At first, this court decision was described as a win for David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald, and the Guardian. As has happened on this story in the past, the details present a more nuanced reality. A British court imposed an injunction on the use of material seized from Miranda during his nine-hour detention in Heathrow, but the fine print reveals a rather large loophole:
he British authorities can sift through documents seized from the partner of a reporter who wrote about the leaks by Edward Snowden to protect national security and investigate any possible links to terrorism, a court ruled on Thursday. …
His lawyer has requested an injunction to prevent the authorities from examining any data seized from Miranda and has also started legal action to ask judges to rule that his detention was illegal.
Two judges at Britain’s High Court said the authorities could continue to look at the information from Miranda for the defense of national security and for the purposes of investigating whether the claimant is a person who is or has been concerned with the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.
If the injunction had just allowed a search related to terrorism — the law under which Miranda was held requires a reasonable nexus to terrorism — then this may well have been a win for the Guardian and its employees. Whatever else Miranda may have been up to, it would be difficult to argue that he was a prime suspect in a terrorist plot.
National security, however, is a much wider scope, and much more ambiguous. It clearly includes the efforts of British intelligence to conduct signals intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks, which now don’t have to relate to Miranda at all. That loophole will be more than wide enough to include any work resulting from their relationship with American intelligence and the NSA, which the Snowden files have exposed in some detail, especially between NSA and GCHQ.
Small wonder the government is “pleased” with the ruling:
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) August 22, 2013
The court will convene again on August 30th to review the case again, giving the British a little more than a week to conduct its review. By that time, the question of accessing the stolen materials will be moot, if it isn’t already. Perhaps the NSA will figure out by that time what exactly they lost with Snowden.