A SECRETIVE BRITISH POLICE INVESTIGATION focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents has been designated the code name “Operation Curable,” according to details newly obtained by The Intercept under the U.K.’s Freedom of Information Act.
The counterterrorism unit within the London Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Operations division has been conducting the criminal probe for more than two years.
The Metropolitan Police first announced it had launched a criminal investigation related to the Snowden documents in August 2013. About four months later, in December 2013, the force’s then-assistant commissioner Cressida Dick acknowledged the investigation was looking at whether reporters at The Guardian had committed criminal offenses for their role in revealing British surveillance operations exposed in the leaked files.
Since 2013, few new details about the case have been revealed, with police officials attempting to withhold information about the investigation. Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police repeatedly refused to disclose the status of the investigation on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.” But following an intervention from the authority that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws, the force reversed its position in late July and admitted that the probe remained ongoing.
The investigation — Operation Curable, as it’s called — is currently being carried out under the direction of Mark Rowley, the head of the Specialist Operations unit. In the 1990s, Rowley pioneered the development of British police covert surveillance methods as a detective superintendent with the National Criminal Intelligence Service. Recently, Rowley has accused Snowden of undermining the police’s ability to “protect the public and save lives.” He has also asserted that he has no problem monitoring journalists’ communications if he deems it necessary to “chase down criminals.”
It is unclear whether the name Operation Curable has any particular meaning. The Metropolitan Police usually chooses code names for its investigations randomly. In 2008, the BBC reported that the names are selected from a list and that the “aim is to choose names that are completely neutral so they will hopefully be totally unrelated to the case.”
Top photo: Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley speaks to the media outside New Scotland Yard in central London, January 9, 2014.