The Guardian was threatened with closure by the British Government over the newspaper’s disclosure of NSA domestic spying news revealed by Edward Snowmen.

Snowden Guardian

Guardian’s deputy editor confirms..

Speaking at a Radio trade conference in Dublin earlier in the week, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson confirmed that “Yes, we were being threatened with being closed down.”  He has since clarified that the government had threatened to shut down coverage of Snowden’s revelations and not closure of the entire paper.  It is unclear how such a targeted news blackout would have been executed by the government.

“There are specific threats made and there have been specific threats made legally. We didn’t know if they were under the terror laws or the more ordinary laws about the seizure of journalistic material,” Johnson was quoted as saying.

Snowden has been responsible for revelations that the US government loads software onto web sites, personal computers and personal cell phones that monitor movements and communications of the user, some of whom were world leaders and US citizens — all done without a specific court order.  The media has primarily focused on the collection of “meta data,” where the government stores data on cell phone activity without a court order.

Snowden issue most dangerous in paper’s history

In his speech, Johnson indicated that the Snowden issue was a more complex and dangerous issue than reporting on WikiLeaks tapes because of the more intense focus of British intelligence services on the paper. While British government officials had claimed that Snowden had access to a tremendous amount of high level classified information, Johnson noted that he was told by a senior government official that 850,000 Americans had the same level of access to classified information as Mr. Snowden.

To communicate with other journalists, the newspaper set up complex security of its own.  “It was the most difficult story we have ever done and that includes WikiLeaks, because reporters and editors couldn’t speak to each other. We could only speak using encryption systems.”

Top government officials “had a problem” with editor

In the speech, Johnson said that a senior British government employee told the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, that the “prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the foreign secretary, the home secretary and the attorney general have got a problem with you.”  The general attitude was that national security trumped press freedom and the paper should not publish any information. Government officials apparently didn’t consider spying on the general public and creating the most controlling apparatus of control of a domestic population an issue, and mention of the program’s low success ratio were not mentioned.

Many of the general disclosures made by Snowden, such as all computer-based and cellphone communications being insecure, were said to be known by intelligence and terrorist networks pervious to the disclosures.

“We were accused of endangering national security and people’s lives. It left us in a very difficult position,” he said.