Welcome to Your New Police State

Glenn GreenwaldWelcome to your new police state! There isn’t a lot of information at this point, but Glenn Greenwald’s boyfriend was detained at the Heathrow airport for no apparent reason other than that Greenwald has been investigating the surveillance state. The man, David Miranda, was detained under schedule 7 of the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act 2000. This law “allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals” for up to 9 hours without charge. Miranda was released after 8 hours and 55 minutes. According to the Guardian, only one out of 2,000 people detained are held by more than 6 hours.

By the provisions in this law, the person detained is not allowed a lawyer. What’s more, it is illegal for him to not “cooperate,” which basically means that the supposed right to remain silent is practically if not theoretically gone. Greenwald himself was contacted after Miranda had been held for 3 hours. As a result of this, lawyers from the Guardian and officials from Brazil (Miranda is Brazilian)—including the Brazilian Ambassador to the UK—could get no information until Miranda was released.

The purpose of the law is to detain people who are suspected of terrorism. That most clearly was not the case with Miranda. Instead, the officials spent the whole 9 hours questioning him about the work of Greenwald and his colleague documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who Miranda had spent the last week visiting. The officials also confiscated various electronic devices that Miranda was carrying—including his laptop, cell phone, and game consoles. They did not say when or even if these would be returned.

Greenwald noted, “They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop ‘the terrorists,’ and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.”

Greenwald remains defiant and determined. But I don’t think the point of this flagrant abuse of police powers is about stopping him. It is about stopping any other reporters who might want to follow in his footsteps. This is how empires fall: by desperately clinging to power. Welcome to your new police state.

Update (18 August 2013 6:55 pm)

The Brazilian government has released a statement. This is my modified Google Translate version in English:

The Brazilian government expresses grave concern about the episode today in London, where a Brazilian citizen was detained and held incommunicado at Heathrow for a period of 9 hours based on British legislation to combat terrorism. This is unjustifiable because it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that might have justified the use of such a law. The Brazilian government hopes that incidents like that today are not repeated.

The United States and the United Kingdom are totally out of control. I hope this causes change, but I’m not hopeful.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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