British gave US ‘heads up’ on detention of Miranda

Partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald at centre of US surveillance story held for nine hours

Journalist Glenn Greenwald (left) with his partner David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro’s international airport yesterday. Mr Miranda said he was questioned by six agents on his “entire life”. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Journalist Glenn Greenwald (left) with his partner David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro’s international airport yesterday. Mr Miranda said he was questioned by six agents on his “entire life”. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

 

US officials did not ask the British government to question the partner of the journalist who first reported secrets leaked by US intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden, the White House said yesterday.

British authorities did, however, give their US counterparts a “heads up” before detaining the partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, Brazilian David Miranda, the White House said.

“This was a decision that they made on their own, and not at the request of the United States, ” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing. “This is something that they did independent of our direction,” he added.

Britain’s anti-terrorist legislation watchdog has called on the home office and London Metropolitan Police to explain why anti-terror laws were used to detain Mr Miranda.

Amid mounting concern over the treatment of Mr Miranda, David Anderson QC said his detention for nine hours at Heathrow airport on Sunday appeared to be “unusual”.

Mr Miranda said he was questioned by six agents on his “entire life”. Arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport yesterday, 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.”

In an interview with The World at One on BBC Radio 4, Mr Anderson said that only 40 of the 60,000 to 70,000 people questioned under schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act are detained for more than six hours. “You can see what an unusual case this was if it is correct that Mr Miranda was held right up to the nine-hour limit,” Mr Anderson said.

Mr Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has written a series of stories for the Guardian revealing mass surveillance programmes by the National Security Agency.

He was returning to their home in Rio from Berlin when he was stopped at Heathrow and officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.


Film-maker
During his trip to Berlin Mr Miranda visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Mr Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Mr Miranda’s flights. Mr Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Mr Greenwald in his work.

The intervention by Mr Anderson came as the shadow home affairs minster, Yvette Cooper, called for an urgent investigation into the use of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, 2000, to detain Mr Miranda. Ms Cooper said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been misused after the detention caused “considerable consternation”.

Ms Cooper said public support for schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act could be undermined if there was a perception it was not being used for the right purposes: “Any suggestion that terror powers are being misused must be investigated and clarified urgently.”

The unease about the treatment of Mr Miranda spread to Tory ranks as David Davis, the former shadow home affairs minister, warned that police appeared to have behaved in a heavy-handed manner. Downing Street declined to answer questions on grounds it was an operational matter.

The No 10 spokesman said police would judge whether they had exercised their powers proportionately. The spokesman said: “The government takes all necessary steps to protect the public from individuals who pose a threat to national security. Schedule 7, which was used in this case, forms an essential part of the UK’s border security arrangements. But it is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers.”


‘Important power’
But No 10’s position was contradicted by Mr Anderson, who said: “This is an important power. But the question of whether it was proportionately used in any given case is not ultimately for the police.”

Scotland Yard has refused to be drawn on why Mr Miranda was stopped using powers that enable police officers to stop and question travellers at UK ports and airports.
– (Reuters/Guardian service)