Still the Metropolitan Police and MI5 claim that David Miranda “was 'involved in espionage activity' which 'falls under the definition of terrorism'” when he transited Heathrow Airport last August while en route from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. But then, as Mandy Rice-Davies once said, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Because there is a legal action they need to defend.
This convocation of spooks’n’rozzers was, before Miranda landed at Heathrow with information from Laura Poitras for delivery to Glenn Greenwald, already working to a script that was also revealed last week. The Ports Circulation Sheet told “Intelligence indicates that Miranda is likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security”.
Do go on: “We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material the release of which would endanger people's lives ... Additionally the disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism”. And that is why we keep hearing the T-word.
And we also keep hearing that “British authorities have said in court that items seized from Miranda included electronic media containing 58,000 documents from the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart ... GCHQ”. This, too, is because the number has already been pitched and cannot be varied. To do so would undermine the case that has been built against Miranda.
There is, however, one problem here: the spooks still appear not to have cracked the encryption on the electronic devices they confiscated from Miranda. The “58,000” figure is a guess, and not one example of the documents can be given, in any form. And while Young Dave thinks going after the deeply subversive Guardian is a jolly good idea, many in his own party are uneasy about it.
That might be because the scale of snooping revealed by the document trawl of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is so jaw-dropping: now it appears that the NSA was spying on the UN Secretary General. As the Guardian notes, “Spying on Ban and others at the UN is in contravention of international law”. The order has since gone out to end the practice – that’s after the whistle was blown.
The German Government summoned the US Ambassador in Berlin for a high-octane bollocking. The Spanish Government has now done likewise with his counterpart in Madrid. The Brazilian Government has cancelled talks on the back of the scale of “friendly” snooping. Others are likely to follow in showing their displeasure at the practice. This isn’t about protecting “agents”, it’s about Government overreach.
Yes, spies spy. But what Snowden did is not terrorism. And it was vitally necessary.