Glenn Greenwald's astonishingly misleading reporting on events surrounding his boyfriend's detainment by British authorities last weekend has yet again distorted the truth behind a pretty important topic. Just as the clear overreach of the NSA has been obfuscated by the screeching from the libertarian left, David Miranda's run in with the British government warrants some serious questions that authorities do need to answer.
Let's look at what we know about the case thus far.
Miranda was stopped by authorities at London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday and was held for 9 hours under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop and question people to determine whether they are 'involved in planning terrorist acts'. Reports the Huff Post:
Britain's authorities said on Tuesday the use of anti-terrorism powers to detain the partner of a journalist who wrote about U.S. and British surveillance programmes based on leaks by Edward Snowden was "legally and procedurally sound"....
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said in a statement the examination of the 28-year-old man was "necessary and proportionate" and he had been offered legal representation and was attended by a solicitor.
"No complaint has been received by the MPS at this time," the statement said.
We know that Miranda was acting as a courier for his boyfriend Greenwald, and carrying classified documents leaked to Greenwald by Edward Snowden. Reports the NYTimes:
Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden.
This fact was conveniently omitted by both Greenwald and the Guardian in their initial reporting of the issue - a major disservice to their readers and a pretty shocking abdication of responsibility as a serious journalistic outlet. But that does not mean the British Government had the right to detain Miranda on suspicion of terrorism.
The NSA leaks pertained almost exclusively to mass surveillance operations by the US government, and partly to collaborative efforts with foreign governments to to intercept internet and telephone conversations around the world (the British government being a major partner). There is no way that leaking information on what the NSA is capable of can be construed as 'terrorism'. According to Merriam Webster, terrorism is defined as the 'systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.' There is certainly a case that Miranda was conspiring to undermine British national security. He was transporting classified documents that were obtained illegally, and regardless of whether you believe the public has the right to know what the NSA and other international government agencies are up to, laws are laws and there are ramifications for breaking them. But Miranda was not engaged in any act of terrorism, and to detain him on suspicion of it is a serious breach of the law in itself.
While the British authorities have stated that Miranda's detainment was "legally and procedurally sound", they have yet to explain how Miranda's act fell under the definition of terrorism.