‘Why Have You Gone to Russia Two Times in Three Months?’—Heathrow Customs Agent Interrogates Snowden Lawyer
A lawyer who represents National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and has spoken on his behalf numerous times was detained while going through customs at Heathrow airport in London.
Jesselyn Radack told Firedoglake she was directed to a specific Heathrow Border Force agent. He “didn’t seem interested” in her passport. She was then subjected to “very hostile questioning.”
As Radack recalled, she was asked why she was here. “To see friends,” she answered. “Who will you be seeing?” She answered, “A group called Sam Adams Associates.”
The agent wanted to know who was in the group. “Ray McGovern, Annie Machon, Thomas Drake, Craig Murray,” she answered. She said she is part of the group as well.
“Where will you meet?” Radack answered, “At the Ecuadorian Embassy.” Then, the agent asked, “With Julian Assange?” Radack said yes.
The interrogation continued, “Why have you gone to Russia twice in three months?” Radack said she had a client in the country. “Who?” She answered, “Edward Snowden.”
“Who is Edward Snowden?” asked the agent. Radack said he is a whistleblower and an asylee. Then, the agent asked, “Who is Bradley Manning?” To this, she answered, “A whistleblower.”
For whatever reason, the agent asked, “Where is he?” “In jail,” Radack told the agent. (Now, she is known as Chelsea Manning.)
The agent said, “So he’s a criminal?” Radack corrected the agent, “He’s a political prisoner.” The agent asked if she represented Manning and she said no. Then he followed up, “But you represent Snowden?” She replied, “Yes, I’m a human rights lawyer.”
Former NSA employee and whistleblower Thomas Drake was with her and witnessed the interrogation. The agent barked the questions at Radack and had a “threatening demeanor.
Radack said she was “stone face cold” during the interrogation but afterward was shaking and in tears. “How did he know to bring up those names?”
Notably, Radack mentioned she was told she was on an “inhibited persons list.” Jennifer Robinson, an Australian human rights lawyer who has represented WikiLeaks, discovered she was on this list in April of 2012.
According to a report by Australian journalist Bernard Keane, this is a term the Department of Homeland Security uses. From a DHS document:
‘Inhibited status’, as defined in this rule, means the status of a passenger or non-traveling individual to whom TSA [Transportation Security Administration] has instructed a covered aircraft operator or a covered airport operator not to issue a boarding pass or to provide access to the sterile area.
Keane highlighted the fact that in March 2012, “as part of the US government’s seemingly remorseless attempt to impose its laws on the rest of the world, the UK agreed to new rules that required airlines to provide the Department of Homeland Security with details of passengers even if they weren’t traveling to the United States, but to countries near the US, such as Canada, Mexico and Cuba.”
Radack reacted to the intimidation and harassment afterward, “The government, whether in the US, UK, or elsewhere does not have the authority to monitor, harass or intimidate lawyers for representing unpopular clients.”
Her interrogation by a Border Force agent comes just after The New York Times reported, based off a document from Snowden, that NSA ally, Australia, has used the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on American lawyers. The spying involved Indonesia trade talks.
From the Times:
The Australians told officials at an NSA liaison office in Canberra, Australia, that “information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included” in the intelligence gathering, according to the document, a monthly bulletin from the Canberra office. The law firm was not identified, but Mayer Brown, a Chicago-based firm with a global practice, was then advising the Indonesian government on trade issues.
On behalf of the Australians, the liaison officials asked the N.S.A. general counsel’s office for guidance about the spying. The bulletin notes only that the counsel’s office “provided clear guidance” and that the Australian agency “has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the organization’s National Security Project, said the story confirmed the fear that “NSA’s surveillance rules give short shrift to the privacy of communications between lawyers and their clients.”
“It’s another example of the NSA’s troubling ‘mission creep’ beyond national security,” Abdo added. “Attorney-client communications are sacred in our legal tradition and should not be wiretapped except in extraordinary circumstances.”
In August of last year, David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, was detained for nearly nine hours under a United Kingdom terrorism law at Heathrow airport. He had electronics equipment seized and agents were looking to intercept documents from Snowden by detaining him.