United Kingdom authorities say they made an astonishing discovery when they detained David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, earlier this month at Heathrow Airport.
Miranda had hidden among the 58,000 documents he was carrying some extremely sensitive national security data, according to a U.K. national security adviser.
Oliver Robbins, deputy national security adviser for intelligence, detailed for U.K. judges on Friday exactly what they found on Miranda, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Robbins explained why law enforcement officials felt it was necessary to confiscate and investigate the stash of documents Miranda was carrying.
Here are some of their key findings, according to the U.K. security adviser (via Business Insider):
- Robbins said that the case material included 58,000 documents that were “highly classified U.K. intelligence documents.”
- Among the documents was a piece of paper with the decryption password.
- Police decrypted one file on Miranda’s hard drive with the password.
- The material contains “personal information that would allow British intelligence staff to be identified,” including overseas.
- Because of the size and scope of the material gathered, the British government believes that Edward Snowden “indiscriminately appropriated material in bulk.”
- In what could be a particularly troubling development, the U.K. government has “had” to assume that Snowden’s data is in the hands of foreign governments to which he has traveled: Hong Kong and Russia. (Greenwald told Business Insider last week that it was “highly unlikely” that had happened, however.)
- Robbins argued that it is “impossible” for Greenwald or any other journalist to determine which information could damage national security.
“The material seized is highly likely to describe techniques which have been crucial in life-saving counter-terrorist operations, and other intelligence activities vital to UK national security,” Robbins said. “The compromise of these methods would do serious damage to UK national security and ultimately risk lives.”
U.K. authorities told Greenwald’s newspaper The Guardian they had “no confidence” it would keep the classified data secret, adding that the government “appeared to accept our assessment that their continued possession of the information was untenable, according to Robbins’ statement.
Miranda was detained for nine hours before authorities released him. During his detention, Greenwald railed against the U.K.’s supposed overreach, calling it a “rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism.”
“It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources,” Greenwald said. “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. Even the mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members of people they felt threatened by. But the U.K. puppets and their owners in the US national security state obviously are unconstrained by even those minimal scruples.”
Miranda, it turns out, was on a Guardian-sponsored mission to act as a go-between for Greenwald and journalist Laura Poitras. He says he will take legal action against the government, claiming his detention was a “misuse” of Schedule 7 of the UK anti-terror law and a violation of his human rights.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter
Featured image Getty Images.