The High Court in London has endorsed a decision made by London’s Metropolitan Police to detain the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald on grounds of terrorism. A panel of three judges ruled that officers acted properly under the Britain’s Terrorism Act last August when they stopped David Miranda at Heathrow airport.
Miranda had challenged the UK government over the use of Schedule 7 powers, which empowers authorized persons to stop and search anybody they deem a suspect. It is controversial in that the police do not need to hold “reasonable suspicion,” which is something officers usually do when questioning other people.
As such, it was the view of Miranda and Greenwald that using Schedule 7 was being abused as he was not guilty of engaging in acts of terrorism – instead he argued “responsible journalism” and he did it in the public interest. He claimed his detention contravened his freedom of expression, as laid out under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Miranda was stopped on Aug. 18, 2013 when police officers seized his encrypted devices before he was questioned for what is was close to nine hours. Lord Justice John Laws, who wrote on behalf of the panel of judges, revealed that the seized devices were populated with numerous files that were misappropriated from ex-National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden. It was said some 60,000 “highly classified UK intelligence documents” were in Miranda’s possession.
Snowden, a computer specialist from the US, rose to international intention after he revealed classified NSA information to the media. He is currently enjoying asylum in the Russia with the US trying to bring him back across the Atlantic for questioning.
Laws further argued that the detention was “was a proportionate measure in the circumstances.” He the objective for police officers was to ascertain if the files contained any information of benefit to terrorists. It “was not only legitimate, but very pressing,” Laws said.
Although many members of the public will be happy with the court’s ruling, it did come as a disappointment to advocates of free expression, particularly in the media. Some even accused the government of tarring investigative journalists with the same brush as nihilistic killers. However, all camps are in agreement that Miranda was in possession of intelligence documents when he was held on his journey from Germany to his native Brazil.
Miranda, Greenwald and the legal team claimed the content seized was only raw material and the government just accused his of being a terror suspect in order to access the files an intimidate people around him. Although the police and UK judicial system have been criticized for applying terror laws in this case, the general consensus is the amount of files obtained made Miranda’s position more precarious. Now Miranda and Greenwald must face the fact his detention on grounds of terrorism have been endorsed by the High Court.
Greenwald himself has condemned the ruling in a blog post on Wednesday, in which he pledged to lodge an appeal against the decision. At the moment, the detention of Miranda, the partner of Greenwald, under the Terrorism Act has been endorsed by the High Court and all eyes will be on what the outcome will mean for freedom of expression in the UK and elsewhere.
By Robert Shepherd