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There is a possibility that GCHQ knows these chips are storing data without users knowing it.

It's equally possible that GCHQ isn't sure that they aren't storing data (double negative, I know). Or that GCHQ wants to be sure nobody at the Guardian was savvy enough to sneak data on to these chips.

I'm not suggesting one or the other is more likely, I really wouldn't know. I find it more interesting that they felt the need to do this, when really the only assurance they have that the documents are destroyed is the word of the Guardian's employees. Other than someone speaking up, there's no way for anybody to actually know if there are other copies floating around.

I think the second possibility is much more likely. If it was the first, they wouldn't have tipped their hand, given that the guardian staff would have been among those users.

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