MP Keith Vaz: If Anti-Terrorist Law Is Going To Be Abused To Detain Non-Terrorists, We Should At Least Be Upfront About It

from the a-strongly-worded-statement-that-defers-to-police-officials'-judgement dept

The news about Glenn Greenwald's partner's nine-hour detention by UK officials at Heathrow Airport continues to reverberate around the world. Back at home in the UK, even entrenched government officials are stating their shock at this abuse of so-called "anti-terrorism" laws.

Keith Vaz, head of the Home Office Select Affairs Committee, expressed his concern over the detention of David Miranda and has promised to seek "clarification."

Keith Vaz called the detention of Miranda "extraordinary" and said he would be writing immediately to police to request information about why Miranda was held under anti-terrorism laws when there appeared to be little evidence that he was involved in terrorism.
[I'm fairly sure the police have phones, especially the top-ranking ones who have desks and offices and everything...]
"It is an extraordinary twist to a very complicated story," Vaz told BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday. "Of course it is right that the police and security services should question people if they have concerns or the basis of any concerns about what they are doing in the United Kingdom. What needs to happen pretty rapidly is we need to establish the full facts – now you have a complaint from Mr Greenwald and the Brazilian government. They indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism, so it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly."
There's not much to clarify. This was nothing more than the somewhat indirect government intimidation of Glenn Greenwald. The officials held Miranda for 8 hours and 55 minutes, just under the maximum permitted 9-hour mark. Then they seized all of his electronics.

It's another abuse of anti-terrorism laws, which seem to be the kinds of laws that are just there to be abused. Vaz should try to get to the bottom of this, but writing angry letters simply grants police officials more time to diffuse the outrage and work on their spin. And Vaz should be more careful about appearing tough on anti-terrorism law abuse. His past suggests that he's more than willing to lock up terrorism suspects without charge and has twice sought extensions to the current 28-day detention limit in the UK.

Vaz appears to view the law as impeccable and the Heathrow incident as an anomaly. But this is just one incident that has triggered worldwide reaction. There are probably more where that came from, but until it happens to someone notable, the abuse goes unnoticed.

Vaz also stated he was unfamiliar with the electronics seizure policy, which seems either sad or unlikely (depending on your point of view) considering his involvement with the Home Office, which oversees counter-terrorism activities and policies. This policy is hardly a secret, having been covered here and elsewhere less than a month ago.

In addition to allowing for the seizure of terrorist-related electronics, the policy also allows officials to download data and retain it indefinitely. And like every bad anti-terrorism law or policy here in the US, it's all supposedly subjected to rigorous oversight by officials like the Chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee, who has apparently never heard of it.

Vaz had more to say on the subject, but by the time he's done, it almost sounds as if he's talked himself into agreeing with police officials, despite not hearing their rationale for Miranda's detention.
"What is extraordinary is they knew he was the partner [of Greenwald] and therefore it is clear not only people who are directly involved are being sought but also the partners of those involved," he said. "Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances [...] I'm certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation – they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation. But if we are going to use the act in this way ... then at least we need to know so everyone is prepared."
So... if officials are going to abuse a law, they should at least be upfront about it? Vaz started out strong, but by the end, he's basically ceded the argument to the police. It almost has the appearance of internal dialog that was mistakenly made public. Vaz is first outraged but then thinks it through, finally arriving at the conclusion that the UK would be best served by a bold new era of transparent abuse. I guess if you can't beat 'em, tell them you're going to start beating them. And then commence with the beatings.



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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 19th, 2013 @ 7:50pm

    "at least we need to know so everyone is prepared."

    Likely was precisely for public exercise of arbitrary power, as when Senator Ted Kennedy was put on the no-fly list: do it to someone well-known so people are acquainted with the new level of tyranny. -- And supports that the whole "leak" is a giant psy-op (the quote above sure does), though of course it's possible that they're just turning a minor problem to advantage. But don't worry, the tyranny is really just beginning. -- And by the way, that's not defeatism, it's clarity so that maybe you optimists will wake up sometime.

    Oh, minion! In an otherwise good piece, here you're just SILLY as everyone (else) knows that official queries are always made in writing: "[I'm fairly sure the police have phones, especially the top-ranking ones who have desks and offices and everything...]"

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 4:35pm

      Re: "at least we need to know so everyone is prepared."

      Techdirt should update its Report button to choose between "report as troll" or "report as "

       

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 19th, 2013 @ 8:07pm

    "expressed his concern over the detention of David Miranda and has promised to seek 'clarification'"

    I don't know where politicians get their dictionaries. To me clarification isn't defined as future corner offices and promotions.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2013 @ 8:14pm

    The corruption inside UK's government became apparent after Parliament dismissed GCHQ of violating UK citizens privacy, even though GCHQ is directly funded by the NSA.

    Sadly, the UK government is nothing more than America's poodle.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 12:39am

    Please Please Please

    "...there appeared to be little evidence that he was involved in terrorism."

    I would just LOVE to see what the little evidence of terrorism is. Show us so we can finally see what it looks like.

     

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 1:49am

      Re: Please Please Please

      As far as I can see, the only basis for what happened is the fact that he met with a film maker who had been working closely with Greenwald.

      Now, you and I may realise that detaining someone under anti terrorism laws on that basis is ludicrous but, sadly, the UK authorities lack such sense.

       

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      The Real Michael, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 4:49am

      Re: Please Please Please

      Simple: the government considers dissent to be a soft form of terrorist activity -- they just don't reveal it in their official statements (this goes back to secret laws and interpretations). The fact that Greewald is revealing incriminating data makes him a target of state aggression.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 1:46am

    'until it happens to someone notable, the abuse goes unnoticed'. 'unnoticed' needs to be changed to 'ignored', i think! no one of power gives a shit about 'joe bloggs' being detained, questioned, imprisoned or disposed of.
    i read earlier that the UK had informed the USA of what it was going to do before hand. i bet the USA had a big hand in what happened anyway. i think the UK needs to be a bit careful before it drops itself as far in the crap as the USA has already. what the UK is overlooking is that if it should happen, no one is going to bail out 'little old England'! and if the UK had nothing to hide, it would have nothing to fear. more bullshit, i think! it doesn't pull stunts like this or destroy electronic equipment, including macbooks, from what i read, either! it's seems as if those responsible have the opinion that any information they want to destroy is only on those pieces of equipment with no backups anywhere else. duh!!!

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 1:46am

    "MP Keith Vaz: If Anti-Terrorist Law Is Going To Be Abused To Detain Non-Terrorists, We Should At Least Be Upfront About It"

    WRONG! Anti terrorist laws should have anti abuse protections built in.

    He may as well say "We are going to detain you without cause and without regard for your rights but we promise to to be open and honest about it".

     

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    Jake, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 2:18am

    There's a couple of good reasons why Mr Vaz is writing to them, rather than telephoning. First, a letter can be sent by what's known as "Recorded Delivery", meaning that the recipient has to sign for it and therefore can't pretend it never arrived. (I assume the USPS has a similar facility but I don't know what you call it.) Calling, on the other hand... Well. Have you ever tried to call someone in senior management at the office when they didn't want to talk to you?

    Second, it's traditional for a response to an enquiry to use the same method; if he sends a letter, it's expected that a letter will be sent in return. That means a hard copy with someone's signature on it, so that everyone will know exactly what was said.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:25am

    This does reminds me of Aliens.

    Quote:
    Gorman: Apone! Look... we can't have any firing in there. I, uh... I want you to collect magazines from everybody.

    Hudson: Is he fuckin' crazy?

    Frost: What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?


    Yay! write a harsh letter admonishing the armed thugs commanded by others, that will show them.

    LoL

     

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    Vic (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:32am

    British understatement and idiom very often isn't US. Different critters. Keep trying, you'll get there eventually.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Aug 20th, 2013 @ 3:39am

    Vaz appears to view the law as impeccable and the Heathrow incident as an anomaly.

    Gentleman, we found the true identity of one of our trolls. Ahem.

    In a more serious note, the only way this will end will be severe civil unrest. Other than that, terrorists have won epically.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2013 @ 6:32am

    Vaz is flighty, he says whatever will get him on TV.
    The whole 'mastering the internet' was done by New Labour, Vaz's party, the laws that would have made it legal were introduced by Jacqui Smith, with support from Vaz, and rejected by the voters who kicked his party out. They just did the mass surveillance anyway.

    I don't think Cameron is in charge at this point in time, General Alexander, the NSA chief, seems to give the orders here in the UK.

     

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