Former Guardian Journalist Glenn Greenwald has lambasted the UK High Court for its ruling that the Heathrow detention of his partner David Miranda was lawful.
On Wednesday, a panel of three judges rejected the challenge that Miranda, 28, had been unlawfully detained for nine hours at the airport last August, and despite accepting that the seizure of the computer material Miranda was carrying did represent "an indirect interference with press freedom", the court ruled that the detention was justified on the ground of "pressing" national security.
Nine items were taken from Miranda, including his mobile phone, laptop and memory cards. In response to the ruling, Greenwald told HuffPost Live that it was “not surprising” as the UK is “notorious in the Western world in its contempt for press freedom… with a long history of persecuting journalists.”
Speaking from Brazil, the editor of The Intercept, who exposed secret information on US surveillance leaked by whistle-blower Edward Snowden, added that the ruling was in line with the UK government’s hostility to what most people in the Western world consider a basic freedom of the press.
Greenwald also derided Lord Justice Laws who presided over the challenge, a judge that Greenwald claimed is “best been known for approving the use of evidence against detainees even though that evidence was coerced out of people at Guantanamo through the use of torture.”
He continued: “There’s an obeisance towards the government and the national security state that pervades elite political culture that was part of this judicial panel so it’s not surprising they would equate journalism with terrorism.”
“Note that the judges without any evidence being presented just obediently and blindly acquiesce to the government’s claim that this material posed a grave threat to national security…. There is zero evidence anyone has ever been harmed by any of the disclosures.”
“The true threat is not the journalism that we’re doing but these judges and the government whose actions they endorse, who are waging a war on basic Western freedoms because they want to keep their actions concealed from the public.”
In an article posted on Greenwald’s Intercept website, Miranda said he would challenge the High Court decision, “not because I care about what the British government calls me, but because the values of press freedom that are at stake are too important to do anything but fight until the end".
However, Home Secretary Theresa May welcomed the High Court judgment, which she said "overwhelmingly supports" action taken to protect national security.
"If the police believe any individual is in possession of highly-sensitive stolen information that would aid terrorism, then they should act," said May. "We are pleased that the court agrees. The police and our intelligence agencies do a vital and difficult job protecting our lives and freedoms from terrorists, serious criminals and hostile states. Their job has been made much harder as a result of intelligence leaks."
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Lord Justice Laws said it was plain that the purpose of stopping Miranda "was to ascertain the nature of the material he was carrying" and to "neutralise" any threats it posed to national security. Thus it fell properly within Schedule 7. The judge said Oliver Robbins, the UK's deputy national security adviser at the Cabinet Office, had stated that "release or compromise of such data would be likely to cause very great damage to security interests and possible loss of life".
In a written ruling, supported by Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Openshaw, the judge rejected submissions that the use of the anti-terror laws against Miranda was an "unjustified and disproportionate" interference with the right to "protection of journalistic expression".
In a decision being seen by investigative journalists as a serious threat to press freedom, the judge declared that Schedule 7 was "capable of covering the publication or threatened publication... of stolen classified information which, if published, would reveal personal details of members of the armed forces or security and intelligence agencies, thereby endangering their lives..."
Senior national co-ordinator of counter-terrorism Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "This was a very important case that has attracted considerable public attention. Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is vital in helping to keep the public safe. We are pleased that the court's judgment states that 'The stop was lawful. It was also, on the evidence, a pressing imperative in the interests of national security'. Some commentators have characterised the stop as an attack on journalistic freedom. This was never the case."
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