Monday, February 16, 2009

Binyam Mohamed & Government Cover-Ups

This is news:

"Mohamed claims he confessed to being a terrorist only after he was
brutally abused and tortured, and that both American and British intelligence
officers were at least complicit in the torture.

Lt. Col. Bradley says there is evidence to support his claims of torture
and that it is in 42 classified documents held by the British government.

Mohamed's lawyers and British media have sued in the British High Court to
make those documents public.

The British - and American - governments are fighting that on national
security grounds. As the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told
Parliament that Britian's intelligence relationship with the United States is
vital to the security of the United Kingdom.

'It is essential that the ability of the U.S. to communicate such material
in confidence to the UK is unaffected,' Miliband said.

Miliband pointed to a letter received from the U.S. State Department,
authored by The Legal Advisor, John Bellinger III, on Aug. 21, 2008, to bolster
his argument. The letter said, '…the public disclosure of these documents or of
the information contained therein is likely to result in serious damage to U.S.
national security and could harm existing intelligence information arrangements
between our two governments'.

That last sentence was interpreted as a threat by the British media and by the British High Court, which ruled that Mohamed’s lawyers, with security clearances, could have access to the documents, but that they must not be made public. The court harshly criticized the American government for what it characterized as U.S. interference in British affairs.

But a former Bush administration official with specific knowledge of the
case, who requested anonymity, has told CBS News the letter was written at the request of the British government and that both the U.S. and British government wanted to ensure the documents remained secret. The British Foreign Office declined to comment on the record.

The British court also said the documents contained 'evidence of serious
wrongdoing by the United States which had been facilitated, in part, by the UK

Lt. Col. Bradley has a security clearance, and has seen the documents. She
cannot say what's in them. But she did say, 'this is not a matter of national
security, this is a matter of national embarrassment. The U.S. and other
countries may not want to be embarrassed by what happened to Mr. Mohamed and the full story and information and account coming out of what happened to Mr.

The British government’s public position on torture has always been that it
does not practice or condone it. The existence of the letter, and the court’s
statement, raise the question of what the British knew about torture in
Guantanamo and other secret prisons, including some run by the CIA, when they
knew it, and what, if any, concerns were raised with the American
government." [emphasis supplied]

That's a lot of funny business to end court proceedings. It's possible this "former Bush administration official" providing the quote just wants to throw a wrench into the new Administration. But it seems just as likely that this screams COVER-UP. And what role is the Obama Administration playing now? The British requested, from Bush, a letter that would cover their @sses - and Obama, joining this cover-up game, thanks the British for their compliance?

The letter was deceptive, the threat apparently a lie.

Time to make a stink.

Update: Let's go over this one more time. From the BBC:

"The judges said they wanted the full details of the alleged torture to be
published in the interests of safeguarding the rule of law, free speech and
democratic accountability.
The details, believed to amount to just seven paragraphs, relate to the circumstances of Mr Mohamed's detention and his treatment while he was being held.
But they said they had been persuaded it was not in the public interest to do this due to the potential impact on UK national security of US stopping intelligence sharing.
By doing so, the US government could 'inflict on the citizens of the UK a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at a time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains', they said." [emphasis supplied]

The entire basis for the court's decision to block the publication of the documents detailing Mohamed's treatment was a lie. Kind of sounds like somebody should get in trouble for this, no?

More from the BBC article:

The Conservatives said the ruling raised 'serious questions' and urged ministers
to make a statement on the issue on Thursday.
'No British government should participate in or condone torture under any circumstances,' said shadow foreign secretary William Hague.
'We hope that the new US administration will look again at this decision, particularly since the judge concerned that there were no security reasons for the material not to be made public.'"

These documents should be released and published immediately. It seems like they are now but the beginning of a much broader scandal.

Update 2: The British press is all over this story, and confirms the account of the former Bush Administration official. Guardian, Telegraph. And here, a second story from the Guardian:

"The shadow foreign secretary [William Hague] wrote to David Miliband
demanding urgent clarification on a number of specific allegations about whether
the UK was complicit in the mistreatment or torture of Guantánamo detainee
Binyam Mohamed.

The move followed reports that a Foreign Office official solicited a
letter from the previous US administration asserting that the disclosure of
information relating to Mohamed's detention would harm the intelligence sharing

Today Downing Street rallied to Miliband's defence, insisting that the
Foreign Office had merely asked the US to 'set out its position in writing' when
it solicited a letter for the American authorities to back up its claim that, if
the evidence was disclosed, Washington could stop sharing intelligence with

The claim persuaded two high court judges earlier this month to
suppress what they called "powerful evidence" relating to the ill treatment of
Mohamed, a British resident being held in the US's Guantánamo Bay
detention camp in Cuba."

So IOW...the Foreign Office asked the United States to threaten them, in writing?

"'The Foreign Office has made clear that they asked the US to set out their
position in writing for us and the court,' a spokesman for Gordon Brown

In response to the British request, John Bellinger, the US state
department's chief legal adviser, said in a letter to the Foreign Office last
August: 'We want to affirm the public disclosure of these documents is likely to
result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing
intelligence information-sharing arrangements between our two governments.'"

The case will be reopened next month, due to previous conflicting claims on the part of the UK - in one hand, Miliband carries the manufactured August threat letter of Bellinger, on the other hand he denied that the US threatened to stop sharing intel with the UK. It's hard to imagine that the high court judges will continue to surpress this evidence. After all, their basis for doing so just disappeared. Unless the United States would like to continue the charade of empty threats vis-a-vis intelligence sharing, and Britain would like to comply, I think it's game over. Though currently in the process of getting screwed by the Obama DoJ stateside, (Mohamed et al v Jeppesen), it seems like Binyam might score a victory in the UK. Perhaps, a victory in the UK might encourage the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the state secrets privilege claim of the Obama DoJ. Let's hope so.

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