Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, & The UK FiascoBy: Bennett Rieser - August 20, 2013
The last few days have been quite trying for those reporters at the Guardian that are trying to cover the Edward Snowden NSA story with any semblance of integrity. For anyone who may not have been following the entirety of this story, this will sum up events as they occurred so far.
When it comes to our side of the sea, the Guardian’s U.S. outlet has billed itself as the number one place to go when it comes to information coming from Edward Snowden about NSA secrets. With Edward Snowden becoming everything short of an international incident, it was clear that anyone choosing to associate with him might find themselves targeted.
On Sunday, a viral column by Glenn Greenwald told a chilling story about his partner, David Miranda, being detained for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport under a UK statute that says they can detain anyone they want “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.” Miranda was travelling through the UK to return to his and Greenwald’s home in Rio de Janeiro with the fruits of a meeting with a contact in Berlin.
Greenwald cited a document of statistics from the UK government that shows that fewer than three people in 10,000 get detained for questioning in this manner, and that 97 percent of those questioning sessions lasted less than 60 minutes. Greenwald was floundered until he realized that they were questioning Miranda about the NSA reporting being done by the Guardian in concert with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, their associate from Berlin.
At this point, the journalist in all of us should be a little aggravated. Greenwald said that Miranda was held for the full 9 hours, and that the UK “completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop ‘the terrorists,’ and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.” Greenwald even took to Twitter about the ordeal, criticizing misquotations and clarifying:
Greenwald felt personally targeted for the journalism he and his partner were performing, and he should. As he said in his column, “Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.”
A second column from the Guardian, this one published just yesterday, goes into detail about the ramifications of stopping David Miranda under the UK’s Schedule 7: like the ‘enemy combatants’ who await a trial that won’t happen in Guantanamo Bay, individuals stopped under Schedule 7 have no right to representation and may have their property taken for a week.
The column’s author, Alan Rusbridger, alleges that the international outrage sparked by Miranda’s detention “rightly caused international dismay because it feeds into a perception that the US and UK governments – while claiming to welcome the debate around state surveillance started by Snowden – are also intent on stemming the tide of leaks and on pursuing the whistleblower with a vengeance. That perception is right.”
Rusbridger then told an anecdote about a series of conversations with an official representative of the prime minister. This person, through a series of phone calls and meetings, demanded in a mafioso manner that the Guardian return or destroy all materials related to Snowden’s leaks because the media “had your debate [and] there’s no need to write any more.” The government official threatened to use legal means to shut down the reporting, and when Rusbridger said that international reporting would prevent such actions, a pair of Government Communications Headquarters agents were sent to the Guardian’s New York office to watch the destruction of hard drives and computers containing the Snowden files.
“We can call off the black helicopters,” Rusbridger said one of the men quipped, but the reporting on the NSA and Snowden’s leaks will continue, with Greenwald, et al vowing to remain stoic. When Greenwald reunited with Miranda in Rio de Janeiro, the team promised to write more reports on England, the English espionage system, and in general making the UK regret their decision.
The British Home Office refused comment on the entire incident.