LONDON // Two of most senior aides to the British prime minister pressed the Guardian newspaper to hand over or destroy intelligence secrets leaked by Edward Snowden, political sources said yesterday.
The involvement of Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, and Kim Darroch, a national security adviser, drags David Cameron into a storm over the UK's response to coverage of the leaks by the US intelligence contractor.
It even prompted a White House spokesman to it was hard to imagine US authorities taking such action against a media organisation, even to protect national security.
Mr Cameron, who is on holiday in Cornwall, made no comment.
The Guardian, media freedom activists and human rights lawyers said pressure on the newspaper over the Snowden material, and the separate detention of the partner of a Guardian journalist on Sunday, represented an assault on independent journalism.
The government said intelligence agencies act within the law and the Snowden leaks, which revealed US and British surveillance of global communication networks, threatened national security.
The United States has brought espionage charges against Mr Snowden, who has found temporary asylum in Russia.
Moscow yesterday accused Britain of failing to live up to its own declarations on human rights by forcing the Guardian to destroy materials leaked by Mr Snowden.
Western countries often criticise Russia's human-rights record. Moscow has used the Snowden affair to accuse London and Washington of double standards.
"The measures taken by the British authorities towards The Guardian newspaper are out of tune with the British side's statements on commitments to universal standards of human rights," said Alexander Lukashevich, a foreign ministry spokesman.