This week saw not one but two attacks from leftovers on libertarian led efforts to expose NSA abuses, both warning that NSA critics were too enamored of anti-government positions and candidates, threatening to undermine the New Deal warfare-welfare state and even the federally funded jobs of the leftovers themselves.
The New Republic ran a piece by a federally funded academentian Sean Wilencz which attacked Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange for insufficient fealty to Stalin..er… I mean FDR. Complete with guilt by association and arm chair psychologizing dredging up the child hood traumas and Internet chats of his targets, this piece demonstrates that Princeton and other state funded disinformation and re-education centers should all be defunded immediately, with their priesthoods tossed out on the streets where they could learn to make an honest living mopping floors. A quote: ” ‘I have a Walther P22,’ he [Snowden] wrote. ‘It’s my only gun, but I love it to death.’ The Walther P22, a fairly standard handgun, is not especially fearsome, but Snowden’s affection for it hinted at some of his developing affinities.”. Which led wag Scott Beiser to observe: “Oh noes! Snowden is a closet hoplosexual!”
And two unknown concubines of the multimillionaire lobbyist Podesta brothers at their Center for American Progress fret that people are now reading the Bill of Rights all the way to the end, even the 10th Amendment, now that they have heard they have rights the federal government has been abridging.
In the meantime, UK authorities have received judicial permission to hack Miranda’s laptop, phone, and all of his electronic devices to their heart’s content – as evidenced in yesterday’s UK High Court order allowing British authorities to “continue investigating the materials” they seized from him on Sunday.
The Court ruled that British police don’t have official permission to share or ‘use’ anything they find on his electronic devices.
But with what ZDNet has now learned about police hacking, the ruling is little more than lip service for privacy advocates.
Miranda’s devices have most certainly been copied and all personal information extracted, and the Court did not prevent authorities from modifying the devices.
Lindner explained that the general classes of what authorities can do when a device is confiscated include:
Certificate material addition
Software changes (think apps)
Data dump (this is usually through the charger connection)
According to top security researchers on the topic of device spyhacks – interviewed for this article – typical targets of confiscation and remote police hacking include political activists, freedom fighters, terrorists, journalists connected to political topics, hackers and security researchers, political documentarians, academics (especially on political science connected or researching political activism or situations) and corporate personnel connected to interesting technology or large scale business decisions.
Finland-based F-Secure Senior Researcher Jarno Niemelä stated, “If you fall into one of the above groups you can expect pretty much anything.
At the very least, he elaborated, victims of confiscation can expect that a full copy of their computer and phone will be made.
If the government officials decide to modify the device all bets are off.
There is a wide range of software that they could install to the device which provide full access to everything that the phone or PC is capable of doing.
This means that they can observe any phone calls or messages being sent from the device, see the devices physical location and manipulate whatever information they want in the device.
Authorities modify confiscated devices in a number of ways, and can do so with commercially available tools and software.
Typical example of consumer-grade spying tools would be Flexispy for mobile devices, and Realtime-Spy for PC’s.
The government grade-software have a similar feature set, but they are provided only for limited distribution, which means that Antivirus and other security products are much less likely to detect them.
Anti-virus and other security software provide good detection against consumer-level spying tools, because researchers can obtain samples of them.
But real spy stuff is hard because we almost never receive a copy of them.
And what can authorities make your confiscated computer or phone do after it’s returned to you? F-Secure‘s Niemelä detailed,
Phone calls, call records, SMS messages and SMS records, email messages, physical location, ability to use device as a listening bug, websites visited (and visit duration), screenshots of user activity, all windows interacted with, all internet connections made, all app usage (and use duration), all files used and deleted, all documents opened, all chatroom conversations, all computer usage sessions, etc.
Lindner explained in more direct terms, “However, just imagine I get your phone and computer and put every data point I can find in Maltego. The secondary and following layers reveal everything, especially if the authority doing it also has the power to go to the central service providers you use (Facebook, Twitter, Google).”
How can you tell if authorities hacked your laptop or phone?
If a computer or phone has been hacked by authorities, only in rare cases will there be any visible evidence that might reveal tampering.
Finland-based F-Secure Senior Researcher Jarno Niemelä tells ZDNet that also with phones,
There is an alternative way of doing espionage operations over a modified SIM card, which means that an operative replaces the phone’s SIM with a cloned version that contains additional SIM Toolkit software which allows quite wide range of access to device information – all without modifying the phone at all.
I have feeling that the SIM card attack is used more often than we think. Mostly due to the fact that almost no-one knows how powerful they are and how easy it is for someone to make a SIM clone with government-level resources.
One thing I would recommend is mark the SIM card so that I can see if it has been replaced with modified version.
In terms of visual evidence for phone tampering, a SIM-card “man in the middle” technique has been around for over five years. F-Secure’s Security Advisor Sean Sullivan explained that “SIM piggybacks” are now much smaller and slimmer than the one in the photo at right, which F-Secure provided as an example.
Another phone hardware spy technique is swapping out a modified battery; in this instance, authorities replace the suspect’s phone battery with a visually identical duplicate that houses a smaller battery and a range of possible surveillance tools (able to track physical location, intercept phone calls, activate software to record video, among other functions).
Still, the battery looks identical – and there is no visual reason for the person having their phone taken by authorities to suspect that anything has changed.
So-called ‘piggyback SIM’ card man-in-the-middle attacks, stealth battery swap, and more was confirmed by San Francisco basedRift Recon. Researchers interviewed for this article (such as Lindner) sent me to Rift’s team for expert answers about physical tampering; evidence, methods of attack, and detection.
Rift Recon‘s team explained that computers and phones don’t even need to be confiscated and kept in order for authorities to modify devices and insert silently running surveillance malware.
All authorities need to do, Rift explained, is to have your phone or laptop out of your sight for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes to insert a thumb drive that spoofs the device, copies the data, and inserts an undetectable piece of surveillance software.
Rift Recon Founder and CEO Eric Michaud confirmed that aside from a piggyback SIM, visual evidence of phone tampering is rare.
There will be no visual evidence if they utilized restricted law enforcement kits like the Cellebrite UFED- and there are many such restricted kits.
Most phones have a debug mode that is trivial to access and/or bypass, and then authorities can download the contents of the phone. This affects even modern devices like the iPhone 5 or Nexus devices from Google sold in the consumer market.
Miranda also had his hard drives confiscated. External drives are also targeted, and these prove difficult when trying to determine if they have been accessed.
A few vendors sell ones that require a password or fingerprint to activate, but most drives don’t offer much to go on in the way of tamper-evidencing. The problem here lies with the fact that there are open ports, and most commercial devices just power on and are ready for Read/Write almost immediately, and do not log access.
This is an especially acute issue with law enforcement data acquisition devices that do not write to the drives (which is required for logging).
If David Miranda’s laptop and phone don’t appear to be modified, it may display behaviors during normal operation that reveal ways in which the devices have been hacked – although, again, government malware typically evades anti-virus software and operates invisibly.
All of the researchers agreed that for both computers and phones, a good bet would be to monitor and document all network traffic. Niemelä, the Senior Researcher at F-Secure suggested,
The best way to detect tampering is to look for unexplained network connections.
Switch off all software that uses a network; Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc. and monitor if the device makes any sort of network connections, and if they do, to where. Best way to do this is to set up a WiFi router with which you can observe all traffic, either from logs or by using Wireshark, or another network sniffing tool.
Another option is a full forensic examination of the device. But this is very expensive. So traffic analysis is a sensible starting point.
At Berlin’s Recurity Labs, Mr. Lindner provided a tip for people who have had their phones confiscated, or otherwise suspect phone modifications:
With cell phones, the key is battery life.
Review how the Etisalat BlackBerry trojan was found: The server died under load and everyone’s BB drained its battery while trying to reach it. In similar modifications, the battery drain of a 5 minute call to person A is double or triple of that to person B.
Having surveillance done on a phone itself is hard, batteries are b*tches. The advanced version for phones is knowing someone with a faraday cage (or having access to a shipping container) and an IMSI-catcher. This will allow you to monitor communication over the GSM/3G interface. You can make calls and see how many channels are opened for voice etc.
Your computer and phone have been hacked and modified by British authorities. Now what?
All researchers agreed that device replacement is safest option, as long as with phones the SIM card is also replaced.
Most hackers told me that once your phone or laptop has been confiscated by authorities or modified by authorities on the fly, you should just think of them as pricey paperweights.
Not all of the researchers were quite so cynical, but across the board all were skeptical about being able to effectively clean any authority-tainted devices. Because, as Lindner put it, “Defense is >10 years behind attack research. Detection of compromise is only very slowly getting attention. Recovery from compromise is absolutely blank in terms of research.”
F-Secure’s Niemelä reminded me that there’s a difference between what low-level (and low-budget) authorities will use to modify your devices and what budgeted police will use. “Of course if anti-virus detects the spying tool then running AV cleanup could be enough, but that is more effective against tools used by private investigators than government spies.”
How can we keep our private property, private?
The researchers interviewed for this article described a few ways – in some cases, their own personal precautions – in which travelers can take precautions to keep the private lives and sensitive information stored on laptops and phones, private.
While focused on American borders (specifically digital travelers and U.S. law), it suggests a lot of techniques with which you can decide how you want to try and protect your data from authorities. The EFF‘s list of basic precautions in that post are invaluable.
F-Secure’s Niemelä recommended, “If the device is encrypted and switched off when entering a checkpoint, the officials would have to be able to crack the encryption first before being able to tamper with the device. Which means that unless a SIM card attack is used, the user can feel quite safe even if the device is taken from their possession.”
Recurity’s Lindner also had great advice, more along the lines of having an OPSEC (operations security) philosophy. “Computers are cheap, stop using one for everything. If you are disciplined about that (OPSEC again), you always have a clear mental picture of what you lost when it’s taken from you. Much like a wallet, basically. F*ck the Cloud – be one.”
File encryption is a commonly prescribed precaution – but one hacker interviewed for this article who has worked in the infiltration and penetration field for two decades was adamant that file encryption was worthless in the face of some government tools. The EFF agrees that file encryption is not a complete solution. Even with file encryption there are attacks which can still access a device’s operating system. The source exclaimed, “Once they access your OS, you’re done.”
According to this anonymous source, full disk encryption is the surest option because it prevents access to the operating system and suggestions included PointSec and Sophos.
Contents: unknown, and under pressure
Brazilian citizen Miranda was held for nine hours and all his electronic equipment including mobile phone, laptop, memory sticks and smart watch were taken and kept by British police.
Miranda, a 28-year-old university student, was traveling home to Brazil after visiting Germany, where he met with Emmy-nominated documentarian (and Freedom of the Press Foundation Board Member)Laura Poitras, who has worked with Greenwald and Edward Snowden while involved with her current docu about Wikileaks and whistleblowers. Greenwald said Miranda was carrying materials, but it is unknown what he was carrying.
I don’t in any way intend to minimize the obviously deep bond between Mr. Greenwald and his husband with the following statement.
But I think that what is happening to David Miranda at the hands of British authorities should give every ordinary citizen of the world ice in their veins – especially those traveling through London Heathrow – when we’re wondering if all we do to get detained, interrogated and have our lives violated in ways we’re only starting to understand – is simply to fall in love with a journalist.
Hopefully Mr. Miranda will have all of his possessions returned to him this weekend.
Photo credit for “piggyback SIM” card – used with full permission and shot by Sean Sullivan, F-Secure. All other images: CNET. Hardware hacker in CNET photo: Limor Fried. Full disclosure: the author of this article is in a personal relationship with Rift Recon’s Eric Michaud. On the basis of this disclosure, no conflict with the material was posed in regard to the subject’s inclusion in the article.
Michael Grunwald, Glenn Greenwald (Credit: Simon & Schuster/David Whitman/AP/Kin Cheung)
This past Saturday, Time magazine’s senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald,told his 10,000-plus Twitter followers that he “can’t wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange.” There is, to say the least, much to be gleaned by such a statement.
For instance, it is yet more proof of the growing ranks of Journalists Against Journalism Club. Yes, here we have a reporter expressing excitement at the prospect of the government executing the publisher of information that became the basis for some of the most important journalism in the last decade.
Likewise, it is yet more proof that the nonchalant blood lust that pervades the National Security State also exists inside the establishment media that is supposed to be objectively covering that National Security State. Indeed, even after deleting his tweet, Grunwald was unrepentant about such blood lust, saying that he wasn’t sorry for effectively endorsing extrajudicial assassination, but merely for the fact that his tweet “gives Assange supporters a nice safe persecution complex to hide in.”
But, then, journalists hating on journalism and political reporters worshiping state-sponsored violence is no big reveal anymore. In that sense, Grunwald’s morbid fantasy is notable primarily because it summarized such realities in such uncharacteristically clear terms.
What is more revelatory is what the context of the Grunwald episode says about the intensifying debate over who is and who is not a true “journalist,” and whether it is opinion or ideology that really disqualifies one from the legal privileges that are supposed to come with that label.
The journalist/non-journalist is a debate that has gone on for a while now. It is one that I have a bit of personal experience with since a 2007 fight when the gatekeepers in the congressional press gallery tried to deny me press credentials simply because I acknowledge my own political opinions/ideology. And it is a debate that has now flared back up since opinionated Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald began breaking the NSA stories back in June.
In response to Greenwald’s scoops, the most pro-establishment media voices have insinuated that because Greenwald has previously stated opinions on issues like government secrecy, militarism and surveillance, he should be treated as something less than a journalist — or even as a full-on criminal.
For example, disgraced Wall Street investor-turned-pundit Steve Rattner took to national television to declare that “Glenn Greenwald is not a journalist, he’s an activist portraying himself as a journalist.” Likewise, Carl Bernstein said of Greenwald that a “reporter has no business making” a “non-reportorial statement.” The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin called for Greenwald’s arrest (he later apologized). And most famously, NBC’s David Gregory accused Greenwald of having “aided and abetted Snowden,” wondered “why shouldn’t you … be charged with a crime?” and explained it all by later classifying Greenwald as “somebody who claims that he’s a journalist” but might not be one because he has an opinion.
Contrast all that with the reaction — or lack thereof — to Grunwald. While there were certainly condemnations of what the Time reporter specifically said about Assange, and while Time’s editors said that Grundwald’s sentiment is “in no way representative of Time’s views,” few have cited Grunwald’s decision to publicly promote his opinion as proof that, to echo the words of Rattner, he “is not a journalist, he’s an activist portraying himself as a journalist.” Revealingly, the same “opinions mean he isn’t a journalist” attacks leveled against Greenwald were not aimed at Grunwald even though the tweet was not Grunwald’s first time expressing highly polarizing opinions. Remember, under the decidedly not objective headline “the government must protect the public even if it has to limit individual rights,” Grunwald recently published a screed calling civil libertarians “purists” and berating the ACLU for “shrieking about the FBI violating (a) suspect’s Miranda rights.”
Grunwald is hardly the first person who gets to at once express subjective opinions and yet also retain the status of objective journalist, with all the legal protections that is supposed to engender (more on that in a second). The Times’ Sorkin, for instance, publishes Wall Street hagiography that is apparently sponsored by Goldman Sachs that is laden with his obsequious opinions (see his essay today defending financial industry cronyism), and few question his status as a journalist.
Same thing for the Post’s Bob Woodward; few if any challenged his “journalist” label even after he used the sequestration standoff to slam the idea of budget cuts to the military. Same thing for the likes of Jeffrey Goldberg and Tom Friedman; their clear opinions do not get them chastised by their fellow media mavens as non-journalists.
So which is it? Does having an opinion disqualify one from being a journalist? Or can you have an opinion and still retain the coveted “journalist” status and protections?
The answer today clearly depends on the kind of opinion, and whether it serves or challenges those in power. That’s right, just as ideology nowdetermines who gets labeled a prosecutable leaker (sources whose disclosures embarrass the government) and who doesn’t (sources whose disclosures help the government), so too does that kind of ideological distinction determine who gets treated like a journalist and who does not.
WikiLeaks and Greenwald hold pro-transparency opinions. Because those kind of opinions do not serve the corporate and government establishment, those establishments work to marginalize them by treating them and those connected to them as non-journalists, activists or — most recently in the case of Greenwald’s spouse — as terrorism suspects.
By contrast, Grunwald has saber-rattling opinions that proudly support the government’s drone strikes and surveillance. Sorkin’s opinions promote Wall Street’s interests. Broder had opinions that supported, among other things, the government’s corporate-serving “free” trade agenda. Woodward has opinions backing an ever-bigger Pentagon budget that enriches defense contractors. Goldberg promotes the Military-Industrial Complex’s generally pro-war opinions. Friedman is all of them combined, promoting both “free” trade and “suck on this” militarism. Because these voices loyally promote the unstatedassumptions that serve the power structure and that dominate American politics, all of their particular opinions aren’t even typically portrayed as opinions; they are usually portrayed as noncontroversial objectivity. And because their opinions support the government and corporate establishment, those promoting them get to keep their journalism credentials — and all the attendant protections.
Those protections, of course, are what transform this fight over who is a journalist from an abstract academic debate into a legal battle with real-world consequences. That’s because the rhetorical fight is happening at the very moment when the government is trying to reduce protections by specifically limiting the “journalist” classification.
Consider how the legal wrangling in the Bradley Manning case shows a government that is trying to narrow the definition of journalist on ideological grounds. In that case, prosecutors specifically argued that WikiLeaks is not a “journalistic enterprise” because it is an opinionated “transparency movement” (as if the two are mutually exclusive), and that the latter distinction supposedly means Manning committed worse crimes than had he leaked to, say, the allegedly non-opinionated Washington Post. Such legal arguments are being floated, mind you, at the same time the Department of Justice is simultaneously attempting to limit the definition of “journalist” so that the most ideologically adversarial and opinionated news outlets and reporters are stripped of the legal protections often necessary to conduct journalism.
What the Grunwald episode highlights, though, is that highly subjective opinions are as ubiquitous in traditional media outlets like Time magazine as they are in “alternative” media outlets, only the former never have their journalism credentials challenged. Juxtaposed with the government and media establishment’s harsh treatment of Greenwald and WikiLeaks, the episode thus also shows that journalism privilege (status, legal protections, etc.) is increasingly granted not exclusively to those who lack opinions, but only to those whose opinions pass those establishments’ ideological litmus tests.
David Sirota is a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and the best-selling author of the books “Hostile Takeover,” “The Uprising” and “Back to Our Future.” E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.MORE DAVID SIROTA.
ReutersOn Sunday, Britain used a provision of the British Terrorism Act to detain a man no one thinks is a terrorist: David Miranda, a Brazilian citizen and the partner of American journalist Glenn Greenwald. They held him for 9 hours at Heathrow Airport, denied him access to an attorney, and took all his electronics.
That alone is a scandal.
Authorities in various Western nations have been granted extraordinary powers to fight terrorists. This isn’t a story about whether one agrees with Edward Snowden’s decision to leak classified National Security Agency documents, or what one thinks of Glenn Greenwald’s journalism. It is a story about whether sweeping powers passed with the understanding they’d be used against terrorists will henceforth be marshaled against anyone Western governments want to target, even if there is zero chance that they are associated with Al Qaeda or its affiliates. This is a story about whether national security journalism is already being treated as terrorism so that government officials can bring more powerful tools to bear against leaks of classified information*. And it’s a story about the impropriety of targeting the loved ones of journalists in adversarial relationships with the government in order to intimidate them or others.
…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.
As yet, it’s unclear whether or not the U.S. government put Britain, whose spy agency has also been exposed and embarrassed by Edward Snowden’s leaks, up to this. Congress should investigate whether or not Team Obama played any role. Only last month, the U.S. pressured European countries to ground the plane of Bolivian President Evo Morales in a thuggish reaction to rumors that Snowden was aboard the aircraft, so nothing is assured, save that Miranda has been treated badly and is owed an apology by the captors. “The thought of his being detained by the British police for nine hours because his partner embarrassed the American government really sickens me at a gut level,” Andrew Sullivanwrites. “I immediately think of my husband, Aaron, being detained in connection to work I have done, something that would horrify and frighten me. We should, of course, feel this empathy with people we have never known, but the realization is all the more gob-smacking when it comes so close to home.” With every day that passes, I grow more amazed at how many apologists the national security state has. It is transnational and increasingly unaccountable, with Western intelligence agencies and officials sharing more interests with one another than with their own legislatures/parliaments and citizens. Recall The Guardian’sscoop on GCHQ from earlier this month:
The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQover the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes. The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands.
“GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said. The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.
Was this 9-hour stunt GCHQ pulling its weight? _____ *Joshua Foust, who says that this was “a tactically disastrous choice by the British authorities (whatever the legal justification),” argues that the anti-terrorism law in question may define terrorism so broadly that Miranda could conceivably qualify, which is all the more reason to reexamine the law .
I think Mr. Greenwald may be wrong. The purpose of this intimidation is to make less well known activists and even just “average” people, especially gay people, afraid that immigration law will be used against them if the criticize the NSA, DHS, or Obama regime.
The detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended
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 theNSA 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.
I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here.
Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David. We spent most of that time contemplating the charges he would likely face once the 9-hour period elapsed.
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.
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 felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world – when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today – all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
David was unable to call me because his phone and laptop are now with UK authorities. So I don’t yet know what they told him. But the Guardian’s lawyer was able to speak with him immediately upon his release, and told me that, while a bit distressed from the ordeal, he was in very good spirits and quite defiant, and he asked the lawyer to convey that defiance to me. I already share it, as I’m certain US and UK authorities will soon see.
Glenn Greenwald (right) and his partner David Miranda, who was held by UK authorities at Heathrow aiport. Photograph: Glenn Greenwald
The partner of the Guardian journalist who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National SecurityAgency was held for almost nine hours on Sunday by UK authorities as he passed through London‘s Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro.
David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.
Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
Since 5 June, Greenwald has written a series of stories revealing theNSA‘s electronic surveillance programmes, detailed in thousands of files passed to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Guardian has also published a number of stories about blanket electronic surveillance by Britain’s GCHQ, also based on documents from Snowden.
While in Berlin, Miranda had visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has also been working on the Snowden files with Greenwald and the Guardian.
“This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process,” Greenwald said. “To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere.
“But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively.”
A spokesperson for the Guardian said: “We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport. We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities.”
A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said: “At 08:05 on Sunday, 18 August a 28-year-old man was detained at Heathrow airport under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was not arrested. He was subsequently released at 17:00.”
Scotland Yard refused to be drawn on why Miranda was stopped using powers which enable police officers to stop and question travellers at UK ports and airports.
There was no comment from the Home Office in relation to the detention. However, there was surprise last night in political circles and elsewhere. Labour MP Tom Watson said that he was shocked at the news and called for it to be made clear if any ministers were involved in authorising the detention.
He said: “It’s almost impossible, even without full knowledge of the case, to conclude that Glenn Greenwald’s partner was a terrorist suspect.
“I think that we need to know if any ministers knew about this decision, and exactly who authorised it.”
“The clause in this act is not meant to be used as a catch-all that can be used in this way.”
Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act has been widely criticised for giving police broad powers under the guise of anti-terror legislation to stop and search individuals without prior authorisation or reasonable suspicion – setting it apart from other police powers.
Those stopped have no automatic right to legal advice and it is a criminal offence to refuse to co-operate with questioning under schedule 7, which critics say is a curtailment of the right to silence.
Last month the UK government said it would reduce the maximum period of detention to six hours and promised a review of the operation on schedule 7 amid concerns it unfairly targets minority groups and gives individuals fewer legal protections than they would have if detained at a police station.
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Charles Johnson is the producer of the blog Little Green Footballs, that makes Rachel Maddow look like a crack researcher. I don’t really ever read it. He piled on and attacked my Tea Party Guide several years ago with the usual fabrications (a fake map etc.) and when I responded on his blog he eventually gave up debating me and censored me from posting there. He wanted to trash me personally and also not allow me to respond. Today he is bemoaning the fact that civil libertarians on the left are cooperating with limited government civil libertarians.
Wonder if his masters in the tax predator ruling class will give him an extra ration tonight in his pen?