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"The Paragraph Began to Self-Delete": Did NSA Hack Computer of Snowden Biographer & Edit Book Draft?

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Source: Democracy Now!


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Is the National Security Agency breaking into computers and tampering with unpublished manuscripts? Award-winning Guardian journalist Luke Harding says paragraphs of his writing mysteriously disappeared when he was working on his latest book, "The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man." 

"I wrote that Snowden's revelations had damaged U.S. tech companies and their bottom line. Something odd happened," wrote Harding in The Guardian. "The paragraph I had just written began to self-delete. The cursor moved rapidly from the left, gobbling text. I watched my words vanish." Harding joins us to talk about the computer monitoring and other times he believes he was being tracked.

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TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the latest on the growing surveillance state.

EDWARD SNOWDEN: [Recently, we learned that our governments], working in concert, have created a system of worldwide mass surveillance, watching everything we do. Great Britain's George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information. The types of collection in the book--microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us--are nothing compared to what we have available today. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person. A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They'll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalyzed thought. And that's a problem, because privacy matters.

AMY GOODMAN: Those are the words of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, speaking in December.

We turn now to the remarkable story of British journalist Luke Harding, who says he became the target of surveillance himself while reporting on Edward Snowden. Harding recently published The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man. On Friday, he revealed that while he was writing the book on his computer, paragraphs of the book would begin to self-delete. He repeatedly saw the cursor move rapidly from the left, gobbling text. And that wasn't the only time he felt he was being monitored. Luke Harding joins us now via Democracy Now! video stream from The Guardian newsroom in London.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Luke. Tell us what happened.

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LUKE HARDING: Well, before I do that, I think you have to understand the context, which is that the first few months of last year after Snowden's leaks, both the U.S. and the British governments were scrambling to find out what he'd taken, how much he'd taken, why he'd taken it, and were really kind of clueless. And so, I think in that context it's hardly surprising that the small number of journalists who were working on this material, including me, would have been targeted.

What happened was that I was writing my book. I was about halfway through. I had been to see Glenn Greenwald in Rio, in Brazil, to interview him, which was a kind of curious experience because Glenn is clearly very heavily surveilled by, I think, all sorts of people. Back at my home in the English countryside, I was writing kind of rather disparagingly, rather critically, about the  NSA  and its -- the damage these revelations had done to Silicon Valley. And I was sitting back, working offline, I have to say, and, as you say, the text began rapidly deleting. And I thought, "Oh, my goodness! What is going on here?" This happened four or five times over a period of a month, to the point where I was actually, almost kind of jokingly, leaving little notes every morning to this kind of mysterious reader. And then, at one point, one of my colleagues mentioned this in a newspaper interview in Germany, and it suddenly stopped. So, I wrote this piece not because this was an especially sinister experience, but merely to kind of lay out the facts in what was another curious episode in an already quite surreal tale.

AMY GOODMAN: Luke, you describe in your most recent piece about an American who approached you when you were in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.

LUKE   HARDING : Well, that's right. I mean, again, I said this -- you know, I mean, it was quite funny, in a way. Essentially, what happened was that I met Glenn at a hotel by the seafront, and we had to shift locations several times because it was clear that there were various people who were trying to eavesdrop on our conversation, and we ended up in the business suite where we could actually physically lock the door behind ourselves. Subsequently, at my hotel, the Marriott, the next day, I was kind of accosted in the lobby by someone who looked as if they were straight out of CIA central casting, with a kind of military haircut and neatly ironed khaki shorts. And basically, he wanted to become my friend. He wanted to take me sightseeing. And it was a curious incident. I mean, you know, I say in my piece that he may have been a tourist, because of course there's an innocent explanation for all of these things. But having talked to Glenn, one of the things he taught me was that the CIA in Rio especially was very aggressive. Glenn's own computer had been stolen from the home where he shared with David Miranda just a few weeks previously. And it's clear that there was a lot of U.S. intelligence activity going on there.

AMY GOODMAN: Remind us, Luke Harding, about the day the GCHQ came to call on The Guardian.

LUKE HARDING: Yeah, it was really, I think, one of the bizarrest episodes in the history of journalism. Essentially, the British government was extremely unhappy about our ongoing publication, from June the 5th onwards, of Snowden's files, of the prison revelations, of Verizon and so on. And we came under increasing pressure, private pressure, backdoor pressure, from David Cameron, the British prime minister, who sent his most senior official, a guy called Sir Jeremy Heywood, to come and see us and basically say, "We can do this nicely, or we can go to law." In other words, he wanted this material back, and if we didn't give it back, we were going to be injuncted. In other words, police would seize our computers and kind of shut down our reporting operation. And we explained that this was pointless, because Glenn had this stuff in Brazil; Laura Poitras, the filmmaker, had Snowden material in Berlin; The Washington Post similarly.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
 

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