A laptop that was used to store leaked files from Edward Snowden and then destroyed under watch from U.K. intelligence officers is now on display at a prominent London museum.
The smashed MacBook Air is on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of an exhibition examining “the role of public institutions in contemporary life and what it means to be responsible for a national collection.”
The laptop was owned by The Guardian newspaper and used to process some of the of government documents in the massive trove leaked by Snowden nearly two years ago.
After the newspaper began to report stories based on the documents, officials from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — the U.K. equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) — demanded that it be destroyed. GCHQ agents watched as Guardian staffers went to their basement and attacked the machine with disc grinders and other tools. The destruction was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron, even though newspaper editors had told GCHQ officials that copies of the documents were also stored outside the country.
“The Guardian continued to report on the Snowden data from America,” the museum says in a label.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act last summer showed that the Obama administration knew that the British were intending to force the newspaper to smash the laptop. At least one NSA official said it was “good news.”
Kieran Long, a senior curator at the museum, told The Guardian earlier this year that it had decided to include the machine in its exhibit when a medieval scholar had pointed out how the museum's own artifacts were destroyed by the government in centuries past.
The free exhibition, titled “All of This Belongs to You,” is running from April 1 to July 19. It was designed to be shown in the run-up to the U.K.’s election day on May 7.