Not only anyone reporting on NSA surveillance, but anyone connected with them, is now a part of the terrorist threat.

On August 18th, in response to reporter Glenn Greenwald’s articles exposing U.S. and U.K. surveillance programs (with data revealed by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden), security at London’s Heathrow Airport detained and questioned Greenwald’s life-partner David Miranda as a terrorist, and for nearly nine hours.

Miranda was held under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, but he was never questioned about terrorism – he was questioned about his partner’s reporting on NSA surveillance programs and on related violations of the civil liberties of U.S. and British citizens.  He was refused a lawyer, a phone call, and the identity of his interrogators, and all of his electronics were taken.

Miranda had spent a week in Berlin with US filmmaker Laura Poitras, who is working with Greenwald on the NSA story. When his detention occurred, Miranda was headed home to Brazil with a scheduled flight change in London.

Miranda had been in detention for three hours before Greenwald was even informed of the delay. Greenwald immediately contacted lawyers for the Guardian as well as Brazilian officials. Greenwald reported that not even the Ambassador to the UK was able to obtain information about his partner. Miranda was held for almost the entire 9 hours that UK authorities are allowed to detain a suspect before getting a court order for arrest.

Upon release, Miranda’s cell phone, his laptop, some DVDs and video games, and all other electronics that Miranda was carrying were confiscated as evidence. (Greenwald says he is confident that the files on Miranda’s laptop were encrypted at a level that British and U.S. authorities will be unable to crack).

Just as U.S. leaders attempted to convict then-Private Bradley Manning of “aiding the enemy” for revealing embarrassing information to the American people, just as Edward Snowden has been hunted across the world as a spy for exposing his government’s spying, British authorities chose to hold David Miranda as a terrorist for having assisted with, or merely for having known about, his partner’s reporting, in a major world newspaper, on grave abuses of liberty carried out by the U.S. and British governments. 

The Hedges v. Obama lawsuit against the NDAA, currently being pursued through appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, alleges that reporters may now be indefinitely detained under the 2012 NDAA’s section 1021 which removes the right to a trial from persons accused of “substantially supporting” forces “associated” with known terrorists or “supporting … hostilities … in aid of enemy forces” – as whistleblowers Manning and Snowden, and by extension the journalists they reported to, face accusations of having done.  In a lower court whose finding against the NDAA has since been struck down, Obama officials refused to specify, even at the risk of losing their case, that (for instance) defendant and New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges could not be thrown for life into U.S. dungeons for his reporting. 

It’s a cliché by now, but not enough people yet understand it: to these governments, informing the public is “aiding the enemy.”  We the People – we the Enemy – need to begin to take this seriously while there’s still anyone willing to take the risk of aiding us.

UK authorities clearly detained and interrogated Miranda in an attempt to make an example out of him, his partner Greenwald, and his correspondent Poitras. That makes this yet another sortie in these governments’ war on whistleblowers, on transparency, on truth, an effort to silence and frighten journalists into covering up their governments’ actions, so that attacks on liberty can all become surprise attacks, and so that democracy becomes a meaningless pick between choices we’re forbidden by law from understanding. Journalists are meant to know, yet again, that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is gone, along with freedom of the press: that by simply doing their job, a threat is levied against them.In 2011, just after signing the NDAA, President Obama  publicly stated “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.“

However, in the Hedges v. Obama courtroom, in his pronouncements on Snowden and Manning, and again in the Miranda detention, that stance is not apparent. Glenn Greenwald is an American citizen and, as importantly, a journalist who has seen a loved one detained extralegally simply to deter him from reporting truths to the American people.  suffered  The six British agents didn’t grill David Miranda about bombs but about bombshells which they didn’t want to see in the Guardian newspaper and a laptop confiscated so its contents wouldn’t blow up in the wrong people’s faces.  Today’s terrorist needn’t be remotely threatening, except to the power and prestige of authorities who have decided they are and should forever be above the law, using sweeping detention powers to deter or prevent free speech, and to intercept information that shouldn’t make the news.

This time, they failed.  Through their very actions this time, the news is out.  We are the enemy.  Nonviolently, in such a way as to preserve our liberties against all the chaos with which the authorities would gladly (if necessary) replace them, against all the fear, of others, of ourselves, into which and through which our leaders will try to herd us, we have to finally recognize, once and for all, who the enemy is. 

It’s us. 

We should start acting like it.