Saturday, August 31, 2013











 Is Not a One-Off;

 it Happened to Me

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 journalist Glenn 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 Times, Forbes and Fortune.
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 campaign brought 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 politicians Trevor 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 a 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.

Follow Leah McGrath Goodman on Twitter:


All democracies should respect freedom of the press. Journalism is not a crime -- and it should not be treated as such. Ms. Goodman, an American author and journalist, was detained for 12 hours at Heathrow Airport and treated exactly as a criminal, though she had committed no crime. She was locked up, stripped of all her ID and belongings, denied access to consulate and lawyer -- something even criminals are allowed -- photographed and fingerprinted. Her "crime": researching VIP atrocities against children across the British Isles. She is legally entitled to the full video footage of her 12-hour detainment and any other information the U.K. still holds on her under the Data Protection Act. For two years, the U.K. has repeatedly ignored her requests. Please release this information at once.

Theresa May, Home Secretary, UK Member of Parliament 
Mark Harper, Minister of State for Immigration, Member of Parliament 
Release the Full CCTV Footage of the 12-Hour Detention at Heathrow Airport of Journalist Leah McGrath Goodman 

I write in support of the two letters below that have been sent to you, Mr. Harper, by MP John Hemming and Leah McGrath Goodman. Please release the full CCTV footage of Ms. Goodman's 12-hour detainment at Heathrow Airport and any other information you still hold on her. 

This stands as yet another example of the U.K. harassing international journalists who are researching topics it would rather not have researched. 

It is a disgraceful violation of press freedoms and a threat to all human rights. 

3 July 2013 

Mark Harper: 

Ms. Goodman made a Subject Access Request for CCTV footage and all other data relating to her detainment in October 2011, she received as a result of that request some documents which were stated to be the complete record kept by the UK Border Agency. 

In a further Subject Access Request last year in January 2012, the UKBA declined to provide any additional data or documentation saying: 

"We have no reason to believe that there would have been any significant changes or additions to the data held on the above-named subject...therefore, we are returning your subject access request and fee payment." 

However, in the enclosed letter dated 29th May 2012, from Brian Moore, Director General of the Border Force, it is disclosed that CCTV footage of the detention is still on file and a copy could be obtained by way of a further Subject Access Request. 

Ms Goodman has made that request, which was denied and she has been told that any further Subject Access Requests will be denied. 

It is of great concern that the UKBA feels it is able to not comply with the Data Protection Act, a law passed by Parliament which, as a public body, it has a duty and requirement to comply with. It is of greater concern that the UKBA is aware that it holds this video evidence and seeks to suppress its disclosure, and it is deeply troubling that actions of its officers, which were denied in an investigation could be proven to have occurred had this evidence been turned over. 

I am asking you to intervene in this process and demand that the UKBA comply with the Data Protection Act and provide the video evidence it has confirmed it holds to Ms. Goodman. A further delay would be pernicious. 


John Hemming, Member of Parliament 

1 August 2013 

Dear Data Protection Unit: 

I am writing once more to file a Subject Access Request for any remaining information and footage held on me, Leah Susan Goodman, from 10 September 2011 to the present, particularly the full CCTV film of my detainment, which led to a lengthy investigation and is still on file. 


I filed by registered mail my first SAR for my CCTV footage and all data pertaining to my detainment immediately after my detainment on 10 September 2011. The UK Border Agency confirmed receiving this 6 October 2011 (please see a copy of this document, enclosed). 

I did not receive my CCTV footage. However, I was sent some paper documents under SAR, stating that this was the complete record (please see a copy of this statement, enclosed). 

I wrote the UKBA again in November 2011, asking how to obtain the CCTV footage and did not receive a reply. I still have this letter and your receipt of it. 

I filed another SAR with the UKBA, confirmed received 21 January 2012 (also enclosed) asking again for ALL info related to my detainment. The UKBA declined to provide any further items, stating: "We have no reason to believe that there would have been any significant changes or additions to the data held on the above-named subject...therefore we are returning your subject access request and fee payment." 

On 29 May 2012, a member of MP John Hemming’s staff confirmed with Damian Green in a letter (again, see enclosed) my CCTV footage did exist. Prior to that, I was informed the footage had been destroyed. This letter I also still have in my possession. Yet further inquiries did not lead to my receiving the footage. 

On 3 July 2013, a second staff member of MP John Hemming sent another letter (enclosed also) to Mark Harper of the Home Office to “intervene in this process and demand that the UKBA comply with the Data Protection Act and provide the video evidence it has confirmed it holds to Ms. Goodman. A further delay would be pernicious.” 

It has been two years of my making humble requests for this information, starting with the month of my detainment. How many requests must be made? Please comply with my SAR request for my full CCTV footage as soon as possible. 

Enclosed is the identification and usual proofs you require for this purpose. As I have already paid for the first SAR and you sent back other checks I have written (one of which I have enclosed as proof) I assume you do not expect any further money. 


Leah McGrath Goodman 
[Your name]


Anonymous said...

An important posting and a vital petition. Methinks this story of detaining a journalist investigating Jersey child abuse "has legs" and will be running for a long time.


voiceforchildren said...


Senator Philip Bailhache asks UK to INTERVENE