Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in London on Sunday. Greenwald said that he was awakened at 6:30 AM local time by a call from an unnamed airport security official.
According to Greenwald, the official said that Miranda was being held under the Terrorism Act of 2000. The reporter tells the entire story of his partner’s detention at length in the Guardian.
But the short version is that the act allows airport security officials to hold someone for nine hours — and that’s exactly what they did.
Greenwald was able to muster help from the Guardian’s attorneys as well as Brazilian officials. (David Miranda is from Brazil.) Nonetheless, the Heathrow officials wouldn’t budge and held Miranda for as long as they were legally entitled to do so.
They also seized his laptop, cellphone, game consoles, USB sticks, DVDs, and more.
Glenn Greenwald thinks his partner was singled out for detention because of Greenwald’s recent activities in support of Edward Snowden.
David Miranda was flying from a meeting in Berlin with filmmaker Laura Poitras, an American who worked with Greenwald to break the Snowden story. He was apparently flying home to Rio de Janeiro but had to make his connection at the large international hub at Heathrow.
Greenwald believes that the airport officials were seeking information about the Snowden case — and not about international terrorism. And he’s angry about it:
“Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they feel threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.”
For several days, there has been some mild buzz in the tabloids that Heathrow Airport has stepped up security precautions. One rumor featured a claim in the UK tabloids that airport security staff were watching for explosive breast implants.
The story, which first appeared in the Mirror, didn’t seem plausible. Was it a distraction from what Heathrow airport security is really seeking?
Greenwald is angry, and the comparison to the Mafia is silly. But I suspect he’s right. It seems logical that the Heathrow airport officials were seeking documents related to the NSA and the Snowden case.
It’s easy to be outraged when you think about this side of things:
— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) August 18, 2013
But then you get the comments that seem to border on threats:
— Dennis Earl (@DennisCEarl) August 18, 2013
But threats would seem to hurt, not help, Greenwald’s case. And Greenwald himself admitted that his partner had been staying with Poitras.
So the Heathrow Airport officials may feel that they were justified in checking him out. If they’d found stolen property belonging to the NSA, they’d be heroes right now.
If Heathrow had detained Glenn Greenwald’s partner just long enough to do a search, they might not seem like the bad guys. But holding David Miranda for the entire nine hours does start to look like an intimidation attempt.
[Heathrow Airport lines file photo by ricoeurian via flickr, creative commons]