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UK Defends Detention of Journalist’s Partner

August 20, 2013

By JILL LAWLESS Associated Press

The British government on Tuesday defended the Heathrow Airport detention of the partner of a journalist who has written stories based on leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, saying it was right to stop anyone suspected of possessing “highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism.”

A lawyer said the detained man, David Miranda, had begun legal action against the government, calling his detention unlawful and seeking assurances that British officials would not share the “sensitive, confidential journalistic material” seized from Miranda with anyone else.

Police used a contentious anti-terrorism law to detain Miranda, the civil partner of Guardian newspaper journalist Glenn Greenwald, on Sunday. Greenwald has published stories about U.S. and British surveillance programs based on documents leaked by Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Miranda was held for nearly nine hours — the maximum allowed by law — and had a computer and other electronic equipment confiscated.

Miranda, a 28-year-old university student, was traveling home to Brazil after visiting Germany, where he met with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on the NSA stories. Greenwald said Miranda was carrying materials between the two, but didn’t specify what they were.

Home Secretary Theresa May said it was right for the police to take action to protect the public.

“I think it’s absolutely right that if the police believe that if somebody is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists, that could risk lives or lead to a potential loss of life, that the police are able to act, and that’s what the law enables them to do,” May said.

The Home Office said “those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.”

The Guardian and civil liberties groups have condemned the use of counter-terrorism legislation to detain a journalist’s partner.

London law firm Bindmans said it was representing Miranda and had written to police and the government seeking assurances that there would be no “inspection, copying, disclosure, transfer, distribution or interference, in any way, with our client’s data pending determination of our client’s claim.”

The letter, released to The Associated Press, said Miranda “assists Mr. Greenwald in his legitimate journalistic work and was doing so when he was detained.” Read more at ABC News.

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