The latest NSA news — over the weekend — is the detention for nine hours at Heathrow Airport of a family member of Glenn Greenwald, his partner David Miranda. Miranda is one of the journalists working with the under-appreciated Laura Poitras in releasing the Edward Snowden whistle-blown NSA material.
Greenwald says Miranda’s laptop and cellphone were confiscated by the British authorities, and never returned. One theory is that they’re taking his electronics in preparation for an indictment against Greenwald himself. More on that below.
Base details — Miranda (the detainee) was flying from Berlin after meeting with Poitras on his way to Rio de Janiero. As near as I can tell, he was simply changing planes and not exiting the airport (Glenn says Miranda did not attempt to go through Customs). Miranda was perhaps carrying documents from Poitras to Greenwald. The detention was carried out under an anti-terrorism law. Nevertheless, the interrogation centered on Snowden and Greenwald.
That’s a lot to absorb, so I’ll tease out the threads a bit. (To jump to just the headline information, about possible prosecution of Greenwald, click here.)
We start with Greenwald himself (my emphasis and some reparagraphing everywhere):
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. …
Section 7 of the  British Terrorism Act allows the authorities to detain someone for up to nine hours for questioning and to conduct a search of personal items, often without a lawyer, to determine possible ties to terrorism. More than 97 percent of people stopped under the provision are questioned for under an hour, according to the British government.
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.
According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, “fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders” (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, “most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour.” An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.
Now let’s follow a couple of threads.
Take 1: This truly is abuse of terrorism laws
Cameron Proves Greenwald Right
… [T]hey held him [David Miranda] for three hours before informing his spouse and another six hours thereafter. I can see no reason for those extra six hours (or for that matter the entire nine hours) than brute psychological intimidation of the press, by attacking their families.
More to the point, although David was released, his entire digital library was confiscated – including his laptop and phone. So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is.
In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse.
Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state. You have proven that these laws can be hideously abused. Which means they must be repealed.
And so say I. Strong stuff, and accurate. The State is nothing if not self-protective. What is “terrorism” in the eyes of the State? First and foremost, it seems, “terrorism” is resistance to the State.
Take 2: The UK opposition government reacts
Avedon’s Sideshow tips us to this. Avedon writes:
This morning’s Guardian reports that the Shadow Home Secretary
“has called for an urgent investigation into the use of anti-terror powers to detain David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist who interviewed US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been ‘misused’, after Miranda was held for nine hours by authorities at Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act.”
(Am I the only one who gets queasy when officials call for “investigation” when the facts are already on the table? Of course the law was “misused” – the question is about who made it happen, and why.)
No, Avedon. You’re not the only one.
The following, if it proves true, is perhaps the biggest piece of all. The comment is speculative, but not from nobody. Henry Blodgett at Business Insider has this interesting catch from author and political expert Ian Bremmer:
One initial theory about the detainment in the Twittersphere was that UK authorities were trying to hassle and harass Greenwald, who is obviously the bane of secrecy-loving government authorities these days.
But this morning, geo-political expert Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group suggested that the motive was far more serious. Bremmer thinks it’s likely that the U.S. and U.K. authorities are preparing “indictments” against Glenn Greenwald.
UK move against @ggreenwald‘s partner isn’t a scare tactic. If they’re taking his electronics, US/UK working on indictments.
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 19, 2013
In response to a question from Business Insider, Bremmer clarified that these indictments would be against Greenwald.
Which leads to the question: If Greenwald (and only Greenwald) is indicted, why wouldn’t, say, Barton Gellman be indicted, or his wife be detained and questioned when she crosses a cop, or TSA, radar?
About Ian Bremmer, here’s this from Wikipedia:
Ian Bremmer (born November 12, 1969) is an American political scientist specializing in US foreign policy, states in transition, and global political risk. He is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm, and a professor at Columbia University. Eurasia Group provides financial, corporate, and government clients with information and insight on how political developments move markets. …
Bremmer has authored/published eight books, including the national bestsellers Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World (Portfolio, May 2012), which details risks and opportunities in a world without global leadership, and The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations (Portfolio, May 2010), which describes the global phenomenon of state capitalism and its implications for economics and politics.
He also wrote The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall (Simon & Schuster, 2006), selected by The Economist as one of the best books of 2006.
Interestingly, it is not difficult to imagine the U.S. and U.K. ascending the right (authoritarian) side of Bremmer’s J-Curve as we speak.
Much more at the source. Neither Blodgett nor Bremmer are your run-of-the-mill roadside spectators. Indictments coming? This is worth watching.
My bottom line
My take is simple — As before, so now.
When challenged by Bin Laden, the State proved up to the task of destabilizing, destroying, its own internal democratic element. Now the State, when challenged to stand down, or at the very least, explain itself in the post-Snowden world, is proving up to the task of painting itself into a corner, and nakedly rebranding itself as it truly is — “despotic” (to borrow Greenwald’s term). Again, nakedly so.
As I’ve written elsewhere (and as Marcy Wheeler has confirmed), this State contains the seeds of its own destruction. More, the extent to which it “succeeds” hastens its collapse, especially under climate crisis pressure.
When less-rich whites can’t get FEMA aid (for example), because more-rich whites have already drunk dry the well, it’s over for the State. The revolt from the anti-wealth majority will have begun, and no state survives that intact.
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