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Journalist’s partner suing UK over Heathrow detention

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The partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald is taking legal action against the UK government for his detention at Heathrow Airport, his lawyer said Tuesday. Brazilian David Miranda was held by police under British anti-terrorism laws.


The partner of US journalist Glenn Greenwald – who has written reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden – has begun legal action to stop the British authorities inspecting data they seized from him, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen in transit from Berlin to Brazil, said he was released without charge after nine hours of questioning but minus his laptop, mobile phone and memory sticks.


Miranda’s lawyer Gwendolen Morgan said her client was seeking a judicial review of the legal basis for his detention at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday under anti-terrorism laws and wanted assurances from the authorities that property seized from him would not be examined before this.

“We’ve sought undertakings that there will be no inspection, copying, disclosure, transfer or interference in any other way with our client’s data pending determination of his judicial review,” Morgan told Reuters.

“We’re waiting to hear back this afternoon from both the defendants. Failing that we will be left with no option but to issue urgent proceedings in the High Court tomorrow.”

She said the “letter before action” had been sent to London’s police chief and the home secretary. It also demanded that they detail whether Miranda’s data had already been passed on to anyone else, and if so, who that was and why.

His domestic partner Glenn Greenwald, an American security-specialised journalist, met Edward Snowden face-to-face in Hong Kong in June, before the former US intelligence contractor flew to Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told the BBC on Tuesday that Miranda was taking action “over his material and the way that he was treated”.

‘UK threatened Guardian’

A major outlet for revelations based on leaks from Snowden, The Guardian revealed on Monday that the UK government had threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed classified documents from Snowden or handed them back to British authorities.

In an article posted on the British daily’s website on Monday, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said that a month ago, after the newspaper had published several stories based on Snowden’s material, a British official advised him: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.”

Greenwald, who has written or co-authored many of the newspaper’s stories about US surveillance of global communications, vowed on Monday to publish more documents and said Britain will “regret” detaining his partner.

Rusbridger said that after further talks with the British government, two “security experts” from Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the ultra-secretive US National Security Agency, visited the Guardian’s London offices.

In the building’s basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverized. “We can call off the black helicopters,” Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.

A source familiar with the event said Guardian employees destroyed the computers as government security experts looked on.

Rusbridger, in his article, said he told British officials that due to the nature of “international collaborations” among journalists, it would remain possible for media organisations to “take advantage of the most permissive legal environments”. Henceforth, he said, the Guardian “did not have to do our reporting from London”.

Escalating battle

A source familiar with the matter said that this meant British authorities were on notice that the Guardian was likely to continue to report on the Snowden revelations from outside British government jurisdiction.

Rusbridger said that in meetings with British officials, before the computers were destroyed, he told them the Guardian could not do its journalistic duty if it gave in to the government’s requests.

In response, he wrote, a government official told him that the newspaper had already achieved the aim of sparking a debate on government surveillance. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

The Guardian’s decision to publicise the government threat – and the newspaper’s assertion that it can continue reporting on the Snowden revelations from outside of Britain – appears to be the latest step in an escalating battle between the news media and governments over reporting of secret surveillance programs.

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