Aug 212013
 August 21, 2013  Laws, Non-U.S., Surveillance

Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, has put the UK government on notice that he is challenging his detention under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000 and the seizure of his devices at Heathrow airport this past weekend.

The detention of Greenwald’s domestic partner, who has assisted Greenwald in his work at times, created a storm of protest on the Internet over government’s seizure of “journalistic materials” Miranda was carrying between Laura Poitras in Germany and Greenwald in Brazil.  Miranda is a Brazilian citizen.

The files were reportedly encrypted, but Miranda, who was reportedly not permitted to consult with a lawyer of his choosing during his almost-9 hour detention, says he felt coerced into providing the password for fear he’d be jailed.

Carl Gardner provides his legal analysis of the detention on Head of Legal.

The law firm of Binders LLP is representing Miranda, and a copy of their letter to the Home Office can be found here.

Not everyone found the detention concerning. Former MP Louise Mensch defended the government’s action. At the risk of summarizing her incorrectly, her argument boiled down to: (1) Miranda was not just traveling as an uninvolved spouse or family member – his trip was paid for by The Guardian precisely because he was assisting Greenwald with his work, (2) Miranda was transporting encrypted files containing material stolen from the government (but that would be our government, not hers), and (3) Greenwald knew all along that Miranda was carrying files that contained stolen material.   What’s not clear to me from her argument, however, is how the UK government has any authority to detain someone carrying stolen files about  another government that may not reveal anything about the UK at all.  Snowden has been charged with theft here, but no one has been charged with receipt or possession of stolen materials. So what is the real basis for detaining Miranda? And if it had been Greenwald passing through Heathrow, would they have had the right to detain him on the basis that he might be carrying files or work materials?

Frankly, it makes little sense to me that Miranda was carrying any files, encrypted or not. Obviously, they would not be the only copies of the files, but still….

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