you shriek, "filthy capitalism in the heart of The Decent Leftisphere?" Yeah, it happens.

      3. BenR
        Happy

        Upvoted:

        Just for this:

        "Would you stop being ignorant? We do not have the information, we do not have it here nor there, we do not have it anywhere, we do not have it in our SAN, we do not have it whitehall man"

        That has made my day.

      4. WonkoTheSane
        Thumb Up

        Re: Wait a minute

        Nice use of Seuss - Upvoted

    2. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Wait a minute

      "Please tell me I'm not the only one who made this mistake."

      You aren't the only one who made this mistake.

      We use the word partner to mean boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/whatever far more than is necessary, which leads to exactly this misunderstanding when it's used in another context.

      1. VinceH Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Wait a minute

        "You aren't the only one who made this mistake."

        And now I think we've both made the mistake of thinking we made a mistake after reading this article. Elswhere, they are described as a couple.

        1. wowfood

          Re: Wait a minute

          Gah dammit. Stupid partner having multiple meanings.

      2. Philip Lewis
        Thumb Up

        Re: Wait a minute

        And for this reason I have taken to using the word colleague generally for this kind of thing.

    3. Tom Wood

      Re: Wait a minute

      Uh, I'm fairly sure they do mean what you thought they meant. The Graun shows a picture of the two of them with arms around each other and says they live together (not "are housemates").

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