David Cameron has accused The Guardian of damaging Britain's national security by publishing articles based on classified intelligence information leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
The newspaper's stories detailing the extent to which the American National Security Agency (NSA) and British GCHQ intelligence agencies used surveillance to eavesdrop on global communications has proved deeply embarrassing for both Washington and London.
Speaking during prime minister's questions on Wednesday, Cameron said The Guardian had put Britain's security at risk and suggested a parliamentary committee may want to launch an inquiry.
"I think the plain fact is, what has happened has damaged national security in many ways," he said. "The Guardian themselves admitted that when they agreed when asked politely by my national security adviser and cabinet secretary to destroy the files they had they went ahead and destroyed those files."
He added: "They know what they are dealing with is dangerous for national security."
The Guardian has argued the public have a right to know if its telephone and internet communications are being monitored by intelligence agencies.
The prime minister was responding to a question from his former defence secretary Liam Fox, who said there needed to be a "full and transparent assessment" about whether the Snowden affair had damaged public safety by exposing the work of the intelligence agencies and suggested there should be criminal charges brought.
He added: "It's bizarre that for some the hacking of a celebrity's phone demands a prosecution, but leaving the British people and security personal more vulnerable is 'opening a debate'."
A free press does not mean being free to put our people and our security services in danger.— Dr Liam Fox MP (@LiamFoxMP) October 16, 2013
On Wednesday Glenn Greenwald, the journalist behind the Snowden scoops, announced he was leaving The Guardian to set up a new publication backed by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar.