In what is being slammed as an attack on press freedoms, UK officials detained the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for 9 hours at London's Heathrow airport on Sunday under a terrorism law.
Greenwald has been publishing a series of stories on the NSA's vast surveillance using information from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Greewald's partner, Brazilian national David Miranda, stopped in London on his was back to his home in Rio after a trip to Berlin, where he had stayed with filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras, who has also written extensively on Snowden's leaks.
Miranda was stopped at the airport and told he would be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a "controversial law," the Guardian explains, "which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals." Nine hours is the maximum time a person is allowed to be detained.
While detained, Miranda said he was quizzed by "six agents."
"They asked questions about my entire life, about everything," Miranda said. "They took my computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory cards, everything."
The New York Times reports that
Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said.
Greenwald told the Times that “What’s amazing is this law, called the Terrorism Act, gives them a right to detain and question you about your activities with a terrorist organization or your possible involvement in or knowledge of a terrorism plot.”
“The only thing they were interested in was N.S.A. documents and what I was doing with Laura Poitras. It’s a total abuse of the law,” Greenwald said.
Greenwald called Miranda's detention "a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process."
"To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere," Greenwald continued.
Amnesty International called the detention "unlawful and unwarranted," and said that Miranda was "clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics."
“There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government," Widney Brown, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Relations agreed, saying, "This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation."
"The only possible intent behind this detention," stated Brown, "was to harass him and his husband, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analyzing the data released by Edward Snowden.”
"States cannot pass anti-terror acts and claim they are necessary to protect people from harm and then use them to retaliate against someone exercising his rights. By targeting Miranda and Greenwald, the government is also sending a message to other journalists that if they maintain their independence and report critically about governments, they too may be targeted," stated Brown.
Despite this intimidation attempt, Greenwald writes, "the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively."