Governments Run Amok

CNN posted an article today about the detention of David Miranda at London’s Heathrow Airport when Mr. Miranda was returning to his home in Brazil. Mr. Miranda lives and works with Glenn Greenwald, the man who released the information Edward Snowden collected regarding government surveillance in America and England.

The article reports:

Greenwald’s partner, 28-year-old David Miranda, was held for nearly nine hours. He was reportedly passing through the airport on his way home to Brazil after leaving Berlin. Authorities seized his laptop, phone, and other materials.

The White House knew the move was coming.

“There was a heads up that was provided by the British government,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday.

So the United States knew it “was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we’ve requested and it’s something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials there,” he said.

He would not comment on whether the United States has obtained material from Miranda’s laptop — and would not say whether President Obama condemns the detention.

The Guardian also posted this story today. Their article stated:

David Miranda‘s detention should be seen in the context of the implicit acceptance by the Home Office, which is bringing forward the current changes, that parts of the law are too sweeping. But Mr Miranda’s detention is extraordinary nevertheless. It raises important new issues that parliament cannot now ignore and will have to debate if its terrorism law reform bill is to be in any way meaningful, just or proportionate.

Part of this is because there is not the slightest suggestion that Mr Miranda is a terrorist. But Mr Miranda does live with and work with Mr Greenwald, who has broken most of the stories about US and UK state surveillance based on leaks from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. None of that work involves committing, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism, or anything that could reasonably fall within even the most capacious definition of such activities. Yet anyone who imagines that Mr Miranda was detained at random at Heathrow is not living in the real world.

This is alarming. Whether you see Edward Snowden as a hero or a traitor, there was no reason to detain Mr. Miranda. There was also no reason to seize his computer, cell phone, and other possessions. There was no suspicion that Mr. Miranda was a terrorist–he was simply guilty of partnering with Glenn Greenwald. The government needs expanded power to deal with terrorists at border locations–airports, etc.–but it needs to use those powers carefully. This is not the way free societies should act.

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