A British court has ruled that the British government may only inspect items seized from David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, if those items affect “national security.” Who defines “national security” has not been made clear.
The Guardian, the U.K. newspaper which employs Greenwald, sued the government to prevent it from “inspecting, copying or sharing” anything seized in the controversial detention of Miranda at London’s Heathrow airport on August 18.
The Guardian wins in that the seized items can only be inspected under the limited provision that “national security” is involved. The government wins because it can inspect whatever it wants and claim national security was involved.
Miranda was held for nine hours under a provision called Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000; his personal belongings including a laptop, were seized.
Schedule 7 permits police to hold a person to determine if they might be “involved in committing preparing or instigating acts of terrorism.” Police claim that Miranda might have been carrying stolen information which would aid terrorists.
The Guardian claims that Miranda was plainly not a terrorist or in any way instigating terrorism, so his detention is illegal and all seized items should be returned uninspected.
According to Sky News Online, Scotland Yard had already examined some of the seized material and started an investigation based on it.
Sky News Online reported that British Home Secretary Theresa May said it was necessary to examine the material “without delay in the interests of national security,” though there is no way she could have known whether the material affected national security before examining it.
Miranda’s partner, Glenn Greenwald, has written several articles for The Guardian about information exposed by NSA Leaker Edward Snowden. Whether that information might be considered “stolen” and helpful to terrorists has not been determined.
Critics of the government’s actions in this case believe that Miranda was detained to punish his partner for publishing information which might be embarrassing to the government, and to dissuade any journalists who might want to publish information obtained through the actions of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Snowden’s actions, while possibly illegal, have led to the exposure of a U.S. government agency, the NSA, illegally spying on U.S citizens.
The information Snowden leaked has unquestionable value not to terrorists, but to ordinary citizens whose rights have been abused. Governments whose actions might push the legal envelope are eager to limit the data’s dissemination.