The nine-hour detention of the partner of a Guardian newspaper journalist at Heathrow airport was unlawful and breached his right to freedom of expression, his lawyers said at a court hearing challenging his arrest.
David Miranda was held for nine hours on Aug. 18 by British security forces, which seized 58,000 classified documents obtained by the former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden. Miranda is asking a U.K. court to determine whether the arrest, made under counterterrorism powers, was lawful.
The data “revealed mass surveillance carried out,” by U.S. and U.K. governments that hadn’t been known about, Matthew Ryder, Miranda’s lawyer, said at the start of the two-day judicial review hearing in London today. “The articles have started an international debate that may never have happened.”
Miranda was used as a courier to carry information for his partner Glenn Greenwald, who reported on Snowden’s allegations about U.S. surveillance programs. Snowden, who faces U.S. espionage charges, has been given temporary asylum in Russia. Lawyers for the U.K. Home Office said that the material posed a serious threat to national security and it was within its rights to seize the material.
The Home Office needed to know “where Mr. Miranda fitted in the broader” Snowden network, Steven Kovats, a lawyer for the Home Secretary, said in court papers. Miranda never claimed to be a journalist or that he was carrying any journalistic material during his detention, he said.
“Mr. Snowden and those involved in publishing the classified material that he stole are seeking to influence governments, and that they are acting for advancing a political or ideological cause,” which means it has to fall under the definition of terrorism, he said.
U.K. police opened a criminal investigation into the documents on Aug. 22. They said a thorough examination is necessary to protect the public. The court ruled earlier that the material seized from Miranda could only be examined for national security purposes and the protection of the public.
The case is The Queen on the application of Miranda v Secretary of State Home Office, case no. 13-11732, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division.