Tell the UK: Stop the war on journalists
It's outrageous and profoundly chilling. British authorities detained the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the NSA spying scandal by publishing documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden in the UK's Guardian newspaper.
David Miranda was flying to the home he shares in Brazil with journalist Glenn Greenwald after visiting Laura Poitras in Berlin. Poitras, an American filmmaker, has been working with Greenwald to produce reporting on the NSA's secret domestic spying programs. He was carrying flash drives containing documents that were part of the investigative reporting by Greenwald and Poitras.1
Normally British authorities need a probable cause to detain someone for hours at Heathrow airport in London, deny them access to an attorney and confiscate their belongings. But not if they say you are suspected of being involved in terrorism.
That's just what happened to Miranda. He was detained under Schedule 7 of the British Terrorism Act and held for nearly nine hours -- the maximum allowed without levying charges. When anti-terrorism powers are invoked, Schedule 7 allows British authorities to stop and search anyone without warrant or reasonable suspicion. Miranda was eventually released but his cellphone, flash drives and computers were confiscated.
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Detaining their family members is unacceptable.
Said Greenwald in reaction, "This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic."2
The New York Times reports that Miranda was carrying as of yet unpublished documents from the Snowden trove of NSA evidence from Poitras back to Greenwald. He was clearly not targeted because he was a suspected terrorist -- but rather because he was linked to investigative journalists working to expose the unconstitutional spying programs at NSA. But he was detained under a law intended to stop terrorism -- a law that permits authorities to deny him access to a lawyer and take his possessions without a court order.
In the wake of the incident, Amnesty International charged, "It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance… The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analyzing the data released by Edward Snowden."3
Tell the UK: Journalists are not terrorists. Stop the war on journalists.
This is not an isolated incident. There is escalating war on journalists and whistleblowers in the U.S. who are increasingly threatened with prosecution by the current administration for investigating the executive branch. 4 And now the British authorities are taking a leading role by using anti-terror laws to suppress the exercise of a free press.
The uncovering of a far-reaching domestic spy operation only underscores the need for a strong and independent press to help expose abuses of power at the highest levels of our government and give the public the information we need to hold our government accountable to the Constitution.
It should never be allowed in a democracy to use the security apparatus to intimidate and harass a journalist investigating government abuse. And the UK's targeting of a journalist's spouse under the guise of an anti-terrorism investigation is clearly an escalation of the security state's war on journalism.
Americans need to send a direct message to British officials who may be acting in coordination with U.S. military and intelligence agencies that this is unacceptable. We'll deliver your signatures directly to Sir Peter Westmacott, the British Ambassador to the U.S., Philip Barton, Deputy Head of Mission to the U.S., and Major General Buster Howes, the Defence Attache to the U.S. at the British embassy in Washington, DC.
Thank you for standing up for a free and independent press.
1. " Glenn Greenwald's partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours", The Guardian, Sunday, August 18, 2013
2. " Detaining my partner was a failed attempt at intimidation", Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, Sunday August 18, 2013
3. " Glenn Greenwald's partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours", The Guardian, Sunday 18 August 2013
4. "Climate of Fear: Jim Risen v. the Obama administration" Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com, June 23, 2011