Monday, August 19, 2013

Weak and Desperate

This is worth noting.

LONDON (AP) — A British lawmaker on Monday called for police to explain why the partner of a journalist who received classified information from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was detained for nearly nine hours at Heathrow Airport.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said that he wants to know why police stopped David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Miranda was held for nearly the maximum time authorities are allowed to detain individuals under the Terrorism Act’s Schedule 7, which authorizes security agencies to stop and question people at borders.

Miranda’s cellphone, laptops and memory sticks were confiscated, Greenwald said.

“What needs to happen pretty rapidly is we need to establish the full facts,” Vaz told the BBC. “Now you have a complaint from Mr. Greenwald and the Brazilian government — they indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism — so it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly.”

Miranda, 28, was stopped Sunday while traveling home to Brazil after visiting Germany where he met with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA story. The Guardian reported it paid for Miranda’s flights, but did not immediately respond to a request for elaboration on what his role with the newspaper might be, if any.

Vaz said it was “extraordinary” that police knew that Miranda was Greenwald’s partner, and the authorities were targeting partners of people involved in Snowden’s disclosures.

“Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances … I’m certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation — they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation,” Vaz said.

No matter what you think of Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the whole NSA leak story, this situation has the distinct odor of harassment and vengeance.  It also makes the British government look like it is toadying to the United States, and we had enough of that with Tony Blair and his bromance with the Bush administration.

I get that they’re trying to put the NSA leak story off the front pages and keep it quiet.  But detaining the partner of a reporter for nine hours and confiscating his electronics doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes the authorities look weak and desperate.

4 barks and woofs on “Weak and Desperate

  1. A few thoughts.

    1) British journalism is political in a way that Matt Drudge and Rupert Murdoch only dream about – but it spans the entire spectrum. The Guardian has a long and storied leftie position, and a history of anti-Tory writing. Cameron’s government sounds like they’re just getting a bit of their own back – and the Snowden business is merely convenient.

    2) Blair misread Shrub the way many in the US did: as a capable, genuine, intelligent leader who could leverage the conservatist bent in the GOTea to achieve real governance. I daresay part of Blair’s downfall came from this gross misunderstanding of Shrub’s positions, capacity and willingness to deal in realpolitik (the last being something desperately needed in his years as pResident). Cameron may be Conservative, but he’s shrewd enough not to fall for the same charade, though his government is by definition easier to persuade into joining GWoT-style activity than Labour ought to be.

    3) In the current atmosphere, Greenwald is likely to complain if airport security wishes him a safe flight. His squalling is as much keeping this story IN the news as Miranda’s detention may be trying to keep it out.

    4) Any journalist, having met with a “conspirator” to a “leak,” passing through a highly security-aware state en route home and expecting to get through without being questioned, is living in a pre-9/11 world that no longer exists for the rest of us. We may not like the idea, but we’re a long way away from toning the heightened security the hysteria of 2001-2 brought.

    • All excellent points. The British security people say they and they alone will decide when and whom to detain. Seems they had their reasons. And do read the NYTimes current magazine section on friends of Snowden. They seem to care more than 80% of the rest of us about their privacy.

      • British security paranoia kept IRA bombings to a minimum; diminished air travel incidents when the Red Brigades and PLO were busy blowing things up; and generally have a decent record making sure bad things don’t happen if they can help it. But the UK has always taken security seriously (unlike some other governments I could mention).

        To me this really does sound like some Tory security bigwig seeing a Guardian source on the move and thinking “HUMPH – we’ll show THEM” more than “OH NOES ANOTHER LEAKER!”-esque fauxsecurity spasms.

        The US journosphere – of every sort, including the progblogs – occasionally forgets that international news isn’t always about what happens in the United States, and that foreign authorities aren’t always reacting to US current events. They have their own policies, pressures and priorities – and sometimes following theirs means making the US’s look stupid, even though doing so is smart for the other country.

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