The suggestion that the nine-hour detention of David Miranda at Heathrow airport and the confiscation of all his electronic items was a snafu by an over-eager airport security official or that it was a routine decision taken by the anti-terror branch of their security forces was never very plausible but it has now been shot down by the US government saying that it had been given a ‘heads up’ by the British government that they were going to take this action.
This announcement was made by the White House spokesperson and may be an attempt to deflect attention away from the far more likely possibility that they were the ones who initiated the move, since the British government is an obedient lapdog that never tries to escape the short leash it is kept on by the US.
Josh Earnest, the principal deputy White House press secretary, said at the daily briefing: “There was a heads-up that was provided by the British government. This is something that we had an indication that was likely to occur but it is not something that we requested. It was something that was done specifically by the British law enforcement officials. This is an independent British law enforcement decision that was made.”
Earnest had earlier said: “This is a decision that was made by the British government without the involvement – and not at the request – of the United States government. It is as simple as that.”
The White House spokesman confirmed that Britain alerted the US authorities after Miranda’s name appeared on a passenger manifest of a flight from Berlin to Heathrow on Sunday morning. “I think that is an accurate interpretation of what a heads-up is,” Earnest said when asked if the tip was provided when Miranda’s name appeared on the manifest.
Earnest declined to rule out whether the US authorities had been passed information from Miranda’s electronic equipment seized at Heathrow. Officials confiscated electronics equipment, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
Asked to rule out whether the US had been passed such material, the spokesman said: “I’m not in a position to do that right now.”
Of course, the White House has shown itself to be serial liars so no one, except the White House stenographic press corps, is likely to believe this denial. You can be sure that all Miranda’s confiscated material is already in the hands of the NSA and being subject to scrutiny. Since it is likely that Greenwald and Poitras have copies of what is in those devices, the only reason I can think of for taking them, apart from vindictiveness and intimidation, is that the US is not sure what is in their possession and is really worried.
Meanwhile Greenwald promises to write even more aggressively about the NSA stories. I doubt that he was planning to hold much back in the first place but he may use the discretionary powers that Snowden gave him to hit the US government even harder than he originally planned, as in this interview given by him and Miranda after the latter returned to Brazil.
[UPDATE: Jonathan Watts ha a more detailed interview with Miranda.]
Anyone who has followed him could have predicted this. Stephen Walt writes that the Miranda detention was as dumb a move as could be imagined:
It sends the clear message to Greenwald that he’s being watched, and those near to him are too. Greenwald himself believes that this was the motivation for the UK government’s action, and he may well be right. But if so, then it was also a completely lame-brained act on Britain’s part: you don’t need a triple-digit IQ to figure out that Greenwald is not the sort of person who can be intimidated in this fashion. On the contrary, his entire career as a blogger, writer, and journalist has been driven by the desire to expose and challenging abuses of power, and making him the personal object of this sort of abuse is hardly going to make him cease writing and go back to being a corporate lawyer. So if that was the goal, somebody in the UK counter-terror operation either hasn’t been paying attention, isn’t very bright, or both.
I eagerly look forward to more articles in the near future. But I also really worry for Greenwald’s safety.