David Miranda has gone from being a relatively unknown person to a global media sensation in the last week. Why? Because he made two mistakes. The first was being in a relationship with a Guardian journalist who has been the proverbial thorn in the sides of the UK and US governments. The second was to attempt to use a UK airport for a connecting flight.
The result of this combination is known to us all. Nine hours of interrogation by the UK’s finest anti-terror experts and the confiscation of his electronic devices. Why? As far as I, or anyone else, knows Miranda isn’t a terrorist. He hasn’t been a terrorist nor does he preach a terrorist gospel to a baying mob of fanatical followers. If the security services truly believed that confiscating his toys will make the slightest difference to the emergence of embarrassing information about their activities then they’re not as bright as they should be.
So why was it done? I can only assume that this was a clumsy attempt to “put the frighteners” onto the journalistic community as a whole. A cack-handed way of saying that the government backed security services aren’t above targeting people directly, or via their friends and family, so just watch it. Step out of line, do something we don’t like and it could be your dear old granny getting banged up for possession of Sanatogen Tonic Wine and the suspicions that she might eat too many scones at one sitting.
It’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. Remember all the way back to 2005 and a certain Labour Party Conference? Mr Walter Wolfgang (aged 82 at the time) was removed from the conference hall for daring to heckle one of Labour’s apparatchiks. When he tried to re-enter the hall he was arrested, albeit for a short time, on a terrorism related charge. This caused a minor furore and the then Labour Leader, a certain T. Blair, was forced to apologise in an attempt to dampen the flames of public opinion. What I find more interesting is the reaction of a certain David Cameron, who described the incident thusly: “one of those moments which lays bare the full absurdity of the Orwellian New Labour project”. But that wasn’t all he said, he also stated that it was: “profoundly depressing” that Mr Wolfgang had been held using anti-terrorism legislation.
I wonder if David Cameron is feeling just a little depressed tonight as he’s left to pick up the pieces left by this messy and heavy handed attempt to sway the media away from revealing ever more embarrassing revelations of state scrutiny of the masses?