Senior government figures in the UK are set to clash over the country’s terrorism laws.
Deputy Prime Minister, and leader of junior coalition party, the Liberal Democrats, has said that he will press for major changes to the provisions of the 2000 Terrorism Act, in the wake of the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald.
Miranda was held for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in connection with sensitive information that had been leaked to the Guardian.
The incident prompted the human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe (CoE), to write to the Home Secretary, Teresa May, to clarify details surrounding the detention of Miranda, which, said CoE Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, could potentially have a “chilling effect” on press freedom.
In addition, the UK has also been criticised for ordering the destruction of computer equipment possessed by the Guardian that contained files leaked by the US whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
Nick Clegg confirmed that the country’s most senior civil servant, Sir Justin Heywood, had been asked by Prime Minister David Cameron to order the destruction of hard drives containing the files. Clegg also said that he supported the decision on national security grounds.
However, the deputy prime minister has said that the changes to the current terrorism laws are needed in the wake of both incidents.
Lawyers for David Miranda are seeking a judicial review against the police and the Home Office, which is scheduled for later today (22 August). Home Secretary, Theresa May, has backed the police action, unlike Clegg, who said he will wait until after the verdict of the review has been pronounced. The verdict will be given by David Anderson QC, the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
Speaking to the BBC on 21 August, the home secretary said it is “absolutely right if the police believe that somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists, that could lead to a loss of lives. It is right that the police should act.”
This was contrasted with a statement by the Liberal Democrats, which said “the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.”
David Anderson has suggested that the government reassess whether or not the police should be allowed to detain people if there are no direct suspicions about their activities. A Liberal democrat source, quoted in the Guardian, said that the party was examining this prospect “with great interest.”
Anderson, who has already met with the police to discuss the case, is not expected to make any formal statements until next week.