British authorities came under pressure on Monday to explain why anti-terrorism powers were used to detain for nine hours the partner of a journalist who has written articles about U.S. and British surveillance programs based on leaks from Edward Snowden.
Brazilian David Miranda, the partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, was detained on Sunday at London\’s Heathrow Airport where he was in transit on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. He was released without charge.
Greenwald said Miranda was refused access to a lawyer and that officials confiscated all his electronic media – including a cell phone, DVDs and encrypted data storage devices – containing documents related to his investigation into U.S. government surveillance.
British lawmaker Keith Vaz said he was writing to the police to demand an explanation. He said it was "extraordinary" that police knew Miranda was Greenwald\’s partner, and the authorities were targeting partners of people involved in Snowden\’s disclosures.
Greenwald wrote that Miranda\’s detention was designed to intimidate "those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ," referring to Britain\’s Government Communications Headquarters.
Brazil\’s foreign ministry expressed "grave concern" about the incident, which it said "has no justification" because it involves "an individual against whom there are no charges that can warrant the use of this legislation."
Britain\’s Terrorism Act was passed in 2000 and applies only at airports, ports and border areas. The law\’s Schedule 7 allows authorities to stop, search, question and detain individuals for up to nine hours before officers must release or formally arrest the suspect.
Civil rights groups in Britain have criticized Schedule 7, accusing the government of using the provision to arbitrarily stop and detain travelers, particularly Muslims.
Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Greenwald\’s investigation into U.S. government surveillance to Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who has helped disseminate Snowden\’s leaks. He was returning to Brazil with different documents.
The Guardian, which paid for his flights, issued a statement saying it was "dismayed" at Miranda\’s detention and that it would press British authorities for an urgent clarification.
The rights group Amnesty International said Miranda was "clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics" and that there is "no basis for believing that [he] presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government."
London\’s Metropolitan Police Service, which had jurisdiction over the case, said in a statement that Miranda had been lawfully detained under the Terrorism Act and later released. It did not provide further details.