Schedule 7, which gives govt. sweeping powers, is already facing a legal challenge
Opposition is already building in the United Kingdom — with an early statement by the Labour Party — to the detention and interrogation under the Terrorism Act at the Heathrow airport of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian columnist who has written a series of reports on the U.S.’ and U.K.’s mass surveillance programmes based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Mr. Miranda was stopped by officers on Sunday morning at Heathrow and informed that he would be detained for questioning.
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said in a press release that “any suggestion that terror powers are being misused must be investigated and clarified urgently”, citing the warning issued by David Anderson, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, on the dangers of misusing Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act under which Mr. Miranda was detained. Calling for the Home Office and police to justify their action, she said “swift answers are needed”.
The Guardian on Monday front-paged the story of how the 28-year old Brazilian was detained by U.K. authorities and grilled by officers for the full nine hours that is permissible under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act before the individual must be formally arrested or released. The law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to search, detain and question individuals. He was released but not before his electronic equipment that included his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles were confiscated.
Mr. Miranda was returning from Berlin via Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Mr. Greenwald. He was in Berlin to visit the U.S. film-maker Laura Poitras who has been collaborating with Mr. Greenwald and The Guardian on the Snowden files.
Mr. Greenwald in his statement said that far from being intimidated the governments action will “…only have the opposite effect: to embolden us even further”.
Labour MPs Tom Watson and Keith Vaz criticised the detention, The Guardian. Reported. Jeremy Corbyn MP Labour, in response to an e-mail from The Hindu, said that he was “shocked and appalled” that the Terrorist Act could be used in this way.
“It is unnecessary, and I think the Home Secretary must explain to Parliament why she authorised it.”
“The tragedy is that the government and police will not be held to account, nobody will be charged with this violation of procedure and law,” Gavin MacFadyen, Director of the U.K.-based Centre for Investigative Journalism, told The Hindu. “It is unprecedented to use the anti-terrorism legislation in this way,” he said, adding “They [the U.K. government] did what they were asked to do by the American government.”
Schedule 7 is already under legal challenge by the non-party human rights organization Liberty, or the National Council for Civil Liberties, its Director, Shami Chakrabarti told The Hindu. The detention was possible due to “the breathtakingly broad Schedule 7 power, which requires no suspicion and is routinely abused. People are held for long periods, subject to strip searches, saliva swabbing and confiscation of property.”
Liberty is already challenging this law in the Court of Human Rights, but “MPs disturbed by this latest scandal should repeal it without delay,” he said.