America’s Closest Ally Declares Glenn Greenwald’s Partner a Terrorist

Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, got detained at Heathrow for 9 hours and had his electronic devices confiscated.

David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.30am 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 then released without charge, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

Aside from the outrage over the treatment of a partner of a British newspaper’s employee, consider what it means that the UK used their terrorism law to detain Miranda (had he been transiting the US, they wouldn’t have needed to use the transparently false claim of terrorism — they can and do subject people to this treatment for no reason all the time).

Does this mean the US and UK are both treating the investigation into the leak of classified information as terrorism now? If so, does that mean the US is using its counterterrorism authorities to investigate Greenwald and Snowden? Have they used the dragnet database to find their contacts?

That might explain why they apparently used the FISA Court — not an Title III warrant — to go after Lavabit.

But it significantly discredits both their effort to counter Greenwald and their counterterrorism efforts. If they’ll use terrorism to prevent further embarrassment, it’s really just a tool to go after dissidents.

Two more thoughts. First, remember that someone already stole a laptop from Greenwald’s home in Rio. I thought it unlikely then that the US or an ally did so. I think the chances are slightly higher now.

Also, I wonder how Dilma Rousseff will respond to this, especially with growing actions in Brazil against US spying. She had been moving away from the sphere of the Bolivarists in Latin America (and has a US state visit planned for this fall). But the British just treated a Brazilian citizen with the same kind of egregious treatment Europe gave to Evo Morales. Will she respond?

Update: In Glenn’s piece on this, he makes it clear that fairly high level Brazilian officials were involved in this, and none too happy about it.

I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here.

Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David.

Update: Here’s the statement the Brazilian government has released.

The Brazilian government expresses grave concern about the episode that happened today in London, where a Brazilian citizen was held without communication at Heathrow airport for 9 hours, in an action based in the British anti-terrorism legislation. This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation. The Brazilian Government expects that incidents such as the one that happened to the Brazilian citizen today do not repeat.

47 replies
  1. Phil Perspective says:

    Also, I wonder how Dilma Rousseff will respond to this, especially with growing actions in Brazil against US spying. She had been moving away from the sphere of the Bolivarists in Latin America (and has a US state visit planned for this fall).

    Why has she? Is the U.S. trying to undermine the Brazilian economy otherwise? Some other nefarious reason?

  2. der says:

    I don’t doubt Peter Maas NYT Magazine piece on Laura Poitras and Greenwald and his treatment of Snowden in it got under the skin of The Homeland Security gang and their prickly leader.

    Also too, Edward Snowden’s courage seems to be rubbing off:

    this – “DHS is building a domestic army.”

    and this –

  3. Peterr says:

    The very last paragraph of Glenn’s piece:

    David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I already share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.

    “None too happy” seems a bit of an understatement. Something tells me there are going to be a lot of soiled pants at Langley and Ft Meade over the next 48 hours.

  4. orionATL says:

    this abuse of law and trust is inexcusable. it is also a blatant warning of why the nsa needs to be broken up and the laws enabling its spying repealed.

    can any of us now believe that a similarly minded american president, director of national security, or nsa official would not take a sililar step to use the nsa in illegal ways, just as the british used their temporary detention law in an illegal way in detaining miranda.

    fisa courts, transparency, checks and balances can never assure lawful control of this spying colossus.

  5. orionATL says:

    what this detention suggests to me is that american officials are working hard to disencrypt snowden’s communications as well as greenwald’s and poitras’.

    what u.s. officials must be desperate to discover is where and how the documents snowden took are being kept.

    failing that, they are looking at months of political reputation damage and the dissolution of any congressional support for the nsa spying colossus.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “If they’ll use terrorism to prevent further embarrassment, it’s really just a tool to go after dissidents.”

    You bet.

    If you are a foreign head of state, engaged in noncooperation with US economic and foreign policy, you might have your aircraft grounded and searched. If you are an agent of the US, arguably engaged in terrorism, kidnapping, and/or murder in support of US economic and foreign policy, you get a free pass, even when detained by your home state on a domestic or international warrant. If transiting Heathrow, you also get a buy-one-get-one-free coupon at the duty free stores.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As you say, Langley was all over this from the get go; the Met didn’t stop Mr. Miranda on its own.

    This makes a lovely digression from the continuing brutal repression in Egypt. Since that repression is by a military against its own citizens, the odds seem high that the US is in favor of it, if not an active supporter of it. It’s much easier to dominate a dictatorship, especially a military one accustomed to hierarchical power, than to dominate a working democracy. Perhaps that’s why ours works less and less well each year.

  8. PeteM says:

    It seems that anyone within 6 degrees of someone on the Enemies Of The State list would know to FedEx their electronics when traveling through any of the airports controlled by the Beast.

  9. JTMinIA says:

    The definition of “terrorism” is the use of violence or the threat of violence to achieve a political goal. I, personally, include unwilling detention as a form of violence. Thus, I have no option but to see what the UK did as an act of terrorism.

    Not that this is the first time that I’ve been forced to this conclusion.

  10. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    “…someone already stole a laptop from Greenwald’s home in Rio. I thought it unlikely then that the US or an ally did so. I think the chances are slightly higher now.”

    Especially since it seem to have occured just hours after Greenwald reportedly sent an email to his partner in Rio, saying that he’d be sending some of Snowden’s encrypted files.

    Why, it would be TERRIBLE if someone rigged a laptop with C4 explosive, did the same “secret messages being emailed later”, then remotely detonated it after the laptop was stolen. Awful. No one should even think of doing that.

  11. Frank33 says:

    The wars come home, episode #2779. The Obama Legacy is being consolidated, into the Obama Police State. Republican health care, Republican Disaster Capitalism, and Bi-partisan fascism, it has been a great six years, of hope and change, for this President.

    The war by a Neo-con Obama is never ending and everywhere against secret enemies, Aaron Swartz, Barret Brown, James Risen, Peter Lance, Laura Poitras, and so many others. Add David Miranda to the list of victims of Obama. Those who oppose the repression and secret wars are secret enemies. TIME magazine wants Julian Assange “droned”. The battles to liberate the United States from the neo-con Homeland escalate!

  12. Valley Girl says:

    As best I can follow the timing of events looking at the series of Greenwald’s pieces at the Guardian, those that release yet more info from the Snowden set of documents, they seem to appear as a counter measure to some new outrageous claim or action by the US/ NSA/ etc.

    So, my WAG is that the next revelation by Greenwald of such documents, via his Guardian “security and liberty” column will somehow be related to the Brits and GCHQ.

  13. peasantparty says:

    How many MORE times is the US going to embarrass itself like this?

    They did the same thing to David House regarding Bradley Manning. As far as I know, they still haven’t made amends for that.

    These actions have grown to be comical in the act and the post act.

    No wonder Wikileaks threw up an Insurance file in the wee hours of the morning!

  14. peasantparty says:

    @Valley Girl: The crazy thing about this is that all the files are within the news agency now. They spend hours going over them before they print.

    Why go after Glenn’s house mate?

  15. peasantparty says:


    Just caught the official name for the NSA’s dragnet.

    “Network Connection Warfare”

    Straight from the McCrystal piece on the Military Channel.

  16. orionATL says:

    it seems likely miranda was serving as a courrier. if so, flying on british airways thru britain would seem extremely poor judgement, unless there was nothing to hide, or this was another planned embarrassment of us-uk security officials.

  17. omphaloscepsis says:


    Wasn’t aware of DHS’s domestic army, but had heard of their air force:

    And quite a data network wrapped around it. All on our nickel.

    On the DFH at DFW, the first comment in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram article makes clear that it’s unlikely a neighbor complained about the allegedly unsightly property:

  18. peasantparty says:

    @orionATL: Yes, Indeed. Especially the GPS part. I was watching that channel for a few while clicking through the line up. They army in Iraq used this and grabbed phones, computers, ipads, anything electronic from the people they raided or stopped. They reviewed this through the Analysts system to see who each person was connected to electronically. It also gives them a somewhat advantage for a drone kill.

  19. peasantparty says:

    @peasantparty: But, I think Snowden has more, lots more and it scares the beezebus out of them. The real issue here is not that they use it, but they are using it on innocent people, not affiliated with terror or war.

  20. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    @orionATL: You may be right, but I’m not sure. From that NYT piece, Greenwald was clearly naive/uninformed about computer security. But I’d think Poitras would be far too savvy to use Glenn’s partner as a courier. Of course she may not have known about it, even if Miranda was with her in Berlin.

    So perhaps Miranda was a courier — or perhaps the U.S./U.K security apparatus just believed he was one. That seems most likely to me.

  21. What Constitution? says:

    You know, if that Mr. Obama fellow keeps allowing his spying apparatchiks (including client states) to detain journalists’ significant others as “terrorists” because their stories displease him, Mr. Obama might place his “Good Man exemption” at risk, or even be held to a standard based upon respect for the Constitution. Might even lose some support. Whoa, who woulda thunk it?

  22. Chris Harries says:

    “.. I think Snowden has more, lots more and it scares the beezebus out of them. The real issue here is not that they use it, but they are using it on innocent people, not affiliated with terror or war.”

    The “them” in this case are bureaucrats of both high and mid-level who, in acting in this way, compromise their political masters.

    This is not to say that Obama and Co do not approve, they appear to enjoy tails wagging them, but that they have consigned their reputations and political future to numbskulls without any understanding of political subtleties. And no interest in how this looks, which is very bad indeed, and as clear an indication as anyone could ask for that the the all-seeing eye in the Panopticon misses no opportunity to peep.

    Obama just pretends to be cool. Pity Brad Manning.

  23. bell says:

    this sheds more light on ‘shoot the messenger’.. the usa/uk are going down a dangerous road. hopefully the citizens wake up soon, but it doesn’t look promising.

  24. bell says:

    i like what it says on the bottom of the guardian article. how true, but i wonder if those who help make these laws care much about these type of details?

    “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.”

  25. Lavocat says:

    I think Greenwald and Poitras are far too intelligent to have Miranda be their courier. From my perspective, Glenn has the winning hand: he’s got literally THOUSANDS of files yet to be revealed and the US/UK governments have ZERO clue what tomorrow will bring in the latest revelations on the Global Police State. So, Miranda was very likely briefed by Greenwald and Poitras on what was likely to happen to him in transit – just as it did. And it seems Greenwald and friends were more ready than any otherwise innocent traveler might be in similar circumstances.

    My gut feeling is that Glenn has something on GCHQ and these noxious hold-over laws from the IRA Days which have now morphed into terrorism laws with wide dragnets. He is playing cat and mouse with these fools and he has now drawn them out by their predictable treatment of Miranda.

    It shall be interesting to see what pops up next on The Guardian’s web site re this matter. This seems to be far too choreographed to be a “naïve” mistake on the part of Miranda.

    I just can’t believe that the UK/US would be so stupid to fall for this ruse. Apparently they did. Gotta love Glenn!

  26. orionATL says:

    @Bitter Angry Drunk:

    yeah, i think that’s a good point. it would be unlike poitras to make such an error.

    at present, i am just baffled by why take boac rather than, say, leuftansa or klm.

  27. RirerCapital says:

    The petty vindictiveness of those embarrassed by Snowden’s whistle blowing burns a bright Bonfire of Surveillance State Vanity for people with eyes to see and ears to hear. The same can be said of the “treatment” Imperial jackals provided for Bradley Manning. Law is not an issue. Terror is deemed the most efficient form of “justice”(cf. JSOC Night Raids, Signature Drone Strikes, Militarized Police, old Espionage Act wine poured into new skin and used against Dissent).

    Remember Obama’s opening words to the people when he proudly announced the due process free execution of a useful and powerless bogeyman: “Justice was done.” He put the cards on the table that night and most Americans cheered.

  28. Nigel says:

    It’s a little embarrassing to have it confirmed it quite so dramatic manner that I am a citizen of a client state of the US.

    I suppose one could just argue that Glenn was attempting “seriously to disrupt” the NSA’a various electronic systems, by committing heinous acts of unbridled journalism…
    Quite how that might apply to his partner mystifies me.
    (1) In this Act “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where –
    (a) the action falls within subsection (2),
    (b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [F1or an international governmental organisation]F1 or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
    (c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [F2, racial]F2 or ideological cause

    (2) Action falls within this subsection if it—
    (a) involves serious violence against a person,
    (b) involves serious damage to property,
    (c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
    (d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
    (e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system…

  29. malcontent says:

    When you have a system at your disposal that is as powerful as a time machine, you will have trouble controlling all the crap you find under every rock in the world.

  30. Nigel says:


    terrorist states make any kind of laws they want to.. that is what we’re seeing now..

    No, it’s not – though it may be what you’re seeing.
    What I’m seeing is a badly drafted and inadequately scrutinised law enacted 13 years ago being badly misused.

  31. JohnT says:


    Wait a minute! After reading your quote, what action are they alleging was taken?

    He was transiting through London to Brazil. (period). Most of the time I’m pretty stupid, but how is that terrorism? I’m obviously missing some sort of sophisticated nuanced British English because I don’t see it.

    So according to them, traveling through London is terrorism

  32. Chetnolian says:

    Much of the comment here is a bit US-centric. While the NSA might well be pleased, don’t underestimate how seriously pissed off GCHQ are at finding their little games (well not so little) exposed. They might have done it on their own without waiting for Uncle Sam to ask. Which will make it even more delicious if Glenn Greenwald gets revenge by exposing them more.

  33. Nigel says:


    So according to them, traveling through London is terrorism

    That’s not it.
    The Terrorism Act basically gives the police/security services the right to detain and question anyone in order to ascertain whether or not they are involved in terrorism – have a look at the link I posted. No pretext or suspicion is required.
    They are not alleging any behaviour on Miranda’s part, they are just using the law to detain and question him in a targeted act of arbitrary power.

    That the likelihood of the particular person detained being involved in terrorism is vanishingly small doesn’t matter at all, as far as legal justification is concerned.

    Up until now, Schedule 7 has been a little known clause of a fairly obscure law (which was enacted before 9/11 changed the world). Quite why the UK decided it would be a good idea to start using it to harass journalists on behalf of the US, I don’t know.

  34. JohnT says:


    Like I said, I was just taking it from your quote. And I didn’t click, because we have enough of own draconian laws to deal with. Thanks for providing it

    But I still think the message I’m (and many others?) taking from this, still stands.

    according to them, traveling through London is terrorism

  35. Nigel says:



    The law was passed on the understanding it was to be used to combat terrorism, but (Section 7) was sufficiently badly/broadly drafted to allow the detention of anyone at all.

    And of course, it’s no one’s fault, and no one is even trying to justify the action:
    Scotland Yard have not said on what grounds Mr Miranda was detained, but have insisted that the power is always used “appropriately and proportionally”….
    The Home Office said: “Schedule 7 forms an essential part of the UK’s security arrangements – it is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers…

  36. Valley Girl says:


    Yes, I hope you are correct. Noting your comment – don’t underestimate how seriously pissed off GCHQ are at finding their little games (well not so little) exposed…

    See my WAG at #15.

    I myself confess to not having a clear understanding of how Brits or some Brits feel about GCHQ.

    My limited reading out and about indicated that populace in the UK were not giving a lot of attention to the Snowden information when this first broke- (GG and Snowden documents). True?

    I would really welcome your insight on above issues.

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