Every week or two, it seems like there’s some new tidbit of information being discovered in the data Snowden gave The Guardian, which means they haven’t published all the info they have and are still sorting through it.
So, what prevents the government from swooping in and seizing all the information to prevent any more embarrassing revelations?
I know the UK laws a bit different than the US, but their gov. agencies seem to have the same broad authority as their American counterparts.
Obviously the Guardian folks have copies stashed all over the place, with different people, different countries. What do you think the authorities were doing when they used anti-terrorist law and without a warrant, detained the reporter’s partner at the airport (en route from Germany to Brazil) and seied all his electronics? Likely they hoped this was the only copy. Really stupid. They also made the Guardian destroy the disks in their office that supposedly contained the data, under direct orders from Downing Street. Even stupider. (The agents knew it was futile and a waste of time and stupid, but orders were orders, from people of limited tech knowledge).
[li]It’s unlikely to be effective, as there are probably off-site copies.[/li][li]As douchey as governments tend to be, they often balk at directly attacking news agencies. Nothing says “police state” like soldiers marching on a newspaper office, and they know it.[/li][/ol]
So basically the government has the option of looking like jackbooted thugs, and not achieving their objective in doing so. It’s no wonder they don’t take that option.
Yes - where do you think the search warrant requirement in the 4th came from?
The leading case is Entick v. Carrington (1765), which actually has some similarities to the question in the OP. The Home Secretary sent the King’s Messenger and some assistants to search the home of a journalist. They caused considerable damage to the property. The journalist sued them in the King’s Bench for trespass; they responded that they were acting under lawful authority, namely the instructions of the Home Secretary. The Court rejected that argument, ruling that agents of the Crown could not enter private property without a search warrant issued by a court, authorised by the law.
The Supreme Court of the United States has cited the judgment as part of the inspiration for the Fourth Amendment, and has used it as a guide to interpreting that Amendment, in Boyd v. United States (1886):
The common law is of course subject to being changed by Parliament. I would expect that the current laws in Britain expressly address issues of national security; they may provide for some special warrant powers, similar to the powers under the Patriot Act in the US. But the starting point is that there must be legal authority for a search, either at common law or by statute.