The government took more than three weeks to act on authoritative information about the whereabouts of a collection of secret intelligence data leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, despite now claiming the information risks "grave damage" to the security of British intelligence and armed forces, the Guardian said on Friday.

Guardian News and Media's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, hit back at Downing Street's claims made in the high court that it "urgently" needed to access leaked intelligence data seized at Heathrow this month from the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on US and UK mass digital surveillance programmes.