by Doug Hornig
David Miranda was detained in a London airport for almost nine hours. When the government set him free, they kept all of his electronics so they could hack them at their leisure. Security experts believe they even turned them into stealthy listening devices. All with court approval.
Your home computer—assuming you still have one, of course—should be safe from the grabby hands of public officials. In theory, at least. Law enforcement personnel are supposed to obtain a search warrant before they barge into your house and start confiscating electronic equipment.
But when you're on the road and perhaps storing important documents on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, all bets are off. Your devices are subject to seizure on the flimsiest of pretexts, and any data they hold can be pirated.
That's the lesson every traveler should learn from the recent Miranda episode, an incident that, ironically, involved a man with the same last name as the one whose case nearly a half-century ago represents a legal landmark. The earlier Miranda (Ernesto) had his conviction on domestic violence charges voided by the Supreme Court because police failed to inform him that he had the right to remain silent and to have access to an attorney. The decision resulted in the requirement that suspects under arrest must henceforth be given "the Miranda warning," i.e., be read their rights before any questioning can begin.
The present Miranda (David) has become the poster boy for governmental abrogation of basic rights.
You see, David Miranda is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the British journalist responsible for publishing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
No matter what one may think of Snowden and his actions, what happened to Miranda is troubling.
On August 18, he was traveling from Germany to his and Greenwald's home in Brazil, a journey that included a stopover at London's Heathrow airport. While in the transit lounge, he was stopped by officers and informed that he was to be questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. This controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports, and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question, and detain individuals.
Miranda, a Brazilian citizen, was held for eight hours and fifty-five minutes. Not coincidentally, nine hours is the maximum allowable detention period under the law, before ...