David Davis MP comments on the governments’ involvement in the detention of David Miranda


A number of national newspapers feature David’s comments regarding the government’s knowledge of the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow airport.

The Guardian report: “The White House last night distanced itself from Britain’s handling of the leaked NSA documents when representatives said it would be difficult to imagine the US authorities following the example of Whitehall in demanding the destruction of media hard drives.

As a former Tory prisons minister said the use of anti-terror legislation to detain the partner of a Guardian journalist at Heathrow airport had brought the law into disrepute, the White House suggested it would be inappropriate for US authorities to enter a media organisation’s offices to oversee the destruction of hard drives.

The White House – which on Monday had already distanced Washington over the detention of David Miranda – intervened for the second time in 24 hours after the Guardian revealed that senior Whitehall figures had demanded the destruction or surrender of hard drives containing some of the secret files leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.Enhanced

Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, said that two GCHQ security experts oversaw the destruction of hard drives on 20 July in what he described as a “peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism”. Rusbridger had told the authorities that the action would not prevent the Guardian reporting on the leaked US documents because Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who first broke the story, had a copy in Brazil and a further copy was held in the US.

The White House responded sceptically to the report of the destruction. Asked at his daily briefing yesterday whether President Obama’s administration would enter a US media company and destroy media hard drives – even to protect national security – the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said: “That’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.”

The intervention by the White House came after the British government embarked on an aggressive offensive to justify the treatment at Heathrow of the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Theresa May, the home secretary, confirmed she was given notice of Miranda’s detention as she praised the police action on the grounds that he possessed sensitive documents that could help terrorists and “lead to a loss of lives”.

But May received a setback when the former Tory prisons minister Crispin Blunt criticised the use of terrorism legislation to detain Miranda, who was held for nine hours at Heathrow on Sunday under schedule seven of the 2000 Terrorism Act. This allows police to detain people at ports and airports even if they are not acting suspiciously. Blunt told Channel 4 News: “Using terrorism powers for something that doesn’t appear to be a terrorism issue brings the whole remit of the laws passed by parliament to address terrorism into disrepute.”

But May praised the police action as she and Downing Street acknowledged they were given advance notice of the detention. May told the BBC: “I was briefed in advance that there was a possibility of a port stop, of the sort that took place. But we live in a country where those decisions as to whether or not to stop somebody or arrest somebody are not for me as home secretary. They are for the police.”

The home secretary, whose officials had initially declined to comment on the issue on the grounds that it was an operational matter, said it was right for the police to act because of the sensitive nature of documents in his possession. May added: “I think it is right, given that it is the first duty of the government to protect the public, that if the police believe somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists which could lead to a loss of lives then it is right that the police act. That is what the law enables them to do. But of course the law also has safeguards within it and we have an independent reviewer who, as David Anderson has already said, he will be looking into this case.”

Downing Street confirmed the prime minister was also informed. “We were kept abreast in the usual way,” a No 10 source said. “We do not direct police investigations.”

The double confirmation, which followed a statement from the White House on Monday that it was given a “heads-up” about the detention, marked an abrupt change of tactics by the government. Officials had declined to answer questions about the affair on the grounds that it was an operational police matter.

The government switched its response from it being an operational police matter after the Guardian disclosed GCHQ’s role in overseeing the destruction of the hard disks in a basement of the newspaper’s London office. A few hours before the White House statement, Rusbridger said it would be impossible to imagine a similar demand to destroy hard drives in the US.

The Guardian editor told the BBC News channel: “In this country the British government has moved against the Guardian in a way that would be simply undoable in America. America has the first amendment and it has no prior restraint. But what happened with the Guardian is that the British government explicitly threatened prior restraint against the Guardian – ie that they would go to the courts to injunct us and to cede the material which would have the effect of preventing us from writing about it.”

Rusbridger added in an interview with The World at One on BBC Radio 4: “It was quite explicit. We had to destroy it or give it back to them.”

Rusbridger launched a strong defence of the Guardian’s decision to comply with the request to destroy the hard drives after Index on Censorship described the action as “very disturbing”. He told Channel 4 News: “It seemed to be our duty to this material and to the public is to go on reporting. If we had waited for the courts to come in judges would have been in control of that information.”

The former shadow home secretary David Davis said No 10’s confirmation that David Cameron was given notice of the detention of Miranda meant that ministers had, in effect, approved of his treatment. Davis told The World at One: “They didn’t direct it, nobody is suggesting they directed it. But they approved it by implication. If the home secretary is told this is going to happen and she doesn’t intervene then she is approving it.”

May emphatically rejected the claim by Davis. She told the BBC: “No. We have a very clear divide in this country – and I think that is absolutely right – between the operational independence of the police and the policy work of politicians. I, as home secretary, do not tell the police who they should or should not stop at ports or who they should or should not arrest.”

Miranda was stopped en route to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald, who has written a series of stories for the Guardian revealing mass surveillance programmes by the NSA. He was returning to their home from Berlin when he was stopped, allowing officials to take away his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

During his trip to Berlin, Miranda met Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda’s flights. Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Greenwald in his work.

The Daily Mail report:
“Theresa May last night defended the police and security services over the nine-hour detention of a journalist’s partner at Heathrow.

The Home Secretary said police were acting in the interests of national security when they stopped David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who was carrying secret intelligence files leaked by ex-CIA analyst Edward Snowden.

It also emerged that David Cameron authorised the destruction at the Guardian offices of computers believed to have held highly sensitive details – also provided by Mr Snowden – of spying by US and British agencies.

Downing Street and the Home Office admitted that Mr Cameron and Mrs May knew that Mr Miranda would be detained but insisted that they had no say over the police decision to pick him up.

The Mail can reveal that national security concerns about the data held by the Guardian was so acute that Mr Cameron sent Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to demand of editor Alan Rusbridger that the paper destroy the files after warning that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.

The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague sanctioned the mission, which led to members of GCHQ supervising the smashing of laptops and hard drives at the Guardian’s offices.

Mrs May said the Snowden files – detailing US eavesdropping activities around the world – threatened British security.

Snowden, 30, who worked for the CIA and the National Security Agency, has been granted temporary asylum by Russia after the US charged him with espionage.

Mrs May said: If it is believed that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists, which could lead to a loss of lives, then it is right that the police act and that is what the law enables them to do.’

Referring to Mr Miranda, she said: I was briefed in advance that there was a possibility of a port stop of the sort that took place. I, as Home Secretary, do not tell the police who they should or should not stop at ports or who they should or should not arrest.’

A No 10 source said: We were kept abreast in the usual way. We do not direct police investigations.’

Mr Miranda said last night he was launching legal action against the Home Office after being held for nine hours at Heathrow under terrorism laws while carrying secret data on portable hard drives.

Mr Rusbridger said that two months ago a very senior government official’, who represented the views of David Cameron, demanded the paper surrender files supplied by Mr Snowden, in a conversation described as steely, if cordial’. A later phone call from the centre of government’ said: You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.’

Three senior sources yesterday confirmed that the steely’ figure was Sir Jeremy Heywood.

Sir Jeremy warned Mr Rusbridger that the Guardian’s computer systems could be hacked by Russian or Chinese spies, or by terrorists.

Downing Street officials stressed that the Government made a reasonable request’ to destroy the data after it had been used in stories.

Mr Rusbridger consented to the destruction of the hard drives.

But former Tory frontbencher David Davis said that by not intervening, ministers had approved Mr Miranda’s detention.

Yesterday, Mr Greenwald told ITV News: We have not published a single comma that is in any way helpful to terrorists.’

Kirsty Hughes, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: Using the threat of legal action to force a newspaper into destroying material is a direct attack on press freedom.’

The Daily Telegraph report:
“David Cameron’s involvement in a decision to destroy a newspaper’s computer hard drives that contained files linked to Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, was last night described as inappropriate by the White House.

Yesterday it emerged that Mr Cameron had sanctioned the seizure of the Guardian’s computer equipment on national security grounds and was briefed on a police operation to detain the boyfriend of a journalist, sources have said.

On Monday, No10 refused to disclose whether ministers had approved the detention of David Miranda, the boyfriend of Glenn Greenwald, a reporter on The Guardian, at Heathrow Airport for nine hours on Sunday under anti-terrorism laws.

However, a No10 source said yesterday the Prime Minister had been “kept abreast of the operation”. The source denied any political involvement in the decision and emphasised that the Government “does not direct police investigations”. The source stressed that the fact that Mr Miranda was carrying “stolen” information from the US National Security Agency posed a serious threat to Britain’s security.

There were similar fears that the Guardian’s own computer system was not secure enough to be trusted with protecting such highly sensitive information. This was why the Prime Minister “explicitly” sanctioned the operation to destroy computer equipment at The Guardian’s offices, the source said.

Asked at a briefing whether Barack Obama’s administration would ever enter a US media company and destroy hard drives, White House spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday said: “That’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate”. The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, described how he had come under pressure from “shadowy” Whitehall figures to hand over the documents. Eventually two security experts from the government’s listening station, GCHQ, oversaw the destruction of the hard drives, he said.

Confirmation of the Prime Minister’s personal involvement in the case risks fuelling claims that the detention of Mr Miranda was politically motivated. Critics have alleged that the police operation was an attempt to intimidate a journalist who had written a series of controversial articles on the activities of the NSA. The Tory MP David Davis said on BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the Prime Minister’s and Home Secretary’s failure to intervene to stop Mr Miranda’s detention effectively meant “that they approved it”.