British Authorities Defend ‘Unjustified’ Use of Terrorism Powers
British authorities have defending the use of terrorism powers to detain the partner of journalist Glen Greenwald, who has been working with fugitive whistle-blower Edward Snowden to publish details of US internet surveillance.
Brazilian citizen David Miranda, the partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, was held for nine hours under counter-terrorism powers after arriving at London’s Heathrow airport on a flight from Rio de Janeiro.
Critics have complained that the detention was purely intended to harass anyone connected to Greenwald or Snowden for political reasons. Mr Greenwald himself has described it as ‘bullying’, while Brazilian foreign minister Antonio Patriota has said that the detention was ‘not justifiable’ and has demanded answers from his British counterpart. Even the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, has weighed in by describing the length of the detention as ‘unusual’ and promising to meet with police to investigate the matter.
In defense of British authorities, the detention was not entirely without reason. Mr Miranda was travelling to Britain as a courier, passing what former conservative party MP Louise Mensch described as “classified, stolen intelligence data encrypted on hard-drives” between his partner and another journalist. As Mensch told the BBC “He wasn’t stopped because he was somebody’s husband and he wasn’t stopped because he was a journalist.”
Much of the criticism, however, centres on the police use of anti-terrorism powers to detain Mr Miranda. He was detained under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, which allows police to hold someone for up to nine hours for questioning to determine whether they have been involved in the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism. Given that there is no suggestions that Snowden’s leaks, let alone the reporting of them, may be in any way be considered an act of terrorism the use of such powers is questionable at best.
“They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism,” wrote Greenwald in an article for The Guardian newspaper.
Scotland Yard has defending its use of terrorism legislation to detain Mr Miranda.
“Our assessment is that the use of the power in this case was legally and procedurally sound. Contrary to some reports, the man was offered legal representation while under examination and a solicitor attended,” it said in a statement issued on Monday evening.
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