The arrest came as a shock to Chambers, who has since been suspended from his job as a finance supervisor.
"All together, five officers were there. One said [we're] arresting you under the Terrorism Act because of a tweet you sent, and he showed me a copy of my tweet. I didn't realize the gravity of the situation. I was stuck in a cell, processed, fingerprint[ed]," he said in an interview, after he was released on bail.
Chambers was arrested at his workplace and held in a police vehicle while officers searched his car for explosives. He was then taken to a police station in the town of Doncaster and questioned by detectives from the criminal investigation department. He was released on bail late on Jan. 13 pending further investigation.
The arrest was under aegis of the Terrorism Act (2006), Britain's controversial version of the Patriot Act. The Terrorism Act gives police sweeping powers of arrest and the right to detain suspects up to 28 days without charge. The Act politically damaged former British Prime Minister Tony Blair when members of his Labor Party rebelled against initial plans to allow authorities to hold suspects for up to 90 days.
Chambers, who has no legal counsel of his own, was provided with state legal aid by GV Hale and Company solicitors. Andy Blennerhassett, a solicitor at the firm, declined to comment "while the investigation is still going on."
Privacy advocates say the police action crossed a line. Though Chambers's remark was ill-advised, a simple investigation should have showed he was not a threat, they argue.
Tessa Mayes, author of "Restraint or Revelation: Free Speech and Privacy in a Confessional Age," says authorities do not appreciate jokes: "We live increasingly in a no-laughs-allowed age. In a democracy, our right to say what we please to each other should be non-negotiable – even on Twitter," she says.