Glenn Greenwald and a police force that is high on misusing the law

The detention of David Miranda is part of a wider pattern in which the authorities feel they can act with impunity

Share

I am no fan of Glenn Greenwald’s style of journalism.

I disagree with his lionisation of whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, and his self-proclaimed martyrdom as a “brave journalist with a mission” grates. I am also wary of his conspiracy-mongering, which too often assumes the worst motives. But I am unlikely to win that argument today because the detention of his partner David Miranda clearly means that Greenwald would be justified in retorting with that cliché: “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.”

It really is an outrage that the British police feel free to use the Terrorism Act to detain someone personally related to an anti-authoritarian journalist for nine hours of questioning, and seemingly in no way connected to terrorism. But as outraged as we may be, perhaps we should feign less surprise?

The misuse of terrorism legislation for purposes of harassment and intimidation has a long tradition (ask the families of the Guildford Four). In 2009, the campaign group I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist drew attention to how amateur and professional snappers documenting anything from demonstrations to tourist hotspots such as Buckingham Palace, were being questioned, manhandled and detained by police, who had received extended stop and search rights under section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

Yes, we should condemn the police’s confiscation of Miranda’s mobile phone, laptop, camera, and memory sticks. But whatever gave the police the idea that they could treat our means of personal communication as suspicious?

Perhaps it’s understandable that the British police has become blasé about focusing on journalists and their associates. Who needs to resort to anti-terrorism legislation when, post-Leveson Inquiry, the police have three ongoing investigations into the press, which according to the Press Gazette have seen 59 journalists arrested.

None of these journalists has yet been convicted, many have spent months on police bail, and all have had to endure hours of questioning. Worse, their plight has not been taken up by campaigning journalists of the Greenwald variety because – well – they are the wrong kind of journalists. So while it is terrible if Miranda was an innocent bystander in his partner’s investigations, what about the families of those Sun journalists arrested in dawn raids?

Greenwald and his intimates should not take recent events personally. You don’t have to be a heroic campaigning journalist to be targeted by an over-zealous police force. It happens to too many of us. We need more outraged headlines about these routine police infringements on the liberties of the less heroic, and even those we despise, if we are going to put a stop to misuse of terrorism legislation or all the other laws increasingly wielded in a disproportionate and oppressive fashion.

Claire Fox is Director of the Institute of Ideas

Twitter: @Fox_Claire

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
 

Isis in Iraq: Even if Iraqi troops take back Saddam’s city of Tikrit they will face bombs and booby traps

Patrick Cockburn
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003