UK Law Enforcement Told Miranda He'd Go To Jail If He Didn't Reveal His Email, Social Media Passwords

from the shameful dept

It's already pretty damn clear that the UK government had no legitimate "terrorist threat" when it detained Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda, for almost nine hours (the legal limit without an arrest) under an anti-terrorism law. Now, Miranda has also revealed that his interrogators told him they would lock him up in jail if he didn't reveal the passwords to his email and social media accounts.
Mr Miranda told the BBC he was forced to disclose his social media passwords.

"I am very angry. This feeling of invasion. It's like I'm naked in front of a crowd," he said. "They said I had to co-operate or else I was going to jail."
It's difficult to see how this was meant as anything other than an intimidation tactic against Greenwald, and as a weak attempt to try to uncover what Greenwald is working on by getting his partner's passwords. It seems unlikely, given Greenwald's crash course in encryption and government spying, that Miranda's passwords would be helpful in any way. So, instead, it's just more bullying. There was simply no basis to throw Miranda in jail, and yet UK law enforcement intimidated him with such threats to get him to cough up his passwords. Just incredibly shameful.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Simon, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 12:50am

    I know they can issue a 2 year sentence for encryption passwords (I guess there would need to be reasonable suspicion) but threatening jail for social passwords cannot be anything but abuse.

    Appalling behaviour.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 1:09am

    A good old fashion spy scandle, has seen the end of many British poiticians and government officials in the past, I wonder who will bite The bullet this time.

    Shame this doesn't happen in the US system.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Jeroen Hellingman, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 1:31am

    I think the important social media providers should provide some counter-measures against this.

    1. A way to put your account in "away" mode, such that no logging-in is possible for a certain period of time, or after a number of verification steps that involve more than just a password (similar to what facebook already does when you log-in from a foreign location).

    2. A way to lock your account to a certain computer or location, or the availability of a certain file.

    3. A separate distress password, that would put your account in a special state, such that certain information would be withheld or falsified, and information of people using that account will be tracked in more detail, and made available to the account holder; and finally, that any changes made using the distress password can be reverted in an easy way. Locations that use such distress passwords regularly should be tracked and logged more intensively. (The number of distress passwords should be unlimited, such that it is not possible to demand both the real and the distress password, and distinguish the two)

    Note that these types of precautions also helps against criminal and school type of bullying, it is best to justify them for this purpose.

     

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  4.  
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    WibbleMyFins (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 1:38am

    RIP Act

    Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 you have to give your passwords up upon request or face jail. I'm pretty sure that is any passwords and not just for the documents you have on you at the time.

    Also not knowing the passwords is not a defence. You have to prove you don't know the password or you are just as guilty.

     

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  5.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 1:46am

    Re: RIP Act

    ... I'd ask how something so insanely stupid and easily abusable made it into law, but I'm betting they just waved the good old 'Because terrorists!' line around and the politicians' brains(what's left of them) turned right off.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:42am

    Re:

    I seriously doubt that would stick in a court of law in the UK. There were no charges, and no real suspicion.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:46am

    Re:

    It won't be Cameron, even though he's the one that gave the DIRECT order to detain Miranda.

    It'll be some junior undersecretary or similiar

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:48am

    Re: RIP Act

    You get a trusted friend outside the country to re-set your password. You can then tell them who knows the password - which covers you under the law - but they have no means to get it.

    This was Bruce Schneier's advice.

     

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  9.  
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    FM Hilton, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:54am

    It's reallly stupid

    It's becoming more and more apparent every single day that Miranda will not only win in any legal case against the government, but that the government will probably be forced to not only apologize, but give back his electronics and send some money back as well.

    I don't know of any judges in any court who are so dense as to approve this kind of heavy-handed intimidation.

    But that won't stop the government from having thugs do it, unless it becomes prohibitively expensive to defend every single case.

    I bet they hope that they get off with a few million pounds and a tongue lashing, even though an awful lot of people should get fired.

    If Miranda does get the stuff back, he should wipe the hard drive and make sure his passwords are changed-or just throw it all away, because I wouldn't trust the thugs not to be above putting 'stuff' in his computer. More intimidation, you know.

    Good thing computers are cheap nowadays.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 2:55am

    The going to jail was a bluff that he could have called.
    If they had sent him to jail he would no longer be at the "Port" and would have had to be afforded his full rights under British Law.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 3:08am

    Re:

    Another option is to use the obvious named account as a 'public' account, and set up a separate 'private' account; with the second possibly on a different service.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 3:13am

    Classic Thug tactics. At least the Mafia had rules against going after their adversary's family members.

     

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  13.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 3:54am

    Re: Re:

    Just like there was serious doubt they would ever use anti-terrorism laws in a fashion that had nothing to do with stopping terrorism?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 3:56am

    Re:

    I'm sure it was an extremely stressful situation to be in and these threats can affect people's thinking. That said, I agree that the passwords request probably would have been found in violation of the law. It's easier to think about these things when you aren't being intimidated by state powers as Miranda was.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:19am

    The bulling and intimidation is not limited to Marinda and Lavabit but also includes Groklaw.
    http://www.groklaw.net/

    Since Snowden's revelations and stand for integrity in lieu of a totalitarian world the hate bastards at NSA have been going bonkers with an all attempt to stop the leaks and preserve their big brother empire.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:22am

    Re:

    These are all good ideas, but a far better one is to not have any "social accounts". Everyone of sufficient intelligence is fully aware that Facebook and Twitter and so on are scams: anyone who doesn't know that requires remedial education.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:25am

    Re:

    Is there any evidence that Groklaw was directly intimidated and harassed?

    I tend to think the person who ran the site used the NSA revelations as an excuse to quickly shut down without exploring other more secure alternatives to email.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:29am

    Re: It's reallly stupid

    " probably be forced to not only apologize, but give back his electronics and send some money back as well."

    If the US and UK governments thought that they had a ghost of a chance of stopping Snowden's leaks by having a 'what ever it takes' extermination squad in operating in full kill mode in the middle of London's Piccalilli Circle Sunday at high noon there would be no holding either government back.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 4:35am

    Re: RIP Act

    doesn't make it right though, does it! the UK are coming out with the same horse shit the US has. it's understandable, i suppose. the US is probably writing their script! the UK has always been reluctant to do anything for itself, but to go down the same road as it's big brother, so obviously, is ridiculous!!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    hans, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:01am

    The UK has become a Police State and the US is not far beyond. The Muslames are laughing with regularity...

     

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  21.  
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    Shon Gale, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:10am

    Sounds like Stop and Frisk!

     

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  22.  
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    Wolfy, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:17am

    Re:" A good old fashion spy scandle..."

    It's spelled scandal, FWIW.

     

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  23.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:18am

    Once again the UK is nothing more than the US lapdog

    Not just shameful but more like vile and atrocious.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    DerivedVariable, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:37am

    Re: RIP Act

    Nothing to do with RIPA. It's all under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000.

    Greater Manchester Police has a handy Q&A for people who they detain under schedule 7 which you can see here:
    http://www.gmp.police.uk/content/section.html?readform&s=379DB3B5D26A772080257A5C0048ABC1

    The relevant bit is:
    Q: What is my right to legal advice?

    A: You can request legal advice at your own expense. Your examination will not be delayed pending the arrival of a solicitor and your failure to answer questions may constitute an offence. If you are formally detained under Schedule 7 powers, your rights will be explained to you.

    Essentially, not answering questions asked, including ones like "What is your password?" opens you up to prosecution under schedule 7 and they don't have to wait for your lawyer to turn up. If you're "merely" being "detained" under schedule 7 you have less rights than someone under arrest or essentially at any other time you interact with Police.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 5:50am

    David Miranda injunction

    Miranda has won some sort of injunction that prohibits the UK govt from looking at any of his seized data except insofar as it relates to national security.

    BarnDoor gazes forlornly as Horse gallops into the sunset.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:25am

    Why do they need passwords?

    I'm sure the email/social media companies would give any information they want to the government (they probably wouldn't even need a real warrant). This doesn't seem to accomplish anything except to make Miranda feel more exposed and intimidated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Three Men In A Boat, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:27am

    Security Theater

    The bottom line with detaining Miranda and the destruction of the Guardian's data is that it's all just security theater. In any rational sense, spending time on Miranda or pointless data "destruction" is a waste of anti-terrorism resources.

    But it's not a waste of time if the Security-Industrial Complex wants to just be visible. They know that there's no such thing as bad publicity.

    The mistake is thinking that the goal is anti-terrorism, when it's simply a matter of rent-seeking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re: Re:

    He's saying he doesn't think that would pass muster in court just like this use of the anti-terrorism laws probably won't pass muster in court (similar cases have failed to pass muster before).

    To be clear the law is poorly conceived, constructed, and practiced. At the same time if it didn't exist law enforcement would have cooked up some other pretext to hold him at the border IMO. The true issue is that it's way to easy for the executive branch in many western governments to cook up just enough of a pretext that they can avoid practically all consequences when they abuse their authority.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re:

    Facebook is a scam. Twitter has it's uses, though a lot of people probably don't have any real need for it.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:59am

    David Miranda data thoughts

    As reported in the Guardian the British police argued in court that Miranda was carrying tens of thousands of pages of UK secret documents.

    Some obvious questions:
    Are the police / their QC / Theresa May lying? (she's a politician)
    Did Miranda have the password(s) for whatever he was carrying? (seems odd)
    Did they break the encryption? (seems unlikely)
    Was the encryption applied incorrectly? (possible, i guess)
    Did Snowden also download UK documents? (that would be new)
    Does the UK consider US classification as their own? (poodle?)
    Did someone else leak UK stuff? (that would be big news)
    Does this whole thing pass the bullshit test? (not yet)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 7:15am

    Re: David Miranda data thoughts

    Well, in all fairness, given the level of cooperation and data sharing we've seen out of the NSA and the GCHQ or whatever it's UK equivalent is called, they've probably passed quite a few documents to the NSA that were among the things Snowden downloaded.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 7:22am

    it's the same 'bully boy' tactics that are used in the USA. either do what we say, or you're gonna be locked up anyway. there is no evidence, no reason to stop people, no suspicion of wrong doing but the association is made anyway. the UK would do well to get off this track before it leads to a real disaster!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Dogbreath, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: RIP Act

    A: You can request legal advice at your own expense. Your examination will not be delayed pending the arrival of a solicitor and your failure to answer questions may constitute an offence. If you are formally detained under Schedule 7 powers, your rights will be explained to you.

    Essentially, not answering questions asked, including ones like "What is your password?" opens you up to prosecution under schedule 7 and they don't have to wait for your lawyer to turn up. If you're "merely" being "detained" under schedule 7 you have less rights than someone under arrest or essentially at any other time you interact with Police.


    As Chief Miles O'Brien would say, "Bloody Cardassians!"

    Cardassians - The Justice System

    When a suspect is arrested he is told, "You have the right to refuse to answer questions although such a refusal may be construed as a sign of guilt." A suspect may be interrogated or tortured to establish his guilt. Once a convincing case has been made against the suspect, he is imprisoned to await trial. He is no longer considered a suspect; he is now an offender.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Aaron (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Re: David Miranda injunction

    Miranda has won some sort of injunction that prohibits the UK govt from looking at any of his seized data except insofar as it relates to national security.


    Given how loose the definition of national security, that's quite an exception.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 8:37am

    Re: It's reallly stupid

    If only this were true. Mr. Miranda was detained for political reasons, which means schoolyard rules apply, not legal reasoning. Ultimately, the British government will issue the standard excuse for its naked thuggery: "Because fuck you."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 9:20am

    A reason to avoid visiting or passing through the UK

    Revealing passwords does not just give access to reading the accounts. It gives access to modifying the accounts. Any account whose password has been revealed has to be considered throughly compromised.

    If you have a github account, for instance, someone with the password can post backdoored code under your name. Trust is a very important currency, and having your account compromised breaks the social contract underpinning that trust.

    Even being able to read your email account is very dangerous. The email account is nowadays used as the authentication method for password resets of other accounts, so someone who gets even read-only access to your email account can force a password reset and steal access to other accounts.

    So, unless you can ask a friend to change and hold for you the password of all online systems you use while you travel, which can be dozens of different systems each one with its own separate password management, visiting or passing through a country with a key disclosure law is a danger.

    A password is not just a key opening a safe. A password is a way of proving your identity. Giving someone your password is not merely allowing access, it is allowing someone to take your place, and abuse and ruin any trust you have earned. An account is not an object like a book; it is part of your self, part of your life.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: RIP Act

    So they are legally allowed to punish you for not having your lawyer just tucked away in your pocket and refusing to answer until he/she gets there to advise you...

    I'm surprised they even let you have a lawyer at that point, as it's pretty damn obvious the whole point is to force people to talk without knowing what little rights they are allowed in situations like that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Re: David Miranda injunction

    ... which is why they'll copy the data over and suddenly it's 'their' data, which they will peruse at their leisure. They already don't care about what laws they break, believing themselves completely above them, why would they care about some pitiful 'injunction'?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    Re:

    Hmm, or how about this: Since they are only allowed to force you to hand over passwords to your account(s)(for obvious reasons), before making so much as a pit-stop in the UK just hand over your accounts to a trusted, out-of-country friend, and have them change the passwords.

    That way should they ask, you can honestly say that you have no email or social media account(s), and you have no idea what the passwords could be. Then when you reach your destination, you friend hands the accounts back to you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2013 @ 6:12pm

    Re: Re: RIP Act

    You could also enable two factor and leave the second factor (e.g. your hardware token) at home.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2013 @ 12:47am

    Re: RIP Act

    Here's what you do -
    Make your password something like 'gof**kyourself' or 'snortmytaint' (couldn't resist Ken epic phrase). When they ask for your passwords tell them, just don't say 'no spaces'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    LG Jen, Aug 23rd, 2013 @ 12:52am

    RIP Act

    We shouldn't really be surprised at the ruthlessness of the State when it feels threatened...and with all due respect and sympathy to those involved this rates fairly low on the scale of State b*stardry :(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Aug 23rd, 2013 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: David Miranda data thoughts

    > Well, in all fairness, given the level of
    > cooperation and data sharing we've seen out
    > of the NSA and the GCHQ

    National security intel has always been freely shared-- even at the highest classification level-- among what are known as the Five Eyes: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Aug 23rd, 2013 @ 6:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: RIP Act

    And as Bart Simpson would say, "Well, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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