The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international media freedom organisation, has written to prime minister David Cameron urging him to lauch a “thorough and transparent” investigation into the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport.
Miranda is the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, thought to have been carrying journalistic material related to the story on US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The committee said the use of anti-terror laws to seize journalistic material “is deeply troubling and not in keeping with the UK's historic commitment to press freedom”.
Schedule 7 of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000 gives police broad authority to detain, search, and question persons traveling through U.K. airports in order to determine their possible involvement in terrorism. Schedule 7 has been widely criticized for allowing police to stop people without suspicion that they have committed a crime, and the U.K. government is reviewing aspects of the legislation, according to news reports.
It is clear that the police officers who questioned Miranda did not suspect him of terrorism, as they focused their interrogation on Greenwald's, Poitras's, and the Guardian's reporting on state surveillance programs. Rather, it appears they abused the law to circumvent routine safeguards of the confidentiality of sources and to obtain access to journalistic material. The U.S. has confirmed that it was notified of Miranda's detention, which suggests a coordinated effort.
Miranda's detention is the latest example in a disturbing record of official harassment of the Guardian over its coverage of the Snowden leaks. As Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger wrote in a column Monday, the newsroom has been subjected to government pressure since June to surrender the Snowden-leaked materials in its possession or to destroy them. On July 20, a day that Rusbridger called "one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history," two security agents from Government Communications Headquarters looked on as journalists destroyed newsroom hard drives, even though Rusbridger had pointed out that the information existed outside the country.
We call on your government to explain the detention and aggressive interrogation of Miranda; publicly clear him of any connection to terrorist activity; and return his seized equipment as well as any copies made of its contents. Taking these steps would counter the unsettling perception that the United Kingdom has abused its anti-terrorism laws to impede legitimate journalistic activity carried out in the public interest.
The Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister
The Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP, Home Secretary
The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP, First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament
Rt. Hon. Edward Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition