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  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 6:24pm
Edward Snowden

Britain defends detention of Snowden journalist’s partner

Government insists police acted to prevent terrorism

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 10:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 10:17am

The British government, accused of abusing media freedom, said on Tuesday police were right to detain a journalist’s partner if they thought lives might be at risk from data he was carrying from fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Facing legal and diplomatic complaints after police held Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald’s Brazilian partner for nine hours on Sunday - and accused by the newspaper of forcing it to trash computers holding copies of Snowden’s data - the interior minister said officers were entitled to take security measures.

Home Secretary Theresa May said police held David Miranda at a London airport under anti-terrorism powers, which allow for action to prevent stolen data to aid terrorists. Material from Snowden, published by the Guardian, has revealed extensive US and British surveillance of global communications networks.

“It’s absolutely right that if the police believe that somebody is in possession of highly sensitive, stolen information that could help terrorists, that could risk lives, lead to a potential loss of life, the police are able to act - and that’s what the law enables them to do,” May told the BBC.

She added, however, that an independent reviewer was looking into the police conduct.

As interior minister, May said she was briefed in advance that Miranda might be stopped but she stressed that she did not decide whom the police detained. The United States said Britain gave it a “heads up” but it did not ask for Miranda to be questioned.

Snowden, who faces criminal charges in the United States, has been granted a year’s asylum by Russia.

A British lawyer who launched an action on the Brazilian’s behalf to question the legal basis of his detention said police seized a laptop computer, a telephone, memory sticks, a computer hard drive and a games console from him. He was released without charge after reaching a time limit on such detentions.

It seems that the UK government is using laws to intimidate journalists and silence its critics
Index on Censorship

Miranda had been in transit at Heathrow airport, carrying material from Snowden that was being passed from Berlin-based American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras to Greenwald, an American writer for Britain’s Guardian who lives in Rio de Janeiro.

“These items contain sensitive, confidential journalistic material and should not have been seized,” Miranda’s London lawyers wrote in a letter to May and the police.

Brazil’s government has complained to Britain. The action against Miranda also was denounced by British opposition politicians, human rights lawyers and press freedom groups.

The leaks by Snowden, a former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, gave details of NSA and British surveillance of public telephone and internet traffic. The United States and Britain say their agencies acted within their laws and the leaks threatened their national security.

On Tuesday, Guardian editors revealed how and why the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Snowden.

A timeline of events provided by the Guardian said initial British attempts to stop reporting on the files came two weeks after the newspaper published its first three stories based on Snowden’s leaks.

These stories were about a secret US court order obliging communications company Verizon to hand over data on customers’ phone usage, Britain’s secretive Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) use of data from a NSA internet monitoring programme, and British intelligence spying on allies in London.

Shortly afterward, two senior British officials arrived to see editor Alan Rusbridger to demand the newspaper hand over all its Snowden files, arguing the material was stolen, according to the Guardian’s timeline. He refused.

Three weeks later, in July, after the publication of more articles, officials got back in touch with Rusbridger and told him, according to the newspaper: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

The officials expressed fears that foreign governments, particularly Russia or China, could hack into the newspaper’s IT network although the journalists stressed the documents were not stored on any Guardian system but held in isolation, according to the newspaper.

Between July 16 and 19, the Guardian said government pressure intensified and there was an explicit threat of legal action if the newspaper did not comply.

Rusbridger said he decided that if the government was determined to stop Britain-based reporting on the Snowden files, the best option was to destroy the London copy and to edit and report from the same material held in the United States and Brazil.

On July 20, two “security experts” from GCHQ visited the paper’s London head office and watched as deputy editor Paul Johnson, executive director Sheila Fitzsimons and a newspaper computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise hard drives and memory chips storing encrypted files, according to the newspaper.

Both sides were aware other copies existed outside the Britain.

“I hope what (the Miranda detention controversy) will do is to send people back to read the stories that so upset the British state because there has been a lot of reporting about what GCHQ and the NSA are up to,” Rusbridger said.

Downing Street and GCHQ have declined to comment.

In Washington, a White House spokesman said he could not comment on the destruction of some of the Guardian’s Snowden material. But he said he could not see US authorities destroying an American media company’s hard drives to protect national security.

“That’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate,” spokesman John Earnest told reporters.

Britain came under criticism from press freedom group Index on Censorship, which denounced the forced destruction of computers revealed by Guardian editors.

“It is clear that the Snowden and NSA story is strongly in the public interest,” the group said. “It seems that the UK government is using, and quite literally misusing, laws to intimidate journalists and silence its critics.”

A British source with knowledge of the security services said GCHQ had no powers to seize material from the Guardian, but could have accused the newspaper of possessing stolen materials and demanded they be destroyed.


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Great Britain, formerly British Empire, Where the Sun Never Set is now setting to play 打手 "dar sau" for US... Queen Victoria, KGV, Churchill all rolling in their graves... LOL
The moment you sacrifice some freedom and rights for more security is the moment you will lose your free and democratic country. The beginning of the end and at the end you will lose it all. Freedom and rights and at the end your own security as you will worry about whether the state your government is considering you as a thread and "traitor" evaluating every single move, words and steps you take every day, hour and minute.
When will evidence become public that 9/11 was an attack from the Israeli secret service Mossad in cahoots with Bush and Blair?
Perhaps, if Snowden would reveal it.
Certainly you knew before that the media definition of "conspiracy theory" is only there to discredit what is already in front of your eyes.
A new type of Revolution wins with the ultimate weapon:
Your Mind
it seems Miranda's rights got a bum deal
So now, Snowden and all journalists, sympathizers, helpers of Snowden are terrorists and treated like terrorists.
It has already come to this. What is next? What will be the next victim to the anti terrorists act?
If the terrorists goal was to destroy your world, your freedom and way of live, than for sure they have managed and achieved this already. They've won.
Who ever is behind of this action, US or UK needs to be rendered in to animal feed!!!
What the heck are they complaining about. Snowden is a traitor to his own country and any person conniving with him is also a traitor. Every country has the right to protects its citizens even if it violates the right of a few criminals.
molivan, very funny comment...
btw, what's your real name? i bet molivan is not your real name. where do you live? ph#, personal health record, bank account#. would you care to share? unlike Snowden who is a criminal, a traitor, you are an upright citizen, i bet you have nothing to hide.... please do share...
Snowden was a traitor in your eyes but a hero to the rest of the world (excluding UK ofcourse). Can you imagine what the US will do if China or any other country detained an American because he was a friend of a so-called traitor? It will probably be sanctioned as punishment. And do google how much pain, suffering & deaths sanctions do to the innocent citizens mostly children!
shuike. not just "to the rest of the world".
the August 1, Quinnipiac Univ polling found 55% americans believed Snowden is a "whistle blower" compared to 34% who considered him a "traitor". the spread is 21%, huge margin (consider most presidential campaigns won by fewer than 10% margin). even among republicans, 51% considered Snowden a whistle blower. the young demographic (18-29) is even more encouraging, 64% found Snowden to be "whistle blower".


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