Binyam Mohamed: A transcript of Jon Snow’s interview with David Miliband on Channel 4 News

5.2.09

I’m about to post a detailed article looking at the meaning of yesterday’s High Court judgment in the case of British resident and torture victim Binyam Mohamed, in which, while repeatedly stressing the importance of “open justice” in an extraordinary story that involves an “arguable case” of torture by the United States, and complicity in torture by the United Kingdom, the judges bowed to pressure from the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who argued that ordering disclosure of the court’s 25-line summary of US documents relating to Binyam’s detention in Pakistan in April and May 2002 — prior to his “extraordinary rendition” and torture for two years in Morocco and Afghanistan — would threaten the intelligence relationship between the US and the UK.

On Channel 4 News yesterday evening, Jon Snow tackled David Miliband about these “threats” from the United States, and I believe that a transcript of the entire interview may be useful. The full interview, as featured in yesterday’s programme, is available on the Channel 4 website, and the copyright for all content is, of course, held by Channel 4.

Jon Snow: David Miliband, this is an incredible state of affairs. Britain’s closest ally, with whom we are fighting alongside in two fields of battle, has threatened to withdraw intelligence if material in a British court is ever made public.

David Miliband: Good evening, Jon. This is a serious case. There has been no threat from the United States to, quote unquote, break off intelligence cooperation. What there is is a simple fact, which is that intelligence cooperation depends on confidentiality. We share our secrets with other countries, and they share their secrets with us, and the founding principle, for us and for them, is that we can trust the confidentiality of that relationship. In this case, the United States made clear, in documents that have been published, that there would inevitably be lasting harm if that fundamental principle was breached. And what I say to you is, imagine how we would feel if our secrets were displayed, or put into the public domain, by a foreign court, a French court or any other court, anywhere in the world —

Jon Snow: Are you saying that the judges are wrong, and that in fact there is not a threat to our intelligence sharing relationship with the United States?

David Miliband: What the judges quote is the serious and lasting harm, quote unquote, that would result from a breach of that fundamental confidentiality. It’s for us to decide, in Britain, when and how to disclose our secrets; it’s for others, in other countries, to decide how to display their secrets. I also think it’s important —

Jon Snow: So you will never publish this dossier. This will never be allowed to be published.

David Miliband: It’s American information and it is for the Americans to decide when to publish their information.

Jon Snow: Do you accept what the judges are implying, [which] is that it does cover torture, degrading treatment, inhuman cruelty?

David Miliband: Well, what they say is there’s an arguable case, and they also say that I, and the government, have been absolutely clear that there is an arguable case. That is why we have made strenuous efforts to do two things: one, to make sure that Binyam Mohamed is released from Guantánamo Bay. That’s been a campaign that the court themselves say has been done very strenuously by the government. Secondly, the government intervened, with the American authorities, to make sure that Binyam Mohamed’s defense counsel received all the information, all the secret documents they needed to mount a defence for him. That also, the court says, was the right thing to do, and I believe it was the right thing to do.

Jon Snow: Have you checked that this threat — and it is a threat, because the judges call it a threat — still stands under the Obama administration?

David Miliband: Well, it’s been a founding principle for 60 years of the Anglo-American —

Jon Snow: Does it still stand under the Obama administration?

David Miliband: There’s no evidence that it doesn’t stand. What I talked about yesterday with Hillary —

Jon Snow: Well, he has talked about the rule of law, about getting rid of Guantánamo, and getting rid of all the abuses of law that have gone on under it [the Bush administration]. This sounds very close to an abuse of law.

David Miliband: This isn’t about the abuse of law. What I talked about with Hillary Clinton yesterday, among other things, was our contribution to closing Guantánamo Bay. We’ve taken nine British citizens, four British residents —

Jon Snow: With respect, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a threat from the United States, about a court case that is existing in a British court, involving a British resident, which we’re being told if we ever publicize we will suffer material harm.

David Miliband: I have to take very seriously two key issues in this case. One is the rights of Binyam Mohamed. The government has campaigned strenuously, in the words of the court, for his release from Guantánamo Bay. I also have to take seriously the national security implications of breaching the fundamental principle that secrets exchanged between countries to protect their citizens should remain secret unless that country chooses another way.

Jon Snow: Well, the charge that’s been levelled is that the British were complicit in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, and the question then is, whether you are not perhaps as keen as the Americans to keep this case secret for precisely that reason.

David Miliband: I think that is a really outrageous suggestion, Jon, because months ago, when this case came to court, and the allegation of complicity in torture was raised, the Home Secretary referred it to the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. We never condone or authorize the use of torture.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

6 Responses

  1. Hiding Guantanamo torture…by the British gov. « Tango ’til i’m sore says...

    […] Andy Worthington has a full transcript of Miliband being questioned by Jon Snow as to why the documents are not […]

  2. connie says...

    Here are some suggested actions with various articles on Binyam

    http://oneheartforpeace.blogspot.com/2009/02/seeking-to-save-binyam-mohamed-british.html

  3. Jeremy Putley says...

    What has been missing from all the recent TV coverage is the demand, by any politician or anyone else, that it is absolutely imperative that Binyam be released immediately and without conditions from his unjust imprisonment and returned to this country. In particular the hopeless bletherer Dame Neville Jones or whatever her stupid name is has been utterly useless, totally, hopelessly unconvincing, a waste of space.

  4. freedetainees.org » Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo says...

    […] of Barack Obama — to confront the foreign secretary about the nature of these threats. On Channel 4 News, David Miliband played down the talk of a “threat” — even though the judges had mentioned it […]

  5. Binyan Mohammed returns to the UK | worldismycountry.org says...

    […] British foreign secretary has arguedthat the confidentiality of the information was due to a fundamental principle about the sharing of […]

  6. Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story « Israelis wars on muslims indicates the beginning of the fall of the American Empire! says...

    […] its role in actively gathering intelligence obtained through torture, rather than hiding behind blanket statements that “We never condone or authorize the use of […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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