Court Says Terror Laws Breached Reporter Rights in Snowden Case

  • Judges say Parliament should review U.K. terror laws
  • Court rules in case over detention of man holding Snowden data

A panel of judges asked the U.K. to review its terror laws after finding that they breach human rights statutes in a case brought by a man detained at Heathrow Airport with material leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden.

While the judges rejected an appeal by David Miranda, who is married to journalist Glenn Greenwald, over his treatment, they said the laws did not offer sufficient protection to journalists. "It will be a matter for Parliament to decide how best to provide such a safeguard," the appeals court said in a written summary of its decision.

Miranda was stopped and questioned at Heathrow in August 2013 by police using powers under the Terrorism Act. Officers also seized encrypted information about the U.S. National Security Agency provided by Snowden. Miranda’s lawsuit challenged invasive powers granted to help prevent terrorism, and said those powers infringed on individual rights.

“The government is constantly working to ensure our counter-terrorism powers are both effective and fair,” the Home Office said in a statement. “That is why in 2015 we changed the Code of Practice for examining officers to instruct them not to examine journalistic material at all.”

‘Blunt’ Laws

The laws “are so blunt that they inevitably damage the interests of democratic societies based on free speech and the journalists that are their champions," said John Halford, a lawyer for Miranda.

Snowden’s revelations about classified U.S. government spying programs started a debate about mass surveillance and led to lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic to review the practices used by security services. Snowden fled to Russia to escape prosecution in the U.S.

“My purpose was to show UK’s terrorism law violates press freedoms,” Miranda said in a Twitter post. “And journalism isn’t ’terrorism.’ We won!”

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