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GCHQ agents smash up Guardian hard drives in bid to silence Prism leaks

Those of us with a more sceptical world view have long rued the dwindling spectre of personal privacy and the sometimes real, sometimes perceived erosion of democratic values.

There is no doubt that the latest twist in the Edward Snowden/Prism drama is camped very firmly on the tangible side of the fence.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has published a chilling expose revealing a series of events beginning with "shadowy" Whitehall figures warning the newspaper to hand over documents related to the Snowden leaks, and culminating in the destruction of hard drives belonging to the publication by GCHQ agents.

"And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents," Rusbridger wrote.

The raid had been prefigured, he said, by a sinister caution: "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."

WikiLeaks has been quick to weigh in via its Twitter account, noting that, "The Guardian hard drive shredding scandal demonstrates why it is necessary to publish early publish often and publish globally."

Rusbridger broke cover with his story the day after the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been responsible for breaking the Snowden leaks, was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under anti-terror laws.

The US government claims it was given the "heads up" regarding the detention, but that the decision was taken "independent of our direction."

If true - and there is little reason to believe that a man of Rusbridger's reputation and standing would fabricate a story - these latest revelations represent more than just a broadside on those who believe technology and digital media should be harnessed as a force for good.

They are an attack on us all.

Image credit: Vox Efx via Flickr