Toobin: "The word 'journalism' is not magical immunity sauce"

CNN’s Anderson Cooper hosted an interesting discussion over the David Miranda detention at Heathrow and its implications for journalism between its senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Jesselyn Radack from the Government Accountability Project.  Surprisingly, Toobin not only insists that the British authorities acted rationally and properly, but that Miranda was fortunate not to be arrested for his activities in moving allegedly stolen material across the border, saying that our own prisons are filled with drug “mules” who did essentially the same thing.  Radack strenuously objects, claiming that Miranda was acting as a journalist, but Toobin argues that the argument is irrelevant:

“The word ‘journalism’ is not magical immunity sauce,” Toobin replies at the end, “that you can put on anything and eliminate any sort of liability.”  Of course, that’s an argument we will shortly have in the US over the liability of journalists who receive classified material from secret sources, but no one in the US has seriously suggested prosecuting journalists under that concept.  Oh, wait

In the end, though, British security officials didn’t prosecute Miranda — they just confiscated the materials after detaining him for a long time first, contra Toobin.  Miranda and Glenn Greenwald are now filing suit to get the material back:

The pair, who were interviewed together on CNN’s “AC360,” said late Tuesday that Miranda’s lawyers “have filed a lawsuit” in London.

“What they’re essentially seeking right now is a declaration from the British court that what the British authorities did is illegal, because the only thing they’re allowed to detain and question people over is investigations relating to terrorism, and they had nothing to do with terrorism, they went well beyond the scope of the law,” Greenwald said.

“And, secondly, to order them to return all the items they stole from David and to order that they are barred from using them in any way or sharing them with anybody else.”

Miranda’s lawyers, at the law firm Bindmans, said the items seized include a laptop, cell phone, USB memory sticks, a hard drive, a smart watch and a games console.

Do they have a discovery phase in the British court system?  If so, that would be fascinating to watch.

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