A curious episode unraveled last week that, in The Scrapbook’s judgment, tells us everything we need to know about the motives of Edward Snowden, and the ethics of Glenn Greenwald (the Guardian journalist who broke the Snowden story) and the Guardian itself, Britain’s premier left newspaper.
David Miranda, a Brazilian national who happens also to be Glenn Greenwald’s lover, was detained at Heathrow Airport for nine hours under Britain’s Terrorism Act. He was questioned by security officials, who also confiscated some electronic equipment and, according to Greenwald in the Guardian, denied him access to a lawyer. This was first reported as a heavy-handed attempt by the Cameron government to intimidate Glenn Greenwald—with a touch of homophobia thrown in for good measure. Greenwald was accordingly defiant and indignant: The British can’t intimidate me, he declared. And poor David, caught in the middle, is merely “my partner. He is not even a journalist.”
Not surprisingly, as days went by, this smartly packaged tale of speaking truth to power, of innocent love and brute force—accompanied by photographs of Greenwald and Miranda reuniting after the ordeal—swiftly disintegrated.
Miranda may not be a journalist, whatever that means these days; but he was, in fact, assisting Greenwald by transporting encrypted data drives, containing stolen British and American intelligence, for delivery to Greenwald from a confederate in Berlin. That was the “equipment” confiscated at Heathrow. And he was, he later admitted, offered the services of a lawyer at Heathrow, but refused them.
The scandal here is not that Edward Snowden, now safely ensconced in Russia by way of China, acted on behalf of governments hostile to American interests; or even that another Greenwald/Snowden associate, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame, answered, in effect, “who cares?” when asked if these activities might endanger the lives of British and American agents. The scandal is that both Greenwald and the Guardian knew all along that Greenwald’s lover was acting as his mule—that is, transporting stolen intelligence information—but chose to lie, repeatedly and publicly, about it. And the Guardian, needless to say, paid Miranda’s airfare.
The British not only had every reason to stop and question David Miranda; it would have been extraordinary if they had not. It would be equally extraordinary to believe anything further Glenn Greenwald or the Guardian has to say on the subject.