UK Media Crackdown: Greenwald’s Partner Detained, Guardian Forced to Destroy Snowden Files

Democracy Now*

greenwald partnerHAVANA TIMES – The Obama administration has acknowledged it had advance notice British officials were going to detain David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has revealed the National Security Agency’s massive spy practices. Miranda was held Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act for nine hours — the maximum time he could be detained without charge. Miranda has just announced legal action against the British Home Office for his detention.

Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed Snowden’s classified documents or handed them to British authorities.

“At its core, what is at stake is the ability for a human being to have dignity and for journalists to have integrity with their sources, [threatening] the whole concept of a free democracy,” says computer security researcher Jacob Appelbaum, who has been detained and questioned numerous times at airports.

“And I don’t mean that as hyperbole, but if everything is under surveillance, how is it that you can have a democracy? How is it that you can organize a political function, or have confidentiality with a constituent, or a source, or with a friend or a lover? That’s an erasure of fundamental things that we have had for quite some time.” We’re also joined by longtime British attorney Gareth Peirce.

AARON MATÉ: As we talk about the issue of student loans, we’re actually going to turn now to the issue of the NSA and the revelations that have just come out with the British government. The British government now is under fire for its detention of David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has exposed all of these stories on NSA surveillance based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. Miranda has just announced legal action against the British Home Office for his detention at London’s Heathrow Airport. He was held on Sunday as he passed through Heathrow on his way home to Brazil, where he and Greenwald live. Miranda was detained under Schedule 7 of Britain’s Terrorism Act, which allows police to hold someone at an airport for up to nine hours for questioning about whether they’re involved in acts of terrorism. He was detained for the full nine hours allowed and finally released after British authorities seized his mobile phone, laptop, cellphone and USB thumb drives.

Miranda had been in Germany visiting U.S. filmmaker Laura Poitras, who works with Greenwald in reporting on the files leaked to them by Edward Snowden. His flights were paid for by The Guardian, and a spokesperson for the newspaper says he “often assists” with Glenn Greenwald’s work. Glenn Greenwald told The New York Times Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents to Poitras related to his investigation into government surveillance and get other documents from Poitras to bring back home.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, Miranda described his ordeal upon his return to Brazil.

DAVID MIRANDA: [translated] I stayed in a room with three different agents that were entering and exiting. They spoke to me, asking me questions about my whole life. They took my computer, my video game, cellphone, everything.

AMY GOODMAN: In a statement, the Brazilian government said Miranda’s detention is, quote “without justification.” What they said was—what they said, the statement, was—is “without justification, since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation. The Brazilian Government expects that incidents such as the one that happened to [Miranda] today do not repeat.” Greenwald himself said the detention would not deter him from future reports.

GLENN GREENWALD: [translated] I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now on. I’m going to publish many more documents. I’m going to publish things on England, too. I have many documents on England’s spy system.

AARON MATÉ: The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement in response to Miranda’s detention that read, quote, “The world’s most repressive states often identify journalism with terrorism and now the British authorities have crossed a red line by resorting to this practice. … By acting in this arbitrary way, the British authorities have just emphasized how necessary and legitimate Snowden’s and Greenwald’s revelations were.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, the White House confirmed it was notified before Miranda was taken into custody. This is White House Deputy Secretary Josh Earnest.

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: There was a heads-up that was provided by the British government. So this—again, this is something that we had an indication was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we’ve requested. And it’s something that was done specifically by the—by the British law enforcement officials there. The United States was not involved in that decision or in that action, so if you have questions about—if you have questions about it, then I would refer you to the British government.

AMY GOODMAN: The detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner led his newspaper, The Guardian, to reveal another explosive revelation of media intimidation by the British government. On Monday, The Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, revealed the British government threatened legal action against the newspaper unless it either destroyed Snowden’s classified documents or handed them to British authorities. Rusbridger says that after The Guardian published several stories based on Snowden’s material, a British official advised him, quote, “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” Two officials from the GCHQ, the NSA’s British counterpart, then visited The Guardian‘s London offices and looked on as computers containing Snowden’s material were physically destroyed. Rusbridger said The Guardian agreed to destroy the hard drives knowing the paper’s reporters can continue their work abroad. He wrote, quote, “We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London.”

Well, for more, we’re joined by Jacob Appelbaum, computer security researcher, developer and advocate for the Tor Project, a system enabling its users to communicate anonymously on the Internet. He has been stopped and questioned numerous times while traveling. We will also be joined by the longtime British attorney Gareth Peirce, who is on the phone with us.

But, Jacob Appelbaum, let’s begin with you. Can you respond to what happened to David Miranda at Heathrow Airport?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Sure. Effectively, what we know right now is that the British government has used antiterrorism legislation inappropriately, as it specifically is the case that when they hold someone under this legislation, they are only supposed to do so to determine if in fact they can make an arrest. The fact that he was flagged before he even got on the airplane and that the U.S. was notified suggests that it was a completely unlawful detention, even under this legislation. So they’re even breaking their egregiously unethical, immoral laws, which is terrible. And for David, I feel for him, having experienced that many times.

AARON MATÉ: Well, Jacob, can you tell us about your own story, your own experience? And, in fact, in this case, you have particular insight because you’ve been detained, and also your partner has been detained, as well, as also occurred to Glenn Greenwald.

JACOB APPELBAUM: Yeah. I mean, so, you know, to describe this process, this is a process of intimidation. Right. And working with Der Spiegel here in Germany, where I am now, I would not want to undergo this process again, so I, for example, am not with you in New York today, specifically because these kinds of intimidation tactics, they work, to a degree. And that is to say, when you’re held in a room, told that you’re a terrorist, your property is stolen, you are denied access to your lawyer, as is the case with David, these kinds of things, they really impact you. And they impact family members. They impact friends and friendships. And they, of course, impact the relationship with a source. It’s extremely difficult to maintain source confidentiality and to be able to keep a promise—which is the core of journalistic integrity—when these types of things are taking place.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Gareth Peirce into this conversation. Gareth Peirce is the British attorney who has represented a number of Guantánamo prisoners, speaking to us on the telephone now. Can you explain what this Schedule 7, this Section 7, of the British law is and how it was that David Miranda was held under this terrorism clause?

GARETH PEIRCE: From what one can judge, the stopping and use of the Schedule 7 provision of the Terrorism Act in his case is completely unlawful—was unlawful, is unlawful. The power given at a point of entry, at a port—and only at a port—is for a police officer or an immigration officer to have an unusual degree of power; however, it’s limited. It allows that officer to satisfy himself or herself that the person he’s examining is not involved, directly involved, in the instigation, commission of acts of terrorism. It’s very specific. And that person has to be the suspect. It’s an unusual power in that it doesn’t allow the person to have a right against self-incrimination. It’s the one point within the jurisdiction in which you are required, if you are the interrogatee, to answer questions, on pain of a criminal penalty if you fail to answer. So you’re required to answer, and it’s for that very specific purpose.

Now, if it’s used for an ulterior motive, then it’s unlawful. And there have been succession of legal challenges to its use. It’s not the first time that those stopping someone have done so to put questions from another agency or for the purpose of trying to put right an inquiry that was based upon torture of that individual abroad, trying to effectively launder the interrogation through some more jurisdictionally friendly means. But the courts have said an ulterior motive and an ulterior purpose is not permitted. And it’s absolutely clear how come those who stopped Mr. Miranda—how can they possibly, possibly have said that they required to satisfy themselves he was not directly involved in instigation or commission of acts of terrorism?

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Peirce—

GARETH PEIRCE: It’s a million miles from—

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to yesterday’s news conference at the White House. This is a reporter questioning Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson.

REPORTER: You talked about the Mubarak detention as being an Egyptian legal matter. You talk about Morsi—politically motivated detention. And then with regard to Mr. Greenwald’s partner, you called it a mere law enforcement action. Given that the White House has never been shy about criticizing detention policies overseas, do you have any concerns at all about the U.K.’s law enforcement action in this case?

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: Well, what I can say is I don’t have a specific reaction other than to observe to you that this is a decision that was made by the British government and not one that was made at the request or with the involvement of the United States government.

REPORTER: So—but you’re not going to go as far as to say it’s wrong or it’s cause for concern? You’re just separating yourself entirely from it?

DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: Well, I’m separating—what I’m suggesting is that this is a decision that was made by the British government without—you know, not at—without the involvement and not at the request of the United States government.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the spokesperson at the White House, Josh Earnest. Gareth Peirce, if you could respond to that and also this extraordinary story that The Guardian has just revealed, that they were forced to destroy the hard drives that had the Snowden documents on them, the documents that he had leaked.

GARETH PEIRCE: Well, I think that the attempt to—the denial, the deniability of the involvement of our two governments jointly or mutually lacks credibility now, at this point of time, given the primacy with which our intelligence agencies have been unlawfully conducting surveillance on all of our citizens. However, it is an improper purpose if another government is feeding in questions and obtaining the product of those questions for purposes that are not defined by the statute, and these cannot have been defined. But you can bet your boots that Mr. Miranda’s phone was taken, its contents copied. Any computer he had would have been taken, its contents copied. And even if they’re given right back at the conclusion of the nine-hour detention—it’s not arrest. It’s not arrest. It’s a detaining, keeping someone for the purpose of examining them. If the police have a reasonable suspicion, they arrest you and have to arrest within nine hours. But that didn’t happen here.

And any challenge, any challenge to this detention would undoubtedly involve the questioning as to the purpose. And if the purpose were revealed, as it has been in more than one legal challenge, to be simply for the purpose of obtaining information of a wide-ranging kind, that makes it unlawful, and will be an interesting exercise were Mr. Miranda to pursue it from now on in. As to The Guardian, maybe they—maybe they are conducting a tactical maneuver—I know not—in order to—it wouldn’t be the first time that the authorities have gone for—took Guardian documentation. They did it a long time ago and used a particularly clumsy mechanism of a production order that The Guardian successfully withstood. However, I don’t know their reasoning, and I wouldn’t comment on that.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. And we’re—Gareth Peirce, we want to thank you very much for being with us, a well-known British attorney, has represented a number of prisoners at Guantánamo, among others. We’re also speaking with Jacob Appelbaum, who is in Berlin, which is where David Miranda was, which is where Laura Poitras is working. As Jacob points out, he cannot come into the United States right now, or is concerned, if he does, what will happen to him. He is a computer security researcher. We’ll be back with him in a moment.


AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to a show we did about a year ago that among our guests was Jacob Appelbaum, our guest today, who’s in Berlin, and Laura Poitras. On Sunday, The New York Times Magazine profiled Laura Poitras, the journalist who filmed the Guardian interview with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong and had a byline on two of the key articles about the ongoing NSA revelations. Snowden first reached out to Laura Poitras before Glenn Greenwald. She’s an award-winning filmmaker who’s been discussing issues of privacy and state surveillance for years. Last April, Juan González and I spoke to Laura and asked her to describe the difficulties she faces with immigration officers here in the United States when she returns to the country.

LAURA POITRAS: I’ve been stopped at the border since 2006, since I started working on a series of films looking at U.S. post-9/11. And so, I’ve been—I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve been detained at the border, but it’s, I think, around 40 times. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Four-zero.

LAURA POITRAS: Four-zero, right. And on this particular trip, lately they’ve been actually sending someone from the Department of Homeland Security to question me in the departing city, so I was questioned in London about what I was doing. I told them I was a journalist and that, you know, my work is protected, and I wasn’t going to discuss it. And then, on this particular occasion, I landed at Newark Airport, and they—what they do when I’m flying, they do passport control inspection at the gate. So they make everyone who’s deplaning show their passport. And so, that’s how they—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: So they don’t even wait for you to get to Immigration.

LAURA POITRAS: No, I don’t get—I don’t get into Immigration. I get the escorted treatment from—

AMY GOODMAN: So they make everyone show the passport, until they get to you.


AMY GOODMAN: And then they take you off the plane.

LAURA POITRAS: And then they take me away.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Laura Poitras. What she went on to say is that what infuriated them the most and what they said she couldn’t do was take notes on her detention and the questions she was being asked. That was a fascinating hour, which I encourage people to go to at, which was with Laura Poitras, with Jacob Appelbaum, our guest now in Berlin, and William Binney, who was a top NSA analyst who quit, another whistleblower, who also—the federal authorities moved in on his house, on his wife, his kid and himself, put a gun to him in the shower, when he was there. Jacob Appelbaum, you are in Berlin right now, where Laura Poitras is. Are you working together? You also did an interview with Edward Snowden for Der Spiegel about a month ago that was published.

JACOB APPELBAUM: Yeah, that’s right. I’m working with Der Spiegel, as well as a number of other publications here in Berlin, as an investigative journalist, while also continuing my work with the Tor Project—two hats. It’s a little complicated, but that’s essentially correct.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think is most significant about what Edward Snowden has revealed, and also the treatment of him, as well as others, including yourself, before and since?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Well, as far as what Snowden has revealed, I think when Ron Wyden suggests that what has been revealed is merely the tip of the iceberg, that suggests something extremely terrifying, and that suggests that what Snowden has revealed is in fact just the tip of the iceberg. And what he’s revealed so far is planetary-wide surveillance without warrants, without due process, without just cause, where most of the legislation is either secret or secretly interpreted. And in a few cases where there may be something that resembles judicial oversight, it’s a kangaroo court with no opposition. And the people that are supposed to do oversight in the United States are either corrupted by the process, or they simply do not understand it and are unqualified to be involved in that oversight.

So, for me, when I think of these things, what I see right now is the birth of a generation of, unfortunately, dissidence. When Alan Rusbridger suggests that his journalists must work abroad, that is a terrifying and chilling thought. I mean, there’s a reason that the American government was started, and there’s a reason that the American Revolution shot the British. But let’s be clear. The United Kingdom is a modern, reasonable democracy, in many ways. And the idea that you would, as a journalist, need to work abroad is appalling. But this is also true for other journalists working abroad on this, in the sense that Glenn is in Brazil and Laura is in Germany, I am in Germany. Many people who care about telling these stories are honestly afraid of illegal action, or supposedly legal action, that could result in devastating and horrible outcomes, merely by the fact that the people starting them have a lot to lose and they’re willing to take any action, especially classist action, where you would have to spend your life’s savings, for example, on legal support. So this, to me, is the scariest thing, because what Snowden has revealed is in the public interest, and that, to me, suggests that when the public is in fact interested and the press is suppressed, that is terrifying to imagine it as the tip of the iceberg.

AARON MATÉ: Jacob, as we talk about David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, can you talk about what happened to your fiancée in your home?

JACOB APPELBAUM: Sure. I tend to not talk much about this, because it’s not my story. But many people around me, including my partner, have experienced some different kinds of extrajudicial harassment. In her case, it’s the case that she woke up with two men prowling outside of her house wearing night vision goggles, watching her sleep at 3:00 in the morning for about half an hour. We believe that someone was trying to plant a bug inside of her house. And I think this was intimidation. And I feel like either they are the worst, most bungling FBI or other intelligence agents in Seattle, or perhaps they didn’t realize the intimidation would backfire. But this is a kind of state terrorism. And when she attempted to file a police report in Seattle, in fact, the Seattle police laughed her off until we were able to involve the ACLU. And it was only when the ACLU was involved would they even take a police report. That was the third time she tried. And, of course, attempts to FOIA information about this do not return information. We’re being stonewalled even for processing notes about our FOIAs, so the so-called meta-FOIA. And, yeah, I mean, it’s clear that it’s political harassment.

And when I’ve gone through borders, similar to what David has experienced, you know, I’ve actually been, literally, for a time, disappeared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For example, when we were returning from Serbia, where I was giving a lecture and she was doing an art performance, the U.S. government literally told her that I did not exist, after they had taken me, and they would not—yeah, it was horrible for her. They would not let her even see me. They wouldn’t acknowledge that they had taken me. They told her she was mistaken, maybe even that she was crazy. And that’s a targeted, specific thing, where they are allowed to lie to you, where they suggest that you do not have a right to a lawyer, where they will withhold a bathroom, where they will threaten you with suggestions of rape in prison. And then your loved ones will also be targeted by this in various ways, especially if they’re traveling with you. They will experience some serious terror.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Appelbaum, what is at stake here? Can you explain, for people who are confused? I mean, in the United States, overwhelmingly people think that Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor. But talk about what is at stake in the United States and around the world right now.

JACOB APPELBAUM: Sure. I think, at its core, what is at stake is the ability for a human being to have dignity and for journalists to have integrity with their sources. And from that, I believe that it threatens the whole concept of a free democracy. This is, I think, in a sense, being shown in the last 48 hours to the extreme. And I don’t mean that as hyperbole. But if everything is under surveillance, how is it that you can have a democracy? How is it that you can organize a political function or have confidentiality with a constituent or with a source, or with a friend or with a lover? That’s fundamentally an erasure of fundamental things that we have had for quite some time.

And planetary surveillance has very serious concerns, not the least of which is economic espionage, and not the least of which, I think, for me, personally, is about journalistic source protection. I mean, how is it that we will be able to protect our sources if there’s no way to securely meet, no way to communicate about having a meeting, no way to actually communicate about basic facts? There’s no such thing as on or off the record, when in fact you don’t control the record. And it’s not merely a matter of whether or not we have something to hide, because it is not us that will decide whether we have something to hide. It is an analyst somewhere. It is a machine learning algorithm somewhere.

And this is the thing that is perhaps the most terrifying: Because people are flagged, then other people are dispatched. Each person plays their role, and more and more a machine plays that role, a machine that does not understand constitutional protections, does not understand the Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights, does not understand humanity. It’s a machine. And the humans, they behave like machines, too, which is a great fear, that humans will start to behave like machines. And so, what is at stake is in fact democracy, where we still have it, and the free press.

AMY GOODMAN: Jacob Appelbaum, I want to thank you very much for being with us, computer security researcher who himself started to be harassed by government authorities after working with WikiLeaks.

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