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Snowden reporter: I won't be silenced by detention

Published August 19, 2013 8:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rio De Janeiro • An American journalist who has written stories based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said Monday he'll publish with more fervor after British authorities detained his partner.

London police detained David Miranda, who is in a civil union with reporter Glenn Greenwald, under anti-terror legislation at Heathrow Airport in London airport Sunday. Miranda arrived Monday in Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald.

A defiant Greenwald, who reports for the Guardian newspaper in Britain, promised he was going "to write much more aggressively than before" about government snooping.

"I'm going to publish many more things about England, as well," he said in Portuguese at Rio's international airport when Miranda arrived. "I have many documents about England's espionage system, and now my focus will be there, too. I think they'll regret what they've done."

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. government was tipped off by British counterparts that Miranda would be detained, but that the U.S. had not requested the action. The spokesman didn't respond to a question about whether U.S. officials may have discouraged British officials from stopping Miranda.

The Brazilian government objected to Miranda's detention, saying it wasn't based on any real threat.

Miranda told the Guardian on Monday that agents questioning him "were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn't cooperate."

Miranda said he was seized almost as soon as his plane landed at Heathrow. "There was an announcement on the plane that everyone had to show their passports. The minute I stepped out of the plane they took me away," he said.

Agents confiscated Miranda's computer, Wi-Fi watch, cellphone, DVDs, memory sticks and some paper documents.

In London, a British lawmaker called for police to explain why Miranda was detained and why it took nearly nine hours to question him.

Miranda was held for nearly the maximum time that British authorities are allowed to detain individuals under the Terrorism Act's Schedule 7, which authorizes security agencies to stop and question people at borders.

Keith Vaz, chairman of Parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee, told the BBC that "you have a complaint from Mr. Greenwald and the Brazilian government — they indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism. So it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly."

Vaz said it was "extraordinary" that police knew that Miranda was Greenwald's partner and that the authorities were targeting partners of people involved in Snowden's disclosures.

The case drew the ire of watchdog groups.

"It's incredible that Miranda was considered to be a terrorist suspect," said David Mepham, the British director at Human Rights Watch. "On the contrary, his detention looks intended to intimidate Greenwald and other journalists who report on surveillance abuses."

Britain's laws are not unique. U.S. customs officials can search the electronic devices of anyone entering the U.S. without a search warrant. According to a 2011 internal Homeland Security Department report, officers at the border can search the devices and in some cases hold on to them for weeks or months. The DHS has said such searches help law enforcement detect child pornographers or terrorists.

Greenwald has written about NSA surveillance programs based on files disclosed by Snowden, who now has temporary asylum in Russia. The Obama administration wants Snowden sent back to the United States to be tried for the leaks.

Miranda, a 28-year-old university student, was traveling home to Brazil after visiting Germany, where he met with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA stories.

British police acknowledged only that they detained a 28-year-old man at 8:05 a.m. Sunday. He was released at 5 p.m. without being arrested, the Metropolitan Police Service said. They did not comment further. The British Home Office also didn't comment.

A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said that "Schedule 7 forms an essential part of the U.K.'s border security arrangements," but added that it was for the police to decide "when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers."

Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota and his British counterpart, William Hague, spoke by phone Monday, the British Embassy in Brasilia said in a statement.

"They agreed that Brazilian and U.K. officials will remain in contact on this issue. This remains an operational matter for the Metropolitan Police," British Ambassador Alex Ellis said in an emailed statement.

The Guardian said that it paid for Miranda's flights but that he was not an employee of the newspaper.

"As Glenn Greenwald's partner, he often assists him in his work," the newspaper said in a statement. "We would normally reimburse the expenses of someone aiding a reporter in such circumstances."

In an email Monday to The Associated Press, Greenwald said that he needed material from Poitras for stories he was working on with her relating to the NSA, and that he had things she needed.

"David, since he was in Berlin, helped with that exchange," Greenwald wrote.

Greenwald didn't specify what material Miranda might have been carrying. He said that only he and Poitras "have copies of the full archives of NSA documents which Snowden gave to journalists."

David Anderson, Britain's official independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he had asked authorities to explain why Miranda was detained and held for so long.

In most cases, those questioned under Schedule 7 are detained for less than an hour.

"It is such a wide power that it would be surprising if it was used perfectly on every occasion," Anderson told the BBC. "It is a very extensive power and this just points up the need to have it properly controlled."