Edward Snowden

Snowden journalist Greenwald launches legal action after partner’s detention

Journalist says he is more determined than ever to publish more documents after his partner is questioned during London stopover

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 August, 2013, 8:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 7:18am

The partner of the US journalist behind the Edward Snowden leaks launched legal action against Britain yesterday for holding him under anti-terror laws.

David Miranda, a Brazilian national who has been working with his boyfriend, Glenn Greenwald, on the leaks, was held for almost nine hours on Sunday as he passed through London's Heathrow Airport.

"David Miranda is taking civil action over his material and the way that he was treated," Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, the paper for which Greenwald writes, told the BBC.

British police confiscated Miranda's mobile phone, laptop computer, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles, according to the newspaper. "He wants that material back and doesn't want it copied," Rusbridger said.

The detention of Miranda, 28, caused an international outcry. He was travelling home to Rio de Janeiro from Berlin at the time and was held in a Heathrow transit lounge.

A source in British Prime Minister David Cameron's 10 Downing Street office denied any political involvement in Miranda's detention. "The detention was an operational matter for the police. Number 10 was kept informed in the usual way," the Downing Street source said.

The legal firm acting for Miranda, Bindmans, said it was challenging the legality of Miranda's detention under Schedule 7 of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000, which applies to ports and airports. Bindmans said it had written to the Home Office saying it would go to court this week if it did not receive assurances that "there will be no inspection, copying, disclosure, transfer, distribution or interference, in any way, with our client's data pending determination of our client's claim".

A furious Greenwald said Miranda had been the subject of "a clear attempt at intimidation" and he vowed to train his sights on Britain and its intelligence services in future.

Asked if the detention of his partner would deter him from future reporting, Greenwald said the opposite would happen.

I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England

"I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England, too. I have many documents on England's spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did," Greenwald, speaking in Portuguese, said at Rio de Janeiro's airport, where he met Miranda upon his return to Brazil.

Greenwald said in a subsequent e-mail that the Portuguese word arrepender should have been translated as "come to regret" not "be sorry for".

"I was asked what the outcome would be for the UK, and I said they'd come to regret this because of the world reaction, how it made them look, and how it will embolden me - not that I would start publishing documents as punishment or revenge that I wouldn't otherwise have published," he said in the e-mail.

Miranda said six British agents questioned him about all aspects of his life during his detention at Heathrow airport.

Brazil complained about the "unjustified" detention. Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota called his British counterpart, William Hague, to express his concern.

The opposition Labour Party in Britain urged the authorities to explain how they could justify using Schedule 7 to detain Miranda, arguing any suggestion that anti-terrorism powers had been misused could undermine public support for those powers.

Greenwald met Snowden in June in Hong Kong, from where he published the first of many reports that rattled the US intelligence community by disclosing the extent of surveillance by the US National Security Agency.

Associated Press, Reuters