Upon learning that his partner had been detained at Heathrow Airport for 9 long hours, Glenn Greenwald wrote in The Guardian, in part,
According to a document published by the UK government about Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, "fewer than 3 people in every 10,000 are examined as they pass through UK borders" (David was not entering the UK but only transiting through to Rio). Moreover, "most examinations, over 97%, last under an hour." An appendix to that document states that only .06% of all people detained are kept for more than 6 hours.
The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used "to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."
But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop "the terrorists", and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.
Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day - as every hour passed - worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.
The fact that this unlawful detention is so brazen basically tells us that the US and UK really don't care what anybody thinks. They have granted themselves this power and they will use it whenever it fits into someone's political agenda.
If nothing else, it only underscores the amount of guts journalists like Greenwald and whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are exhibiting. While Bradley Manning's acts were courageous too, he did them anonymously. Who can blame him? But Snowden, Greenwald, other Guardian reporters and a few from The Washington Post are standing up in the open to shine a spotlight on areas the US and British governments desperately want to keep in the dark.
Talk about speaking truth to power!!