Reporters Without Borders is outraged that US journalist Glen Greenwald’s Brazilian partner David Miranda was detained and questioned for nine hours yesterday at London’s Heathrow airport under the UK’s Terrorism Act, and that his mobile phone, laptop and other computer equipment were all seized.
Greenwald is the Guardian journalist who has played a leading role in analysing and publishing US whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s electronic surveillance programmes.
“The world’s most repressive states often identify journalism with terrorism and now the British authorities have crossed a red line by resorting to this practice,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We are very disturbed by this unacceptable violation of the UK’s obligations to respect freedom of information and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. By acting in this arbitrary way, the British authorities have just emphasized how necessary and legitimate Snowden’s and Greenwald’s revelations were.
“Julian Assange is confined to the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Snowden was blocked for weeks at Moscow airport’s transit area, and US filmmaker Laura Poitras has encountered repeated obstacles in her movements and work. These freedom of movement violations highlight the urgency of the need to protect whistleblowers and the journalists who publish their revelations.”
Miranda, 28, has gone to Berlin to visit Poitras, who has been working with Greenwald on the Snowden revelations. He was detained while in transit at Heathrow on his way back from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. Without letting him speak to a lawyer, the UK authorities questioned him for nine hours, the maximum period allowed under article 7 of the Terrorism Act.
The UK authorities have not established any link between Miranda and terrorist activities and did not even mention the possibility when questioning him, as Greenwald has said in his blog.
“They obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot,” Greenwald wrote. “They spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing.”
By detaining Miranda, the UK authorities were clearly using a spurious terrorism suspicion in a bid to intimidate and unsettle Greenwald and Poitras. The Guardian’s use of Snowden’s information to shed light on the surveillance practices of GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, may also have been a motive.
Miranda’s detention was probably also designed to send an intimidatory message to all journalists covering the surveillance methods being used by the UK and US authorities.
Claiming that the British authorities “completely abused their own terrorism law,” Greenwald announced that he had no intention of dropping the story.
“If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded,” he wrote. “If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further.”