“Sweeping assertions”: Miranda’s lawyer

The High Court London on August 30 granted the UK police extended permission to examine the data seized from David Miranda, the partner of Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald who was detained and interrogated for nine hours under the Terrorism Act on August 18 at Heathrow airport, and data storage devices confiscated.

The court had on August 21 given Mr Miranda a limited injunction that allowed the police to examine the material only for national security purposes.

The latest order comes after the UK authorities told the Court that the seized material reveals the names of UK intelligence offices and could pose a threat to public security. A security officer for the Cabinet office, Oliver Robbins, said that one file contained 58,000 “highly classified” documents which identified British intelligence officers, and which could have had a direct impact on the UK’s intelligence operations. According to him, Mr. Miranda had carelessly carried the password to de-encrypt one file of the data on a piece of paper.

A spokesperson for the met police counter terrorism unit, that is currently conducting a criminal investigation into the material, said that one third of the material -- that in itself contained information that could pose a threat to the public safety of Britons -- has been accessed so far. The police and other intelligence agencies will examine if the material is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”

“Exploiting this dismaying blurring of journalism and terror,” is how Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, described the three-week delay by the UK Government in acting on information about the whereabouts of secret intelligence data leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. He argued that a day after the Guardian complied with the government’s request to destroy computer hardware containing sensitive encrypted files, The Guardian had told the UK government that this material had been shared with the US publications New York Times and ProPublica. However, although the government told the judges that the matter was urgent and critical, they did little about it for three weeks, Mr. Rusbridger alleged.

Disputing the evidence produced by the UK authorities, Gwendolen Morgan, lawyer for Mr. Miranda said that the Home Office and the police were making “sweeping assertions about national security threats” in order to keep the seized material, even while asserting that they cannot provide further details in the open court.

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