Three updates below from the Guardian on the UK’s holding of David Miranda, the partner of their writer,Glenn Greenwald, for nine hours under a British terrorism law. This obvious act of intimidation, not justified by any fear of terrorism, is already creating political waves and those waves seem likely to grow.
David Miranda detention prompts outcry over ‘gross misuse’ of terror laws
Journalists, human rights lawyers and civil liberties campaigners condemn Miranda’s nine-hour detention at Heathrow
The detention under anti-terrorism legislation of the partner of the Guardian journalist who exposed mass email surveillance by the US government has been widely condemned as unlawful.
Newspaper editors, human rights lawyers and civil liberties campaigners said David Miranda‘s detention and questioning was a gross abuse of the Terrorism Act 2000, which despite its scope was never meant to be used as a licence for extracting information.
A pernicious feature of the act was that individuals were required to answer questions with no legal advice, targeting people at their most vulnerable, they said.
Gareth Peirce, a leading human rights lawyer who has been heavily involved in many cases under the 2000 statute, said: “However widely the authorities try to construe the act, and however widely they use and abuse its parameters, it was never meant to facilitiate an ambitious intrusion into the rightly protected work of investigative journalists.”
Miranda, 28, whose partner Glenn Greenwald has been working since May with the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, was transiting in Heathrow en route from Berlin to Brazil on Sunday when he was detained and questioned for almost nine hours under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act.
The Guardian paid for Miranda to travel to Berlin, where he met Laura Poitras, a US film-maker who has been also working with Greenwald and the paper. While in transit at Heathrow he was halted by police who confiscated his laptop, mobile phone, memory sticks, camera, DVDs and games consoles.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the civil rights group Liberty, said the detention “was possible due to the breathtakingly broad schedule 7 power, which requires no suspicion and is routinely abused”. She added: “People are held for long periods, subject to strip searches, saliva swabbing and confiscation of property – all without access to a publicly funded lawyer. Liberty is already challenging this law in the court of human rights but MPs disturbed by this latest scandal should repeal it without delay.”
The leading human rights lawyer Gavin Miller told the Guardian the police would have to prove that they had detained Miranda with the express intention of eliciting information about alleged terrorist activities, and not on a fishing expedition related to the Guardian’s journalistic activities or as means of intimidating Greenwald or the paper.
Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, called Miranda’s detention extraordinary and demanded an explanation from the Met. It appeared counter-terrorism legislation was being used “for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism”, he said.
The National Union of Journalists described the detention “as a gross misuse of the law” and raised questions about the guarantees journalists could now give their sources. “Journalists no longer feel safe exchanging even encrypted messages by email and now it seems they are not safe when they resort to face-to-face meetings,” said the NUJ secretary general, Michelle Stanistreet.
Bob Satchwell, the executive director of the Society of Editors, which represents national and regional newspapers, said it was “another case of disproportionate reaction by authorities” using “an important piece of legislation for a purpose for which it was neither intended nor designed”.
He said: “Journalism may be embarrassing and annoying for governments, but it is not terrorism”. Satchwell said it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that “the detention of a journalist’s partner is anything other than an attempt to intimidate a journalist and his news organisation that is simply informing the public of what is being done by authorities in their name”.
“It is another example of a dangerous tendency that the initial reaction of authorities is to assume that journalists are bad, when in fact they play an important part in any democracy,” he said.
Jo Glanville, the director of English Pen, which campaigns globally for writers’ freedom of expression, said there appeared to be no explanation for Miranda’s detention and it therefore should be interpreted as an attack on the Guardian and on Greenwald. She called on the government to urgently account for ” the misuse of the Terroirism Act”.
The Metropolitan police said Miranda had been lawfully detained under the Terrorism Act and later released. “Holding and properly using intelligence gained from such stops is a key part of fighting crime, pursuing offenders and protecting the public,” it said in a statement.
Liberty said it had long argued that schedule 7 was ripe for misuse and discrimination. The organisation has a case pending at the European court of human rights challenging the power.
The case involves a British citizen of Asian origin who was detained at Heathrow for four and a half hours in November 2010. During his detention he was asked about his salary, voting habits and the trip he had been on, among other matters.
Copies were taken of all his paperwork and credit cards and the police kept his mobile phone, which was only returned to him eight days later and he had to pay for its return himself. He had never previously been arrested or detained and was travelling entirely lawfully, Liberty said.
White House was given ‘heads-up’ over David Miranda detention in UK
US says it did not sanction holding Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow, but was told his name was on passenger list
As the UK’s anti-terror legislation watchdog called for a radical overhaul of the laws that allowed police to confiscate Miranda’s electronic equipment, the US distanced itself from the action by saying that British authorities took the decision to detain him.
The detailed intervention by the White House will put pressure on Downing Street which declined to comment on the detention of Miranda on the grounds that it was an operational matter, adding that the Metropolitan police would decide whether its officers had acted in a proportionate manner.
The No 10 position was immediately challenged by David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who described the detention as unusual, and said that decisions about the proportionality were not ultimately for the police.
He told BBC Radio 4′s The World at One: “The police, I’m sure, do their best. But at the end of the day there is the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which can look into the exercise of this power, there are the courts and there is my function.”
The prospect of an investigation by the IPCC is likely to have been enhanced by the disclosure that the US authorities were given advanced notice of Miranda’s detention after his name appeared on a passenger manifest. Miranda was detained at Heathrow airport on Sunday morning as he flew home from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro where he lives with his partner Greenwald.
During his trip to Berlin, Miranda visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda’s flights. Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Greenwald in his work.
Josh Earnest, the principal deputy White House press secretary, said at the daily briefing: “There was a heads-up that was provided by the British government. This is something that we had an indication that was likely to occur but it is not something that we requested. It was something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials. This is an independent British law enforcement decision that was made.”
Earnest had earlier said: “This is a decision that was made by the British government without the involvement – and not at the request – of theUnited States government. It is as simple as that.”
The White House spokesman confirmed that Britain alerted the US authorities after Miranda’s name appeared on a passenger manifest of a flight from Berlin to Heathrow on Sunday morning. “I think that is an accurate interpretation of what a heads-up is,” Earnest said when asked if the tip was provided when Miranda’s name appeared on the manifest.
Earnest declined to rule out whether the US authorities had been passed information from Miranda’s electronic equipment seized at Heathrow. Officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
Asked to rule out whether the US had been passed such material, the spokesman said: “I’m not in a position to do that right now.”
The move by the White House came as David Anderson called for a review of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which was used to detain Miranda.
He said he hoped MPs would look carefully at the measure. The government is proposing, on the basis of a recommendation from Anderson, to reduce the maximum detention period from nine to six hours. The change is to be made through the antisocial behaviour crime and policing bill.
Anderson said: “At the moment anybody can be stopped under this power. There is no need for the police to believe they are a terrorist or to suspect they are a terrorist. The only reason they can talk to them is in order to determine whether they are a terrorist.
“It seems to me there is a question to be answered about whether it should be possible to detain somebody – to keep them for six hours, to download their mobile phone – without the need for any suspicion at all. I hope at least it is something parliament will look at.”
Scotland Yard has refused to be drawn on why Miranda was stopped, using powers that enable police officers to stop and question travellers at UK ports and airports.
David Miranda: ‘They said I would be put in jail if I didn’t cooperate’
Partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald gives his first interview on nine-hour interrogation at Heathrow airport
David Miranda, the partner of the Guardian journalist who broke stories of mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency, has accused Britain of a “total abuse of power” for interrogating him for almost nine hours at Heathrow under the Terrorism Act.
In his first interview since returning to his home in Rio de Janeiro early on Monday, Miranda said the authorities in the UK had pandered to the US in trying to intimidate him and force him to reveal the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.
“They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn’t co-operate,” said Miranda. “They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK … It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
Miranda – a Brazilian national who lives with Greenwald in Rio – was held for the maximum time permitted under schedule seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 which allows officers to stop, search and question individuals at airports, ports and border areas.
During that time, he said, he was not allowed to call his partner, who is a qualified lawyer in the US, nor was he given an interpreter, despite being promised one because he felt uncomfortable speaking in a second language.
“I was in a different country with different laws, in a room with seven agents coming and going who kept asking me questions. I thought anything could happen. I thought I might be detained for a very long time,” he said.
He was on his way back from Berlin, where he was ferrying materials between Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has also been working on stories related to the NSA files released by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Miranda was seized almost as soon as his British Airways flight touched down on Sunday morning. “There was an announcement on the plane that everyone had to show their passports. The minute I stepped out of the plane they took me away to a small room with four chairs and a machine for taking fingerprints,” he recalled.
His carry-on bags were searched and, he says, police confiscated a computer, two pen drives, an external hard drive and several other electronic items, including a games console, as well two newly bought watches and phones that were packaged and boxed in his stowed luggage.
“They got me to tell them the passwords for my computer and mobile phone,” Miranda said. “They said I was obliged to answer all their questions and used the words ‘prison’ and ‘station’ all the time.”
“It is clear why those took me. It’s because I’m Glenn’s partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection,” he said. “But I don’t have a role. I don’t look at documents. I don’t even know if it was documents that I was carrying. It could have been for the movie that Laura is working on.”
Miranda was told he was being detained under the Terrorism Act. He was never accused of being a terrorist or being associated with terrorists, but he was told that if – after nine hours – his interrogators did not think he was being co-operative, then he could be taken to a police station and put in jail.
“This law shouldn’t be given to police officers. They use it to get access to documents or people that they cannot get the legal way through courts or judges,” said Miranda. “It’s a total abuse of power.”
He was offered a lawyer and a cup of water, but he refused both because he did not trust the authorities. The questions, he said, were relentless – about Greenwald, Snowden, Poitras and a host of other apparently random subjects.
“They even asked me about the protests in Brazil, why people were unhappy and who I knew in the government,” said Miranda.
He got his first drink – from a Coke machine in the corridor – after eight hours and was eventually released almost an hour later. Police records show he had been held from 08.05 to 17.00.
Unable immediately to find a flight for him back to Rio, Miranda says the Heathrow police then escorted him to passport control so he could enter Britain and wait there.
“It was ridiculous,” he said. “First they treat me like a terrorist suspect. Then they are ready to release me in the UK.”
Although he believes the British authorities were doing the bidding of the US, Miranda says his view of the UK has completely changed as a result of the experience.
“I have friends in the UK and liked to visit, but you can’t go to a country where they have laws that allow the abuse of liberty for nothing,” he said.
The White House on Monday insisted that it was not involved in the decision to detain Miranda, though a spokesman said US officials had been given a “heads up” by British officials beforehand.
The Brazilian government has expressed grave concern about the “unjustified” detention.
Speaking by phone from the couple’s home in the Tijuca forest, Miranda said it felt “awesome” to be back. “It’s really good to be here. I felt the weight lift off my shoulders as soon I got back. Brazil feels very secure, very safe,” he said. “I knew my country would protect me, and I believe in my husband and knew that he would do anything to help me.”