Sunday, August 18, 2013

Heathrow Airport

Hello, my darlings. It's good to be back. The Guardian reported today that the partner of Glenn Greenwald (one of the journalists who broke the NSA story) was detained this Sunday at Heathrow airport in London for nine hours. This was done under a provision of the UK's Terrorism Act of 2000, which allows airport authorities to detain and question travelers for up to nine hours. According to the Home Office, fewer than 1 in 2,000 people are held that long. Most travelers, obviously, are never selected for examination to begin with; according to the Home Office again, it's "fewer than 3 people in every 10,000." The number of those who undergo the full 9-hour marathon, then, is exceedingly small. Of those 3 in 10,000 who are examined, fewer than 1 in 2,000 are examined for nine hours. In other words, this is an exceptionally rare case.

You would assume, then, that David Miranda, the individual involved, was a dangerous threat to the lives of his fellow travelers. Because surely airport authorities would only exercise this rarely-invoked power in order to protect us. It must have been a matter of life and death. Save me, my darlings!
In actuality, however, it is much more likely that the British government or its American allies wanted to send a message to Greenwald about his investigative journalism. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that authorities have used their post-9/11 powers to harass politically-active travelers. That's because in the US, airports are the one place where the government can ignore the Fourth Amendment and openly intimidate its enemies by searching and confiscating their property. Coincidentally, Greenwald himself has addressed this phenomenon in the past,
  • including in 2011 ("Will Congress act to curb the shocking abuses U.S. citizens encounter when re-entering their own country?")
  • and in 2010, when a Bradley Manning supporter had his cellphones and laptop seized upon re-entering the US.
These seem like gross misuses of power to me. But what about the rest of you, my darling readers? Many of you seem willing to put up with increased airport security in order to curb terrorism, but how many of you will put up with increased airport security if it's being used to intimidate the government's political enemies? Not many, I hope.

In parting, I have just one question for you, my lovelies. Will you be my happy blog friends?