Monday, August 19, 2013

US-UK security state strikes back

The outrageous detention of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner for nine hours at Heathrow airport yesterday gives a new meaning to the “special relationship” between Britain and the United States.

This was clearly a joint operation of overt intimidation by the burgeoning Anglo-US security state against the partner of a journalist who has helped expose the covert operations of GCHQ in Britain and the NSA in America.

David Miranda was held incommunicado for the maximum nine hours allowed under the Terrorism 2000 Act. His property – including his mobile phone – was taken from him and he was not allowed legal representation.

Under schedule seven of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police can detain people at British border points with or without probable cause. The detained person does not have the right to a lawyer and it is a criminal offence to refuse to answer questions, whether or not a lawyer is present.

Greenwald only knew of the arrest three hours into the interrogation when a “security official” – who only gave his number 203654 – called him at 5.30am on the east coast of the US.

His partner who is a Brazilian citizen was in transit from Berlin to Rio when seized. Neither Brazilian officials nor Guardian lawyers were allowed access to him.

It was a blatant act of revenge by the US and UK authorities to punish anyone associated with whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about Prism, the mass snooping programme on US, British citizens and others around the world.

Miranda did not represent any terrorist threat, and the authorities knew that. His arrest was purely to punish his partner Greenwald for analysing the data released by Snowden, who remains in Russia on temporary asylum to escape arrest by the US authorities.

In enacting the Terrorism Act in 2000, New Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett flouted human rights and deeply enshrined principles, including the right to remain silent. When Blunkett was warned that it was a catch-all law, he notoriously poured scorn on human rights’ organisations.

In 2001 New Labour’s attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who approved the legal cover for the attack on Iraq, used the terror laws to detain asylum seekers for 10 days, despite judicial opposition.

In 2008, financial crime experts were shocked at the use of anti-terror laws to seize the assets of Icelandic banks, when Reykjavik-based Landsbanki Islands bank got into trouble.

In 2010, the Equality and Human Rights Commission expressed its concerns about the introduction of body scanners at ports of entry, again under the pretext of terrorism threats. It was alarmed about the infringement of the right to privacy and access and use of intimate body images,

The repeated use and abuse of the anti-terror laws by state forces has been so blatant that eminent experts such as David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, felt obliged to admonish the police.

In 2011 he cautioned the police over the arrest of six North African street cleaners, which had been prompted by a canteen joke. During the Olympics, in June 2012 Anderson stated that you were just as likely to die of a bee sting as of a terror attack.

Snowden’s revelations, like those of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, are doing serious damage to the Obama administration and, with the help of the compliant British authorities, they are seeking to intimidate, smear, frame and generally harass anyone involved.  

Greenwald has courageously said that he will not be cowed. He deserves total support. While anti-terror legislation remains on the statute books it will be used by the state in whatever way it sees fit. An argument if there ever was one that a new democratic constitution for the 21st century that enshrines basic rights is an urgent necessity.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary

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