Can someone explain the guardian/David Miranda situation?

(97 Posts)
Wannabestepfordwife Wed 21-Aug-13 20:16:11

Could someone please explain the guardian/David Miranda situation to me.

From what I understand the guardian have been publishing information from Edward Snowden on how the US and British governments are spying on its own citizens but I don't understand how this could aid terrorism.

Helpyourself Wed 21-Aug-13 20:20:33

That's the gist of it.
Detaining him for so long and getting the data couldn't have been done without using the terrorism laws, the controversy is over whether using those laws was justified.

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 21-Aug-13 20:49:25

So basically his partner is right and the government are trying to intimidate people who are publishing their illegal actions?

niceguy2 Wed 21-Aug-13 21:19:59

It depends upon who you believe really.

The government are implying that he was detained because they have reason to believe that he was carrying secret/classified information.

The Guardian, Miranda et al obviously deny it.

Personally I smell a fish. It's hardly likely the government would say anything otherwise would it?

Wannabestepfordwife Wed 21-Aug-13 21:30:16

That's what I don't understand niceguy the guardians explanation just seems very Hollywood film and I don't understand how the government got permission to destroy information at the guardian if they didn't have due cause

5minutejourney Wed 21-Aug-13 23:36:25

the guardians explanation just seems very Hollywood film and I don't understand how the government got permission to destroy information at the guardian if they didn't have due cause

To me it sounds more like absurdist theatre than a hollywood film.

My understanding is that the government/the security services threatened the Guardian: "either hand over the leaked data or destroy the computer it's stored on, or we'll try to block you publishing the story through the courts". The guardian knew that destroying the computer wouldn't prevent them from running the story, as there were other copies of the data, and they wanted to avoid a lengthy legal battle, so they voluntarily smashed up a macbook to keep the spooks happy.

Here's the guardian's account: www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/20/nsa-snowden-files-drives-destroyed-london

5minutejourney Thu 22-Aug-13 00:37:55

Much of the controversy hinges on the fact that the police didn't arrest David Miranda, instead he was detained and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

This meant he was denied access to his lawyer, he had no right to silence (he says the police threatened him with prison if he didn't answer all their questions), and the police could examine and confiscate all his electronic devices (which would presumably normally require a court order).

Schedule 7 gives the police the power to detain and question anybody at an airport, for the sole purpose of determining whether he/she is "a person who...is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." So whether the police acted illegally and abused their schedule 7 powers hinges on whether they can plausibly argue that they this is all they were doing when they questioned David Miranda (and whether it was necessary to hold him for 9 hours to do so).

One view is that the police knew exactly who David Miranda was before they detained him, and therefore knew very well that he was no terrorist and so had no cause to detain him under schedule 7 at all. Lord Falconer, the former Attorney General, has said that he think the police acted illegally.
Here is a lengthy analysis of the legal background.

Apparently, David Miranda intends to challenge his detention in the courts; his lawyers' letter to the Home Secretary contains some detail on his detention.

The wider background is that both David Miranda's detention and the hard-drive business can be seen as attempts to intimidate journalists and prevent them from publishing stories that are harmful/embarrassing to the government.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 08:11:45

The police had reason to believe he was carrying secret information. His flights were paid for by the Guardian and he was ferrying info between two journalists - all acknowledged by the Guardian.

Officers had plenty of reasons to stop him.

But as journey says, the question is why they used terror laws. The excuse is that the information he had could allegedly have been helpful to a hypothetical terrorist if such a person acquired it. This is the heart of it, that it's the use of Sched 7 not against someone suspected of terror offences or planning terror offences or passing on to people suspected of terror offences. It's just that he had (allegedly) this info in his possession which could have been used at some point by terrorists to put lives at risk.

I don't think he should be claiming impunity on the grounds that he's just an innocent boyfriend. The problem isn't about him being stopped at all, it's about the powers used to stop him.

Wannabestepfordwife Sat 24-Aug-13 11:19:10

Tbh it sounds like their all playing silly beggars a bit.

Unless the information is a danger to national security he shouldn't have been stopped.

However when you can fly direct to rio from Paris it seems like a very provocative move by Miranda to stop in London it's almost a 2 finger salute to the government

edam Sat 24-Aug-13 11:49:11

YY crumbled, it's the possibly illegal extension of Section 7 into areas beyond those for which it was intended (or which we/MPs were told about) that is the main issue.

Destruction of computers at the Guardian by GCHQ staff was bizarre - were they showing off? Given information isn't confined to one computer in one country these days?

5minutejourney Sat 24-Aug-13 12:37:55

@Crumbledwalnuts

"The police had reason to believe he was carrying secret information. His flights were paid for by the Guardian and he was ferrying info between two journalists - all acknowledged by the Guardian."

Journalists receive and report on leaked information from sources inside government all the time; it's been going on for decades. Receiving/posessing leaked information isn't a crime (leaking it may be, in some cases), and in many cases reporting on such information serves the public interest. So you can argue that by holding Miranda for ferrying leaked info between two journalists, the police were simply interfering with normal journalistic work.

I certainly think that many of the revelations coming from the Snowden leaks are things that the public has a legitimate interest in knowing about: the TEMPORA programme that GCHQ operates to tap and buffer all internet traffic that passes through the UK, spying on millions of innocent people; the fact that the US secretly contributes to the funding of GCHQ operations (and expects a quid pro quo); the fact that the NSA develops complicated heuristics to distinguish between the communications of "US persons" and "non-US persons", and argues that the latter group (which includes all UK customers of US-based internet companies) are not covered by US constitutional privacy protections and can therefore be freely monitored and spied on.

The stance that the conservatives are now taking on David Miranda's arrest is particularly ironic given that when something very similar happened to one of their own (Damien Green was arrested and interrogated for hours over leaked data he had supposedly received when he was shadow minister for immigration) they were outraged and called it an abuse of police powers.

It's difficult to see what exactly the police were trying to achieve: It seems highly unlikely that Miranda was carrying the only copy of something, so it's not as if they have "recovered" any information. Of course it's possible that they don't even know what information has been leaked, and that detaining David Miranda was a way of finding out, but another interpretation is that it was just a heavy-handed attempt to intimidate journalists.

@edam

"Destruction of computers at the Guardian by GCHQ staff was bizarre - were they showing off?"

"Showing off" seems unlikely since the destruction apparently happened weeks ago and they didn't tell anybody about it for ages. The Guardian's line is that by complying with a pointless order they were ensuring that they could go on reporting on the story; This blog has speculation on the legal background.

@Wannabestepfordwife

"However when you can fly direct to rio from Paris it seems like a very provocative move by Miranda to stop in London it's almost a 2 finger salute to the government."

It certainly seems like an unwise choice of route in retrospect. But David Miranda doesn't come across as somebody who would get a kick out of thumbing his nose to the government; my impression is that he genuinely didn't expect to be stopped.

5minutejourney Sat 24-Aug-13 12:57:01

@edam
Rereading your message I realise that you meant that GCHQ were showing off, not the Guardian; that makes much more sense.

bemybebe Sat 24-Aug-13 13:07:28

This is a fascinating story and I reserve my judgement . Hopefully, there will be more details forthcoming in the court.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 14:06:35

So you can argue that by holding Miranda for ferrying leaked info between two journalists, the police were simply interfering with normal journalistic work.""

Not really. My first point should have said this

"The police had reason to believe he was carrying secret information. His flights were paid for by the Guardian and he was ferrying info between two journalists known to be investigating government surveillance work and known to have been in possession of classified information and to have contact with a known CIA whistleblower - all acknowledged by the Guardian.

Sorry I thought that was generally known. Basically they had loads of reasons to stop him, it's just they may have used the wrong power in order to hold him for longer and make him hand over his stuff.

Being a journalist doesn't give you any kind of privilege by the way. You still have to obey the law! That's why people go to jail to protect sources. There's no get out of jail free card.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 14:07:40

"my impression is that he genuinely didn't expect to be stopped.

Maybe that's what he was reassured by the people who may have been using him as a mule.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 14:09:25

It's difficult to see what exactly the police were trying to achieve: It seems highly unlikely that Miranda was carrying the only copy of something, so it's not as if they have "recovered" any information.

Don't forget they would have assumed all electronic communication was being monitored - and that by transmitting certain documents electronically they would be breaking the law - so physically taking information from place to place would actually make sense.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 14:09:45

they = greenwald and the documentary maker in berlin

Wannabestepfordwife Sat 24-Aug-13 14:16:53

That's another thing I don't understand is Greenwald, yes in his position I would be angry about my dp being arrested if he was innocent, but he had involvement in what his dp was doing and to some extent he was the one who put his dp at risk of arrest.

I also think its incredibly immoral and unethical if the information is a danger to national security to threaten to release it to get his own back on the government.

I will be interested to see what happens when miranda's visa is up for renewal

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 14:20:18

to some extent he was the one who put his dp at risk of arrest

well quite, he really shouldn't be getting uppity

Miranda says he had no idea what he was carrying. What if it had been a bag full of heroin - "just carry this through for me darling, it's nothing important"

quite frankly I'd be calling the whole thing off if I was Miranda

5minutejourney Sat 24-Aug-13 16:36:33

@Crumbledwalnuts
"The police had reason to believe he was carrying secret information. His flights were paid for by the Guardian and he was ferrying info between two journalists known to be investigating government surveillance work and known to have been in possession of classified information and to have contact with a known CIA whistleblower - all acknowledged by the Guardian."

My point is that at least in some cases, "investigating government surveillance work" is legitimate journalistic activity, and such activity may involve handling leaked classified documents. In particular, if that government surveillance work exceeds the boundaries of what is ethical or legal, then the public has a right to know about it and journalists should be free to report on it. [Also FWIW most of the Snowden material concerns the NSA, not the CIA.]

I don't believe we should be required to blindly trust those in authority in the matter of surveillance, there needs to be proper legal/parliamentary oversight, and I fail to see how that can be the case if the very existence of those surveillance programmes is kept a secret. There's no place in a democracy for the attitude that "the government knows what's best for us" and that anybody who questions what the government is doing in the name of national security is a seditious element.

Of course it's important that any classified documents are handled responsibly by journalists, i.e. no information that compromises the safety of individuals is released. The government seems to be suggesting that publishing any information about surveillance methods "aids terrorists" by giving them the opportunity to adapt their methods to evade surveillance. I might find that argument persuasive in the case of targeted surveillance methods, but the Snowden revelations have thus far been about blanket/dragnet surveillance which affects millions of innocent people (UK/US citizens) who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

"Basically they had loads of reasons to stop him"

What reasons? You seem to be implying that Miranda has broken the law/committed some kind of criminal offense, but don't say in what way. It's debatable whether whistleblowers acting in (what they perceive to be) the public interest are committing a criminal offence. What about journalists handling leaked material? In the last case of a GCHQ whistleblower (Katharine Gun) the government case against the whistleblower collapsed and certainly no journalists were prosecuted.

"it's just they may have used the wrong power in order to hold him for longer and make him hand over his stuff."

This summary of the case has a good response to this argument:

So to sum up: Miranda’s main argument is that the police used terrorism legislation to question him about something unrelated to terrorism. If they wanted to question him about the journalistic material he was carrying, they should have used another law.

You might think this seems like he is arguing over a technicality, but that ignores his main point. Miranda argues that the terrorism law he was detained under meant that he had less rights than he would usually have been given if the police had used the (arguably) correct legislation.

The concern is that the police’s use of terrorism laws to prevent seemingly legitimate journalistic activity is an action expected in a totalitarian regime like Russia, not a (supposed) defender of freedom like the United Kingdom.

"to some extent he was the one who put his dp at risk of arrest"
"well quite, he really shouldn't be getting uppity"

Certainly the decision to travel via London seems questionable, but suggesting that Greenwald/Miranda therefore have no cause to feel aggrieved that Miranda was detained and interrogated for 9hrs without access to his lawyer smells like victim blaming.

And to paint David Miranda as some kind of drug mule because he was carrying documents for his partner is pretty cheap and shabby.

@Wannabestepfordwife
I will be interested to see what happens when miranda's visa is up for renewal

What visa? David Miranda is a Brazilian citizen living in Rio. He was a transit passenger flying from Berlin to Rio via London; he never entered the UK (in the sense of passing through UK border controls) so he doesn't need a visa.

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 16:44:19

"What reasons?"

The reason that he might have been in possession of stolen classified information - obviously.

Investigating surveillance might be a legitimate journalistic activity but you aren't protected from the law if you engage in illegitimate activity. Just being a journalist doesn't give you a magic pass to be above the law.

Wannabestepfordwife Sat 24-Aug-13 16:49:25

Agreed crumbledwalnuts on both accounts the relationship would be over for me and just because I have an NCTJ certificate I wouldn't expect impunity from the law

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 17:20:59

well exactly

it's either 'he was a private citizen, just a boyfriend,so shouldn't have been stopped'

or 'he was a journalist so shouldn't have been stopped'

a. make your minds up
b. neither protects you if there's reasonable grounds

the only question is the use of S7 of the TA 2000

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 17:28:13

which by the way speaks to the 'reasonable grounds' issue

ie if there's reasonable grounds of anything other than terror you don't use the TA 2000

they have to be suspected of terror/planning/association/whatever for the TA 2000

but the TA 2000 gives more power to hold and for longer

Crumbledwalnuts Sat 24-Aug-13 17:43:36

By the way there's a criminal investigation. Scotland Yard say they found thousands of classified docs on items seized from Miranda which could put lives at risk. (all this in the public domain and neither prejudicial or defamatory by the way MNHQ). Literally the ONLY question is whether he was detained under the wrong law, not whether he should have been detained.

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