Wednesday, February 10, 2010
British court orders government to reveal information on torture
The revamped U.S. government could face the biggest test of its commitment to changing the worst excesses of the Bush administration now that a British appeals court has agreed to the disclosure of secret intelligence about the alleged mistreatment of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The Court of Appeal in London turned down the British government's request to prevent the release of information about the incarceration of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and claimed he was mistreated while in CIA custody, according to the Reuters international news service. Mohamed, an Ethiopian national, claimed he was flown to Morocco by the CIA and tortured for 18 months, including having his penis cut, before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2004, where he was further subjected to sleep deprivation and threats. Morocco has denied holding him, Reuters said. Mohamed was never formally charged and was released last year. In 2008, the British High Court ordered the release of all information held by the government in London but permitted the blacking out of seven paragraphs of information gathered by U.S. intelligence. Wednesday's order concerned the release of those paragraphs. The office of U.S. national intelligence director Dennis Blair expressed "deep regret" at the order, Reuters said. "The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence cooperation among allies," the statement said. The ruling presents "challenges," the statement said, but the United States and England "remain united in our efforts to fight against violent extremist groups." British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had argued to the court that such a disclosure could affect his country's security because such a release could make the United States less willing to share intelligence. But the court upheld a 2009 finding by two judges that "overwhelming public interest" in the information should be respected. "The treatment reported ... could be readily contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities," the judges found. Miliband also said the British appellate court would probably have refused the release of classified information from the United States had the material not be released by a U.S. court in another case in December. "Without that disclosure, it is clear that the Court of Appeal would have overturned the Divisional Court's decision to publish the material," Miliband said in a statement. In England, a human rights group said the release shows the extent to which the British government had gone to defend the U.S. government's conduct of the war on terror. "These embarrassing paragraphs reveal nothing of use to terrorists but they do show something of the UK government's complicity with the most shameful part of the War on Terror," said Shami Chakrabati, director of the group Liberty.