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Opinion: David Miranda, Betrayed Citizen or Whinging Pansy?

by • November 1, 2013 • Politics, Science and TechComments (0) • Views 1969

Recently, there has been much in the media about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the embodiment of the values of the freedom-loving liberty-extolling democracy-exporting nation, which is determined to have him executed. Much of the media noise-making has been done by a Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald. It was then quite obvious what the security services were planning to talk to his assistant, David Miranda, about, when he was detained recently at Heathrow Airport for the maximum legal amount of time on suspicion of nothing in particular.

Mister Miranda was grilled for 9 hours regarding issues paramount to the national security of the UK: his Facebook password, some DVDs a friend had recently given him, and a games console. It is a little unusual, one might think, that the border agencies spent hours and hours demanding his email and social media passwords when the very reason he was being questioned was that he helped reveal that the government knows everyone’s email and social media passwords. They also took his wristwatch.

Sorry, but this sounds an awful lot like stealing. Stopping someone from going about their business, forcing them into a room, demanding private information on the threat of violence or incarceration, taking their property (from memory sticks to watches to games consoles to DIGNITY) then releasing them without further explanation is exceptionally similar to a robbery or a mugging, except perhaps only for the degree to which the government orders said mugging.

With the civil service having already paid a visit to Guardian offices in order to destroy some hard drives because it may or may not like what is (or was) on them, and with them now detaining (and stealing from) Guardian associates because they may or may not like his, er, watch (perhaps he was planning on using his Xbox to destroy capitalism or his novelty underwear posed a threat to the New York Stock Exchange), the government really does seem to be pissing about with this whole ‘freedom of the press’ stuff. It is one thing to be acting to safeguard the security of the public; it is another thing to dress up China-esque state reprisals against journalists and their assistants as such.

Luckily, the defender of the freedoms of the people of the United Kingdom, Darth May, has sped to the rescue, declaring that everyone who opposes the detention of Mr Miranda is condoning an attitude detrimental to national security. …Hang on, what?!

Theresa May said in a recent statement that all those who oppose the detainment should “think about what they are condoning”. After a long think, I’ve decided that I’m condoning:

•    Freedom of the Press
•    Civil liberties
•    An urgent review of Section 7 of the Terrorism Act (i.e. please can we at least declare that there’s probable cause to arrest someone before arresting them? Hint: “he looks dodgy” or “we don’t like him” do not count).

It may well turn out that the data on Mr Miranda’s laptop proves crucial in apprehending an international terrorist, or some other such successful outcome, but I’m not saying that I hope it doesn’t; I’m saying that we need to be more professional about our application of anti-terrorism laws. Rather than arresting journalists because they’re printing harmful stories about the government (see also: Soviet Union) then declaring all those sceptical about the fairness of such a measure as unpatriotic anarcho-terrorist liberal pansies, this country needs a reasoned debate about where we want to draw the line between liberty and security. In my opinion, they’re drawing the line in the wrong place.

Alex Garrido is an upper-sixth student at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and Lucid Politics editor.

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