Thursday, February 11, 2010

Secret British files reveal US torture of detainee

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-11

Britain fought for months to block the release of the information

White House ‘deeply disappointed’ by British court ruling, says could affect future ‘cooperation’.

By Guy Jackson – LONDON

A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was shackled and warned he would “disappear” if he refused to cooperate with US interrogators, Britain revealed Wednesday after losing a lengthy court battle.

The British government sought to downplay suggestions that the publication of the previously secret information concerning the treatment of Binyam Mohamed would damage its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United States.

But the White House said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision of the court and warned it could affect future US-British cooperation on intelligence.

The seven-paragraph summary was published after Foreign Secretary David Miliband lost his appeal court bid to prevent senior judges from disclosing it.

Britain fought for months to block the release of the information, arguing that doing so would undermine the US’ willingness to share sensitive information with Britain.

But High Court judges ruled there was “overwhelming” public interest in publishing the material and that the risk to national security was “not a serious one”.

The judges said the content of the summary, which describes Mohamed’s treatment as “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, was already in the public domain following a decision in December by a US court in another case.

The redacted information concerns what the CIA told British intelligence officials about “interviews” with Mohamed in Pakistan in 2002, two years before he was taken to Guantanamo.

The summary released by the court said that “at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation.”

“It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and ‘disappearing’ were played upon,” it said.

The summary adds: “It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews.”

Miliband said however that Britain had “no information” to corroborate Mohamed’s allegations that he had also been subjected to genital mutilation.

He also disclosed that police were investigating allegations of criminal actions by a British official linked to the case.

Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 31, had come to Britain in 1994 seeking asylum.

He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 while trying to return to Britain and spent nearly seven years in US custody or in countries taking part in the US-run rendition programme of terror suspects.

He claims that in Morocco in 2002 he was questioned using information which could only have come from the British intelligence service.

After a lengthy campaign by his supporters, he became the first prisoner to be released from Guantanamo under President Barack Obama and returned to Britain in February last year.

Miliband said he accepted the court’s judgement, but insisted that Britain’s intelligence-sharing relationship with the US had been at stake in the legal battle, not the content of the summary.

The minister told lawmakers he had spoken to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, and Britain would work with US officials to study the implications of the ruling “in the light of our shared goals and commitments.”

The White House criticised the judgment saying the information had been shared “in confidence and with certain expectations.”

“As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Barack Obama.

The director of Reprieve, the campaign group which has championed Mohamed’s case, accused the government of going to “enormous lengths” to prevent the disclosure of “this tiny fraction” of Binyam’s story.

“They still refuse to admit that he was abused,” said Clive Stafford Smith, adding that the newly released details “are only the tip of the iceberg.”

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