Defining terrorism down
So, this happened:
The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.
The authority under which they held him is for terrorism. So, apparently, in the eyes of the UK government, anyone who lives with a journalist who is writing stories that reveal embarrassing information about the government are subject to interrogation and the seizure of their electronic equipment under terrorism statutes. Good to know.
David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.
The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last under an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.
Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
This is especially poignant considering all the hand-wringing and pearl clutching about the authoritarian impulses of some of our rivals:
I realize that Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden rub many of you the wrong way. But if you care about civil liberties then you should really work on getting over that and start looking at the big picture here. Rousting journalists' family members under terrorism laws is a bad thing, even if they were returning home after visiting ... another journalist. Surely, anyone can see why there might be a problem with that, right?