British authorities faced questions Monday after they used counterterrorism powers to detain the Brazilian partner of a journalist who published information leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald - an American journalist with Britain's Guardian newspaper - was held for nearly nine hours Sunday as he passed through London's Heathrow Airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro from Berlin.
Greenwald said Miranda was refused access to a lawyer, and officials confiscated all his electronic media - including a cell phone, DVDs and encrypted data storage devices - containing documents related to Greenwald's investigation into U.S. government surveillance.
British lawmaker Keith Vaz said he is asking police for an explanation. He said it was "extraordinary" that police knew Miranda was Greenwald's partner, and the authorities were targeting partners of people involved in Snowden's disclosures.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday British officials gave their U.S. counterparts a "heads up'' before detaining Miranda. But Earnest said American officials did not ask British authorities to question Miranda and were not involved.
Greenwald wrote that Miranda's detention was designed to intimidate "those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ," referring to Britain's Government Communications Headquarters.
Brazil's foreign ministry expressed "grave concern" about the incident, which it said "has no justification" because it involves "an individual against whom there are no charges that can warrant the use of this legislation."
Britain's Terrorism Act was passed in 2000 and applies only at airports, ports and border areas.
Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Greenwald's investigation into U.S. government surveillance to Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker who has helped disseminate Snowden's leaks. He was returning to Brazil with different documents.
The Guardian, which paid for his flights, issued a statement saying it was "dismayed" at Miranda's detention and that it would press British authorities for an urgent clarification.
The rights group Amnesty International said Miranda was "clearly a victim of unwarranted revenge tactics" and that there is "no basis for believing that [he] presents any threat whatsoever to the UK government."
London's Metropolitan Police Service, which had jurisdiction over the case, said in a statement that Miranda had been lawfully detained under the Terrorism Act and later released. It did not provide further details.