The harassment by U.K. authorities of Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, as he traveled through England on his way from Berlin to his home in Brazil on Sunday should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the story of National Security Agency secret-spiller Edward Snowden and his interlocutor, the American documentarian Laura Poitras.
Poitras, who is not a terrorist, has lost count of the number of times she has been detained at airports for no apparent reason under laws aimed at stopping terrorism. This New York Times magazine story about the senseless travails the U.S. government has visited on her should disgust all freedom-loving Americans.
On Sunday, under the Terrorism Act of 2000, a British law that allows authorities to detain terrorism suspects, Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was held for nine hours at Heathrow Airport.
Greenwald, who said he was contacted three hours into Miranda’s detention by a law enforcement official who would not give a name, only a number, immediately made some noise, guaranteeing widespread international attention.
“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” Greenwald wrote in the Guardian. “It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic.”
That last point is slightly disingenuous, as Miranda was traveling on a ticket paid for by the Guardian, and was ferrying documents encrypted on thumb drives between Poitras and Greenwald, Greenwald told the New York Times. He also said the documents were part of the NSA cache from Snowden. All of Miranda’s electronic equipment, Greenwald said, has been confiscated, including the drives.
Still, even if Miranda was functioning in a quasi-journalistic capacity, he is hardly a terror suspect.
As Greenwald noted, “The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the U.K. government, is used ‘to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.’”
The security state that began in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks – something that once seemed as inconceivable as Americans engaging in government-approved torture – is no longer just a fearsome possibility.
We are living it.