British High Court judges on Wednesday dismissed a claim by David Miranda, the partner of ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, that his detention at London’s Heathrow airport under anti-terror laws last year was unlawful.
Greenwald was at the time working with The Guardian newspaper and other publications on exposing widespread US and British spying, based on highly-classified data leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was transporting some of the encrypted data from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro when he was stopped while in transit at Heathrow on August 18, last year.
His laptop, phone, memory cards and DVDs were seized by British border police who, following a request from the MI5 intelligence agency, questioned him for the maximum nine hours allowed under anti-terrorism legislation.
Backed by a coalition of freedom of speech organisations, Miranda challenged his detention in the High Court, claiming it was unlawful and breached his human rights.
Three judges on Wednesday rejected his appeal for a judicial review, a decision welcomed by British Home Secretary Theresa May and London’s Metropolitan Police.
May said: “This judgment overwhelmingly supports the wholly proportionate action taken by the police in this case to protect national security.
“If the police believe any individual is in possession of highly-sensitive stolen information that would aid terrorism, then they should act. We are pleased that the court agrees.”
But Miranda said the ruling emphasised the restrictions on freedom of the press in Britain, and vowed to appeal.
“I’m of course not happy that a court has formally said that I was a legitimate terrorism suspect, but the days of the British Empire are long over, and this ruling will have no effect outside of the borders of this country,” he said in a statement to The Intercept, Greenwald’s new online magazine.
“I’m convinced they’ve hurt their own country far more than me with this ruling, as it emphasises what the world already knows: the UK has contempt for basic press freedoms.”
The anti-terror power used to detain Miranda, Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is currently under review, following widespread political and media criticism of his treatment.
Lawmakers are considering a number of reforms to Schedule 7 as part of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which is in its final stages going through parliament.