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David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald

David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald

David Miranda, Brazilian associate of journalist Glenn Greenwald, detained and questioned by the police for nine hours, laptop, camera, mobile phone, memory stick seized, as he passed through Heathrow en route from Berlin to Brazil.

Detention was made using police powers, because they could.

Irrespective of the use of anti-terrorism legislation, it would appear to have been a crude attempt to intimidate Glenn Greenwald, and by implication, intimidation of Edward Snowden by association.

As Greenwald says, the detention had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism as no questions were asked on terrorism:

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day – as every hour passed – worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

David Miranda was en route from a meeting with independent filmmaker Laura Poitras. Laura Poitras has been repeatedly harassed by the US. David Miranda says during his nine hour period of detention, he was questioned by six different agents and asked about his entire life.

Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, police do not have to have reasonable suspicion to detain up nine hours and seize equipment for one week, they can do so because they are seeking information on terrorism. Those detained are obliged to answer questions, failure to do so is a criminal offence. Those detained are not entitled to be represented by a lawyer.

According to David Anderson, independent reviewer of Terrorism legislation, speaking on BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news programme World at One, 60-70,000 people have been detained under Schedule 7 but only 40 detained longer than six hours.

Tom Watson MP is demanding answers, as is Keith Vaaz MP chair of House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. Amnesty International has condemned the detention, as has Liberty, as the NUJ, as has the Society of Editors. Brazil has lodged a formal complaint with the UK.

Are all those who now question the state, now terrorists?

When Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden exposed the extent to which the state in the US and the UK was spying on its citizens, the knee-jerk reaction was at one end of the spectrum the two should be summarily executed for treason, to the other end of the spectrum the ordinary citizen has nothing to fear.

The detention of David Miranda for nine hours for no other reason than intimidation, shows the ordinary citizen has everything to fear.

Who ordered the detention? How did they know David Miranda was passing through? Were they aware of his visit to Laura Poitras? At the very least David Miranda must be on a watch list, his name flagged up.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 evening news programme The World Tonight, John Schindler, former NSA and now Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island where he is a specialist on intelligence and terrorism, has said he does not regard Glenn Greenwald as a real journalist, and if he was he, he would be very careful where he traveled.

Writing in exile, is something dating from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Stalinist Russia, or maybe Iranians outside of Iran. But no, Glenn Greenwald is having to write from Brazil. Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is now based outside the UK. The Guardian has had government agents pay them a visit and trash hard drives.

Does this sound like an open and democratic country?

Welcome to Police State UK!

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