Police claim seized Miranda data contained ‘highly sensitive’ material
Britain begins criminal inquiry over ‘injurious’ Snowden-linked data
Gwendolen Morgan, the lawyer for David Miranda makes a statement to members of the media outside the High Court in London today. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Data seized from Brazilian national David Miranda during his detention at London’s Heathrow Airport last weekend contained “highly sensitive” material which, if disclosed, “could put lives at risk”, British police have claimed.
Mr Miranda was detained for nine hours at London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday when the material was taken from him and police said an initial examination of the information had prompted a criminal investigation by counter-terrorism officers.
It emerged earlier today that Britain has begun a criminal inquiry after seizing potentially dangerous documents from the partner of a journalist who has led coverage of Edward Snowden’s leaks about US and British electronic spying.
In a statement issued this evening, the Metropolitan Police Service said it was “pleased that the High Court has rejected an attempt to prevent further examination of material seized during the detention of a man under Schedule 7 at Heathrow Airport on Sunday 18 August.
“We welcome the decision of the court which allows our examination of the material — containing thousands of classified intelligence documents — to continue in order to protect life and national security, and for the purposes of the Schedule 7 examination.
“Initial examination of material seized has identified highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which could put lives at risk. As a result the Counter Terrorism Command (SO1 5) has today begun a criminal investigation.
“This investigation is at an early stage and we are not prepared to discuss it in any further detail at this stage.”
The investigation is the latest twist in a surveillance scandal that has pitted US president Barack Obama against the Kremlin and prompted British prime minister David Cameron’s advisers to demand the return of secrets from the Guardian newspaper.
Using anti-terrorism powers, British police detained David Miranda, partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, for nine hours at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday.
Mr Miranda, a Brazilian citizen who had been ferrying documents between Mr Greenwald and a Berlin-based journalist contact of Mr Snowden’s, was released without charge minus his laptop, phone, a computer hard drive and memory sticks.
At a hearing in London’s High Court over Mr Miranda’s lawyers attempt to prevent British authorities from looking at the tens of thousands of documents on the devices, a lawyer for London’s Metropolitan Police said some contained dangerous information.
“That which has been inspected contains, in view of police, highly sensitive material the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety and thus the police have initiated a criminal investigation,” Jonathan Laidlaw said.
Mr Miranda’s lawyer, Gwendolen Morgan, told reporters that she knew very little about the investigation or what the basis for it was. Mr Laidlaw refused further comment.
Mr Greenwald, who is based in Brazil and writes for the Guardian, has published articles based on documents leaked by Mr Snowden, the former US National Security Agency contractor who faces criminal charges in the United States.
British security officials say the Snowden leaks, which showed the scale of US and British eavesdropping on everything from phone calls and emails to internet and social media use, have undermined national security and could put lives at risk.
But the detention of Mr Miranda and British government pressure on the Guardian have dragged Mr Cameron into an international row over media freedom and the powers of the security services.
Germany has criticised Britain while Russia, which has granted Mr Snowden temporary asylum, accused the British government of double standards over press freedom.
The Brazilian government, which has complained about the “unjustified” detention of Mr Miranda, asked Britain to return the electronic equipment seized from him.
It was unclear what documents Mr Miranda was carrying or what secrets could have forced Britain to act in such a way. Mr Greenwald has vowed that Britain would come to regret its actions which he said were an attempt to intimidate him.
Two High Court judges, Jack Beatson and Kenneth Parker, ruled that the British authorities could continue to look at the information from Mr Miranda for the defence of national security and to investigate any possible links to terrorism.
Ms Morgan, Miranda’s lawyer, said the ruling was a partial victory but they might seek to appeal the decision. The judges gave British authorities until Aug. 30th to sift through the documents.
Mr Miranda’s lawyer has also started legal action to ask judges to rule that his detention was illegal.