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Monday 19 August 2013

Greenwald Partner Detention – Libertarians Uninterested

When David Miranda, partner of Guardian correspondent Glenn Greenwald, was detained at Heathrow Airport at the weekend while in transit from Berlin to Brazil, and held for the maximum nine hours provided for by the 2000 Terrorism Act, there was outrage – but not across the whole political spectrum. The right, and especially the libertarian part of it, was not so much as interested.
Only during the day has press coverage reached outside the Guardian, with the Mail at least publishing a reasonable account of the detention, together with adverse comment from a variety of Labour MPs – among them Tom Watson, Keith Vaz and Yvette Cooper – plus Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, and to his credit Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch. So what’s the problem with the libertarian right?

Sadly, as soon as someone says it’s the Guardian, and it is known that Labour MPs are speaking in support, there has to be an instant polarisation of the incident into a left-versus-right narrative. So the passing of the relevant act by a Labour Government, although there has been no sign of repeal by the Coalition, has been held to mean it’s all their fault.

That the detention was down to the interpretation of the act – making someone in a relationship with someone who has been given information by someone else that the USA would very much like to extradite and cause to stand trial on its own soil into a terrorist suspect – does not seem to enter. And no-one has asked if there might have been a way of excusing the detention, had the 2000 Act not been present.

So at the bear pit that is Telegraph blogs, we see Rob Crilly arguing “David Miranda's detention is not as sinister as it sounds. But our sweeping anti-terror laws are”. Yes, it’s OK to detain Miranda, but the laws are A Very Bad Thing. So Crilly is telling the readers that the authorities at Heathrow ought to have found another excuse to nick Miranda, because, well, he was carrying documents.

This is developed further by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his newly anointed teaboy Alex Wickham at the Guido Fawkes blog. Greenwald is described in typically uncomplimentary terms – the kind accorded to real journalists who achieve what the Fawkes folks never will – and the best they can say about the nine hour detention is that it is “eyebrow raising”. And it’s all Labour’s fault.

All of which shows, once again, that from phone hacking to climate change to the most basic of human rights, the right has a problem. And that problem is that they cannot rationalise an increasing number of issues other than in a right versus left way. Rather than do the decent thing and agree that the denial of liberty is wrong, the immediate reaction is to dig around and find a way to kick the rotten lefties.

That is a sad reflection on the libertarian right. And, ultimately, it’s their problem.


SteveB said...

You're missing something more basic than the actual detention.


It would seem that journalists families are under surveillance by UK government agencies if the US Government has been embarrassed. Or are they just relying on US agencies hacking into data from other countries and then jumping to attention when they get a phone call from Langley?

And hacks still think Leveson is the big thing to worry about.

paulocanning said...

I am just getting back into things after enforced time away and my health is not being helped by reading the greenwald stuff.

Why on earth should any government not try to stop people stealing classified documents? How is it 'liberty' to not try to stop that? Is it 'liberty' to release 750000 diplomatic cables?

Yes, use of this act was wrong and clumsy but stopping a courier and mirroring or taking stolen files (let's assume they were and not encrypted photos of cats) how is that bad?

The BBC story fails to mention Miranda was carrying stolen docs. The Guardian buries this pertinent fact.

The Guardian reporting has been tabloid stuff. Did you see their batsh*t link-bait Gmail story?

The left needs to be really cautious with people like Greenwald. How do we know this latest episode wasn't another set up to stir the pot and get him headlines? Why on earth we, the left, should think he has our interests at heart is beyond me.

Must blog longer than this. There's a collective media and commentariat fail and I'm seriously worried for the left falling into tinfoil hat territory.

Tim Fenton said...

There's a difference between carrying documents and carrying *stolen* documents.

As Miranda was on his way back *to* Rio, whatever he was carrying would have been from the contact in Berlin, and unless she had been receiving stolen copy, then I find the "stolen" attribute hard to comprehend.

And there is still a denial of liberty here - he hasn't been charged with anything.

paulocanning said...

Hey Tim

Greenwald said they were stolen Snowden source docs.
Ask yourself why you didn't learn that from the Guardian or the BBC.

Cesca at
http://thedailybanter.com/ is the best source on what gets missed in all these stories.

It staggers me that people seriously think that government's should just waive through stealing national secrets, which seems to be what's happening with most people. Frankly, the idea that detaining Miranda and searching him is a 'denial of liberty' strikes me as naive and unserious.

That's greenwald's agenda, destroy all spying (and take down Obama). Does the left now go along with that rather than reform? What is our opinion or do we just join in the OTT Alex Jones insanity?

This is a serious and complicated debate being played out at screaming pitch with the informed drowned out.

john b said...

"That's greenwald's agenda, destroy all spying"

Would be awesome if true; at least, if you're not a gibbering psycho still fighting the Cold War.

paulocanning said...

Here's the blogpost I threatened earlier http://paulocanning.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/the-left-must-challenge-greenwald.html

SteveB said...

As I remember the Theft Act it wouldn't be technically possible to steal an email or any other data file (unless you stole the physical storage device it was on). In the UK there are laws about copyright, data piracy and UK official secrets. But I'm not sure the American emails etc. were copyrighted or had IP rights assigned (and anyway, many had already been pirated from their original owners by the NSA!!!) and since they are an American problem not really covered under the Offical Secrets Act. And anyway, if there was a breach of the OSA then it would have been much easier to use that and be done with. But that would have shown up the UK collusion in the American project.

Just remember that the law used was designed to stop terrorist attacks on the UK. And now it is being used to intimidate journalists who embarrass the American government. If Obama is happy for this to go on then by all means take him down, it's akin to Stalin and the right would always support taking down Stalinist leaders.

The UK government hasn't answered the questions, why was the man on a terrorist watch list? And why is it our problem if the Americans didn't ask for it to be done (as they claimed yesterday)?

paulocanning said...

Greenwald has already published on GCHQ and 'normal' spying (friends and enemies). There is form, via mates Wikileaks, of publishing names, so threat to officers not hyperbole.

He has also published internal docs showing hundreds of averted attacks.

Use of terror act probably legally wrong and definitely clumsy but is completely unserious for left/liberals to ignore security services and yell 'Stasi'.

SteveB said...

"Use of terror act probably legally wrong"

thank you! That was the whole argument. If there was evidence of a criminal offence under another law they could have used it. And if there was no evidence and therefore there was no action it would have proved what an open country we live in.

Instead they have misued a very serious law for dodgy purposes and dragged the whole of UK security services into disrepute.

And they have also exposed the fact that journalists who upset UK (and US) government will be put under surveillance. Today for exposing dodgy dealings by securty servcies, what next, corruption by powerful politicians?

Not to mention the embarassment they will have caused the German government by using APIS data to track him from Berlin, after all the efforts they had to go through to get APIS though their consitutional court process (it's a bit of a touchy subject there because Nazi/Stasi surveillance was real and still in memory).