UK judges reveal US threatened to withhold intelligence if Guantanamo torture disclosed

UK judges reveal US threatened to withhold intelligence if Guantanamo torture disclosed

[JURIST] The London High Court revealed in a judgment [text, PDF] issued Wednesday that the US government threatened to reconsider and possibly end its intelligence-sharing operations with the UK if a summary of the alleged torture of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Binyam Mohamed [Reprieve profile; JURIST news archive] was made public by the court. The summary in question consisted of a number of paragraphs describing the conditions and circumstances of Mohamed's imprisonment, redacted from the High Court's judgment in its August 2008 ruling [JURIST report] that the UK Foreign Office must turn over evidence essential to Mohamed's defense. In maintaining the redaction of the passages in question, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones wrote:

Moreover, in the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States, it was, in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters. Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials or officials of another State where the evidence was relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.

We had no reason at that time to anticipate there would be made a threat of the gravity of the kind made by the United States Government that it would reconsider its intelligence sharing relationship, when all the considerations in relation to open justice pointed to us providing a limited but important summary of the reports.

Those associated with the trial reportedly were surprised that the US government's threat to reconsider or end intelligence sharing with the UK, which was initially made by the Bush administration, had been reiterated [Daily Mail report] by the administration of current US President Barack Obama.

Mohamed asserts that after he was arrested in Pakistan and turned over to US officials, he was then transferred to Moroccan agents who tortured him. He was later transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004. In December, he asked the UK government [letter, DOC; JURIST report] to ensure that photographic evidence of his alleged torture be preserved. For most of 2007, Binyam was one of five UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Three of those were released [DOD press release; JURIST report] from US custody in December. The official status of a fourth detainee remains unclear.