Counterterrorism Official: Glenn Greenwald’s Partner Wouldn’t Qualify For Watch Lists

“I can’t see any scenario in which this person would be on the terrorism watch list.”

U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald (L) walks with his partner David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport Aug. 19, 2013. Ricardo Moraes / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda does not qualify for any United States government terrorism watch lists, according to a FBI counterterrorism official familiar with the criteria for the lists.

“I can’t see how that person would qualify for being on the terrorist watch list,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, said of Miranda, who was detained for nine hours at Heathrow Airport in London on Sunday and questioned about Greenwald’s reporting on the National Security Agency.

“I’m not saying explicitly” that Miranda or Greenwald are not on any lists, the official said, “but I think that the terrorist watch list is a very rigorous criteria and the person has to have suspected ties to terrorism.”

“I can’t see any scenario in which this person would be on the terrorism watch list,” the official said.

The White House and the State Department have denied that the U.S. asked the United Kingdom to detain Miranda.

“This is a law enforcement action that was taken by the British government and this is something that they did independent of our direction,” White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

“We were informed in advance but we did not ask U.K. authorities to undertake this operation,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki in the daily press briefing on Monday.

Greenwald has called his partner’s detention after visiting journalist Laura Poitras in Berlin “obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.” Law enforcement officials also confiscated Miranda’s electronics. He was held under the U.K.’s Terrorism Act.

A spokesman for the FBI’s Terrorism Screening Center declined to comment on whether or not MIranda or Greenwald are on any lists, saying, “We’re prohibited from disclosing who is on or off the list” and that that kind of information is classified.

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