UK court restricts inspection of NSA data

The live-in partner of a `Guardian` journalist behind the Edward Snowden leaks today won a limited injunction from Britain`s High Court.

Last Updated: Aug 22, 2013, 20:38 PM IST

London: The live-in partner of a `Guardian` journalist behind the Edward Snowden leaks today won a limited injunction from Britain`s High Court when it ruled that the government can only examine classified materials seized during his detention for national security purposes.

Lawyers were seeking to prevent access to data seized during David Miranda`s detention and judges ruled that the UK government and police are exempt from "inspecting, copying or sharing" the data, except for national security purposes.

Miranda, the Brazilian partner of US journalist Glenn Greenwald, was held for nine hours under anti-terror laws at Heathrow airport on Sunday in connection with classified data of American National Security Agency (NSA) leaked to the `Guardian` newspaper.

The UK Home Office has told the court that "tens of thousands of highly classified documents" had been seized when 28-year-old Miranda was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 on his way from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro.

Matthew Ryder QC, who is representing Miranda, told the High Court today they wanted a 14-day freeze on the inspection of his phone and computer. He also wanted police to reveal with whom they may have shared information taken from his client.

Ryder told Lord Justice Beatson and Justice Kenneth Parker that Miranda was questioned and property in his possession was seized "under threat of criminal prosecution in a coercive use of Schedule 7 which was unlawful".

Gwendolen Morgan, of Bindman Partners, argued in a witness statement in court that the decision to use schedule 7 "amounted to a grave and manifestly disproportionate interference" with Miranda`s human rights and was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The purpose of these proceedings is to protect the confidentiality of the sensitive journalistic material that was seized from the claimant. Confidentiality, once lost, can clearly never be restored," she said.

There will be a full hearing on the question of continuing police inspections on August 30.

The High Court will then further consider Miranda`s application for an interim injunction to stop examination "until the legality of that seizure has been determined by this court".

UK home secretary Theresa May has defended the police`s use of anti-terrorism laws to hold and question Miranda. She said such action "was right" if police thought Miranda was holding information useful to terrorists.

The incident has sparked international outrage as Greenwald has been reporting extensively on American and British surveillance programmes for the `Guardian`, based on leaks from US whistleblower Snowden.

The former contractor with the NSA in America has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

PTI