THE detention of a Guardian employee at Heathrow airport for nine hours was unwarranted and unlawful said Amnesty international yesterday.
David Michael Miranda – the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who analysed and published information on the documents concerning the USA’s unlawful surveillance programme released by Edward Snowden – was the person detained.
He was held under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for nearly nine hours – the point at which the authorities would have had to seek further authority to continue the detention. Many of his possessions including his mobile phone, laptop, DVDs and other items were seized before he was released.
Amnesty International’s Senior Director of International Law and Policy, Widney Brown, said: ‘It is utterly improbable that David Michael Miranda, a Brazilian national transiting through London, was detained at random, given the role his partner has played in revealing the truth about the unlawful nature of NSA surveillance.
‘David’s detention was unlawful and inexcusable. He was detained under a law that violates any principle of fairness and his detention shows how the law can be abused for petty vindictive reasons.
‘There is simply no basis for believing that David Michael Miranda presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government. The only possible intent behind this detention was to harass him and his partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for his role in analysing the data released by Edward Snowden.
States cannot pass anti-terror acts and claim they are necessary to protect people from harm and then use them to retaliate against someone exercising his rights. By targeting Miranda and Greenwald, the UK authorities are also sending a message to other journalists that if they maintain their independence and report critically about governments, they too may be targeted.’
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 allows the police to detain anyone at the UK’s borders without any requirement to show probable cause and hold them for up to nine hours, without seeking further justification. The detainee must respond to any questions, regardless of whether a lawyer is present and there is no automatic provision of a lawyer. It is a criminal offence for the detainee to refuse to answer questions – regardless of the grounds for that refusal or otherwise fully cooperate with the police.
A similar section of the Terrorism Act 2000 which allowed stop and frisk without any grounds was held to be unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010. Section 44 – as it was known – violated Article 8 of the European Charter of Human Rights which protects privacy.
Greenwald said afterwards: ‘They spent the entire day asking about the reporting I was doing and other Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories.’
The detention had the hallmark of an over mighty state in the making, using specially passed catch-all laws, agreed by parliament, to intimidate those that they consider to be a danger to the state and who, in its opinion, deserve to be crushed. Telling or revealing, or threatening to reveal the truth is now a heinous crime as far as UK and US imperialism is concerned.
In our opinion this detention had nothing at all to do with petty-victimisation.
The US and UK state apparatus’ were simply signalling that they intend to deal with all those who expose the crimes of imperialism.
Snowden showed that the NSA had broken US privacy rules and overstepped its legal authority tens of thousands of times as it spied on US citizens, in the past two years, while Bradley Manning exposed the US mass murder machine at work.
As the capitalist crisis deepens, all of this spying and murder apparatus will be used against the working class at home, as imperialism fights for its life.
Tom Watson has said that parliament must act over the detention. However, parliament cannot deal with this state apparatus since it helped to create it by providing it with the catch-all legislation it is now using.
The only way to deal with this state apparatus of spies and assassins, of all kinds, is to smash it to smithereens with a socialist revolution.