Saturday, 31 August 2013

Miranda, Greenwald, Goodman.

Before David Miranda was detained for nine hours at London's Heathrow Airport, there was me.
The news of Miranda's detainment came while I was cooking dinner in my kitchen, where I make my home in Vermont. It was early evening on a Sunday when, simultaneously, my mobile phone and email blew up. A longtime Wall Street source sent me a link to a New York Times story about Miranda's travails, along with the following message:
Reminded me of your experience. Seems these Brits are thugs dressed in borrowed garbs, speaking borrowed words.
Reading Miranda's account of his treatment - no explanation, no access to his own lawyer, no contact with the outside world, not even his family or his partner, investigative journalistGlenn Greenwald - I remembered the day I was detained, stripped of everything I owned, including all proof of my identity, and locked up in the basement of Heathrow while researching VIP child abuse in the British Isles.
Only, in my case, I was held for more than 12 hours.
Many times since the news breaking of Miranda's treatment, I have wondered, if the U.K. Border Agency could not hold Miranda longer than nine hours under Schedule 7 of the terror laws, what did that mean about its detaining me for over 12?
I am an American, a Tier-1 U. K. visa holder and former resident of Great Britain. I am also an investigative journalist and author with a spotless travel and legal record. In other words, if this could happen to me, this could happen to anyone.
During my 12 hours in captivity, I was not accused of committing any crime or breaking the rules of my visa. In fact, I was using the same visa I had used for almost a decade to do research in the U.K., including while writing stories for The Financial TimesForbes andFortune.
My crime was researching a topic that the British authorities preferred I did not.
It was Sept. 11, 2011 - the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York. I was glad to be leaving the city, as it was on a high terror alert. I planned to stay in the U.K. for six days to see friends and colleagues before heading to Austria, where I'd accepted an invitation to speak at a bank conference alongside European bank governors and former U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Sheila Bair.
That wasn't all I was doing, however. I had just finished a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado at Boulder and had begun working on my second book. The focus of my research: a highly political and secretive island off the coast of France called Jersey - the British Crown's wealthiest tax shelter and favored habitué of rich and powerful child abusers. (And yes, a wealthy family on the island once owned the state of New Jersey.)
My detainment came without warning. I arrived early in the morning and headed into the passport check, as usual. A guard asked if I would answer a few questions. I agreed, thinking nothing of it. But no questions were ever asked. Instead, I was escorted to a windowless room in the basement of Heathrow and locked in. At no time was I told that I was being taken into custody or why.
My luggage and personal belongings were immediately impounded. I was marched to a processing center where I was photographed and fingerprinted like a common criminal - only, unlike a criminal, I was not allowed a lawyer or access to my consulate. I also was handed a slip of paper that I still have today, which stated:
You have been detained under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act or arrested under paragraph 17 of Schedule 2 to that Act.
What did this mean? I could not get anyone to tell me.
That was the beginning of perhaps the most harrowing 12-plus hours of my life. What people do not realize is that a nine-hour detainment - or a 12-hour one, in my case - would be borderline tolerable if you knew how long it would be taking in advance.
What the U.K. Border Agency proceeds to do is something else entirely. For every minute you spend imprisoned against your will, the U.K. authorities are actively prepping you for the worst: that you will be held indefinitely, that you may disappear off the face of the earth without recourse or redress. And that feels a lot more like torture.
I was placed in a dirt-stained room with a latrine and no bed. I was left there for many hours. The U.K. Border officers spent this time rummaging through my things in an apparent attempt to reverse-engineer a case against me. They had no interest in speaking with me; to the contrary, all they wanted to do was get at my luggage. I am afraid I was a bit of a disappointment. None of my book research notes were with me on that trip. All I had were clothes and books and shoes.
My requests for information were ignored. I asked if I was being arrested; no one would tell me. I asked many times to call a lawyer or my consulate. The guards laughed at me. I asked, 'What are my rights?' Their answer: 'You have no rights. You are on the U.K. border.' After about eight hours, two U.K. Border Agency officers finally grilled me - first one, then the other - about my work, my finances, my living arrangements, the people with whom I associated and where I was headed. I was not allowed counsel. I told them I would be in the U.K. for six days before traveling to Austria. I showed them my onward flight bookings, arranged by the organizer of the event. The officers looked straight at them and accused me of lying.
The interrogation process was designed to be demoralizing and hostile. I was effectively human garbage, to be threatened with further imprisonment if I did not cooperate. I greatly empathized with Miranda's account of being in fear for his life and his security. No effort is spared by the U.K. authorities in putting you through immense isolation and emotional trauma in the starkest of Orwellian terms beneath the Heathrow Airport.
Once the officers were done going through my things and berating me, I was summarily thrown out of the country and banned from re-entering the U.K. - as well as the island of Jersey - for the next two years. To this day, the U.K. Border Agency has never furnished me with a clear reason why.
After getting ousted from the country, I sent for my things in Jersey, where I kept a foreign visitor-approved office and a pied-à-terre. The parcels, shipped by UPS, arrived weeks late -chopped up and razor-bladed all. It was apparent the boxes had been searched many times by many hands. Inside one of them, I found a slip of paper, which I have kept, stating that the shipment contained an unidentified "contaminant." To this day, UPS cannot explain what this is about and claims its investigation, which is ongoing more than a year later, has been hobbled by multiple delays.
Next month marks the two-year anniversary of my ouster from Great Britain. Since my detainment, my U.K. visa status has been fully restored through the collective efforts of members of the press, including The Guardian and the BBC. A social media campaignbrought international attention to the plight of those suffering in Jersey and, through the herculean efforts of U.K. Member of Parliament John Hemming and Jersey politiciansTrevor and Shona Pitman, I traveled for the first time back to London and Jersey this summer to continue my work with a group of U.K. journalists. I also was able to meet MP Hemming for the first time to thank him.
While much has been put right, the U.K. Border Agency has continued to act as a sort of rogue political body, breaking its own rules; blocking an objective investigation into my treatment at the border; denying administrative review of my visa; and, bizarrely, claiming that the video footage of my detainment had been destroyed, then informing me it had not.
Repeated requests for a copy of the full footage, to which I am entitled under the U.K.'s Data Protection Act, have been willfully ignored.
This past July, a group of MPs, led by Hemming, issued a parliamentary motion insisting on the release of my CCTV footage, as well as "details of the original process resulting in [Goodman's] ban in 2011 and a full explanation of the delays in her being provided with a visa in 2013."
The U.K. Border Agency has not responded, so today, MP Hemming is launching petition urging U.K. Immigration Minister Mark Harper and Home Secretary Theresa May to stop stonewalling the release the "missing" footage of my detainment.
Every signature on this petition, which can be found here, sends a strong message to the U.K. and countries around the world that there will be rigorous pushback wherever journalists are treated as criminals or used as political scratching posts while pursuing the truth. Indeed, the ability of citizens around the world to knowledgeably debate issues of the day depends on it.
Writing this article was difficult, as the aftermath of detainment causes serious and lasting side effects. I still adore Great Britain and the beautiful island of Jersey. I cannot help it; they are in my heart.
My visa has been restored. But when I see fellow journalists trying to do their jobs and being harassed and targeted - such as Miranda and Greenwald - it is obvious to me that our basic human rights and crucial press freedoms are in peril and we must stand together to ensure they are not taken away entirely.

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  1. Strange, with there being such a local connection with the Miranda/Greenwald story, that the local State Media have not covered this story?

  2. Why would local Media cover this when its a story about Heathrow Airport's Immigration procedures and nothing to do with Jersey?

    1. This theory has already been rejected locally as ludicrous.
      The situation was that she was refused entry by the UK due to VISA issues.

    2. There is a saying that goes something along the lines of “never believe a story until it has been officially denied.” Just who was the officialdom that “rejected this theory as ludicrous?

      The “official” line is also that Jersey is “a well regulated and CO-OPERATIVE Finance Centre.” But there is EVIDENCE to show otherwise. Swallowing what you are told by the local State Media and the “official line” will not help you discover the truth……………….If that’s what you’re looking for?

    3. Well she has been allowed in since with the correct Visa so what is left with this story no matter what side of the argument you believe?

    4. Try watching the border control programmes on Sky and then you may understand why they are so strict in immigration.

    5. Strict immigration controls are one thing but locking up journalists, who have not, nor suspected of, committed a crime of any sorts for more than 12 hours, while refusing them ANY contact with the outside world is an altogether other thing. Terrorists aren't treated that harshly. Why, also, will the UKBA NOT hand over the cctv tapes of miss Goodman's illegal detainment?

    6. It was probably just an interview room.
      Besides it was in the UK and nothing to do with Jersey.

    7. She was “flagged” by Jersey it had everything to do with Jersey. Are you saying it is acceptable to be locked up for over 12 hours, denied contact with the outside world, and not asked a single question for eight hours if you are a journalist not suspected of any crime as long as you are held in “an interview room?” This might be acceptable in North Korea/Jersey but in Britain who is supposed to have a free press?

    8. As a successful book author and widely read journalist in international news publications, she had been allowed in with her regular Visa before she disclosed her intention to write about HDLG, at which point the Jersey officials suddenly had to get "higher level advice."

      Even after her ban ended, the official correspondence regarding which Visa she needed, and whether that type of Visa even existed is pretty hilarious. Jersey even created a whole new category of required Visa just for her when the world began paying attention to the mess. The "missing" CTV tapes, no longer missing but now not yet disclosed, are another part of the problems she faced because Jersey didn't want her to research child abuse. You don't have to decide if they were "probably just an interview room" because the evidence she speaks of is in the tapes and she has a right to see them disclosed through her FOI and the request of John Hemming MP.

      No one outside the influence of the Jersey state media would dismiss her mistreatment or believe this was a normal detention, or a justified banning. No one. Nothing about it holds up under any informed scrutiny.


  3. "Alethephobia" fear of hearing the truth

    1. Seems to be a rampant condition. That's why those who believe the state media have to change the subject when facts are presented to them.

  4. “Interview room” (for 12 hours)

    “I was placed in a dirt-stained room with a latrine and no bed. I was left there for many hours. The U.K. Border officers spent this time rummaging through my things in an apparent attempt to reverse-engineer a case against me.”

    “Strict immigration controls.”

    “My requests for information were ignored. I asked if I was being arrested; no one would tell me. I asked many times to call a lawyer or my consulate. The guards laughed at me. I asked, 'What are my rights?' Their answer: 'You have no rights. You are on the U.K. border.'

  5. Leah WAS being monitored during her time in Jersey researching the Historic Abuse cover-up. She was being observed and people questioned about her activities. As the only politician who got to see the files I can confirm this directly.

    1. Trevor.

      A few months ago, myself and Rico, met with some "outside" journalists who believed they were being watched/followed/monitored. Perhaps they too have a file? What legitimate "reason" could there be for monitoring western journalists in Jersey?

  6. I note that John Gripton of BBCJersey has been tweeting the link to Leah's Huffington Post edition of this same article, telling people to read it. Does this mean he has reversed his position on her?


    1. Elle.

      Jon Gripton has blocked a number of independent media over here so we wouldn't have seen his tweets.

      Let's see if he, or BBC State Radio, mention it, or will it be buried along with the interim statement of the former Police Chief Graham Power QPM?

  7. It's on my Twitter time line @DenverElle and on Stuart's at @StuartSyvret, along with Stuart's reply to Mr Gripton, asking him if it means coverage of Graham Power's statement. Don't know how to link to it, but it has been retweeted all day by a number of others.


  8. "Bones dug up near Dozier boys' home - Remains found in search for answers over disappearance of juveniles from Florida reform school more than 50 years ago"

    Obviously this will all be one big misunderstanding, won't it? None of the bone fragments will be fresh and fleshed when burnt. Hey, maybe a hick town retired detective will be hired by the authorities to actively try to discredit the evidence?