David Miranda, left, partner of the Guardian's Brazil-based reporter Glenn Greenwald, right, was detained at London's Heathrow airport under anti-terror laws last year. Greenwald was at the time working with the Guardian newspaper and other publications on exposing widespread U.S. and British spying, based on highly classified data leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Evaristo Sa / AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON — Britain’s High Court on Wednesday endorsed the detention of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner and the seizure his documents at a London airport last summer, rejecting arguments that the stop amounted to a violation of free expression.
A panel of three judges said London’s Metropolitan Police officers acted properly when they invoked terrorism legislation to stop David Miranda at Heathrow Airport on August 18, seizing encrypted devices and questioning him for nearly nine hours. Writing on the panel’s behalf, Lord Justice John Laws said that the devices contained a large number of documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, including nearly 60,000 “highly classified UK intelligence documents.”
The detention “was a proportionate measure in the circumstances,” Laws said. “Its objective was not only legitimate, but very pressing.”
Lawyers for Miranda — paid for by the Guardian newspaper, which has published many of Snowden’s leaks — had argued that the government’s use of terrorism legislation to detain the Brazilian citizen was improper, disproportionate, and ran counter to the principle of free expression. Miranda’s defenders also worry that the government’s use of terror legislation to seize journalistic material might mean other reporters working on NSA stories could be tarred as terrorists.
Greenwald said Wednesday that his reporting had spawned international debate and reform, winning journalism awards all over the world.
“It is only in the U.K. where our journalism is considered not just criminal but ‘terrorism,’” he said in a statement carried by The Intercept, his new media venture.
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that the judges’ ruling backed the force’s decision to invoke terror laws in its detention of Miranda.
“Our assessment was that the use of the power was legally and procedurally sound,” the statement said. It called the ruling a “clear vindication” of police conduct.