Bri­tain de­fends de­ci­sion to de­tain re­porter’s part­ner

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Lon­don

The Bri­tish govern­ment, ac­cused of abus­ing me­dia freedom, said on Tues­day that 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 an­titer­ror­ism 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 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.

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

The Guardian had said the Bri­tish govern­ment had forced it to de­stroy files or face a court bat­tle over its pub­li­ca­tion of US se­cu­rity se­crets leaked by Snow­den.

Govern­ment to be sued

“David Mi­randa is tak­ing a civil ac­tion over his ma­te­rial and the way that he was treated,” said Guardian edi­tor Alan Rus­bridger, whose news­pa­per has worked with Green­wald and Snow­den.

A Bri­tish lawyer who launched an ac­tion on Mi­randa’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 the time limit on such de­ten­tions passed.

Mi­randa had been in tran­sit at Heathrow air­port, car­ry­ing ma­te­rial from Snow­den that was be­ing passed from Ber­lin­based 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 lawyers wrote in a let­ter to May and the po­lice.

The leaks by Snow­den dis­closed de­tails of NSA and Bri­tish sur­veil­lance of pub­lic tele­phone and in­ter­net traf­fic.

In an in­ter­view with CNN, Mi­randa said the of­fi­cers who ques­tioned him told him he could be jailed if he did not an­swer ev­ery­thing they asked. Even though he was de­tained un­der an anti-ter­ror­ism law, he said: “No, they didn’t ask me any­thing about ter­ror­ism — not one ques­tion about it.”

RI­CARDO MO­RAES / REUTERS

US jour­nal­ist Glenn Green­wald (left) walks with his Brazil­ian part­ner David Mi­randa in Rio de Janeiro’s In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Mon­day.

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