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Author of 'Anti-Terrorism' Law Slams 'Unlawful' Abuse to Stifle Journalism
Charles Falconer adds voice to chorus of criticism of government attempts to silence debate about vast secret surveillance programs
As public outrage over the the UK's recent detention and interrogation of David Miranda grows, UK politician Charles Falconer, co-author of the 'Schedule 7' anti-terrorism law used by Metropolitan police to justify the detention, publicly charged that the law was abused in an unlawful bid to silence and intimidate journalists.
Miranda—partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald who exposed secret surveillance programs of the US and UK governments—was held at Heathrow Airport for nearly nine hours by security officials who cited the authority of the law to hold him and deprive him of his personal belongings, including digital media he was carrying.
"There is no suggestion that Miranda is a terrorist, or that his detention and questioning at Heathrow was for any other reason than his involvement in his partner Glenn Greenwald's reporting of the Edward Snowden story," declared Falconer in a statement published in the Guardian last week.
"If it is obvious to the state the person detained is not a terrorist, the state must have some purpose other than determining whether he is a terrorist in using the power—and that would render the use of the power unlawful," Falconer continued.
"Schedule 7 does not contain a power to detain and question journalists simply because the state thinks they should not be able to publish material because of the damage publication might do, or because they do not approve of where the information came from," he declared. "The state has exceeded its powers in this case."
Falconer's comments add to a crescendo of voices slamming the detention of Miranda and seizure of his belongings, in which Miranda says he was subject to "frightening, stressful and intimidating" interrogation and threats of imprisonment, as a blatant act of press intimidation, ordered by the highest levels of UK government, in which Prime Minister David Cameron was involved and U.S. officials notified.
Editors of Europe's top newspapers wrote a joint open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron Saturday slamming the detention and investigation of Miranda as a blow against open debate and democracy that "has ramifications far beyond the borders of the UK, undermining the position of the free press throughout the world."
Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was detained last Sunday as he passed through London's Heathrow Airport on his way home from a visit with film-maker Laura Poitras, who, together with Greenwald, helped break the spying revelations stories.
Poitras wrote Monday in Der Spiegel that the incident showed her the shocking lengths to which authorities will go to shut down vital public debate, including "using pernicious terrorism laws to target the people we love and work with."
"Our governments do not want citizens to be informed when it comes to the topic of surveillance," she declared. "The governments of the United States, Britain, Germany, and others would like this debate to go away. It won't."