When the state goes fishing

The English upper classes are a peculiar bunch. Three High Court judges ruled this morning that, whilst the in-transit detention at Heathrow Airport of former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald‘s domestic partner come journalistic mule David Miranda was “an indirect interference with press freedom”, it was permissible to use anti-terrorism powers for this purpose, despite there being no suggestion that Miranda was suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Confused? You’re not the only one. In my case, confused and more than a little worried, given the precedent set by this latest ruling. It is tantamount to saying that the police and security services may make it up as they go along, and act with pretty much unlimited procedural flexibility.

The wider implications for investigative journalism are severe. As the National Union of Journalists and others have argued, the use of schedule 7 stop and search powers removes all safeguards or express protections for confidential sources and materials. In fact, it is more than “an indirect interference with press freedom”; the High Court ruling is a direct attack on one of the principal means by which the public holds the state to account.