UK cops officially detained David Miranda for thoughtcrime

David Miranda is journalist Glenn Greenwald's boyfriend, but he's best known for being detained under the Section 7 of the UK Terrorism Act while changing planes at Heathrow. The cops held Miranda for nine hours, the maximum allowed under law, without access to counsel, using powers intended to allow the detention of people suspected of connections to terrorism. But it was clear to everyone that Miranda wasn't connected to terrorism -- rather, the UK establishment was attempting to intimidate people connected to the Snowden leaks through arbitrary detention and harassment.

Now that Miranda's lawyers are chasing down the people responsible, we're getting a more detailed picture of the process that led up to Miranda's detention. Before a Section 7 detention takes place, British cops have to file a form called a Port Circular Notice, and several drafts of the Notice used to detain Miranda have come to light.

The final draft argues that Miranda should be detained under terrorism law because "...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."

In other words: thoughtcrime.

Section 7 originated under the New Labour government, and was refined and perfected by the Tory/LibDem coalition.

The draft that was finally used states: "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. We therefore wish to establish the nature of Miranda's activity, assess the risk that Miranda poses to national security and mitigate as appropriate."

The notice then went on to explain why police officers believed that the terrorism act was appropriate.

"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 as such we request that the subject is examined under schedule 7."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the police assessment represented a "chilling" threat to democracy. "More and more we are shocked but not surprised," she said. "Breathtakingly broad anti-terror powers passed under the last government continue to be abused under the coalition that once trumpeted civil liberties.

"The express admission that politics motivated the detention of David Miranda should shame police and legislators alike. It's not just the schedule 7 detention power that needs urgent overhaul, but a definition of terrorism that should chill the blood of any democrat."

Metropolitan police detained David Miranda for promoting 'political' causes [Jamie Doward/The Guardian]

Notable Replies

  1. Hopefully this gets lots of attention. Counter terrorism units morphing into thinkpol is frighteningly real.

  2. Strictly speaking, isn't somebody in possession of a filled-out ballot a person whose 'disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause'?

    Somebody seems to have (No doubt accidentally...) elided the distinction between 'influence' and 'violent coercive force'.

    I'm not sure that Cameron (or our boys on this side of the pond, in fairness) really grasp that exercising 'influence' over governments is not subversion different only in degree from blowing them up, it's sort of the whole point of government being representative...

    (Also worth noting: Isn't Cameron one of those 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear!' types? Surely the blameless and upstanding conduct of the British intelligence services is immune to damage if their role is better understood. Why, little old ladies and boy scouts will be lining up to express the appreciation they never knew they felt before! How could anything compromising exist?)

  3. I remember learning in the 80's that Britain had freedom of speech and a free press like America but, unlike America, that right wasn't actually guaranteed under the law. This illustrates the importance of writing things down.

  4. Rindan says:

    A newspaper would also fall into the category. If 'endangering lives' is code for 'would disarm us in the hilariously named war on terror', than anything that is against the paranoid security state is terrorism. The EFF is basically Al-qaeda in this fucked up world.

    All people acting in public good are doing it for political or ideological reasons.

    You are not playing devil's advocate. You are playing brutal police state advocate.

  5. Rindan says:

    The legal gymnastics these assholes used to try and harass a reporter mean nothing. The state picked someone and harassed them for being associated to someone speaking out against the government. They locked him in a room against his will without legal council, which means he couldn't even get advice as to what rights he might or might not have. They did this to terrify and intimidate a law abiding person. Only an ironclad legal limit prevented them from taking their legal gymnastics and blatant ignoring of the intent of the law from going any further.

    If you EVER needed proof that these people are untrustworthy scum, this is it. They have absolutely no capacity for self governance and no respect for a free society. These people despise a free society. These people are thugs. If the law says you can't pluck out a citizens eyeballs with a spoon if they piss you off, they will just use a fork. These spy agencies need to be chopped down to size, opened up, and put under so much scrutiny and surveillance that they feel naked. I'll pretty happily take my chances with a slightly elevated risk of laughable small threat of "terrorism" over an assured brutal police state.

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