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Clegg backed Heywood Guardian move
Nick Clegg backed the decision to send top civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood to urge the Guardian to destroy classified data because it was "preferable" to taking legal action.
The Deputy Prime Minister was "keen to protect" the newspaper's freedom to publish while safeguarding national security, his spokesman said. Mr Clegg agreed to the move on the understanding that destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian's ability to publish articles, he added.
It emerged last night that Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy was directed by Prime Minister David Cameron, backed by Mr Clegg, to contact the Guardian about classified material handed over by Edward Snowden.
A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minster said: "We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.
"On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.
"The Deputy Prime Minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian's freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security. It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian's ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security."
The intervention ordered by No 10 came to light following the detention at Heathrow Airport under terror laws of David Miranda, partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who has worked with Snowden on a series of security services exposes. Scotland Yard and the Home Office have insisted the actions of officers at the airport were proper.
Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed on Tuesday that she had been briefed in advance about the possible detention of Mr Miranda and a spokesman said No 10 was "kept abreast of the operation in the usual way". It is understood Mr Clegg was not notified in advance.
Mrs May told the BBC: "If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly-sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists, which could lead to a loss of lives, then it is right that the police act and that is what the law enables them to do."
Mr Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 as he changed planes on a journey from Berlin to his home in Brazil. He claimed he was held for nine hours by agents, who questioned him about his "entire life" and took his "computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory card - everything". Schedule 7 applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allowing officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.