2013 08 19 NYT Why Was Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Detained? – NYTimes.com
Why Was Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Detained?
Ricardo Moraes/ReutersGlenn Greenwald (L) walks with David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport on August 19, 2013.
Britain’s Labour Party has called for an urgent investigation into whether security officials at Heathrow Airport abused the British Terrorism Act in detaining the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has been publishing most of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Labour is right. There should be a swift investigation, but not into whether the authorities abused their power. The answer to that question is almost certainly “yes.” Mr. Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours during a trip from Germany to Brazil. More than 97 percent of people stopped under the provision are questioned for under an hour. The British authorities also reportedly confiscated his thumb drives and other electronic media, including DVDs.
There’s not much need to investigate the motive for the detention, either, since it looks like it had nothing to do with “terrorism” and everything to do with gaining information on Mr. Greenwald’s work. Mr. Greenwald was quoted as saying, “The only thing they were interested in was N.S.A. documents and what I was doing with Laura Poitras.” (Ms. Poitras has been helping disseminate Mr. Snowden’s leaked documents.)
The real question is, who ordered the detention, and how they can be called to account?
Mr. Greenwald was justly outraged. “It’s a total abuse of the law.” He added: “This is obviously a serious, radical escalation of what they are doing. He is my partner. He is not even a journalist.”
It doesn’t matter whether Mr. Miranda is a journalist. (And actually he may have been playing a journalistic role. He was acting as a courier between Ms. Poitras and Mr. Greenwald. The Guardian newspaper, which has a contract with Mr. Greenwald, paid for the trip). Journalist or not, the British government had no right to hold him under a terrorism statute without a scrap of evidence that he was connected to any act of terrorism or any plot.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service said “holding and properly using intelligence gained from such stops is a key part of fighting crime, pursuing offenders and protecting the public.” That reminds me of the New York City government saying it’s OK to stop and frisk young black and Hispanic men at random, and with no cause, because it’s important to keep our streets safe.