NSA Leak Journalist’s Partner Interrogated in 9-Hour Detention by British, Citing Terrorism Law

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald (AP Photo)

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped Edward Snowden expose the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret surveillance programs, was back in the news Monday, only this time the story was about his partner’s detainment by British authorities.


David Miranda, who lives with Greenwald in Brazil, was interrogated for almost nine hours at Heathrow airport while traveling back home from Germany. Officials took away his computer, cell phone and other personal items and forced him to reveal his passwords in order to review the contents of his electronics. Six or seven Scotland Yard agents were reportedly involved in the grilling.


Miranda accused the British of acting on behalf of the United States government, calling what happened to him a “total abuse of power.”


“They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn't co-operate,” Miranda told The Guardian, for whom Greenwald works. “They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK…It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong.”


Miranda, who is a Brazilian citizen, was not provided with an interpreter nor was he allowed to contact Greenwald, who is an attorney. He refused the attorney that was offered to him.


The nine hours that Miranda was held was the maximum allowed under Schedule 7 of Britain’s Terrorism Act 2000, which allows law enforcement to stop, search and question individuals at airports, ports and border areas.


“This law shouldn't be given to police officers,” Miranda said. “They use it to get access to documents or people that they cannot get the legal way through courts or judges.”


Miranda had visited Berlin on behalf of Greenwald to deliver information to Laura Poitras, an American filmmaker who has also been working on stories related to the NSA files released by Snowden.


“It is clear why they took me. It’s because I’m Glenn’s partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection,” he told The Guardian. “But I don’t have a role. I don’t look at documents. I don’t even know if it was documents that I was carrying. It could have been for the movie that Laura is working on.”


In a story published by the BBC News, officials with the Obama administration said the British gave them a “heads up” about Miranda’s detention. But they insisted the move was entirely Britain’s decision and that the U.S. government had no say in the matter. They refused to say if British officials provided them with data found on Miranda’s laptop.


Greenwald told the BBC that Miranda’s detention was “bullying…clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and [UK intelligence agency] GCHQ.”


Brazil's foreign minister, Antonio Patriota, called the detention “not justifiable,” while Scotland Yard insisted its actions were “legally sound.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

David Miranda: 'They Said I Would Be Put in Jail if I Didn't Co-Operate' (by Jonathan Watts, The Guardian)

Britons Question Whether Detention of Reporter’s Partner Was Terror-Related (by Steven Erlanger, New York Times)

US Given 'Heads Up' on David Miranda Detention (BBC News)

David Miranda Detention Legally Sound, says Scotland Yard (BBC News)

Does NSA Avoid U.S. Legal Restrictions by Hiring British Intelligence to Gather Information on Americans? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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