A White House spokesperson told reporters on Monday that the Obama administration had received a “heads up” that British authorities would detain David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald.
Greenwald was responsible for first breaking the news about secret U.S. surveillance programs, and has close ties to Edward Snowden.
“This was a decision that was made by the British government without the involvement and not at the request of the United States government,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. “It’s as simple as that.”
“I don’t have a way to characterize for you any of the conversations between the British government and the U.S. government on this matter, other than to say that this is a decision that they made on their own and not at the request of the United States,” Earnest continued. “In terms of, you know, the kinds of classified, confidential conversations that are ongoing between the U.S. and our allies in Britain, I’m not able to characterize that for you.”
Miranda was detained on Sunday at London’s Heathrow airport for nine hours under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000—the maximum length of time a person can be detained before being either discharged or arrested. Britain’s Home Office said in 2012 that over 97 percent of those detained under the law are only held for less than an hour.
Miranda said he was questioned by six agents after being stopped during a layover on his way home from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. While in Germany, Miranda met with Laura Poitras, a documentary filmmaker working with Greenwald and Snowden.
“They asked questions about my whole life, about everything,” Miranda said. “They took my computer, video game, cell phone, memory thumb drives—everything.”
Keith Vaz, chairman of Britain’s Home Affairs Select Committee, sent a request to British police on Monday for further information about Miranda’s detainment.
“They may have a perfectly reasonable explanation, but if this is what is going to happen, if we are going to use the Act in this way, for those issues that are not related to terrorism, then at least we need to know so everyone is prepared,” Vaz told the BBC.
Greenwald characterized the move as an attempt to intimidate journalists.
“If the U.K. and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded,” Greenwald said. “If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us further.”