The White House on Monday said U.S. officials were not involved in the decision to detain the partner of a British journalist who published information about American surveillance programs revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
David Miranda, the partner of Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, was held for nearly nine hours Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport. British officials questioned Miranda and confiscated his cellphone, laptops and memory sticks.
“The United States was not involved in that decision or that action,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said.
When pressed further on whether the U.S. disapproved of the detention, Earnest replied, “I don’t have a specific reaction.”
Earnest would not say whether the U.S. government had obtained any information from Miranda’s electronic devices. The White House spokesman did say, however, that the U.S. government was given a “heads up” by British officials that they were detaining Miranda.
For his part, Greenwald called the detention of his partner a clear attempt to intimidate reporters who publish government secrets.
“This is obviously a rather profound escalation of their attacks on the news-gathering process and journalism,” Greenwald said on the Guardian website. “It’s bad enough to prosecute and imprison sources. It’s worse still to imprison journalists who report the truth. But to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic.”
According to Greenwald, Miranda was attempting to fly home to Brazil when British authorities subjected him to hours of questioning.
Disclosures Greenwald received from Snowden about top-secret U.S. phone and Internet surveillance programs kick-started a broader debate in Washington about privacy, leaving the Obama administration on the defensive about its counterterrorism policies.