Robert Hampton

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19th August 2013

Miranda wrongs
Posted by at 7.55pm | No responses | In the News

Here’s something you should be outraged about:-

The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London’s Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.

He was held for “almost nine hours”, just less than the maximum permitted under the Act. As the Guardian points out, this is unusual; only 1.2% of those stopped are held for more than three hours. The article goes to point out that anyone detained under schedule 7 is not entitled to legal advice, and is not entitled to even remain silent – outrageous, in a country that is supposed to value civil liberties and justice.

Why was he detained? No-one is telling at the moment. Some have suggested that he was carrying sensitive material on a USB flash drive. However, schedule 7 is supposed to only be used against people suspected of terrorism. Journalism (even journalism which embarrasses the Government) is not terrorism. The length of time he was held makes it look like an attempt to intimidate and harrass someone, and that is very bad news for a supposedly free press. To his credit, Glenn Greenwald refuses to be cowed:

I already share [Miranda’s defiance], as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

Pleasingly, this does seem to have caused a genuine fuss. The BBC news is currently leading with the story, as are several other news outlets. Keith Vaz and Yvette Cooper of the Labour party are asking questions, and so are senior human rights lawyers.

What with this, and the Government’s ongoing proposals for internet censorship, we seem to be sinking into an undemocratic police state. When Amnesty International is condemning your tactics, it’s safe to say you’re in the wrong.

I hope the debate continues and ends up with this draconian piece of legislation being scraped or drastically curtailed. I’m probably being far too optimistic there, mind you.

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