After revelations that Glenn Greenwald's partner was detained and threatened by British security forces earlier this week, Britain's rightwing media moguls made sure to close ranks and shield Westminster from too much public criticism. Major news outlets including the usually libertarian Daily Telegraph have responded to the story by running an aggressive string of articles downplaying or smearing the Guardian's coverage of this abuse, and others, by Prime Minister David Cameron's government.

David Miranda, who lives with Greenwald in Brazil, was held at Heathrow Airport for nine hours under the Terrorism Act (2000), denied legal representation for the duration, and told repeatedly that he would be imprisoned if he failed to surrender the passwords to his personal accounts. Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, also revealed that two months ago "shadowy figures" from the government told him "you've had your fun" and demanded access to the newspaper's basement, where agents smashed hard drives thought to contain sensitive NSA and GCHQ data.

David Cameron and Teresa May, the Home Secretary (in charge of domestic security forces), both spoke in support of the police action, saying that officers were right to use the Terrorism Act (2000) to detain Miranda. 97% of individuals detained under the act are held for no longer than 30 minutes, while only one in 1000 are held for more than six hours.

The response by Rupert Murdoch's empire has been predictably supportive of Mr. Cameron, who has close business and family ties with News Corporation leaders. The Sun, Britain's most widely circulated newspaper, made no mention of the story whatsoever, while endorsement was given in editorials and news coverage by the Times and Sky News in the form of softening the story, failing to mention in either outlet the government's attack on the Guardian offices.

By far the most disappointing interpretation of the story, however, was the narrative spun by the Daily Telegraph, which within a day of the story breaking had published no fewer than five articles online that defended or justified the government's line. Commentaries included opinions such as "the Guardian has smeared Britain's security services" (Louise Mensch) and "a journalist's partner spending a few hours at Heathrow is a price worth paying for national security" (Dan Hodges), while the paper's respected editorial column took a notable leave of the issue.

Almost all of the articles posited the same argument: that because Miranda was involved with the Guardian's work and not a mere family member of a journalist, it cannot possibly be intimidation of journalists. The fact that Miranda's involvement technically counts him as a journalist does not seem to consider that he is therefore a journalist subject to intimidation, a bizarre omission that goes unnoticed by the commentators involved.

v The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrat party formed a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, spoke against Cameron and May's remarks. Both the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties shared civil liberties as a major campaign priority during the 2010 election, largely in response to draconian legislation introduced under Tony Blair - including the Terrorism Act now being used to detain reporters. This government has previously strangled stories about Edward Snowden's controversial leaks through the [issuing of a d-notice][link: Link

The Daily Telegraph has a lengthy history as a champion of civil liberty and freedom of speech, which makes its endorsement of the bullying of its progressive rival appear inconsistent. Most recently it lobbied aggressively against statutory press regulation in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, arguing vociferously for the right for journalists to counter state power unhindered.

On the other hand, the Telegraph's argument for free speech after the phone hacking scandal was, ultimately, a defence of the practice of dishonest hacking and snooping. In this context, perhaps a relaxed attitude towards the detention and threatening of those fighting against an intrusive and duplicitous opponent is consistent after all.