AIRPORT police last Tuesday defended their action under anti-terror laws to arrest and detain under David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, involved in reporting the leaked material supplied by Edwin Snowden.
Miranda, a Brazilian national, was held at Heathrow on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro for nine hours without charge. He reportedly had his mobile phone, laptop, memory sticks, DVDs and other items seized before he was released.
The government of Brazil expressed “grave concern” at Miranda’s detention and said it was “unjustified”.
Speculation is high that this was an indirect act of revenge against Greenwald for his role in the leaking of Snowden’s tapes, which revealed the vast extent of the US National Security Agency eavesdropping on electronic mail of US citizens and the citizens of other western countries.
Labour MP Keith Vaz called for the full facts of David Miranda's nine-hour detention at Heathrow to be established quickly.
The Home Office said it was for the police to decide when to use the powers it has to stop people.
The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, said it was very unusual for a passenger to be held for nine hours under schedule Seven of the Terrorism Act 2000 and he wanted to "get to the bottom" of what had happened.
The Guardian said: "We were dismayed that the partner of a Guardian journalist who has been writing about the security services was detained for nearly nine hours while passing through Heathrow airport.
"We are urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities."
Greenwald said the British authorities' actions in holding Miranda amounted to "intimidation and bullying" and linked it to his writing about Edward Snowden's revelations concerning the US NSA.
"They never asked him about a single question at all about terrorism or anything relating to a terrorist organisation," he told the BBC World Service's Newsday programme.
"They spent the entire day asking about the reporting I was doing and other Guardian journalists were doing on the NSA stories.
"The principal point, since they kept him for the full nine hours, is to try to send a message of intimidation and bullying.”
The civil rights movement, Liberty, has long argued that Schedule Seven is overbroad legislation, ripe for misuse and discrimination, and currently has a case pending at the European Court of Human Rights challenging the power.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "David Miranda's chilling nine-hour detention was possible due to the breathtakingly broad Schedule Seven power, which requires no suspicion and is routinely abused.
“People are held for long periods, subject to strip searches, saliva swabbing and confiscation of property – all without access to a publicly funded lawyer.
“Liberty is already challenging this law in the Court of Human Rights but MPs disturbed by this latest scandal should repeal it without delay.”
Meanwhile the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, has reported that intelligence officials from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) ordered the paper to destroy computer hard drives in effort to stop Snowden revelations. The action is unlikely to prevent new materials coming out.
Rusbridger said on the Guardian’s website that the officials told him that he would either have to hand over all the classified documents or have the newspaper’s hard drives destroyed.
He wrote that the officials then watched as computers, which contained classified information passed on by Snowden, were physically destroyed in one of the newspaper building’s basements.
During negotiations with the Government, Rusbridger said that the newspaper could not fulfil its journalistic duty if it satisfied the authorities’ requests.
But GCHQ reportedly responded by telling the Guardian that it had already sparked the debate, which was enough. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more," Reuters quoted the unnamed official as saying.