In the latest chapter of the unfolding National Security Agency (NSA) leak saga, authorities at London Heathrow Airport detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, for roughly 9 hours, confiscating his cellphone, laptops and memory sticks.
Greenwald has received intense U.S. government scrutiny since he broke the story of widespread government spying through the National Security Agency earlier this summer. He reported the story after he received documents from Edward Snowden, a former Booz Allen Hamilton employee who now resides in Russia after receiving approval for a one-year stay.
Snowden is wanted in the U.S. for crimes that include violating the 1917 Espionage Act, but Greenwald, a reporter who was doing his job as an investigative journalist, has also been targeted by some members of the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee for reporting the news.
It went a step further when The Associated Press reported that Greenwald’s parter was held under anti-terror legislation at Heathrow Airport, triggering claims from his supporters that British authorities are trying to interfere with Greenwald’s work as a journalist.
“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” Greenwald said in a post on the Guardian website. “It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. 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.”
The attacks against what many consider legitimate investigative journalism began shortly after the leak, with some members of Congress calling for Greenwald’s arrest. “I’m talking about Greenwald,” said Peter King (R-NY) during an interview in June. “Greenwald, not only did he disclose this information, he has said that he has names of CIA agents and assets around the world, and they’re threatening to disclose that. The last time that was done in this country, we saw a CIA station chief murdered in Greece … Yes, there has to be … legal action taken against him.”
Greenwald flatly denied that he revealed the names of CIA agents around the world and has consistently maintained that his reports are well within the parameters of legally sanctioned free speech.
Greenwald isn’t the only journalist who has faced blowback for reporting controversial stories in recent years. Barrett Brown, a journalist who revealed leaked emails from Stratfor could face 105 years in prison for doing his job. Reporters Without Borders, a free speech advocacy organization, says that Brown hasn’t committed any crimes and shouldn’t be targeted.
“Barrett Brown is not a hacker, he is not a criminal” stated Reporters Without Borders General Secretary Christophe Deloire, “He did not infiltrate any systems, nor did he appear to have the technical expertise to do so. Above all, Barrett was an investigative journalist who was merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest.
“The sentence of 105 years in prison that he is facing is absurd and dangerous, given that Jeremy Hammond who pleaded guilty for the actual hack on Stratfor is only facing a maximum of 10 years in prison. Threatening a journalist with a possible century-long jail sentence is a scary prospect for journalists investigating the intelligence government contractor industry.”