Today’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.