Edward Snowden affair: US was given 'heads-up' before Heathrow detention of journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda

Claims from Washington come as Labour MPs call for Home Office to reveal full role in use of terrorism act in case

Political Correspondent

Downing Street’s official denial that it played no behind-the-scenes role in the nine-hour detention of a Brazilian man at Heathrow airport was cast into doubt last night after a Washington official claimed the US was given a “heads-up” by the British government that “something was likely to occur”.

No 10 has so far refused to answer operational questions over the treatment of David Miranda, the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, insisting that the decision to use UK anti-terror laws to question the Brazilian citizen had been taken by Scotland Yard.

Mr Miranda, 28, said that British customs officials had detained him for nearly nine hours – the maximum time permitted under schedule seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 – and forced him to reveal the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.

“They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn’t co-operate,” he told The Guardian. “They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK … It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

Mr Miranda has been assisting his partner in making revelations linked to documents leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden. During his trip to Berlin, Miranda visited Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Mr Greenwald on the Snowden revelations. It was reported last night that Britain alerted the US authorities after Mr Miranda’s name appeared on a passenger manifest of the flight.

Published material from Mr Snowden concerning the operations of the US National Security Agency and its co-operation with Britain’s intelligence communications agency, GCHQ, has caused deep embarrassment to both governments.

Last night Scotland Yard defended the detention of Mr Miranda as “legally and procedurally sound”. A statement said: “The examination of a 28-year-old man under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 at Heathrow Airport on Sunday 18 August was subject to a detailed decision-making process. The procedure was reviewed throughout to ensure the examination was both necessary and proportionate. Our assessment is that the use of the power in this case was legally and procedurally sound.”

The statement came after Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, both demanded that Scotland Yard explain why the UK’s anti-terror powers had been used to justify the airport detention. Greenwald’s partner was on his way to Brazil, after a meeting in Berlin with a US film-maker who has also been working with The Guardian on the Snowden revelations. The newspaper had paid for Mr Miranda’s flights.

The Met has refused to explain why Mr Miranda was stopped, why it held him for the maximum nine hours allowed in law, and why personal possessions such as his computer, phone and digital storage devices were taken from him.

The Home Office has also been silent, claiming it was down to the police officers at the airport to make the operational decisions that led to the detention and questioning by six officials. Although the Home Office claimed the operation was “Met-led”, security sources told The Independent that officers from MI6 may have been among those involved in the lengthy questioning of Mr Miranda.

The matter was further complicated last night after a Washington official denied the US was involved in the decision to detain Mr Miranda but said it was given a warning by the British government that the obstruction was likely to occur. During a press conference at the White House, Josh Earnest, the deputy spokesman, said: “This was action taken by the British government and this was something that they did independent of our direction.

He added: “There was a ‘heads-up’ that was provided by the British government, so this was something we had an indication was likely to occur. But it is not something that we requested.”

David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary, said ministers were using the excuse of national security to avoid questions on Mr Miranda’s detention. He urged Downing Street to reveal what it knew, claiming that the operational background must have gone beyond the control of the police.

The Met confirmed that it held a 28-year-old man at Heathrow between 8am and 5pm on Sunday under Schedule 7 and that the man had not been arrested. The Guardian said it was seeking clarification on the reasons for the detention. Liberty’s director, Shami Chakrabarti, said her organisation had already launched a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights over the use of Schedule 7.

Mr Greenwald accused the British authorities of bullying and intentional intimidation, linked to the Snowden revelations on the NSA. Mr Vaz has asked the Met to justify its use of anti-terrorism powers. He told the BBC: “I would not have expected it [the law] to be used in a case of this kind.” Ms Cooper called for an investigation to be made into whether or not terror powers had been misused against Mr Miranda.

Q&A: Your rights over Terrorism Act 2000

Q. Can the section of the Terrorism Act 2000 used to detain David Miranda be applied anywhere in the UK?

A. No. Schedule 7 of the 2000 law is supposed to give the police the authority to stop and question passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals.

Q. Can you refuse to answer questions in this situation?

A. You can try, but if you fail to co-operate and are deemed to have obstructed questioning, then the law says you have committed a criminal offence which can carry a three-month jail sentence, a fine, or both.

Q. What would one need to have done to be detained and questioned under this law?

A. The police don’t need to tell you what they think you might have done. No grounds for their suspicion need be offered before questioning.

Q. How much information do you need to supply?

A. A lot. Questioning can legally last up to nine hours – and anything a police officer asks has to be answered.

Q. Presumably they’ll need a warrant to search my computer and tech stuff?

A. No, they don’t. All such property can be seized. Data from laptops and phones can be downloaded and retained.

James Cusick

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices