The Wall Street Journal says
British authorities were justified in detaining journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport Sunday, calling it a "lawful and necessary" step in the effort to shut down further leaks about the National Security Agency's data collection program.
Greenwald, a writer for The Guardian newspaper of London
, has published stories about telephone and Internet surveillance efforts based on information provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In an editorial Wednesday, the Journal alleged that Miranda has carried secret documents stolen from the NSA by Snowden.
During Miranda's detainment, British authorities seized his computer and other electronic devices, which the Journal said included encrypted files stored on thumb drives.
"Mr. Greenwald calls all this 'simply despotic.' Sober observers might describe it as reasonable, lawful and necessary," the Journal said.
"Mr. Snowden has continued to disclose details of NSA surveillance programs, chiefly through Mr. Greenwald, that have revealed no deliberate wrongdoing or civil-rights trespasses but are of potentially keen interest to Islamic terrorists, Chinese hackers, Russian spies and anyone else interested in how the U.S. gathers electronic data," the editorial continued.
"Oh, and Mr. Snowden has also been charged by the U.S. government with committing crimes. Lawful governments are in the business of stopping that sort of thing."
Pointing to the British Terrorism Act of 2000, the Journal justified Miranda's detainment by noting that the law permits authorities to interrogate people passing through British airports for up to nine hours and to take their property for up to seven days, without any reasonable suspicion that they broke any laws.
"The law does give authorities arguably too much discretion," the Journal said. "But that's not the same as saying they abused it in this case, much less that they used it — as Mr. Greenwald complained in his column — 'to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.'
"The British didn't take Mr. Miranda's gaming console because they wanted to beat his high score in 'Assassin's Creed.' They seized it because it could be used to ferry the documents Mr. Snowden stole," the Journal concluded.
The editorial also noted that authorities had ample reason to be suspicious of Miranda because he was "traveling on a ticket paid by The Guardian and had come from Berlin, where by Mr. Greenwald's admission he was trading materials with an American filmmaker who has collaborated with Mr. Greenwald on the Snowden leaks."
The Journal also asserted that "it's a near-certainty" that Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have seen what's on Snowden's own computer "hard- and thumb-drives."
"Messrs. Greenwald and Snowden say all they want is an open and honest debate about U.S. and U.K. surveillance practices," the editorial continued. "By all means let's have it — and conduct it lawfully. But so long as Mr. Snowden refuses to make his case before a jury in the U.S. and Mr. Greenwald continues to use his partner as his transporter, they should expect inspections from law enforcement."
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