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Posted by on Aug 20, 2013 in Featured, International, Law, Media | 15 comments

UK forces the Guardian to destroy computers, detains partner of journalist for nine hours

All in the guise of fighting terrorism

If you live outside of London and don’t read a lot of “foreign” news, you’ll probably not hear about the first half of this story. That’s the bit about government officials demanding that a major newspaper destroy hard drives containing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

If you live outside of the NY-DC corridor and don’t follow news about the surveillance state, you’ll probably not hear about the second half, either.

  • The UK spy service, GCHQ, demanded that the Guardian destroy computer hard drives or turn over documents leaked by Edward Snowden. The US is paying the UK at least $150M a year for access.
  • Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras worked together to break the Edward Snowden story in early June. On Sunday, Greenwald’s partner – David Miranda – was returning to their home in Brazil after meeting with Poitras in Germany. His trip took him through London’s Heathrow. He was detained for nine hours – the maximum allowed by law – under the UK terror act.

There must be a cosmic jester pulling strings for all of this to have happened in Great Britain, the home of George Orwell.

Poitras is also no stranger to airport detention. After her award-winning documentary on Iraq in 2006, she was routinely detained in domestic and foreign airports. For hours. She’s never been charged or told why she was being detained.

This is important for watchdog journalism.

This is important for democratic forms of government.

And it’s why net neutrality and organizations like Wikileaks are essential if either of those institutions are to survive the digital age.

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  • Rambie

    A very worrying trend indeed. At the time I looked at Snowden as a attention w***e and much the same about wikileaks. The US and UK governments look to be turning into the very anti-democratic states.

  • sheknows

    The reason the White House said they were ” aware Miranda would likely be stopped” is because we pay Great Britain $150M a year to inform us of these things. ( not to mention the emails and phone calls we looked at) We also know about the hard drives at Guardian and want them destroyed.
    Your tax dollars at work!!
    This shakes apart the old standby that ” if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.

  • sheknows

    This of course brings to light the other issue. How did they know what his travel plans were? Assuming he went online to book his flight, they were able to see that? Assuming he made phone calls on his CELL phone, they were able to listen in? Assuming he wrote letters ? assuming he sent emails? assuming he spoke only in person to his friends and booked his flight at the airport using a credit card?

  • Ah – sheknows – I’m 99.9% certain he’s on a list of names checked against airplane ticket manifests. you know, the “nofly” lists.

    No one has talked about this that I know of – but I’d put a significant chunk of change in a bet that the airlines either send those in advance to spy agencies around the world or there is a backdoor built into their databases.

    And Rambie – both wikileaks and snowden are performing a public service, not just to the citizens of Oz/US but to the citizens of the world. if folks cannot see the importance of data stores like wikileaks now – given this news – will they ever? (she typed in a fit of despair)

  • dduck

    Wow, will Greenwald be Time magazine’s Man of The Year. Sure sounds like it. Perhaps Obama can tell us in a fine speech why premeditated stealing of secrets may not merit Greenwald and his pawns a Medal Of Freedom- just yet.

  • The_Ohioan

    A bit of nit-picking but the US has not given $150 million a year to GCHQ, as I understand it, but has given L150 million over 3 years which is (current rate) $78.3 million per year. Accuracy is important in any report, but in controversial reports, it is imperative since erroneous information will inevitably be passed on.

    The UK treatment of the electronic records of the Guardian is an indication of just how much concern both the UK and the US have as to the amount of information (and how important that information is) which is now in the hands of two Western journalists, one fugitive, and no one knows how many Chinese and Russian security personnel.

    Are they nervous about our security being compromised? One would hope so. The governments, that is. The journalists apparently have no concerns about who has the information, only how much they will be able to release. Of course they don’t live in New York, Pennsylvania, or Washington DC.

  • Hi, The_Ohioan — thank you. I’ll double check the article that I used for that number. I thought it was $150M per year for three

  • JSpencer

    This is important for watchdog journalism.

    This is important for democratic forms of government.

    Absolutely. And understated at that.

  • sheknows

    I believe that the information they have is not as detrimental to security as it is to reputation and trust.
    The type of information that could do real damage to national security would be accessible only to those several levels higher in clearance than Snowden.
    This leak is a global embarrassment to both the UK and the US, and for many , that is reason enough to hate those responsible. ( well, they aren’t responsible for the embarrassing conduct, just revealing it).

  • sheknows

    Snowden’s father will be visiting his son this month sometime and undoubtedly be landing at Heathrow en route.

  • Corrected the $150M – thanks again.

    I agree with sheknows re the information that Snowden leaked. I agree with Ellsberg re Pentagon Papers — when you have information that shows the gov’t is duplicitous and/or breaking the law I think you have a moral obligation to expose it. Pretty sure there were folks back then who thought Ellsberg was a traitor but history has certainly punched that in the nose. Based on what has come out so far, I think history will treat Snowden et al the same way. And at the moment, Obama is looking worse than Bush, which I didn’t think was possible.

  • The_Ohioan — you wrote:

    The journalists apparently have no concerns about who has the information, only how much they will be able to release.

    Please show me an example of something that illustrates this claim.

    If Snowden and the journalists were only interested in releasing information, security be damned, why wouldn’t they have simply done a data dump? I strongly encourage you to read the NY Mag profile of Laura. You know, the award winning documentarian that the US gov’t harassed from 2006-2012 practically every time she flew internationally. That they stopped harassing after Greenwald wrote about it in Salon in 2012.

  • dduck – it sounds like you are accusing Greenwald of “premeditated” theft. If so, please explain. Ditto if that’s not what you meant.

  • The_Ohioan


    Mr. Greenwald seem to be willing to release information that would compromise our security, if one is to believe their statements that they have much more and much worse to be released, of which they have infomed the UK (and by implication the rest of the world’s govenments). The information already released has already done so, according to some government sources.

    I can’t judge that because I am not clued in to our security concerns, but neither are others that think all this information is the greatest thing to come down the pike since Daniel Ellsberg – including Mr. Ellsberg.

    I’m assuming that he believes they will have more credibility (and receive more attention, and have a better chance of affecting US policy) if they release things over time. They may have considered the backlash of the Manning dump of hundreds of thousands of reports containing raw (unverified) data, though Mr. Greenwald was willing to obfuscate Sgt. Manning’s prison conditions.

    I did read the NYT account of Ms. Poitras and she is a credible investigative reporter as far as I can tell. It’s no wonder that Snowden contacted her since she seems to be able to control any information he gives her as far as computer security. I doubt her committment to Greenwald’s blackmailing the world’s governments by constant threats to release even more information about their security arrangements if they threaten him or his cohorts; all she wants to do is make documentaries about them to inform and leave those who view those films to make judgements. I would trust her to consider (and understand) any damage her disclosures might cause and to be responsible about including them – Mr. Greenwald – not so much.

  • dduck

    KG, that is speculation on my part.

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