The U.K. Police Investigation Of Snowden Leak Journalists Has Entered Its Fourth Year

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BY: Ryan Gallagher 11.29.17

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A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists who have worked with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents is still active more than four years after it was launched, The Intercept has learned.

The investigation — codenamed “Operation Curable” — is being led by a counter-terrorism unit within London’s Metropolitan Police, under the direction of the force’s chief of Specialist Operations, Mark Rowley. The Metropolitan Police confirmed the status of the investigation last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The disclosure that the probe remains active prompted criticism on Monday from the National Union of Journalists, the U.K.’s largest journalists’ organization. Sarah Kavanagh, a spokesperson for the group, said that news reports based on the Snowden documents had exposed unlawful covert surveillance activities in the public interest.

“The media are often the only group in society able to reveal the intelligence and security forces have exceeded their legitimate powers and remit,” Kavanagh said. “The Met Police should be condemned for keeping journalists under investigation because they worked on the Snowden leaks. The investigation should be halted immediately. Journalism is not a crime.”

The origins of the investigation can be traced back to May 2013, when National Security Agency contractor Snowden turned over a cache of classified documents about government surveillance to journalists including Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald, who was at that time working for British news organization The Guardian. Among the documents were details about mass surveillance programs operated by the U.K.’s largest spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters.

In August 2013, detectives from the Metropolitan Police used a counter-terrorism law to detain and interrogate David Miranda, Greenwald’s partner, while he was passing through London’s largest airport. Miranda was carrying a batch of encrypted Snowden documents to aid Greenwald’s reporting on the files. The police seized Miranda’s possessions — including a mobile phone, laptop, camera, and flash drives – and began a criminal investigation.