Citing "people familiar with the matter," a news agency reported that after the British government learned The New York Times had received documents from the Guardian that had been obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US newspaper was contacted by officials representing the UK's top spy agency and asked the paper to destroy them.
The incident, not previously reported, echoes a previous one in which when agents from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) looked on as Guardian editors and administrators destroyed computers containing the same or similar documents in the basement of the newspaper's London offices, Reuters reported.
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.
On Friday, in a public statement, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, said his newspaper, which had faced threats of possible legal action from British authorities, on July 20 had destroyed copies of leaked documents which it had received from Snowden.
Rusbridger said that two days later, on July 22, the Guardian informed British authorities that materials related to GCHQ had made their way to the New York Times and the independent investigative journalism group ProPublica.
Rusbridger said in his statement that it then took British authorities more than three weeks before anyone from the British government contacted the New York Times.