back to article British spooks seize tech from Snowden journo's boyfriend at airport

The Brazilian partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – Edward Snowden's go-to reporter for the dissemination of sensitive papers about the NSA's dragnet surveillance programmes – has been released from custody. The 28-year-old was held for almost nine hours for questioning by Metropolitan Police officers when he passed …


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        1. Magnus_Pym

          Re: Voting power

          "I'd imagine a voter turn-out of 0% (or at least less than the minimum for a valid vote) "

          There is no minimum. The frankly bizarre police commissioner elections showed us how much difference low turn out makes to politicians.

        2. Sandra Greer

          Re: Voting power? 'fraid not

          What we have in the U.S. is get-out-the-vote efforts by the lunatics, such as the "Teabaggers". If all the sane people declined voting, we would have an even more insane government than we have now. It would resemble Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Voting power? 'fraid not

            I think a big part of the problem is that all these parties work against one anotehr. Lets face it, when you look at their lists of plans for the future, you can generally swap out maybe 2 main issues of a dozen, and the rest are the same.

            The problem is they all want it done their way, and once you elect the head guy you have no say on anything else. We'd probably be in a better situation as a country is people voted on the issues rather than the parties, and we had a number of smaller votes (on the same day) regarding the various sections of government.

            Y'know rather than voting based on party politics, we vote for John Smith as treasury minister because his main aim is lowering government overheads, while voting for Billy Jean as the head of law (or something) because of his policy on de-holidayifying prisons. (random examples, random names) rather than voting torries because they'll do 8 of the 10 things we want, we vote for individauls so we get what we want in each area.

            Of course it has flaws as does everything, and something like that would never happen anyway (as politicos would wind up losing out)

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Voting power

          "In that case don't vote for anyone. I'd imagine a voter turn-out of 0% (or at least less than the minimum for a valid vote) would make it a tad difficult for any party to be in power"

          It came close enough with Police Commissioners, yet they're in office and making the predicted self-serving fuckups with all the usual non-existent accountability one comes to expect from the professional political class. The post vote hot air by Call Me Dave about them proving their worth despite the turnout was just that, and they're no doubt part of the furniture till someone fancies an 'eye catching' change.

          It would be nice to think it was the lowest our 'democracy' could sink, but I suspect there's a wealth of self serving mendacity waiting to be explored.

        4. Vic

          Re: Voting power

          > or at least less than the minimum for a valid vote

          There is no such minimum.

          This is why the pols bitch about "voter apathy" (which is generally nothing of the sort), but still claim a democratic mandate when it's them that got the most.

          > all the sociopaths, err, politicians would be willing to listen.

          I recommend you spend some time around a politician. The idea of one "listening" is, frankly, laughable.


      1. Christoph Silver badge

        Re: Voting power

        But if you don't vote for a lizard, the wrong lizard might get in!

    1. Vic

      Re: Voting power

      > Under which Government did this take place?

      RIPA came in under a Labour government.

      > What will future parties do?

      The exact same thing.

      > Vote accordingly.

      That gets tricky when there isn't a fag paper between any of them...


  1. Magister

    I would note that a number of people seem to have watched too many US based courtroom dramas and get confused over the various rights.

    In the UK, you are entitled to ask for legal council and they should not question you once you have asked for this; but if they use the catchall phrase "terrorism related" that goes out of the window. They should also provide legal council no later than 36 hours after requested; but again, that's different if the detention is due to suspected terrorism.

    Note that this was changed under the hurried legislation brought in against the wishes of a very large number of people and despite all protestations that it would only ever be used in genuine cases; and we are seeing how they really intend to use this.

    I'm fairly sure that there are many other incidents similar to this; but as the individuals (or their partners) don't work for large media organisations, no-one hears a thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your rights to a lawyer...

      Being questioned without legal advice

      Once you’ve asked for legal advice, the police can’t question you until you’ve got it - with some exceptions.

      The police can make you wait for legal advice in serious cases, but only if a senior officer agrees.

      The longest you can be made to wait before getting legal advice is 36 hours after arriving at the police station (or 48 hours for suspected terrorism).

      So, the government site doesnt even list some examples of some exceptions.

      Doesnt list what might be serious cases.

      A senior officer? Doesn't suggest how senior that should be.

      They can detain you for 9 hours... But what if you immediatly ask for a lawyer? "Certainly Sir, he'll be here in 48hrs, at which point we'll start the 9 hour clock shall we?"

  2. Captain Save-a-ho
    Black Helicopters

    I know I've heard about this before

    Per the infamous John Galt:

    "You have heard it said that this is an age of moral crisis. You have said it yourself, half in fear, half in hope that the words had no meaning. You have cried that man’s sins are destroying the world and you have cursed human nature for its unwillingness to practice the virtues you demanded. Since virtue, to you, consists of sacrifice, you have demanded more sacrifices at every successive disaster. In the name of a return to morality, you have sacrificed all those evils which you held as the cause of your plight. You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.

    You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues."

  3. Kingston Black
    Big Brother

    These people really put the n in cuts

    The spooks and their lackies must be running really scared - what has Snowden got that they're terrified the rest of us might learn?

    This flagrant, state sponsored bullying makes one ashamed to be British...

    1. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: These people really put the n in cuts

      "what has Snowden got that they're terrified the rest of us might learn?"

      There's a slim chance that that information is in the various "insurance" files that Wikileaks have released.

      Worth a download (and the indefinitely long wait for the key) perhaps?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: These people really put the n in cuts

      "... what has Snowden got that they're terrified the rest of us might learn?"

      The courage to stand up and speak when enough is enough, perhaps?

  4. IHateWearingATie

    Article incorrect to suggest they were Ultra Viries...

    If you read the legislation carefully, you'll find that they can detain him for up to 9 hours and nab his stuff for up to 7 days in order to work out whether he is a terrorist (as defined by 40(1)(b) ). They do not have to have grounds to suspect he is a terrorist - see para 2(4).

    So, they have not exceeded their powers, and as long as they return his stuff within 7 days (assuming they find out he isn't Bin Laden's twin brother in the meantime) the law will have been complied with.

    That's not to say it is right though. This legislation gives the border force carte blanch to perform a dragnet on people coming through the borders, and leaves it option to (alledged) abuse in cases such as this.

    I shall be writing to my MP, who, being a Tory in a marginal seat might actually pay some attention. Or not. We shall see.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      Re: Article incorrect to suggest they were Ultra Viries...

      So basically that law gives the government the right to detain whom they please - without even having to think up an excuse about the victim being a terrorist?


      BTW, this part of the article:

      "This is a routine hazard for people of interest to spooks or serious police investigations, and it could be seen as a little odd that Greenwald, Miranda and Poitras didn't anticipate it."

      is rather nasty, isn't it? Why shouldn't you use a laptop etc if you're "a person of interest"? It's not their fault that western legal systems get corrupted by these 1984 style laws, is it?

      Icon because that's the only thing that will save my blood pressure now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Article incorrect to suggest they were Ultra Viries...

        So basically that law gives the government the right to detain whom they please - without even having to think up an excuse about the victim being a terrorist? Great.

        Yup. That's why it was introduced in such cushy terms such as "temporary", "emergency measure", "to stop terrorists" - the voter had to be left with a sense of urgency and a feeling that actually delaying this fantastic destruction of civil rights would have severe consequences.

        Since 9/11 I have not been able to shake the feeling that this destruction of civil rights was the actual aim. Even if it wasn't, it sure as hell still looks like it. Given that I'm normally on the side of the law, this feeling of discomfort is acute.

  5. b0llchit

    Association and retaliation

    Maybe Brazil can [dr]etain $RANDOM politicians from the UK under the pretext that they believe an invalid passport has been spotted. Then question the chap for 9 hours where he got his passport faked and confiscate all the electronic gadgets (including watch). Should make for some interesting dust cloud.

    1. Mayhem

      Re: Association and retaliation

      Much better to wait until its Olympics time again, and hold up all the UK & US political types.

      "Oh I'm sorry sir, I know you had stadium tickets, but you see they appeared to be forgeries and we were worried about terrorists. You can go through now. Yes, yes I know the race has finished, but I'm sure you want people to be safe"

      1. Kit-Fox

        Re: Association and retaliation

        The only thing wrong with this post was you put a joke icon next to it

        dear brazil government, please do the suggest retalitory measures suggested by the above commentard and in all seriously make the idiots who allowed this to happen pay through the nose for it

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Association and retaliation

      Maybe their police could murder a british tourist on a train? "Oops, we thought he was a bomb laden terrorist". Make sure the video evidence goes missing too.

      Or maybe divert politicians flights and search them?

      Or refuse them airspace?

  6. TJ1

    Care? Do something!

    Like many others I have watched from the sidelines as authoritarian legislation creeps up on us bit-by-bit. I've spoken to my circle of friends about it passionately but without seeing any lever to make a difference.

    Some of the terms of the Terrorism Act 2000 are likely illegal under UK obligations to the European Court of Human Rights - specifically detention without arrest, detention without legal representation, obligation to hand over possessions, obligation to provide information.

    I wonder if this incident could be a catalyst for at least reigning in the excesses that the state is guilty of?

    Individually we cannot hope to make a difference but if each of us takes 15 minutes to write to the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary (as Minister responsible) and our Member of Parliament then combined it might poke their consciences and remind them that we elect them to represent us, not to represent authoritarian state agencies that break the spirit and letter of the law.

    Write on paper rather than email - they and their officials have to spend time replying individually rather than firing off a single canned-response email.

    I recently began planning and implementing encryption of all my Internet traffic and servers by default including using only HTTPS for the web sites I manage, deploying Apache 2.4 and Perfect Forward Secrecy, VPNs for all traffic moving over my ISP's connections, digitally signed and encrypted email using either or both of S/MIME and PGP. Many of those are using layers within layers of encryption on the same basis as The Onion Router.

    I do it not to protect my own traffic, but to make it harder for the illegal and immoral snooping of routine Internet traffic topick out those that have a legitimate need for such encryption. It is much harder for NSA/GCHQ to analyse patterns of meta-data or content if everyone routinely uses high-grade encryption.

    1. Mike Banahan

      Re: Care? Do something!

      There are significant downsides in sending your emails with digital signatures. Whilst I would (and do) routinely encrypt emails to certain recipients I avoid signing them. Almost any body of text a few lines long or longer can be misconstrued in malicious hands to appear seriously disadvantageous to you. If the bloody thing is signed into the bargain you have serious harmed deniability, where your response would be "but I didn't write it".

      I would advise against routinely digitally signing ANY document unless you have absolutely no other option.

      Though I don't have a link to the article in question, I think I remember an example which goes along the lines of:

      - chap sends a signed message to his mistress saying "Our time together is over, you bore me and I no longer find you desirable"

      - mistress strips out the signed part of the message and sends it on with forged email headers to the poor sap's wife who believes it implicitly as it is even signed by the sender. The fact that the To, Subject and From headers don't form part of the signed message are forgotten in the heat and emotions of the moment

      1. Cheshire Cat

        Re: Care? Do something!

        Actually, certain header lines (including Subject, To and From DO get included as part of the S/MIME signature on a digitally signed email, specifically to prevent this sort of thing.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Care? Do something!

      ...I recently began planning and implementing encryption of all my Internet traffic and servers by default including using only HTTPS for the web sites I manage, deploying Apache 2.4 and Perfect Forward Secrecy, VPNs for all traffic moving over my ISP's connections, digitally signed and encrypted email using either or both of S/MIME and PGP....

      Not going to worry the spooks one bit. They will use extensive computer databases (paid for by you) to seperate out items of interest.

      And unless you operate a sophisticated key management system all your countermeasures are useless anyway...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I finally understand where the 'tin-foil hatters' are coming from.

    All of this just makes me want to unplug the internet, and disconnect from society completely. Why the fuck should I want to be engaged in a society which is filled with people who treat others as so many in our societies do. All them police officers, intelligence officers, and civil servants, they're all part of our society. It's them who are doing all of this. Why the fuck should we sit back and accept these traitors in our midst, behaving as if rules of common decency don't apply to them, excusing their disgraceful, immoral, disgusting, and damned right unethical treatment of others with their 'anti-terrorism' excuse.

    1. Don Jefe

      To be honest unplugging from the Internet would probably be the most powerful tool the public could use against 'them'. The world moves on and politicians become more corrupt but the citizens are too busy playing games, streaming movies, fapping and shopping to care.

      The Internet has become the greatest distraction of all time and the politicians love it. Having so much of the populace concerned about trivial matters allows a tiny minority to stay involved in 'the real world', vote and determine everyone else's fate.

      I know it is likely impossible, but a day of no one using the Internet would be terrifying to the people who have us all stacked, sorted and ready for processing. They don't listen to letters, concerns or complaints, let them listen to silence for a day.

  8. Michael Shaw

    How do we prevent the continual and increasing creep of a police state? Politicians seem to have a vested interest in bringing it on.

  9. nsld

    We may be blaming Obama too soon on this

    It was only a few months ago that Treasonous May the home secretary was spouting that we needed the latest incarnation of IMP to store all the data to help prevent terrorist acts like the murder of Lee Rigby.

    Then Snowden threw her under the bus with the revelation that GCHQ where already doing exactly this with an extremely flexible interpretation of UK law and it all went very quiet.

    It would not surprise me if this was not a UK centric operation as the government is clearly spooked by what Snowden has leaked to date and are fearful of what is to come.

    The misuse of terror legislation is nothing new, like all law passed in haste with little scrutiny it only serves the authors and not the people it applies to.

  10. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    World cup and Olympics

    I wouldn't plan on visiting if I was a copper

  11. squigbobble

    Poisoning the well

    I'm idly curious as to what would happen if you had a laptop loaded with viruses (unwittingly, of course) seized and scanned by the rozzers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poisoning the well

      Forensic data analysis never ever boots the suspect computer. The hard drive is removed and cloned bit-level. IIRC a hash is then generated and given to the suspect, along with a copy of the clone.

      That way (1) the suspect can't argue "they added the child porn after they seized it" and (2) you don't risk tripping any little helpers the suspect may have placed on their machine.

      1. 4ecks
        Big Brother

        Re: Poisoning the well

        I'm not sure that I would want back or trust any of the hardware after the secret police had their mitts on it. Who knows what "little helpers" they might leave you with?

    2. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: Poisoning the well

      Could be amusing, I prefer the idea of several big HDs, full to the spindles with copies of the BadgerBadgerBadger animation, with each copy altered slightly in a non-significant bit of one of a random frame's pixels such that each copy generates a different hash.

      For a 1TB drive, that's almost 5 months of badgers, even before compression.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Poisoning the well

        That could be a new Olympic endurance test. How many hours of badgers can you take, before the madness kicks in...

        There's millions of badgers, all under one roof,

        It's called Badger Land, Badger Land, Badger Land!

        Obviously the winner would get a black and white stripey medal. I'm going to use the Penguin icon, due to El Reg's lack of foresight in providing a badger one. Goodness knows how they could have made such a basic error.

  12. Miek

    The Stasi of this country know no bounds. The Terrorism laws are now used simply to detain anyone they like for whatever reason. Under previous "Stop and Search" guideline/laws, the Police were simply not allowed stop and search people "Just because" they had to have reasonable cause to suspect that a crime was being/had been committed. I would like to know what exactly these Officers were a) Looking for? and b)whom ordered this?

  13. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Why anti-terrorism legislation

    I am certainly not a lawyer, but my first thought was that if the intent was fishing for information then anti-terrorism legislation could be the only applicable one under the circumstances. My understanding is that the guy did not enter Blighty, he was in transit between Berlin and Rio, so there was no customs or border control in the way, was there? But anti-terrorism applied.

    It could even be justified, with some legalistic contortions. If he was suspected of trafficking in Snowden's or related stuff, then that is related to NSA/GCHQ "sources and methods" and to disclosure thereof, which can be construed as "aiding and abetting" (not sure if the term is American, it is appropriate enough in the context, anyway).

    It is still, IMHO, abuse of the intent if not the letter of the law. As such, it is daft from the publicity point of view. It has (hopefully?) just become so much more difficult to argue that "moderate encroachments on liberty" are fine and grand because if you have nothing to hide...

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: Why anti-terrorism legislation

      Interesting that you are the first person I've seen that mentions the guy was just in transit. That was something that grabbed my attention instantly as it add yet another layer of evil intent to what is already quite inexcusable. How long before they start forcing planes down.

      Oh! They've already done that haven't they?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wont be travelling much again I bet

    So they held him for 9 hours then let him go. But kept his tech gear.

    Odds on theres at least one file in there with encryption. Either intentionally, or even something as simple as left over session file/cookie/licence file.

    Now that the security services can take their time and poke around the drives, they can find something/anything that requires decryption.

    1) Secret court order to require passphrase is supplied

    2) If he doesnt come back from Brazil on demand of that court order he 'could be extradited' Not likely Brazil will allow that

    3) If he flies through Europe/US he'll get grabbed in transit.

    4) "Whats the passphrase to decrypt : adobeCS6_licence.lic"?

    5) Cant provide it? Jail for you then!

  15. Anonymous Coward #69

    The question on everyone's lips is...

    ...did they read him his Miranda Rights???

  16. ysth

    In fact, however, it seems likely that the chances are you are indulging in whitewashing speculative "journalism" without benefit of any actual research whatsoever.

  17. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Cue the terror alert

    How convenient that Reuters is reporting imminent al Qaeda attacks on European high-speed trains? The puppetmasters are working overtime.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Cue the terror alert

      …Reuters is reporting imminent al Qaeda attacks on European high-speed trains…

      Phew, at least we'll be safe in the UK then, no chance of high speed trains here.

      Oh look, it's home-o-clock.

  18. tony2heads
    Big Brother


    The world gets more and more like Terry Gilliam's movie everyday - a mix of totally incompetent bureaucracy and strong-arm tactics by the enforcement agencies (I omit the word 'law' deliberately as they usually omit it too)

    1. Brian Morrison
      Big Brother

      Re: Brazil

      "And there is your receipt for my receipt!"

      So apt that the official that said this in the film is played by the same person that played Arthur Dent in the TV version of H2G2.

  19. Parax

    The only thing they are after is a private key.

    They want to know exactly how much he has leaked...

    when I say 'they' I mean the puppet masters in the US not the UK border muppets who can't say jurisdiction let alone spell it..

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: The only thing they are after is a private key.

      They'll return it with the s/w, f/w and h/w deeply hacked.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The only thing they are after is a private key.

        it'll be binned so what's the point. (at least I would bin it.)

        They have seen the encrypted files that were sent, they have copies but they can't crack them, since they were encrypted properly, to see what has leaked. They are searching desperately for a key. They have snapshotted every device, they will attempt to break the phone/laptop security/encryption to get the hardcore key for the data files.

  20. Volker Hett

    So I better not fly via UK

    "This is a routine hazard for people of interest to spooks or serious police investigations, and it could be seen as a little odd that Greenwald, Miranda and Poitras didn't anticipate it."

    Since I don't know if I'm of interest to spooks, I better take no chances.

    Next trip to Brazil via Lisboa ...

  21. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Ill-considered, orwellian and horrible PR....

    Considering that Mr. Greenwald's partner was transitioning from meeting with one part of the journalistic team leaking NSA/GCHQ data to another part, I guess I can see why they stopped him. But to stop him for 9 hours without charge is getting carried away. And to stop him under terrorism charges just feeds the "counter-terrorism is getting out of control" theme that all these revelations have been revealing already. In short, the cops would have done better to PHYSICALLY shoot themselves in the foot at the start of the process. At least that way they would have got some time off and only come across as bumbling, instead of malevolent and fascistic.

    So I guess the lesson here is to send any data going back and forth between Greenwald and his compatriots through suitably packaged flash drives being simultaneously sent through international express delivery dropboxes.

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Ill-considered, orwellian and horrible PR....

      They probably do that already.

      Why do people only think about the security services removing stuff from the computer -- not adding it?


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