Tough or Vulnerable?

Edward Snowden leaked information on how the US government does violence to American citizens in the name of saving them from terrorist threats. He’s now either a traitor or a hero, says the US media.

There’s a reason why Snowden sent the evidence to a UK journalist with a strong record of publications advancing civil liberty and denouncing state violence. All things being equal, a paper outside the US would be more likely to publish the content.

Moreover, this journalist happens to live in Brazil and was technically less likely to fall under the prey of the so-called ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK.

That is, until his partner, David Miranda, got detained in Heathrow airport for nine hours, with his laptop and other media used to store information confiscated.

According to UK law, this kind of detention can happen if someone is suspected of terrorism. I don’t want to present an analysis here. I have a series of points to suggest.

First, if this is mere harassment, then it’s by no means subtle. If it’s a ‘message’ to potential whistleblowers, a message that their lives will be hard after they decide to denounce tyranny, well, this shouldn’t surprise them.

Second, if they get away maintaining that Miranda was a suspected ‘terrorist’ under UK law when he was detained, then more than a few eyebrows will raise as to who defines what a terrorist is in the country.

Is it America? After all, Snowden leaked information on America, not the UK. So, was Miranda detained to ‘make Britain safe’ in a way that actually makes it less safe because it’s taking orders from a foreign power?

Or, perhaps, Britain has something to hide? This is indicated by Miranda’s partner, who now promises to reveal information on the UK in retaliation. Is Britain, or rather the group in charge of it, trying to look tough on national security?

However, by trying so hard to look ‘tough’ they end up looking vulnerable. Subverting its own citizens’ rights and its own law. Taking disproportionate action. Retaliating on a personal level.

This, of course, is not unheard of. Since the advent of the ‘social contract’ fiction, people have to feel threatened and strong at the same time. Threatened with the potential ‘attack’ that will come if they’re not strong enough. Strong, because they need to trust Nanny State will take care of them.

David Miranda was caught up in the delicate balance of threat and security that Modern politics has been employing to justify state violence. For some time, the balance used to abhor weak government in domestic politics was rejected to account for world politics.

What Miranda’s case tells us of the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US is that this is no longer the case. The ‘strong man’ needed to impose order and security at home is now increasingly being sought after between nations. Or maybe not yet. Perhaps the British government does indeed have something to hide.

1 Comment

  • CR says:

    Many thanks to Snowden and Manning. I hope I’d blow the whistle if such secrets ever came before me. My form class will be discussing public interest defense and nullification of statute by juries.

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