UK: “It is for the police to decide”

August 20th, 2013

After detaining David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald’s partner, at Heathrow airport for 9 hours under a law meant to allow police to question people that may be involved in planning terrorist attacks, the United Kingdom said this to justify it:

A Home Office spokesman said Monday that the detention was an operational police matter and that neither he nor the police would provide any details. “Schedule 7 forms an essential part of the U.K.’s security arrangements,” the spokesman said. “It is for the police to decide when it is necessary and proportionate to use these powers.”

There you have it. If the UK government wants to detain, harass, and take a journalist’s partner’s electronics based on a terrorism law, it is up to them to decide when it’s necessary.

We will do whatever we want, and you should just shut up. Actually, that’s basically what the UK told the Guardian:

The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. “You’ve had your debate. There’s no need to write any more.”

And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

You’ve had your debate.