Glenn Greenwald. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
It’s nothing new. Writers and activists of various stripes have been stopped, searched and/or had laptops or thumb drives seized at airports for years, in the United States and abroad, in alleged anti-terrorist or anti-Anonymous actions. The widely publicized New York Times Magazine cover story today on filmmaker Laura Poitras revisits the many times she has been halted and subjected to this.
Most recently, she partnered with Glenn Greenwald on this year’s big Edward Snowden scoop. Now Greenwald’s living partner has been detained at an airport.
It happened this weekend at Heathrow in London, where British authorities held David Miranda, a Brazilian national who lives with Greenwald in Rio de Janiero, for nine hours as he attempted to return home. Officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks and DVDs. He was not charged. (See updates below.)
Miranda, 28, had been visiting Poitras in Berlin. He was stopped for questioning 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,” The Guardian explains.
What’s remarkable is that he was held for the maximum allowed under the law—nine hours. Figures show that only about 1 in 2,000 who are halted are held for six or more hours.
Greenwald, who writes for The Guardian, responded:
This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process. To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere.
But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively.
A spokesperson for The Guardian said: “We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport. We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities.”
UPDATE: Greenwald, naturally, has now posted a column about it. One excerpt: