Here is how two different news organizations told the same story: the detention of Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda*, for nine hours in the UK and the confiscation of his electronics equipment.
The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald speculates on the motivation for this action and then reports his own speculation as fact:
Detaining my partner: a failed attempt at intimidationThe detention of my partner, David Miranda, by UK authorities will have the opposite effect of the one intended...Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day - as every hour passed - worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism. It's bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It's worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the UK puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples....
Having heard enough, Andrew Sullivan jumps right in with both feet, declaring that this was nothing more than a "brute psychological intimidation of the press, by attacking their families" and a warning to " any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow":
A disclosure upfront: I have met David Miranda as part of a my friendship with Glenn Greenwald. The thought of his being detained by the British police for nine hours because his partner embarrassed the American government really sickens me at a gut level. I immediately think of my husband, Aaron, being detained in connection to work I have done – something that would horrify and frighten me. We should, of course, feel this empathy with people we have never known – but the realization is all the more gob-smacking when it comes so close to home....David was detained for nine hours – the maximum time under the law, to the minute. He therefore falls into the 3 percent of interviewees particularly, one assumes, likely to be linked to terrorist organizations. My obvious question is: what could possibly lead the British security services to suspect David of such ties to terror groups?I have seen nothing anywhere that could even connect his spouse to such nefarious contacts. Unless Glenn is some kind of super-al-Qaeda mole, he has none to my knowledge and to suspect him of any is so close to unreasonable it qualifies as absurd. The idea that David may fomenting terrorism is even more ludicrous.
And yet they held him for three hours before informing his spouse and another six hours thereafter. I can see no reason for those extra six hours (or for that matter the entire nine hours) than brute psychological intimidation of the press, by attacking their families.More to the point, although David was released, his entire digital library was confiscated – including his laptop and phone. So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is....
Amnesty International concurs that there could be no possible motive other than brute thuggishness for this abhorrent behavior in this press release --
Human Rights Watch:
UK: Detention of Guardian journalist's partner at Heathrow unlawful and unwarranted
A Guardian newspaper journalist's partner detained today while in transit at a London airport is clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics, targeted for no more than who he is married to, Amnesty International said today.-- which appears to be an alternate version of this press release in which Amnesty International makes Mr. Miranda an employee of the Guardian:
UK: DETENTION OF GUARDIAN EMPLOYEE AT HEATHROW UNLAWFUL AND UNWARRANTED
A Guardian newspaper employee detained today while in transit at a London airport is clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics, targeted for no more than who he is married to, Amnesty International said today.
David Michael Miranda is married to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who analyzed and published information on documents disclosing sweeping, systematic and unlawful surveillance by the US government. These documents were released by Edward Snowden.And the National Union of Journalists:
"Miranda had been used as a go-between by Greenwald and film-maker Laura Poitras, in Berlin, who had been working with him on the information supplied by Edward Snowden. This material has now been confiscated. Journalists no longer feel safe exchanging even encrypted messages by email and now it seems they are not safe when they resort to face-to-face meetings."The Guardian again:
We must assume the Americans asked the British government to nab him, shake him down and take his personal effects.Really? Must we assume that?
The detention of David Miranda at Heathrow is a clarifying moment that reveals how far Britain has changed for the worse. Nearly everyone suspects the Met held Miranda on trumped up charges because the police, at the behest of the Americans, wanted to intimidate Miranda’s partner Glenn Greenwald, the conduit of Edward Snowden’s revelations, and find out whether more embarrassing information is on Greenwald’s laptop.Really? Nearly everyone suspects that?
Human Rights Watch:
“It’s incredible that Miranda was considered to be a terrorist suspect,” said David Mepham, UK director at Human Rights Watch. “On the contrary, his detention looks intended to intimidate Greenwald and other journalists who report on surveillance abuses.”And the Guardian once again:
Greenwald said officials questioned Miranda about Greenwald’s extensive reporting on surveillance by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). He said Miranda was in transit and traveling to his home in Brazil after a week in Berlin, where he had stayed with Greenwald’s journalistic partner on the NSA story, Laura Poitras. The Guardian newspaper said it paid for Miranda’s trip.
As for Miranda, his only offence seems to have been to be part of his family. Harassing the family of those who have upset authority is the most obscene form of state terrorism.But either way, case closed and over and done, right?
Well, almost over and done.
Mr. Greenwald goes on to be quoted in the New York Times as follows:
“This is obviously a serious, radical escalation of what they are doing. He is my partner. He is not even a journalist.”
Mr. Greenwald is right: his partner is not a journalist. Ergo his partner would not enjoy any of the journalistic protections that Mr. Greenwald enjoys should his partner have been, say, muling stolen US government secrets across various international borders at Mr. Greenwald's behest.
Which may explain why at no point in this latest version of his by-now-standard "Worse Than..." boilerplate (Worse Than The Mafia!) does Mr. Greenwald ever bother to mention the actual mission which non-journalist David Miranda was actually paid by The Guardian to perform.
The New York Times, in the other hand, does bother to mention it:
...Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden. The British authorities seized all of his electronic media — including video games, DVDs and data storage devices — and did not return them, Mr. Greenwald said....
Maybe two months of seeing dribs and drabs of this stuff being teased and released like so many summer blockbusters might have gotten people used to seeing government secrets splashed all over the world's headlines, but the actual McGuffin at the center of it all are actual files which contain tens of thousands of stolen documents.
Stolen documents the possession of which it is still very much against the law for anyone who is not a journalist.
And not just any stolen, US government intelligence secrets, but stolen, US government intelligence secrets that are so sensitive and potentially destructive that Mr. Greenwald himself has described them as becoming:
United States' "worst nightmare" if revealed...
...enough information to cause harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had...
In fact, the stolen US government security secrets which Mr. Miranda was couriering across Europe are potentially so much more devastating to the United States than anything that has ever happened that, in Mr. Greenwald's words:
"The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden, because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare."
Since I am not up on British law I have no idea if it what the British government did at Heathrow was or was not technically illegal, but it certainly was spiteful and threatening.
But it is also true that if non-journalist David Miranda was detained because he was couriering some portion of a trove of incredibly dangerous, stolen US intelligence secrets across international borders at Mr. Greenwald's behest, Mr. Greenwald owed it to his readers to include that very important fact in his reporting.
And so once again we see the problem inherent in advocacy journalism when the advocate in question continues to believe his only obligation to his readers is to share with them only those details of the story that are favorable to his cause.
And speaking of advocacy journalism, Mr. Greenwald has now invoked kanly, vowing to use his access to those stolen US intelligence secrets to get David Cameron and his little dog too!
Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the news about secret U.S. surveillance programs said the authorities who took his partner into custody at London's Heathrow Airport "are going to regret what they did."
"I am going to write my stories a lot more aggressively now," the Guardian reporter told Brazil's Globo TV on Monday in Rio de Janeiro.
"I am going to publish many more documents now. I am going to publish a lot about England, too, I have a lot of documents about the espionage system in England. Now my focus is going to be that as well."...
*(To avoid legal entanglement, in the screenplay the character of David Miranda will be renamed "Jimmy Marburyversusmadison")