British Court: Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Was Legal

Last August, British authorities at London Heathrow Airport
detained David Miranda. Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald,
the journalist who has been reporting on the information leaked by
NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Miranda had carried documents from Rio de Janeiro, where he
lives with Greenwald, to journalist Lauren Poitras in Berlin. He
was detained for nine hours on his return trip, and
was found
to be carrying documents on
encrypted USB sticks
. Under the
Terrorism Act of 2000
, nine hours is the longest that someone
can be detained.

Today, a British court ruled that Miranda’s detention was legal
despite the fact it noted that the detention was “an indirect
interference with press freedom.” 

Writing at
The Intercept
, Greenwald points out that the British government
argued that reporting on the information leaked by Snowden was
“tantamount to ‘terrorism,’” and that the U.K. has a far from
laudable record when it comes to press freedom:

It should surprise nobody that the UK is not merely included in,
but is one of the leaders of, this group of nations which regularly
wages war on basic press freedoms. In the 1970s, British journalist
Duncan Campbell was criminally prosecuted for the crime of
reporting on the mere existence of the GCHQ, while fellow
journalist Mark Hosenball, now of Reuters, was forced to leave the
country. The monarchy has no constitutional guarantee of a free
press. The UK government routinely threatens newspapers with all
sorts of sanctions for national security reporting it dislikes. Its
Official Secrets Act makes it incredibly easy to prosecute
journalists and others for disclosing anything which political
officials want to keep secret. For that reason, it was able
to force the Guardian to destroy its own
computers containing Snowden material precisely because the
paper’s editors knew that British courts would slavishly defer to
any requests made by the GCHQ to shut down the paper’s

Greenwald then goes on to rightly point out that the British
government is trying to halt reporting on the NSA and GCHQ’s mass
surveillance not because of national security concerns, but because
the reporting is prompting a debate that British officials would
rather not have:

In sum, the UK Government wants to stop disclosure of its mass
surveillance activities not because it fears terrorism or harm to
national security but because it fears public debate, legal
challenges and accountability. That is why the UK government
considers this journalism to be “terrorism”: because it undermines
the interests and power of British political officials, not the
safety of the citizenry. I’ve spent years arguing that
the word “terrorism” in the hands of western governments has
been deprived of all consistent meaning other than “that
which challenges our interests”, and I never imagined that we would
be gifted with such a perfectly compelling example of this

Greenwald writes that Miranda plans to appeal the British
court’s ruling.

Read J.D. Tuccille’s blog post “Is Embarrassing the Government
Terrorism? British Politicians Think So.”

from Hit & Run

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