US threatened to end UK spy cooperation, say judges

David Miliband

David Miliband

Two British judges published scathing criticism yesterday of the British government’s decision to withhold documents on the case of a Guantánamo detainee who says he was tortured, thus giving in to alleged pressure by the US to keep the information secret. The two high court judges, Justice Lloyd Jones and Lord Justice Thomas, accused the British government of keeping “powerful evidence” secret after being threatened by Washington that it would “stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK”. The judges also dismissed claims by the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, that “the public of the United Kingdom would be put at risk” if the American threats were to materialize. The court case involves allegations of torture by Binyam Mohamed, a resident of Britain, who is currently imprisoned by US authorities at the Guantánamo Bay camp. Mr. Mohamed was abducted in 2002 by Pakistani authorities, who delivered him to US intelligence agents. The latter employed the controversial practice of extraordinary rendition and had Mr. Mohamed secretly imprisoned in Morocco and Afghanistan before taking him to Guantánamo. The Ethiopian-born Mohamed says he was brutally tortured while in Moroccan and US custody. But the British government is refusing to release US documents under its possession, which Mr. Mohamed’s lawyers say prove the torture allegations. In their statement yesterday, the two British judges in charge of the case dismissed the British government’s claims that releasing the documents would harm Britain’s national security. They also stated that they found it “very difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain” these documents “which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters”. In defending the British government’s decision, Foreign Secretary David Miliband argued earlier today that “to disclose US intelligence in the case of the alleged CIA torture would have damaged national security”. He rejected claims that Washington threatened to terminate all intelligence cooperation with London, but described the American stance as a “simple affirmation of the facts of intelligence cooperation”. Accordingly, making the information public over US objections would “cause real and significant damage to the national security and international relations of this country”, he said. Soon after Mr. Miliband’s comments, the US State Department issued a statement thanking “the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long standing intelligence-sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens”. Notably, Mr. Miliband’s refusal to release the documents in question continues even after US President Barack Obama’s directives banning the use of torture in interrogations of prisoners under US custody and ordering the closure of the Guantánamo Bay camp. The Foreign Secretary also stated that Britain did not “condone, authorize or cooperate” in torture. His statement is contradicted by several individuals who claim that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) brutally tortured them before handing them over to interrogators working for MI5, Britain’s foremost counterintelligence agency. On February 3, the British Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights heard evidence that MI5 interrogators were aware of the torture and appeared to rely on it to extract information from the prisoners. Mr. Mohamed’s case will now be examined by Britain’s Attorney General, who has been instructed by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to investigate the possibility of “criminal wrongdoing by MI5 and the CIA over Mohamed’s treatment”.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

One Response to US threatened to end UK spy cooperation, say judges

  1. Anonymous says:

    I would like to think that that Obama administration would encourage the release of such information, as long as authentic national security matters were not disclosed. This is another chance for Obama to demonstrate a willingness to ‘change’ the undemocratic, dictatorial and fascist policies left over from a(nother) corrupt administration.

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