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

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence