Britain Detains Partner Of Journalist Who Exposed NSA Spying. Are They Crazy Or Stupid?

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Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda

The partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who published classified information on U.S. government surveillance, was detained for 9 hours in London’s Heathrow Airport. On Sunday morning, David Miranda was detained for the maximum allowable time under British Law; his property was confiscated and has yet to be returned, according to Greenwald.

Miranda was visiting Laura Poitras, a documentarian who has also worked on exposing classified intelligence practices. However, there is no indication that Miranda, who was transferring in London en route to Brazil from Berlin, should have been subject to Britain’s Terrorism Act of 2000.

Greenwald’s response, in the Guardian, is admirably measured and worth quoting in full:

“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. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world”.

In a separate statement to his newspaper, Greenwald said, “This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process.”

Greenwald, who first interviewed rogue whistleblower Edward Snowden, has been ground zero for the international attention brought upon the National Security Agency, which is suspected of monitoring millions of Americans, by collecting data on phone and Internet browsing behavior. Details of the interrogation are still unknown, as Miranda has no way of contacting Greenwald.

I can’t tell if British authorities are crazy or stupid. On top of being horribly anti-democratic, how could authorities think it was a smart idea to detain the family members of a critic with the largest soapbox on the planet. Immediately, on the usual lull of a Sunday afternoon, the story is front page news at every major news outlet, as both British and Brazilian lawmakers express outrage.

If authorities were brazen enough to detain someone so closely connected to the leaks, it means they’ve probably extended their legal powers to intimidate others with less fame. Now a bright and unwavering spotlight is on their questionable tactics.

Even worse for authorities, most of the debate around NSA spying (and proposed legislation to limit their authority) has been whether agencies have too broad of a definition for who qualifies as a suspect. As the New York Times points out, Miranda’s detention is legal under British law, which means the definition of ‘terrorist threat’ is most definitely being abused.

This reflects badly on both British authorities’ general competence and their regard for the freedom of the press. Heads are going to roll.

[Photo Credit of adorable couple, Glenn Greenwald, Guardian]