Miranda’s detention is a direct attack on freedom of the press

iStock_000003156836MediumToday’s detention of David Miranda, the partner of The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald  who interviewed whistleblower Edward Snowden, is a direct attack on freedom of the press and a chilling reminder that our anti-terror laws are in desperate need of reform. Whoever took the decision to have Miranda arrested and detained should be named and held publicly accountable for this flagrant abuse of anti-terrorism laws.

The law Miranda was detained under provides powers to deal with those suspected of involvement with acts of terrorism, not a license to interrogate those with knowledge of the activity of journalists. If a foreign government detained the partner of a British journalist we would rightly be up in arms.

It is clear that this was not a random stop and search. Only 0.06% of all people detained under Schedule 7 are detained for more than six hours. Miranda was held right up to the maximum nine hours.  According to the Government “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders.

From Greenwald’s article, we also have an idea of what was discussed (without any legal or consular representation – you’re not entitled to either under Schedule 7). Miranda was not questioned about his involvement in terrorism, or how he posed a threat to the UK. He was asked about the NSA stories his partner had been writing and what information was contained on the various electronic devices he was carrying.

 This Government has already curtailed some of the worst excesses of the Blairite security apparatus, but this incident highlights how there is still much that could be done. This kind of abuse is not new – 82 year old Walter Wolfgang was refused re-entry to the Labour Conference in 2005 under the same legislation as David Miranda was detained.

Perhaps it is reassuring, given the incompetence expected of what used to be UKBA, that in such a ham-fisted attempt at intimidation they have aptly made Edward Snowden’s point in plain sight. Yes, we have anti-terror laws and we’re not afraid to use them on people who are by no stretch of the imagination a terrorist.

This incident highlights that anti-terror laws have been abused for too long; undermining basic democratic principles and putting huge unchecked power in the hands of security officials. Parliament must demand substantial reform that does not allow this kind of episode to ever again stain Britain’s reputation.

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in Home | 4 Comments


  1. duckbita
    19th August 2013

    A ham-fisted attempt at intimidation and bad timing too. August is traditionally no-news month when Editors are desperate for any story with a bit of meat on it. Glenn Greenwald has a formidable reputation for litigation, having trained as a a Constitutional Lawyer, he’s the very last person to try and bully. Our spooks are demonstrating their incompetence. I’m not sure if this is good or bad.

  2. davidbfpo
    19th August 2013

    No doubt lawyers and other advocates will argue about the use of Schedule 7 at Heathrow Airport in this matter.

    Meantime one reads in several places that Mr Greenwald’s own account to the New York Times is somewhat different from the outrage expressed here: 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. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden

    See: //www.nytimes.com/2013/08…

    Initially The Guardian reported Mr Miranda was on a private journey, later changing this as the paper had paid for the flight.

    One should also ask was a flight from Germany to Brazil via London Heathrow really wise, given the stance taken by the UK government – which The Guardian has dissented from, unlike others – and the relationship between the USA and the UK in intelligence matters? Are those involved in Mr Miranda’s travel planning naive? I think not. Could this detention have been the goal of Greenwald and others?

    For those who have long criticised the use of Schedule 7 at ports perhaps this incident will help, I am alas not convinced.

  3. Stanley Broadbent
    19th August 2013

    No matter if you vote Conservative or Labour , this is going to continue. People working at BBW can keep poking the Govt., = the Civil Servants in all their forms. I’m glad that organisations like BBW are around, but losing & battle are going to be the cliched words for the 21st century.

    • Guest
      20th August 2013

      We (as in the public) need to be doing a hell of a lot more, X-Factor isn’t the answer to a democracy.

      All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing