Our CT Overlords Are Total Dicks

18 Aug

It’s really hard for me to devise any defense, to compensate for this abuse of power.

At 6:30 am this morning my time – 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US – I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a “security official at Heathrow airport.” He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been “detained” at the London airport “under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.”

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories. A Brazilian citizen, he was returning to our home in Rio de Janeiro this morning on British Airways, flying first to London and then on to Rio. When he arrived in London this morning, he was detained.

At the time the “security official” called me, David had been detained for 3 hours. The security official told me that they had the right to detain him for up to 9 hours in order to question him, at which point they could either arrest and charge him or ask a court to extend the question time. The official – who refused to give his name but would only identify himself by his number: 203654 – said David was not allowed to have a lawyer present, nor would they allow me to talk to him.

Whatever you think of Glenn Greenwald or of the NSA. do we as adults and citizens really want to allow bona fide fishing expeditions, to find terrorists, just for the illusion of liberty we get from the media, a group of employees that doesn’t question authority?

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day – as every hour passed – worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they feel threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.

If Miranda’s detention isn’t real enough to frighten you, Marcy @ emptywheel offers outright horror.

Does this mean the US and UK are both treating the investigation into the leak of classified information as terrorism now? If so, does that mean the US is using its counterterrorism authorities to investigate Greenwald and Snowden? Have they used the dragnet database to find their contacts?

That might explain why they apparently used the FISA Court — not an Title III warrant — to go after Lavabit.

But it significantly discredits both their effort to counter Greenwald and their counterterrorism efforts. If they’ll use terrorism to prevent further embarrassment, it’s really just a tool to go after dissidents.

Two more thoughts. First, remember that someone already stole a laptop from Greenwald’s home in Rio. I thought it unlikely then that the US or an ally did so. I think the chances are slightly higher now.

Also, I wonder how Dilma Rousseff will respond to this, especially with growing actions in Brazil against US spying. She had been moving away from the sphere of the Bolivarists in Latin America (and has a US state visit planned for this fall). But the British just treated a Brazilian citizen with the same kind of egregious treatment Europe gave to Evo Morales. Will she respond?

Some commenter at bloggingheads.tv once accused me of paranoia. (Is there a link between being a dick and supporting these intimidation tactics?) Would you accept random checks to monitor your driving, an activity far more likely to kill you than terrorism? I have to wonder what CT officials are so desperate to hide from potential whistleblowers – sexual peccadilloes? corruption? bribery?

Human error, most likely.

(I hope it’s now not so gay in our cynical society, to express to Miranda and Greenwald, that I hope Miranda returns home safely and is not too shaken by this egregious assault on his liberties.)

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3 Responses to “Our CT Overlords Are Total Dicks”

  1. Bosmosis 18 August 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Wow. I had no idea. Frightening stuff.

    Good to see you blogging again. I hope your transition back to Texas is a smooth one.

  2. Hume's Bastard 18 August 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Commenting will only encourage me.

  3. Nathanael 19 August 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    Marcy offers the key geopolitical point. The US just blew off any chance of influence in Brazil.

    Marcy Wheeler would make a decent Secretary of State. She seems to understand geopolitics better than the deranged lunatics running the US government.

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