US told in advance about airport detention
David Miranda questioned on ‘entire life’ for nine hours by six agents at Heathrow
Journalist Glenn Greenwald (L) walks with his partner David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport today. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters
British officials gave their US counterparts a “heads up” before detaining the partner of the journalist who first reported secrets leaked by fugitive US intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden, the White House said today.
But American law enforcement officials did not ask British authorities to question journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, the White House said.
“This is a decision they made on their own,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing.
He did not provide information about how far in advance British officials notified the United States that Miranda would be detained.
British authorities came under pressure today to explain why anti-terrorism powers were used to detain for nine hours the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who has been publishing information leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Mr Miranda (28) is a Brazilian citizen and was detained by the British authorities yesterday under a counterterrorism law while as he changed planes at London’s Heathrow Airport on a journey from Berlin to his home in Brazil. He was released without charge.
Senior British Labour MP Keith Vaz is to write to the Metropolitan Police to seek clarification on why Mr Miranda was held and questioned.
David Miranda has spoken of being questioned by six agents on his “entire life” while travelling through Heathrow airport.
Arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport, Mr Miranda said: “I remained in a room. There were six different agents coming and going. They asked questions about my entire life, about everything. “They took my computer, video game, mobile phone, my memory card. Everything.”
Mr Miranda, Mr Greenwald said, was told that he was being detained under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act, which allows the authorities to detain someone for up to nine hours for questioning and to conduct a search of personal items, often without a lawyer, to determine possible ties to terrorism. More than 97 per cent of people stopped under the provision are questioned for under an hour, according to the British government.
The UK’s Labour party urged the authorities to explain how they could justify using Schedule 7 to detain Miranda, arguing any suggestion that anti-terrorism powers had been misused could undermine public support for those powers. “This has caused considerable consternation and swift answers are needed,” said Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, the party’s spokeswoman on interior affairs, in a statement.
The British home office said the detention was an operational police matter. The police declined to provide any details beyond confirming the detention. “Schedule 7 forms an essential part of the UK’s security arrangements. It is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers,” a home office spokesman said.
“What’s amazing is this law, called the Terrorism Act, gives them a right to detain and question you about your activities with a terrorist organization or your possible involvement in or knowledge of a terrorism plot,” Mr Greenwald said. “The only thing they were interested in was NSA documents and what I was doing with Laura Poitras. 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.”