UK authorities held the partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald at Heathrow airport for nine hours under an anti-terrorism statute after he was stopped while traveling from Berlin to his home in Rio de Janeiro.
The Guardian reported Sunday that David Miranda was questioned about Greenwald’s work with filmmaker Laura Poitras on a series of stories about secret National Security Agency surveillance technology and programs. Officials also confiscated a number of Miranda’s electronic devices.
“We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport,” The Guardian said in a statement to NBC News’ Michael Isikoff. “We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities.”
Scotland Yard confirmed that a man was detained for the maximum amount of time allowed under Britain’s Terrorism Act and was released without charges. Official statistics show that one out of every 2,000 people detained under the act (.06% of all those stopped) are held for more than six hours.
Greenwald has strongly criticized the United States government for many years but has become even more outspoken after writing stories based on information brought to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald has faced backlash from members of Congress and fellow members of the media for publishing the stories.
Poitras, Greenwald’s colleague on much of the Snowden project, is no stranger to this sort of incident. In 2012, Greenwald wrote about Poitras’ experience being detained and questioned by Department of Homeland Security officials when she was entering the United States.
While British officials have yet to make any further statements about the incident, Greenwald has called the stop an attempt to intimidate him in response to the stories he has been publishing about government abuses of power under the guise of fighting terrorism.
“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,” Greenwald wrote. “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.”