Nick Cohen writes: 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 [Metropolitan police] 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.
The Brazilian government has gone wild. (Greenwald lives in Brazil and his partner is Brazilian.) All kinds of people are saying, quite properly, that although they disagree with Greenwald’s politics they defend the right of citizens to hold governments to account.
You might have thought the Met would have been anxious to reply to its critics. You might have thought – expected indeed – that it would angrily rebut the charges, and provide irrefutable evidence that its officers are not like the goons of a dictatorship but remain the conscientious public servants of a democracy.
The Terrorism Act of 2000, which the Met used against Miranda, says that terrorism involves ‘serious violence against a person’ or ‘serious damage to property’. The police can also detain the alleged terrorist because he or she ‘endangers a person’s life’, ‘poses a serious risk to the health and safety of the public’ or threatens to interfere with ‘an electronic system’.
I wanted to ask the Met: Which of these above offences did your officers suspect that Miranda might have been about to commit? What reasonable grounds did they have for thinking he could endanger lives or property? And, more to the point, which terrorist movement did you believe Miranda was associated with: al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Continuity IRA, ETA, Shiv Sena, the provisional wing of the Unabomber Appreciation Society?
Greenwald may not thank me for saying this but in one respect America is an admirable country. In the US, the police reply to reporters’ questions. They may lie, but at least they reply. In the UK, they say nothing.