News Column

David Miranda Challenges Heathrow Detention

August 20, 2013

The partner of a journalist who broke stories on government electronic surveillance based on leaks from US whistleblower Edward Snowden is challenging the legality of his nine-hour detention at Heathrow Airport, his lawyers said Tuesday.

They also protested police seizure of Brazilian David Miranda's electronic equipment, demanded its return and said none of its data should be inspected, copied, disclosed or shared.

Miranda, 28, was detained and questioned at the London airport at the weekend while travelling from Berlin to Brazil, where he lives with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The focus of the legal challenge and of criticism from journalists and civil rights groups has been a provision of the 2000 Terrorism Act that allows detentions, searches and questionings at airports, ports and on borders.

Police called the detention "legally and procedurally sound," but a lawyer at the firm representing Miranda said there was nothing legal about it.

"We are most concerned about the unlawful way in which these powers were used and the chilling effect this will have on freedom of expression," Kate Goold said.

The Guardian newspaper said it supported Miranda's challenge of his detention.

"It's not clear that he was actually committing any offence in carrying material through Heathrow," editor Alan Rusbridger told the BBC. "I'm not aware of what that offence is."

"I think there will be a legal challenge to the use of this very controversial bit, this Schedule 7, of the Terrorism Act and its use to obtain journalistic material," he said. "A lot of journalists the world over fly through Heathrow, and I think some of them now are going to be quite anxious."

But the British Home Office gave credence to the detention with a spokesman saying, "If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act, and the law provides them with a framework to do that.

"Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning."

Miranda said he was questioned about his "entire life," his computer and mobile phone were taken away and he was denied access to a lawyer, but Scotland Yard said he was offered legal representation and a solicitor was present at his questioning.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said it had been informed of the detention but was not involved in it.

"The government does not direct police investigations," it said.

The White House said the US government had been informed in advance that Miranda would be detained. Spokesman Josh Earnest also said the United States had not requested the detention.

Greenwald described the detention as "despotic."

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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