U.K. Defends Detention of Brazilian Under Terrorism Act

U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May said police acted correctly in using anti-terrorism laws to detain the Brazilian partner of a journalist who broke news on U.S. surveillance programs, after Brazil called it unjustified.

“It’s absolutely right that if the police believe that somebody is in possession of highly-sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists, that could risk lives, lead to a potential loss of life, that the police are able to act,” May told U.K. broadcasters today. “The decision as to whether or not to arrest or charge somebody is entirely a matter for the police. I as home secretary don’t tell the police who to stop or not to stop.”

David Miranda was held for questioning for as long as nine hours at London’s Heathrow airport Aug. 18 under the U.K. Terrorism Act. His partner, Glenn Greenwald, who reported for the Guardian newspaper on former security contractor Edward Snowden’s allegations of U.S. surveillance programs, said he intends to publish revelations on U.K. intelligence after the incident.

The detention “was legally and procedurally sound,” London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in an e-mailed statement late last night. “The procedure was reviewed throughout to ensure the examination was both necessary and proportionate.”

May said today she’d been informed in advance of the possibility Miranda would be stopped for questioning.

U.S. Filmmaker

Miranda was returning to Rio de Janeiro from Berlin, where he had spent a week with Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker who has worked on the National Security Agency stories with Snowden and Greenwald, the Guardian reported. The U.K. newspaper said it paid for Miranda’s flights and that, while he isn’t a Guardian employee, he often assists Greenwald in his work.

Lawyers for Miranda said they will challenge the legality of the detention and asked the Home Office not to distribute any material seized on Aug. 18. Miranda told Brazil’s Globo TV that British authorities confiscated his computer and mobile telephone.

“We are most concerned about the unlawful way in which these powers were used and the chilling effect this will have on freedom of expression,” Kate Goold, a criminal lawyer at London-based Bindmans LLP, said in a statement.

Brazil’s Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over the Heathrow incident, according to a statement on its website yesterday. “This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimize the use of that legislation,” the ministry said.

Snowden, a 30-year-old former security contractor, released a trove of classified documents in June that showed efforts by the NSA to log domestic and international phone calls and track electronic messages on social media. Facing criminal charges in the U.S., Snowden received temporary asylum in Russia, straining relations between the countries.

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