In the US, we've had one of the key authors of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, speak out strongly
, saying that the NSA interpretation of the law appears to be completely different than what was meant when the bill was written. It looks like something similar may be happening in the UK. Charles Falconer, who helped craft the UK's Terrorism Act, which was used to detain David Miranda and swipe all of his electronics, has now spoken out, saying that it was an illegal use of the Act he wrote
...schedule 7 powers can only be used "for the purpose of determining" whether the detained person is a terrorist. The use of the power to detain and question someone who the examining officer knows is not a terrorist is plainly not for this purpose, so it would neither be within the spirit nor the letter of the law.
There is no suggestion that Miranda is a terrorist, or that his detention and questioning at Heathrow was for any other reason than his involvement in his partner Glenn Greenwald's reporting of the Edward Snowden story. The state has not even hinted there is a justification beyond that involvement.
He also hits back, pretty strongly, against the suggestion by some, including home secretary Theresa May, that the "terrorism" connection was that the content might fall into the hands of terrorists. But Falconer claims that this doesn't make any sense:
It is important to understand the ramifications of May's justification. She is not suggesting there is an issue about whether Miranda is a terrorist – the only lawful basis on which his detention and questioning could be justified. Rather, she is suggesting that he was in possession of stolen material which could help terrorism, presumably by publication. There is a world of difference between the two.
Had schedule 7 been in force when Salman Rushdie was writing Satanic Verses, May's justification would have allowed his detention and questioning and the removal of his manuscript.
Using very loose, and obviously ridiculous, definitions to justify deplorable actions just don't seem like a good idea -- and yet the defenders of these programs continue to do so, seemingly forgetting that the people who put this stuff together in the first place, are still around.