Monday, August 19, 2013


I'm sure you've seen the big story of the day: that David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald's life partner, was detained in London under provisions in British terrorism law:
The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 -- over 97% -- last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.
Yes, detaining him for the maximum amount of time was gratuitous and an obvious act of attempted intimidation (and a ham-fisted one -- needless to say, it's only going to embolden Greenwald, as he's already told us in a response). But Miranda is otherwise far from alone in having to endure a stop of this kind. Here are some statistics from StopWatch (PDF):

And most people stopped are ... well, just the people you'd expect:

Ray Kelly would love this law.

It seems just plain nasty:
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act has been widely criticised for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorisation or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.

Those stopped have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning under schedule 7, which critics say is a curtailment of the right to silence.

Last month the UK government said it would reduce the maximum period of detention to six hours and promised a review of the operation on schedule 7 amid concerns it unfairly targets minority groups and gives individuals fewer legal protections than they would have if detained at a police station.
These are the kinds of laws that shame us when the period of panic that inspires them is over. I hope we'll see the end of the current moment soon, but I'm not optimistic.


However, it should be noted that Miranda was clearly traveling as Greenwald's work partner, not just his life partner:
While in Berlin, Miranda had visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has also been working on the Snowden files with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights.
The New York Times adds:
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.
Bob Cesca says:
So Miranda, Greenwald's spouse, served as a paid courier to transfer stolen, top secret national security documents from Greenwald to Poitras, and from Poitras back to Greenwald.

That's ... a total debunking of any hysterical assertion that Miranda was being harassed and intimidated just because he's Greenwald's spouse. He was, in fact, detained because he was transporting stolen national secrets.
I don't know where to draw the line on the tension between press freedom and national security -- governments understandably want to protect national security secrets, but citizens in allegedly free countries ought to be able to know what's being done to them. On the other hand, what Greenwald, Poitras, and Co. are doing isn't terrorism. It isn't aiding and abetting terrorism. We can see that from what's been revealed.

You have a reasonable suspicion that Miranda has stolen national security secrets? Get a damn warrant. Arrest him in a conventional way. Allow him legal counsel. Act like a country where people actually are free.


aimai said...

Yes,I agree especially with your last point. Glenn is acting like they stopped his little old grandmother or his toddler. The person they stopped was acting, clearly, as a professional go-between. He wasn't stopped at random. In any event the "even the Mafia don't touch families" thing is such faux chivalric crap I can't even.

However, that being said, both British and US treatment of peole in vulnerable, liminal, places like airports hasb been horrendous--even (or especially) the people they stop and harrass and abuse are offered neither apology nor special consideration afterwards. You'd think if you stop someone "for cause" and find no cause you would at least have to make it up to them by rushing them on their way, giving them a monetary payment, making sure they are re-united with their luggage and their relatives or whatever. But: nothing.

Its not just because most of the people stopped are non white--the white ones are also locked up, abused, insulted, and often deported as well. Presumably because they are seen as race and class traitors (potentially). This happens to women all the time when they fall off their pedestal and are seen by the police as "siding" with the wrong kind of man.

Victor said...

There are some reasonable steps that governments can take, to keep the people of their nation safe.

Snooping on EVERY one, and storing ALL of people's data, and detaining people, don't need to be among them.

What makes me laugh, is the number of people who don't know squat about things here in America, who are all of a sudden, experts on British national security.

And I don't mean you, Steve.
You, at least, present some data.

paulocanning said...

I agree about Section 7 but it is not, here in UK at least, just about post 7/7. Black and brown have been targeted by police for years under what we call 'sus' (suspicion) laws.

In the 80s riots resulted from police treatment, which I witnessed, they would strip search in the street.

They had every right to stop Miranda, just using that law was a mistake. The governments are both handling this saga badly. It is not helped by truly awful reporting. The BBC is failing to mention anywhere that Miranda was carrying documents, possibly because the Guardian didn't mention it (the NYT did).

Just like with every single GG related story the screaming headline will dominate with the pertinent fact failing to catch up.

Anonymous said...

You almost earned a 'merit' for your penultimate paragraph but blew by *assuming* that these individuals are not aiding terrorism. If that memory stick was encoded then no-one knows what was on it. It *could*, for example, contain details of electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists and if this particular gaggle of twits let that information out then a valuable source of intel is blown.

Steve M. said...

The BBC is failing to mention anywhere that Miranda was carrying documents, possibly because the Guardian didn't mention it

This fact was apparently edited into the Guardian story, but only after it had been up for a while. People who read the story right away (unlike me) still think he was stopped as a spouse who's unconnected to the secret documents otherwise.

paulocanning said...

I must blog about this as the UK reporting is driving me nuts and probably damaging my health :0 I am tribal about the Guardian as well, so watching them go tabloid for US clicks hurts.

At least you guys have some lefties/liberals discussing this or, like Cesca, going full bore. Here it's dead silence on the shi**y reporting.

paulocanning said...


I think your 'it's complex' line is spot on. See this FP story, made my head hurt

Lefties/liberals must have a coherent policy on this IMO. Signing up for the new AlexJones/RandPaul/EmoProg team ain't it.

The New York Crank said...

There's nothing new in the U.S. about harassing friends and even businesses of people whom our Feds don't like, but either can't catch red-handed, or can't make any charges stick.

The U.S. Govt. kept arresting (and trying and convicting) Mickey Cohen's stripper girlfriends, Candy Barr and Liz Renay, one on trumped up drug charges, the other for refusing to rat Mickey out. I do believe that at least one of his other two former girlfriends, (I forget whether it was Tempest Storm or Beverly Hills) also did time, presumably for associating with Mickeh.

I guess the theory was, if the Feds couldn't get him on criminal charges, the least they could do was fuck up his sex life.

Similarly, I have often suspected that the police raid in 1969 on the Stonewall Bar, said to have sparked the gay revolution, happened because cops couldn't find cause to charge the bar's Mafioso proprietor, Matty The Horse Ianello, with any crimes, so they decided what the hell, let's mess with the patrons of his bar.

(Cohen finally went to Alcatraz, after which the government left his women alone. I'm not sure what happened to Matty the Horse.)

Anyway, what we have here is another case of Pax Americana, with the Brits adopting our own methods for their law enforcement. Do we have a great and powerful culture, or what?

Very Crankily yours,
The New York Crank

: smintheus :: said...

The Brits let him go. That seems to show that he didn't possess any documents it was illegal for him to possess (in the UK at least) and that he'd committed no other crimes they could charge him with. And nobody claims that he held original documents that could be seized and returned to anybody. So the point of the stop clearly was intimidation. The Brits have used the anti-terror laws for years to intimidate people, and they especially love to abuse those laws in airports.

paulocanning said...

Here's my post from a Brit, leftie perspective

Buford said...

So this is the "NEW WORLD ORDER"...I don't think we are gonna like it...