Attitude typical of totalitarian states, says Brazilian Human Rights Commission
David Miranda, partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who has broken most of the stories about the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance, was constantly threatened with jail during his nine-hour detention at the Heathrow airport on Sunday, when he was held under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Mr. Miranda was detained while transiting in Heathrow airport en route from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro.
“I was threatened all the time. They kept saying ‘If you do not answer our questions, you can go to jail’,” Mr. Miranda told the prime time news show Jornal Nacional on Tuesday. “They asked me about my relationship with Glenn, about my family and my friends. They didn’t ask anything about terrorism. They questioned me about my role in NSA stories. I told them that I have no direct involvement with these documents but they kept threatening me with jail,” added the 28-year-old Brazilian.
Though the Brazilian was never accused of terrorism by British officials, he was warned by his interrogators that if they did not think he was being cooperative, then he could be taken to a police station and put in jail. “They treated me like a criminal. It was very exhausting. I thought I might be detained for a very long time,” he said. “They wanted me to tell them the passwords for my laptop and mobile phone.”
While in detention, Mr. Miranda was not allowed to contact Mr. Greenwald, who is a qualified lawyer, nor was he given an interpreter. The Brazilian was detained while ferrying materials between Mr. Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the Berlin-based American filmmaker who has been working on stories related to the NSA documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Earlier on Monday, a distraught-looking Mr. Miranda was received by Mr. Greenwald at the Tom Jobim International Airport, with a posse of reporters and photographers following him in the waiting lounge. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Miranda described how he was questioned by six different agents about his entire life. “They took my computer, video games, mobile phone, my memory sticks, electronic watch. Everything,” he said.
The British police might have seized several encrypted documents, but Mr. Greenwald has said he was not intimidated by what happened to Mr. Miranda and insisted that he would continue doing his job. “We have several copies of all the documents we work with. They can’t destroy anything. They can take documents every day and we always have many copies of all,” said Mr. Greenwald on Monday. “I never said that I will punish anyone or seek revenge. I’ll post just to show the world the information that people should know.”
Meanwhile, as details about Mr. Miranda’s detention emerged on Tuesday, the incident continued to evoke outrage in Brazil. Condemning the British action, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ricardo Ferraço, sought explanation from London. “The U.K. government must satisfy the government and Brazilian people. They should explain why David Miranda’s rights were violated,” Mr. Ferraço said in a statement on Tuesday.
Other important groups too have rallied behind Mr. Miranda. The Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, Wadih Damous, said the arrest of partners or family members of journalist is an attitude typical of totalitarian states. “Citizens around the world can’t suffer attacks on their individual rights, just because U.S. interests are at stake,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Earlier, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota summoned the British ambassador in Brasilia, Alex Ellis, to seek an explanation about Mr. Miranda’s detention at the Heathrow. Mr. Patriota also spoke by telephone with British Foreign Minister William Hague and told him that the Brazilian’s detention was “unjustifiable”.