The story of Binyam Mohamed is probably one of the most under-reported stories of the war on terrorism — it has still only partially been told. If, as the former Guantanamo prisoner alleges, he had his genitals sliced with a scalpel after being captured by the US, then the defenders of so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” should finally be rendered mute and duly shamed.
The Daily Mail said:
By any measure, the treatment meted out to Binyam Mohamed was medieval in its barbarity.
Shackled in total blackness in the CIA’s ‘dark prison’ in Kabul, he was forced to listen to ear-splitting music 24 hours a day for a month.
In Morocco he was hung from walls and ceilings and repeatedly beaten, his penis and chest were sliced with a scalpel and hot, stinging liquid poured into the open wounds.
‘They cut all over my private parts,’ he wrote in his diary. ‘One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists.’
The Obama administration, which has consistently acted like putty in the hands of the intelligence services, regards the exposure of criminal actions by those services as a national security threat. In truth it is the US-sanctioned use of torture that poses a much more serious threat to this nation.
As The Guardian noted, the ruling by three of Britain’s most senior judges, “shattered the age-old convention that the courts cannot question claims by the government relating to national security, whatever is done in its name, in an unprecedented ruling that is likely to cause deep anxiety among the security and intelligence agencies.”
This is how democracy is supposed to work. Both in Britain and the US, all too often the phrase “national security” really means protection of the power-holders. A judiciary that is truly independent cannot allow any government to protect its own interests at the expense of the nation it serves.
Afua Hirsch describes in greater legal detail how the British government disregarded 400 years of legal precedence in its effort to suppress revelations about the use of torture.
The Guardian reported:
MI5 faced an unprecedented and damaging crisis tonight after one of the country’s most senior judges found that the Security Service had failed to respect human rights, deliberately misled parliament, and had a “culture of suppression” that undermined government assurances about its conduct.
The condemnation, by Lord Neuberger, the master of the rolls, was drafted shortly before the foreign secretary, David Miliband, lost his long legal battle to suppress a seven-paragraph court document showing that MI5 officers were involved in the ill-treatment of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed.
Amid mounting calls for an independent inquiry into the affair, three of the country’s most senior judges – Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, Sir Anthony May, president of the Queen’s Bench Division, and Lord Neuberger – disclosed evidence of MI5’s complicity in Mohamed’s torture and unlawful interrogation by the US.
So severe were Neuberger’s criticisms of MI5 that the government’s leading lawyer in the case, Jonathan Sumption QC, privately wrote to the court asking him to reconsider his draft judgment before it was handed down.
The judges agreed but Sumption’s letter, which refers to Neuberger’s original comments, was made public after lawyers for Mohamed and media organisations, including the Guardian, intervened.
They argued that Neuberger had privately agreed with Sumption to remove his fierce criticisms without giving then the chance to contest the move.
At The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder said:
The White House hinted today that it may have to alter long-standing intelligence sharing arrangements with the United Kingdom after the release of information provided to the Brits about the confinement and interrogation of one of its citizens, Binyam Mohamed.
“The United States government made its strongly held views known throughout this process. We appreciate that the UK Government stood by the principle of protecting foreign government intelligence in its court filings,” said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesperson. “We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations.”
LaBolt’s statement hinted that the US might reevaluate the type of information it shares with British counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.
“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. This just means that we need to redouble our efforts to work through this challenge, because the UK remains a key partner in our collective efforts to suppress terrorism and other threats to our national security.”
With respect to LaBolt, I think this is a bluff. The US shares more raw data and polished intel product with Britain on a daily basis than any other country in the world, and that’s not going to change. Perhaps the US will be more careful in certain documents that might find their way into the UK court system — but it’s hard to imagine that intelligence cooperation between the two countries will really be damaged by today’s revelation.