The NSA, David Miranda, and the inevitability of power abuses

Left unchecked, power will always get used in arbitrary ways, often in areas that have little to do with national security and more to do with political agendas

People wear Edward Snowden masks during Glenn Greenwald's testimony before a Brazilian congressional committee on Aug. 6.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)

If there was ever a moment of clarity over the danger of government overreach in the case of the NSA and its surveillance programs, it came — ironically — from the British government. Taking advantage of a law passed specifically for counterterrorism efforts, the United Kingdom detained the civil-union partner of the journalist at the center of reporting on the NSA scandal, detaining him for all but five minutes of the maximum nine hours allowed without charges. The U.K. eventually released David Miranda without charges, but not without protest from Brazil, where he and Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald live, and not without a firestorm of criticism over the use of power granted to the government to combat terrorism.

According to Greenwald, his partner was merely traveling through London to get back home, and the U.K. had no reason to suspect that Miranda had anything to do with leaking classified information. Greenwald accused British security officials of retaliating for Greenwald's reporting on the NSA by targeting "the family members and loved ones of journalists," calling the practice "despotic."

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.