The Miranda case: politics and posturing

David Miranda

I have been fairly astonished at the way some sections of the media have treated the case of David Miranda, held for nine hours at Heathrow.  A couple of nights ago, Channel 4 News presented evidence that the Home Office knew in advance that Miranda would be held under Schedule 7, in terms that suggested they saw this news as a smoking gun, proving Theresa May’s guilt.  I don’t think Mrs May needs me to defend her, but really this was over the top.

Meantime the opportunity arose for humorous quotations.  Dan Hannan Tweeted:  “Shakespeare predicts everything: ‘MIRANDA: But this is trifling; and all the more it seeks to hide itself, the bigger bulk it shows.’”

We believe we live in a free society, and we rightly demand that we should continue to do so.  We recognise that freedom of the press is fundamental to a free society, and is essential to hold the government to account.

Nonetheless we also recognise that the state has a duty to ensure, as far as possible, the security of the citizen.  “Freedom” cannot include an arbitrary and unlimited freedom to damage others.  Indeed given the multiple threats we face from terrorism, we rightly demand that the security authorities keep tabs on risks in order to mitigate them, and apprehend those with malevolent intentions.

We have an American whistle-blower (or leaker), Edward Snowden, who seems to have stolen a great deal of information about US and UK security activity and particularly surveillance of electronic communications.  Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger disingenuously said that it was pejorative to describe this information as “stolen” when it had been leaked.  But this is a distinction without a difference.  In plain terms, an employee of an organisation who takes and misuses confidential information from his employer without permission has effectively stolen it, whatever word you choose to apply to it.

Rusbridger was equally disingenuous to insist that the detention of Miranda was primarily an attack on press freedom, rather than, as it was in fact, an attempt to limit the damage caused by the leak (though it looks like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, given reports that other copies of the material are available elsewhere).

There has been a lot of comment suggesting that it was wrong to use Schedule 7, an anti-terrorist measure, against a man who was “known not to be a terrorist”.  But this is playing with words.  It seems that the security authorities suspected (rightly or wrongly) that Miranda was acting as a courier, and possibly carrying leaked material from Snowden, with a view to its publication.  If so, this was arguably an action which would have aided and abetted terrorism, and it is splitting hairs therefore to question the use of Schedule 7.

There is of course the quite separate question of whether UK and US security services have been making excessive, unreasonable and possibly illegal use of electronic surveillance.  If this subsequently proves to be the case, then that would be argued as a justification for Snowden, and perhaps also for the Guardian.  It may be that the law needs to be changed.  But we can hardly blame the security services for working with the law as it is, rather than as it might be at some later stage.

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11 Responses to The Miranda case: politics and posturing

  1. I respectfully disagree with some of your assertions. The following excerpt was taken from the CRS Report for Congress on the Whisteblower Protection Act:

    “…Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) for federal employees who engage in
    “whistleblowing,” that is, making a disclosure evidencing illegal or improper
    government activities.” (Obtained August 21, 2013 from

    Snowden is/was a federal employee that had the same duty to disclose that this publication asserts. Snowden was employed by the armed services and swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States and when the NSA chose to infringe upon the civil liberties of the citizenry Snowden had a duty and obligation to whistleblow – but to whom should he tell his tale? A supervisor? Nay, to the American people through publication. Public support for this truth-teller is rising and will continue until the federal government takes steps similar to those in your great kingdom to clamp down on freedom…including freedom of speech. Snowden was simply aware that the protections afforded in this publication would not be extended to him.

  2. I agree with all you have said and further claim that Snowden, as an employee of the armed services, is a traitor.
    Rusbridger is nothing less than a fence, handling stolen property and should be charged with such.

  3. nat merrill says:

    Laws need to be changed and your last paragraph,Mr. Helmer, not exactly “a separate question”, might well have begun your article. Few in Europe and in America are not gravely disturbed by recent
    proof of excessive governmental surveillance. Snowden and Assange are doing us all a great favour. I agree with Cliff Williams.
    Incidentally, Mr. Helmer, I am a great admirer of yours and agree with practically all of your positions.

  4. Julian says:

    “There is of course the quite separate question of whether UK and US security services have been making excessive, unreasonable and possibly illegal use of electronic surveillance.”

    This is not a separate question. You seem to be suggesting that our security depends on terrorists not finding out that the our security services have been acting excessively, unreasonably and illegally.

    There is no suggestion that anything leaked by Snowden relates to specific operations rather than to general capabilities. In a free and open society, the security services’ capabilities should be open, discussed and approved by the society in whose name they operate. How and when they use those capabilities can be secret where required.

    Suppose a policeman knocked on your door and said he had evidence that you had been speeding but could not let you know how that evidence had been obtained. Perhaps the police had secretly installed a speed monitoring device in your car, all in the interests of improving the safety of road users. But it was important not to divulge this as it would enable other motorists to detect and remove the monitoring devices.

    If our government wants to be able to read all our emails, they should ask us whether we approve. It’s as simple as that. How many other things are they doing in our name that they are not prepared to tell us?

  5. If they want to, and more importantly if they do so, I agree. But I don’t think we know that yet.

    • Julian says:

      How will we ever know unless the Snowdens of the world leak things to reporters, who then tell us?

      How confident are you, as a UKIP MEP, that there wouldn’t ever be an unauthorised inspection of your Gmail account, initiated with a nod and a wink by your political enemies? Police used anti-terrorism powers to eject Walter Wolfgang from the Labour conference. Damian Green, Conservative MP, was arrested by counter-terrorism police officers in connection with leaked documents.

  6. omanuel says:

    World leaders and their propaganda artists have very good reason to fear that the public may now find out more about more than six decades of successful deception of the public.

    That deceit – documented beyond reasonable doubt – has been ongoing for the past sixty-eight years – since the United Nations was formed on 24 Oct 1945:

    Click to access Creator_Destroyer_Sustainer_of_Life.pdf

    With deep regrets,
    – Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    • ex - Expat Colin says:

      I am ex British Military, but whats an Investigator for Apollo.

      • I was selected to analyze lunar samples from the Apollo Mission to the Moon.

        Noble gases from the solar wind, implanted in surfaces of lunar dirt, revealed a.) Severe mass-dependent fractionation in the Sun and b.) An iron-rich solar interior:

        Before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs, Sir Fred Hoyle and mainstream astronomers and astrophysicists all believed the interior of the Sun to be mostly iron. See reference to Fred Hoyle’s autobiography, Home Is Where The Wind Blows, in the above message to the Congressional Space Science & Technology Committee

        Inside that iron mantle, is the pulsar that made our elements, birthed the solar system, and sustained the origin and evolution of life:

  7. ex - Expat Colin says:

    Thanks Oliver…extremely interesting and I for one will read your refs tonight. As an aside what are your views on the AGW/Climate Change debacle. If you do not reply I will understand and this is likely not the place to discuss it.



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