It’s time to examine Greenwald’s Guardian claims

Since the story broke over the weekend that the partner of Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for The Guardian who has been working to publish information on behalf of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, the public has another reason to be divided. One half say that as a partner of a journalist, it’s a crime to hold him for questioning, while the other half believe that it should be allowed. However, in the initial report it seems that The Guardian left a lot of convenient details out, which means that you can’t really form an opinion unless you’ve looked into it a bit more.

Greenwald’s partner was detained for just under nine hours by British border security under a counterterrorism law while transferring between flights at Heathrow Airport during a trip from Berlin to Brazil. The Guardian report tried to frame it that it was nothing more than that, just a trip, with Greenwald’s partner held unlawfully, with the laws designed to stop counterterrorism and those who aid the operations of terrorists and similar organisations. However, his partner was actually meeting Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker, who has also been helping Snowden to release his leaks according to the New York Times.

Not only that, but the New York Times has reported that the trip was paid for by The Guardian, with his partner aiding the journalism and in Berlin to deliver documents related to The Guardian’s investigation into government surveillance to Laura Poitras. In turn, he was reportedly handed different documents to pass to back to Greenwald. Both sets of documents came from Snowden and were stored on encrypted thumb drives. If true, this is a lot different to the claims made by The Guardian, as he wasn’t just being held because he was a prominent journalists partner – because if the New York Times is aware that he was involved with the documents, the authorities probably were as well.

Apparently a huge variety of  electronic media — including video games, DVDs and data storage devices – were seized by British officials while he was being detained under Section 7 of the British Terrorism Act. This allows people to be detained for up to nine hours for questioning and to conduct a search of personal items, to determine possible ties to terrorism. More than 97 percent of people stopped under the provision are questioned for under an hour, so as Nate Silver put it: “Only about 1 passengers per 5.6 million is examined at Heathrow for more than 6 hours, so it wasn’t a coincidence.”

To me, if he was helping the journalists the authorities were more than within their rights to examine and question Greenwald’s partner. And not only that, I think that The Guardian’s story misses a lot of details out, especially that if he was on a Guardian paid trip and involved with the documents, he should be described as a journalist himself. Not that journalists should be examined, but Greenwald isn’t exactly involved in normal journalism. After all, Snowden has given information endangering the American and British governments to Wikileaks and Assange – which is a matter of national security.

This could be linked to the huge data dump that Wikileaks have posted to Facecbook. Three sets of files, around 4GB in total, have been uploaded, possibly videos or masses of files – which likely contain potentially dangerous information. Nobody knows what they contain (although maybe the NSA or GCHQ have rightly been able to decrypt the strong encryption) but it could be anything, such as the location of American agents (names and other information has previously been left out by leaks by Wikileaks).

I do believe that Snowden did initially have good intentions, but involving Wikileaks was a mistake. Now, apparently even he doesn’t trust them and I don’t think you can trust The Guardian completely either. Previously, a lot of Snowden reporting has turned out to be wrong and it seems there is a lot of information that has been left out of this story as well. Despite that, the big story isn’t that The Guardian was involved in misreporting of a story, but that a journalist’s partner was held without a lawyer under terrorism offences. Examining the evidence, it seems that he’s more than just a journalist’s partner and with the documents potentially an issue of national security, I don’t think there is a story here.

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