Home Office claims journalist’s partner had “stolen information” that would “help terrorism”
August 20, 2013
The Guardian has an interesting splurge of NSA articles today further detailing the most likely unlawful detention of journalist Grenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda.
The White House said the British government took the decision, and the British government said that the British “authorities” took the decision – hence both parties attempted to distance themselves from the debacle.
When the Home Office was pressed for information, a spokesperson suggested that Miranda had “highly sensitive stolen information” on his person “that would help terrorism”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security.” The Home Office spokesperson said, adding a rather threatening caveat, “Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning. This is an ongoing police inquiry so we will not comment on the specifics.”
Miranda’s lawyers, who intend to take legal action, say that he was not given any reason for being detained, was denied an interpreter, and was not even allowed a pen to take notes of what he was being asked.
A British anti-terrorist legislation watchdog has demanded to know specifically why anti-terror laws were used to detain Miranda. David Anderson QC, called the nine hour detention “extremely unusual”.
Other reports have suggested that the “stolen information” referred to by the Home Office was a batch of encrypted files originating from Edward Snowden.
Other Guardian writers have pointed out that many journalists hold sensitive information and that “This counter-productive government action is a new threat to any journalist covering national security or defence matters.”
“…as journalists agree to indulge in self-censorship in the genuine interests of national security, Whitehall and its intelligence agencies continue to withhold information to protect themselves from embarrassment.” write Richard Norton-Taylor and Nick Hopkins.
“They do so, as they did on Monday in response to a question prompted by the release in Washington of official documents confirming US and British involvement in a coup that toppled the nationalist, democratically-elected, Iranian prime minister, Mohammad Mossadeq, sixty years ago, in 1953.” the writers add.
” The government is going down a dangerous, counterproductive, path.” they continue. “It serves only to encourage distrust of the government’s motives, even more so since what the government is trying to cover up is the fast expanding capability of its intelligence agencies to spy with impunity on its own citizens – in case some time in the future they might conceivably pose some kind of threat to society.”
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor, also noted in a BBC interview, that conflating terrorism and journalism is a very slippery slope for any nation.
In another related and interesting piece linked to by The Guardian, writer Charlie Beckett at his LSE blog says the Miranda affair illustrates how the balance of power between governments and the media is shifting.
“These new forms of ‘outsider journalism’ when combined with the best of mainstream news media and when they exploit the power of new digital networks, create a communications power that is a serious challenge to authority.” writes Beckett. “It must be, that’s why they reacted like they did at Heathrow this week.” he adds.
“Political journalism has always been and always will be a struggle between those who have power and those who seek to expose its workings. I don’t know how you measure who’s winning at the moment but certainly the rules of engagement are changing because of new technologies and globalisation.” Beckett concludes.