Clegg and May at odds over future of UK anti-terror laws

British MPs heading for confrontation following controversy over detention of David Miranda

British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and home secretary Theresa May are heading for a confrontation over the future of Britain's anti-terror laws following a controversy over the detention of the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

As Mr Clegg pointedly declined to follow the Home Office in endorsing the police decision to detain David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow airport, senior Liberal Democrat sources indicated they were prepared to press for major revisions to the Terrorism Act 2000. The Lib Dem move was flatly rejected by the home secretary, a Conservative, who ruled out any further changes to the act beyond proposals announced before the detention of Mr Miranda.

Ms May told The World at One on BBC Radio 4: "I believe that the proposals that we have put forward have addressed the issues that have previously been raised in relation to schedule 7 [of the Terrorism Act which was used to detain Mr Miranda]."

The prospect of a new coalition battle over civil liberties came on the eve of a high court hearing over the detention of Mr Miranda after his lawyers applied for an interim injunction to prevent the police or the government using, copying or sharing any of the data they may have taken from his laptop, phone and other electronic equipment they seized at Heathrow.


Miranda's case
London law firm Bindmans will present Mr Miranda's case for the injunction before two high court judges tomorrow, arguing that the Metropolitan police misused schedule 7. They will also say that the Met had no powers to detain a transit passenger who had not formally entered the UK or Northern Ireland.

The Lib Dems disagreed with Ms May over the decision by Prime Minister David Cameron and Mr Clegg to instruct the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to demand the Guardian destroy hard drives containing US National Security Agency documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In the first official confirmation of Mr Heywood's involvement, Mr Clegg said he endorsed this decision because of national security fears and to allow the Guardian to be able to continue to publish stories from the files.

'Stolen information'
Ms May told Radio 4: "It is absolutely right if the police believe that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists, that could lead to a loss of lives – it is right that the police should act. I believe that schedule 7 of this act enables the police to do that. It gives them the framework for that."

This contrasted with a much more cautious response from Mr Clegg. A spokesperson said: “The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.”

Meanwhile, the US National Security Agency illegally intercepted communications of Americans for years before being ordered by a secret court to add privacy safeguards, according to legal opinions declassified today.

A scheme that collected tens of thousands of electronic communications of Americans along the internet backbone was ruled unconstitutional by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in an October 3rd, 2011, order signed by Judge John Bates.

The information had been collected since at least 2006.

"For the first time, the government has now advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe," Mr Bates wrote in the order.– (Guardian/Bloomberg)