World News‎ > ‎

Britain Begins Criminal Inquiry Over 'Injurious' Snowden-Linked Data

posted 22 Aug 2013, 12:04 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 Aug 2013, 12:05 ]

Britain begins a criminal inquiry after seizing potentially dangerous documents from the partner of a journalist who has led coverage of Edward Snowden's leaks about U.S. and British electronic spying.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 22, 20130 (ITN) -  Britain has begun a criminal inquiry after seizing potentially dangerous documents from the partner of a journalist who has led coverage of Edward Snowden's leaks about U.S. and British electronic spying, a lawyer for the police said on Thursday (August 22).

The investigation is the latest twist in a surveillance scandal that has pitted U.S. President Barack Obama against the Kremlin and prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron's advisers to demand the return of secrets from the Guardian newspaper.

Using anti-terrorism powers, British police detained David Miranda, partner of American journalistGlenn Greenwald, for nine hours at London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday.

Miranda, a Brazilian citizen who had been ferrying documents between Greenwald and a Berlin-based journalist contact of Snowden's, was released without charge minus his laptop, phone, a computer hard drive and memory sticks.

At a hearing in London's High Court over Miranda's lawyers attempt to prevent British authorities from looking at the tens of thousands of documents on the devices, a lawyer for London's Metropolitan Police said some contained dangerous information.

Two High Court judges, Jack Beatson and Kenneth Parker, ruled that the British authorities could continue to look at the information from Miranda for the defence of national security and to investigate any possible links to terrorism.

Miranda's lawyer said the ruling was a partial victory.

"This claim, at it's heart involves the seizure of journalistic material and the court accepted today that in order for the Home Office and police to look at that material there has to be a genuine threat to national security. The Home Office and police now have seven days to prove that there is a genuine threat to national security rather than make mere assertions as they have done today. The undertakings that the police sought were stopped in their tracks and some of the basis on which the police sought to justify their position was roundly rejected. They have also conceded that at midnight on Saturday our client will be returned his property. We therefore consider this to be a partial victory and we hope to have the court's full reasoning tomorrow afternoon," Gwendolen Morgan told lawyers outside the court.

The judges gave British authorities until Aug. 30 to sift through the documents.

Greenwald, who is based in Brazil and writes for Britain's Guardian, has published articles based on documents leaked by Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who faces criminal charges in the United States.

British security officials say the Snowden leaks, which showed the scale of U.S. and British eavesdropping on everything from phone calls and e-mails to internet and social media use, have undermined national security and could put lives at risk.

But the detention of Miranda and British government pressure on the Guardian have dragged Cameron into an international row over media freedom and the powers of the security services.

"One troubling development today was that the secretary of state indicated that she might use the controversial new powers for closed material procedures and both that and the very chilling effect of the implications of today's judgement are something that journalists world-wide should be very concerned about," said lawyer Gwendolen Morgan.

It was unclear what documents Miranda was carrying or what secrets could have forced Britain to act in such a way. Greenwald has vowed that Britain would come to regret its actions which he said were an attempt to intimidate him.

Miranda's lawyer has also started legal action to ask judges to rule that his detention was illegal.