Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Is One of Tens of Thousands to Be Detained

How It Works
Aug. 19 2013 5:00 PM

Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Is One of Tens of Thousands to Be Detained

Glenn Greenwald (front L) embraces his partner David Miranda
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald (left) embraces his partner, David Miranda, upon arriving at Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 19, 2013. British authorities used anti-terrorism powers to detain Miranda for nine hours the previous day.

Photo by Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

There’s quite a bit of bafflement and justifiable outrage out there on Monday over how exactly David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, could be detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under British terrorism laws. While it’s clear that Miranda was clearly aiding Greenwald’s work—he was delivering documents on encrypted thumb drives to fellow journalist Laura Poitras and the Guardian was paying for his flight—it’s laughable to suggest that such activities are in any way tantamount to aiding terrorism.

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

It’s not the first time that the law in question—Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act—has provoked controversy. The law gives examining officers in British border areas authority to “search the person” or “anything which he has with him, or which belongs to him” of a traveler to determine if he is “concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.” The law gives authorities the right to hold the person involved for up to nine hours—which they appear to have taken maximum advantage of in Miranda’s case.

Advertisement

According to an independent review of the law presented to parliament last June, “Schedule 7 examination power was used on 61,145 persons in 2012/13,” which was actually a 12 percent decrease from the previous year and a 30 percent decrease the year before that. Most of those examinations lasted less than 15 minutes, and in the 2011–12 period only 24 people were arrested as a result of these stops.

While the review found “no evidence that persons of Asian appearance are more likely to be examined,” British Muslims have frequently alleged that they are profiled under the law. One activist explained his objections to Al-Jazeera two months ago:

"For many Muslims it's not so much that they have been stopped but the type of questioning that accompanies that," Asim Qureshi, CagePrisoners' research director, told Al Jazeera. "For example, they get asked, 'What type of Muslim are you? What are your foreign policy opinions? What are your views on Palestine?'”
"None of those questions pertain to whether that person poses a credible risk to UK security. It's a fishing exercise that's not got anything to do with any immediate security concerns. Of course this creates resentment."

Of course, Miranda’s experience raises other issues entirely. Unless British authorities have suddenly developed concerns over the security threat posed by a 28-year-old gay Brazilian, Miranda wasn’t demographically profiled. The fact that he was held for the full nine hours rather than the 15-or-so minutes that it usually takes to process travelers under the law certainly seems hard to explain as anything other than an effort to intimidate Greenwald. (Poitras frequently faces such stops when traveling internationally, according to Sunday’s New York Times Magazine profile.) The British government has already announced some proposed changes to the law, including reducing the maximum examination period from nine hours to six hours and giving detainees the right to legal counsel during their questioning. Hopefully, after Miranda’s experience, these reforms will also include the British government giving a detailed explanation of what it actually considers to be terrorism.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Learns That Breaking Up a Country Is Hard to Do

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola: It Preys on the Compassionate

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 19 2014 12:33 PM The Precarious Predicament of Russia’s Neighbors
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 12:09 PM How Accelerators Have Changed Startup Funding
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 19 2014 12:50 PM This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 12:10 PM Watch the Trailer for Big Eyes, a Tim Burton Movie About People With Normal-Sized Eyes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 12:38 PM Forward, March! Nine leading climate scientists urge you to attend the People’s Climate March.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 12:13 PM The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola  The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.