David Miranda has been granted a limited injunction at the high court to stop the government and police "inspecting, copying or sharing" data seized from him during his detention at Heathrow airport – but examination by the police for national security purposes is allowed.Miranda had taken the government to court to try and get the data returned, but judges ruled that the police would be able to make limited use of what had been taken during his nine-hour detention on Sunday. He is the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who has exposed mass digital surveillance by US and UK spy agencies.
The court ruled the authorities must not inspect the data nor distribute it domestically or to any foreign government or agency unless it is for the purpose of ensuring the protection national security or for investigating whether Miranda is himself involved in the commission, instigation or preparation of an act of terrorism.But the ruling also meant that data cannot be used for the purposes of criminal investigation – although the court had previously heard that the Met had launched a criminal investigation after analysing the seized data.
Detectives have been trawling through the documents that they say Miranda was carrying as he changed planes in London on his way back to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald..Jonathan Laidlaw QC, appearing for the Metropolitan police, said the data contains "highly sensitive material the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety". There were "tens of thousands" of pages of digital material, he added.
Laidlaw said the investigation was being carried out by officers from SO15, charged with investigating terrorism and matters involving national security, but declined to give further details.
"I am not prepared to alert defendants here or abroad about the criminal investigation that has begun."He said police were only part way through their investigation of the material so for the court to prevent them from continuing "would be dreadful situation to confront the police [with], bearing in mind the results of the part of the assessment it has been possible thus far to undertake".
The court earlier heard from Steven Kovats QC, counsel for the home secretary, Theresa May, that the data included tens of thousands of classified UK intelligence documents, "disclosure of which would risk lives". He added that May "does not accept that we are concerned here with journalistic material" and believes Miranda "is not a journalist, and stolen documents can't be held in confidence and don't qualify as journalistic materials".When Miranda was detained he had just visited Laura Poitras, a film-maker who had been involved in breaking the revelations by fugitive US whistleblower and former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden.
He was flying back to Rio at the Guardian's expense when police stopped him in Heathrow's transit area and took his laptop, phone, two memory sticks, two DVDs, a Sony games console, smart watch and a hard drive.Miranda's lawyers told the court in a written submission that police threatened him with imprisonment if he did not answer their questions and, finding the experience "frightening, stressful and intimidating".
He was compelled to provide passwords for the devices. His lawyers said he only had a lawyer for the last hour of his detention and was not allowed a pen to write down the officers questions or a translator even though English was not his first language.
The lawyers argued the move was a misuse of statutory power because the act quoted to Miranda may only be used to determine whether a person appears to be someone who "is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".