One of the reasons for David Miranda’s detention on Sunday was to “send a message” to those with information obtained from former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Miranda, a citizen of Brazil, is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist to whom Snowden leaked information on the NSA’s program that collects copies of phone calls and electronic communications from within the United States.
On Sunday, Miranda was traveling from Berlin where he had met with Laura Poitras, a filmmaker who was in communication with Snowden. Miranda was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport and had his laptop and USB drives taken from him under Britain’s Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which permits law enforcement to detain someone suspected of terrorism for up to nine hours with no legal representation and to confiscate the suspect’s property.
His computers, which contained files from Snowden, were “physically pulverized“ by agents from the Government Communications Headquarters, which is the British counterpart of the NSA.
He was released later that day without charge.
Miranda’s detention has drawn widespread criticism as being meant to intimidate journalists into not reporting on the NSA spying program.
USA Today columnist Rem Rieder called Miranda’s detention a “vivid example of how the War on Terror can morph into a war on journalism,” adding that it’s also an “attempt at pure intimidation.”
Nick Cohen, writing for the U.K. website the Spectator, commented that it “is a clarifying moment that reveals how far Britain has changed for the worse,” and that the U.K. government “wanted to intimidate Miranda’s partner Glenn Greenwald.”
According Reuters, intimidation was the reason for why the detention occurred.
“One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government's detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden's materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.”
The U.K. government defended Miranda’s detention in a statement delivered on Tuesday, with a Home Office spokesman commenting that the “government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security.
“If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that,” the statement continued.
“Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.”