White House Won’t Condemn Detention of Glenn Greenwald’s Partner

The White House says the U.S. government got a "heads-up" that detention was going to happen

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Elements of the U.S. government were given a “heads-up” before the British government detained David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald, for nine hours over the weekend, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. He also declined to condemn the action.

“There was a heads-up that was provided by the British government,” he told reporters in the midst of a spirited exchange with reporters. “So this — again, this is something that we had an indication was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we requested. And it’s something that was done specifically by the British law-enforcement officials there.”

Earnest said there were “classified, confidential conversations” around the detention, but would not state whether the U.S. government expressed displeasure with the action. He would not say why the British informed the American government before the detention.

Miranda was detained for nine hours under that country’s Terrorism Act while transiting through Heathrow Airport, and had a range of electronic devices confiscated. He was traveling home from Germany, where he had stayed for a time with Laura Poitras, an American documentary filmmaker who has worked with Greenwald on stories about the National Security Agency. Greenwald is the author of a series of articles about the U.S.’s intelligence efforts at home and abroad based on information given to him by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor.

Earnest would not say whether U.S. intelligence services have reviewed any documents obtained from Miranda’s devices. “I’m just not in a position to talk to you about the conversations between British law-enforcement officials and American law-enforcement officials,” he said.

Earnest denied that the U.S. government was involved in the decision to detain Miranda. “What you’re referring to is a law-enforcement action that was taken by the British government,” Earnest said. “The United States was not involved in that decision or in that action.”

Earnest would not state whether Miranda is on any U.S.-government operated travel watch-lists.

A selection of the exchange with reporters Monday:

Q: Thanks, Josh. Can you state with authority that the U.S. government has not obtained material from the laptop that British authorities confiscated from Glenn Greenwald’s partner or from any of his personal devices they also confiscated?

EARNEST: I’m just not in a position to talk to you about the conversations between British law-enforcement officials and American law-enforcement officials.

Q: So you can’t rule out that the U.S. hasn’t [changed its?] material?

EARNEST: I’m not in a position to do that right now, no.

Q: You also didn’t condemn — the White House didn’t condemn the detention. Is the President pleased that he was condemned — or that he was — I’m sorry, is the President pleased that he was detained?

EARNEST: Well, again, this is a — this is a law-enforcement action that was taken by the British government, and this is something that they did independent of our direction, as you would expect, that the British government’s going to make law-enforcement decisions that they determine are in the best interests of their country.

Q: Was the White House consulted or given a heads-up in advance?

EARNEST: There was a — there was a — there was a heads-up that was provided by the British government. So this — again, this is something that we had an indication was likely to occur, but it’s not something that we requested. And it’s something that was done specifically by the — by the — by the British law-enforcement officials there.

Q: Is it at all concerning to the President, the — sort of a nine-hour detention?

EARNEST: Well, again, this is a — this is [an] independent British law-enforcement decision that was made. I know the suggestion has been raised by some that this is an effort to intimidate journalists and we’ve — with all of you, have been undergoing a pretty rigorous debate on a range of issues related to an independent media, an independent journalist covering the application of national security rules, questions about national-security leaks and other classified or confidential information and policy.

The President, I think, in the course of that debate, has made pretty clear his support for independent journalists, the important role that independent journalists have to play in a vibrant, democratic society like ours.

He’s also talked about the responsibility of the government to protect the right of independent journalists to do their job. So that’s something that the President feels strongly about and has spoken candidly about in the past.

But again, if you have specific questions about this law-enforcement decision that was made by the British government, you should direct your questions to my friends over there.

Q: Why was the United States given a heads-up by the British government on this detention?

EARNEST: Again, that heads-up was provided by the British government. So you’d direct that question to them.

Q: Right, but in — was this heads-up given before he was detained or before it went public that –

EARNEST: Probably it wouldn’t be a heads-up if they’d have told us about it after they’d detained him.

Q: [Laughs.]

Q: So it’s fair to say they told you they were going to do this when they saw that he was on a manifest?

EARNEST: I think that is an accurate interpretation of what a heads-up is.

Q: Is this — is this gentleman on some sort of watch list for the United States on TSA? Can you look that up?

EARNEST: You’d have to check with the TSA, because they maintain the watch list. And I don’t know if they’d tell you or not, but you can ask them.

Q: Would — if he’s on a watch list for the U.K., would it be safe to assume then that he’s been put on a watch list for the United States?

EARNEST: I’d — the level of coordination between counterterrorism and law-enforcement officials in the U.K. and counterterrorism and law-enforcement officials in the United States is very good, but in terms of who is on different watch lists and how our actions and their actions are coordinated is not something I’m in a position to talk about from this [stand?].

Q: Did the United States government — when given the heads-up, did the United States government express any hesitancy about the U.K. doing this, about the U.K. government doing this?

EARNEST: Well, again, this is — this is the — this is the British government making a decision based on British law on British soil about a British law-enforcement action. So they gave us the heads-up –

Q: Did the United — when given the heads-up, just said –

EARNEST: — they gave us the heads-up — they gave us the heads-up, and this is something that they did not do at our direction, is not something that we were involved with, this is a decision that they made on their own.

Q: Did the United States discourage the action?

EARNEST: I’m not going to characterize the conversations, you know, between law-enforcement officials in this country and law-enforcement officials there, other than to say that those conversations occurred, but — and to point out the fact that this was a decision that they made on their own.

Q: But the — is it fair to say that if the United States had discouraged it, you’d tell us?

EARNEST: No, because I think it’s fair for you to determine that those kinds of law-enforcement conversations are not ones that we’re going to talk about in public.

101 comments
jeffreyndc
jeffreyndc

I am very disappointed in the administration for signing onto this whole bullying campaign: Manning, Snowden and now Greenwald.  I think Mr. Obama is afraid to speak out against the security state we have become.  We can only speculate what would prompt that fear but I see it clearly.  It's a sad situation that is not getting any better.

jj.wyndham
jj.wyndham

We have freedom of expression, provided we don't cause those we trust to protect our freedom any discomfort or concern. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely (insert proper attribution here).

survivor1962
survivor1962

No one seems to realize that we have started down a dark and slippery slope here.  The erosion of freedom starts small, but before you know it, well, play it out if you can...

grape_crush
grape_crush

Why would the White House need to condemn anything? 

The reporting on display here is stupid.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Haven't these people every heard of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Encryption software?  There is absolutely no reason anyone would have to hand carry files across a border.

Step 1: Encrypt secret files. Step 2: Upload to FTP server (or the Cloud) Step 3: Travel to... Step 4: Download from server. Step 5: Decrypt files. 

Thinker69
Thinker69

What is the agenda of this anti-American reporter?  He is certainly no friend of the United States which was attacked by terrorists. 

Perhaps he should stay in Brazil.

eagle11772
eagle11772

Since when did reporters start working with a partner ? !  I thought reporters always worked alone !  Things change I guess.  

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Sooo...the Brits decide to detain someone who could have first-/second-hand knowledge of 1) Greenwald's knowledge of Snowden, 2) Greenwald's knowledge of confidential State secrets, and 3) Greenwald's wealth of knowledge on other related issues.  Furthermore, this same 'someone' might also have equipment that contains highly sensitive information that could cause harm if it were to fall into the wrong hands.

Given all of the above, why on Earth is the media throwing such a juvenile hissy-fit over Greenwald's Brazilian boy-toy getting detained?  The detention was absolutely necessary, and absolutely appropriate given the situation.

octarian
octarian

To risk a major backlash by detaining Miranda for 9 hours at Heathrow and to confiscate his personal property only shows how desperate the NSA and GCHQ are in covering up their gross illegal actions.  If there is no major backlash, you can be certain that we are in for a repeat of what the German people experienced 80 years ago.  Instead of Jews being persecuted, this time it will be journalists who are “terrorists.”

 

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

I want to express my thanks to the sanity and civility that people have used in comments so far. It's a far cry from the bile that so has often contaminated discussions on Swampland (and many other news/political sites) in the past. These are obviously issues that people feel very strongly about, with a huge amount of gray between the black and the white. Good job.

j45ashton
j45ashton

Thanks to Manning we were able to see some of the terrible destruction our military has done abroad to innocent civilians.  Anyone around during the Vietnam era remembers how Johnson & Nixon & the generals lied to us until Daniel Ellsberg leaked the truth.  However, reports say that Manning also released the names of covert agents putting their lives in danger, and that is clearly bad.  Snowden claimed the NSA was gathering information on American citizens somewhat indiscriminately.  The NSA & the Whie House denied it.  Then in more than 2000 cases it turns out to be true.  And the President has order changes to NSA monitoring & policy and has suggested more transparency with the congress.  So there have been some positives here.  Charging Snowden under the Espionage Act seems paranoid and extreme.  Unless the Brits can explain themselves publicly, detaining David Miranda & confiscating his equipment suggests more paranoia and misuse of government power. 

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

Everything that the American  governments have done through the years to hypocritically not to break the internal laws and their constitution is done BY PROXI. This has been done historically and consistently. There is a news today of the involvement of the ousting of a prime minister in Iran using the Iranians arm forces. During the Reagan Administration they used the sale of arms and drugs externally so the administration could supply with arms and money the counter revolutionaries in Nicaragua. All of this organized externally by Oliver North. During their fight against what they consider terrorism, they used other allied countries to torture the prisoner taken by the American troops. They used a foreign country to keep forever prisoners,( GUANTANAMO) so the laws of the American constitution can not be applied to these " ENEMY COMBATANTS", as so funnily Bush labeled them, so they the prisoners,can be out of the domain of International Treaties.,

 Now, this little game that the American have used consistently is a reality and nothing better to remind the people at large of  the fact that the American governments are using other countries BY PROXI to negate the freedom of the press so stipulated in its Constitution: " XXVII

Article [I]13

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH, OR OF THE PRESS ( My emphasis); or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".

  So, is not a surprise that the Monarchy of ENGLAND, acting surreptitiously on behalf of the USA government is trying for all means possible to send Mr Assange to Sweden so he can be indicted by strange crimes and in this way use this to extradite mr Assange to the USA TO BE TRIED AS A SPY.

  It is the same trick that they were using with mr Snowden for using the supposed freedom of speech to unravelled the illegal ways of his government against its own people.

DeanCris
DeanCris

Does this mean friends and people Greenwald and others may have dated in the last couple years will also be swooped up in a drag net operation and presumed suspicious? In this regard, things have gone far past anything Bush and Cheney did. Notice how HBOs Homeland isn't enjoyable anymore?

PeterEdwardHarrington
PeterEdwardHarrington

Is that really the best the journos in the room could do? My goodness, we have a flagrant abuse of an already questionable terrorism law (Section 7), a relationship back from the detainee to the main thorn in the side of the NSA, and somehow, given an open goal, the journalists fail to pin the tail to the donkey. We really, truly deserve the political class we get don't we?

mr.chuck.black
mr.chuck.black

It's interesting to see how reporting illegal US government activities (and there is no other way to categorize Snowdon's original allegations or the follow-up ongoing stories from Greenwald and others) has bee categorized as "rogue reporting" by a surprising number of the people posting on this site....

JohnReynolds
JohnReynolds

The stench from this mess keeps getting worse. It was all pre-meditated and a part of transatlantic discussions. And these two countries are supposed to be democracies and stand for what's right and good. Who's in charge here? Heads should roll.

As for David, there's a way he may have at least been able to keep his laptop and phone. He could have wiped it clean of data before going to the airport. Moving files to a cloud service like Dropbox wouldn't work because that's like putting them out in public, as his partner Glenn has reported.

But he could have stashed everything in a CloudLocker (www.cloudlocker.it), a mini-cloud server that keeps all your files safe at home but gives you access from anywhere via the Internet. Using a CloudLocker makes crossing the border a breeze. Well, maybe not in David's case. But at least they would have had no excuse for keeping his laptop or phone.

jmac
jmac

@jeffreyndc Are you implying that Obama is afraid that Snowden went through his email and intimidated him?  He did say he had the capability to do that.  Is the next conspiracy theory going to be the affair Obama was having with Oprah discovered by Snowden and given to China? 

jeffreyndc
jeffreyndc

@grape_crush because we used to stand up against unwarranted invasions of privacy that's why.  Or maybe you missed those days before security uber alles replaced e pluribus unum.

HollyKick
HollyKick

@octarian look at iran and north korea .. i am sure you will find those places safe and welcoming .. how about packing your bags and leaving .. i love america and i dont mind govt spying on me.

jmac
jmac

@DeanCris The man was a paid carrier and Greenwald's partner.     He was paid by the Guardian to carry encrypted documents to Berlin and bring documents back to Brazil.   The Guardian is a British newspaper that Greenwald works for.   

  To make Scotland Yard and British Security the culprit is bizarre.   The comparison of Scotland Yard to what Bush/Cheney did is ridiculous.    Now Greenwald is threatening to release more information on British spying.  What's he waiting for?  Why does he keep threatening?    He's threatened before.  The problem is he doesn't even know what he's got.  Poitras:   "We have this window into this world, and we're still trying to understand it.  We're not trying to keep it a secret, but piece the puzzle together."  Maybe al Qaeda could help them with that?  

jmac
jmac

@mr.chuck.black Call you Senator and tell him of the illegal government activities and let us know what he's doing about it.    

We have three branches of Government and so far none of them have said it's illegal.   Obama has offered four steps to tighten oversight, one being rejected by the GOP.    Call your Senator.  That's the way it's suppose to work.   Do you like the four suggestions or do you just want to gripe about your government?     

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

@JohnReynolds : If you read the long Times piece on Laura Poitras, you will see that both Poitras and Snowden are very, very careful about security — one might even say obsessive, were it not for the situation they are in. IF Miranda was a courier between Poitras and Greenwald, you can be sure that anything he carried was heavily encrypted. Whether or not such encryption could be broken by the spooks as a matter for conjecture. That said, given what is known about Poitras, who already had a high awareness of security and surveillance before she met Snowden, and presumably has learned even more from Snowden, I would be surprised if Miranda were actually carrying any information, other than what was in his head. 

The Brits stopped Miranda based on his relationship with Greenwald, and where he was coming from, but probably found nothing. If they had, I doubt that Mr. Miranda would have been released after 9 hours. 

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@JohnReynolds"...at least they would have had no excuse for keeping his laptop or phone."

So far, there is no evidence that they had an excuse, or any right.

jeffreyndc
jeffreyndc

@jmac @jeffreyndc that's a cute post, jmac. It's pretty clear and straightforward who I think the President is afraid of. 

jmac
jmac

@jeffreyndc @grape_crush  Perhaps you should move to England and join the protest?  I haven't seen news of any yet, but surely they will march in the numbers they marched when we invaded Iraq.  (Protest they did).    Carrying secret  stolen documents through security at Heathrow -  not too clever.   But then, non of these guys have shown much intelligence.   

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@HollyKick @eagle11772 I don't think tht has anything to do with it. As creepy as it is that greenwald has a 'boy toy' half his age, it's pretty much a red herring. Being gay, even being a creepy gay guy, isn't detrimental in the same way as leaking classified documents to people who wish to do the country harm. I know this is the internet, but let's try to be somewhat rational...maybe...or not? lol.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

@jmac @DeanCrisHaven't these people every heard of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and Encryption software?  There is absolutely no reason anyone would have to hand carry files across a border.

Step 1: Encrypt secret files. Step 2: Upload to FTP server (or the Cloud) Step 3: Travel to... Step 4: Download from server. Step 5: Decrypt files. 



False_Believer
False_Believer

@jmac @mr.chuck.black  >none of them have said it's illegal

Wrong. In 2011, the secret FISA Court produced a report themselves stating that what was being done was both unconstitutional and unlawful, and the report was classified and suppressed (source: George Stephanopoulos).

I wonder how our judiciary feel about being used and discarded this way.

DeanCris
DeanCris

Please! Obama is as complicit as anyone in the GOP! At best it's a good cop/ bad cop routine. The notion that Obama would propose any such thing voluntarily is ridiculous

jmac
jmac

@S_Deemer @JohnReynolds  He was paid to carry information in his head?  He was just out for a lovely week in Berlin?  The Brits  might have based it on the fact he was paid by the Guardian and they've already told the Guardian to turn over the information they have.     This is about British security.   

This is what Snowden has accomplished - we are no longer discussing al Qaeda as the enemy - we are making Scotland yard the enemy.   We are ignoring Yemen to focus on hitting British security?  We've lost our minds.  

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@jmac @False_Believer @mr.chuck.black Obama should have prosecuted some of Cheney's underlings for war crimes, it's the least (and I mean the very least) he could do. Not find something illegal, then jump to make it legal and continue along...I'm no fan of hemorrhaging secrets to the Chinese, but, c'mon now..

jmac
jmac

@False_Believer @jmac @mr.chuck.black  Yes.  Thanks to Democratic Senators Udall and Wyden, the Secret Court ruled that some surveillance was unconstitutional.  That means the system works.  That's how it's suppose to work.  

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@DeanCris I feel like this is a 'false equivalence' argument. The two parties, while having way more in common than I'm comfortable with, are not the same. There is a difference. Albeit, a small one.

jmac
jmac

@DeanCris Good cop/bad cop!  You guys are idiots.   We can change NSA and the way it gathers information.  We have to do it through Congress.   Obama suggested four ways to change it.   Why don't you read them and then call your Congressman?  

Maybe you need to take a government class so you can understand how our government works.     

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@jmac @S_Deemer @JohnReynolds I agree. I wonder sometimes if the Taliban leaders are having a bit of a giggle at our expense, as our own citizens float to the surface as the prototypical 'useful idiots.' The world really is upside down. God save us from NSA spooks hacking away at grandma's computer for that fried pickle recipe.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "You sound like Bush when he was told about al Qaeda."

And George Bush let the terrorists succeed. So are you.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac

"Yemen is a hotbed."

I'll assume that you don't live in Yemen.


"No one (even NSA) knows exactly what he stole."

Then what are you and the NSA so afraid of?

"You sound like Bush when he was told about al Qaeda." 

Bush also didn't know what the real danger was, or what were the correct duties and limits of government.

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @jmac  The issue is Snowden downloaded and stole massive American  security information, fled to China and told them how we spy on them, then took refuge in Russia.  No one (even NSA) knows exactly what he stole.     The issue is American national security.   

If anything, this is going to make our national security even tighter.    

And those lunatics "cowering in caves" are active.  Releasing thousands of prisoners in Pakistan,  Africa and the Middle East is not "cowering".  Yemen is a hotbed.   You sound like Bush when he was told about al Qaeda.   


shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "...I'll take sheeple, you can have stupid..."

I don't think you understand the issue.The question is, who should you be afraid of; who has the real power to take your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. You think it's a few thousand backward lunatics cowering in caves an ocean away and the journalists exposing the government's abuse of it's authority to spy on, incarcerate and confiscate the property of it's citizens. I guess I don't have to explain who I think has the real power against your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @BenjaminB  Sheperdwong - Are you not veering into the false equivalency claims here?  You're painting a broad brush smearing every country and every country's police force.  

This issue is about al Qaeda.   It's not about Snowden or Greenwald.    There's a reason Britain has to be very  careful at it's airport.   The exact same reason Israel has to do the same.   There's a reason that secret files that were downloaded and dumped in a huge pile at a left-leaning British newspaper by a right-wing ideologue  are a reason for many countries to be nervous about who might get those files.   There's so much of a dump even The Guardian is having trouble wading through all of it.   The bottom line makes it about terrorists.  You're forgetting that in your fight for open access to government secrets.   There has to be a balance.  

Thousands of prisoners in jails in Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East have been released recently by al  Qaeda.  THat's a huge concern  -  for Britain, for  us, for everyone.   It's fine to be a high and mighty bleeding heart.  It's another thing to be stupid.  (stupid/sheeple - I'll take sheeple, you can have stupid).  


shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@BenjaminB "Under the schedule, UK police can stop, examine and search passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals."

Yes...well. It's become rather obvious that the police everywhere can do pretty-much whatever the f#ck they please (see PRISM, "Stop and Frisk", etc.). We all lose. But glad you're down with it.

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@shepherdwong @jmacWhat isschedule 7and how does it work?

Under the schedule, UK police can stop, examine and search passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals.

Unlike with some other police powers to stop and search, there is no requirement for an officer to have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is involved with terrorism before they are stopped.

A passenger can be held for questioning for up to nine hours and those detained must "give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests".

Any property seized must be returned after seven days, but data from mobile phones and laptops may be downloaded and retained by the police for longer.



¯\_(ツ)_/¯


You lose.

BenjaminB
BenjaminB

@shepherdwong @jmac You obviously don't understand the first thing about the Schedule 7 law in britain. Typical online blowhard, flapping your fingers against the keyboard...

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "Then move to Britain and protest."

No need. I have plenty of official treason and weak-kneed populace right here in the homeland.

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong @jmac Then move to Britain and protest.  I haven't seen any news where the British are marching in the streets on this one.  They might be relieved that computers were smashed at the Guardian so the Chinese couldn't get encrypted documents that are floating around waiting to be decoded.   There might be a reason the Guardian only just now released this info with no information on WHEN it happened.  Perhaps while Snowden was in China.   

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "Since when does Scotland Yard have to offer you an excuse?"

Only when there's rule of law.