Glenn Greenwald‘s partner is taking legal action against the British government for detaining him and confiscating his laptop and cell phone.
David Miranda was held at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours, he said Sunday, pursuant schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which allows British officials to investigate a person for possible ties to terrorism. He was only in the U.K. for a transfer flight back to his native Brazil, but said he was heavily interrogated about his “whole life” by three different agents.
So Miranda has enlisted Bindmans Law Firm to challenge the legality of his detention, and, on the off chance that the British government hasn’t already thoroughly examined his computer, put a hold on anyone tampering with it. In a letter sent Tuesday and made public on their website, Bindmans wrote to the British Secretary of State of the Home Office that the “use of Schedule 7 powers in relation to our client in order to obtain access to journalistic material is of exceptional and grave concern.”
Miranda isn’t known to have direct ties to any government leaks, just a relationship with Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has broken the vast majority of recent stories about secret intelligence programs in the U.S., U.K., and around the world. Greenwald later said that Miranda was carrying materials given to him by filmmaker Laura Poitras.
Bindmans’s letter also demanded “immediate undertakings” to “prevent any further harm caused by the Defendants’ actions whilst the legality of the seizure of his property is in the process of being determined.”
The firm went on to promise to sue the Secretary of State in the High Court if it didn’t respond within one week.
The British Home Office defended the decision to detain Miranda, saying “If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that.”
The act indicates that the British government is extremely concerned with possible Guardian stories. On Monday, the Guardian revealed that British authorities had recently destroyed some of the paper’s hard drives.
Ironically, one of Greenwald’s biggest hits as a journalist was a 2012 Salon article detailing how frequently and severely the U.S. detains Poitras, an American citizen, whenever she travels. Poitras ended up as Greenwald’s closest confidant in breaking the story of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the only known video in which Snowden explains the NSA‘s practices, he’s interviewed by Greenwald and shot by Poitras.
Screengrab of Miranda and Greenwald on O Globo via the Guardian