UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco

17.5.09

Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was tortured in Morocco on behalf of the CIA, has been free from Guantánamo for nearly two months, but the struggle for access to documents proving his rendition and torture — both in Morocco and in the CIA’s own “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan — continues. The US government has never explained where he was held between May 2002, when British agents last saw him in Pakistan, where he was initially seized, and May 2004, when he surfaced in the US prison at Bagram airbase, and although the British government has conceded that it received intelligence reports about him from July 2002 to February 2003, officials have always maintained that the US authorities did not inform them about where he was being held.

Last summer, after a judicial review of Mohamed’s case in the UK, two high court judges — Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones — ruled that the British government’s decision to be involved in an exchange of intelligence about Mohamed, without knowing where he was being held, or receiving assurances that he was not being subjected to ill-treatment or torture, meant that “the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the United States authorities went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”

However, despite this and other trenchant criticisms, the British government has, to date, prevented the judges from either ordering the release of 42 documents in its possession, which deal with Mohamed’s interrogations in Pakistan, or even releasing a seven-line summary of those documents, even though the judges have clearly stated that they believe the summary should be released in the interests of “open justice,” and because there is “nothing in the redacted paragraphs that would identify any agent or any facility or any secret means of intelligence gathering. Nor could anything in the redacted paragraphs possibly be described as ‘highly sensitive classified US intelligence.’”

On Friday, reiterating a well-worn but disputed argument that releasing the summary would cause “real harm to the national security and international relations of the United Kingdom,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband again sought to prevent the judges from releasing the summary, but in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose reports that Binyam Mohamed has now stated that a British spy — or a “mole,” as Rose calls him — was sent by the British authorities to Morocco in September 2002, in an attempt “to persuade him that giving intelligence to the British would end his ordeal.”

“It was one of my lowest points,” Mohamed told Rose. “The really bad stuff [the torture which included having his penis regularly cut by razorblades] had already been going on for weeks. I thought he was a friendly face who might get the British to help me — but it was just another way of putting on pressure.”

Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, added that the Moroccans told Mohamed that the man, a British citizen of Moroccan descent, identified only as Informant A, “was working with the British Government and pressed Mr. Mohamed to do the same if he wanted to end his torture.”

Stafford Smith also explained that he had written to Gordon Brown demanding an immediate inquiry, calling for the government to finally reveal its involvement with the case, and to “quit working with the US to hide evidence of criminal acts.” Pouring scorn on the British authorities’ claim that they did not know that he had been rendered to Morocco by the Americans, Stafford Smith added that, in his letter, he had written, “The suggestion that British officials simply lost track of Mohamed for more than two years and did not know that he had been rendered to Morocco for torture is implausible. They had their own agent in Morocco who had seen Mohamed there and that person was back in the UK while the razor blades were still being taken to Mohamed’s genitals.”

What is even more fascinating about this story, however, is the report of Binyam’s relationship with Informant A before his capture, and the fact that other Guantánamo prisoners were also aware of the “mole.”

As Rose described it, Informant A “knew Mohamed in London and helped him plan the fateful journey in the spring of 2001 that took him first to Pakistan, then to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. After Mohamed had fled the conflict, the mole was wounded fighting alongside Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora. Months after that, Mohamed saw Informant A again in Pakistan shortly before both men were separately captured.”

In addition, Tarek Dergoul, a British citizen who was released from Guantánamo in 2004, said that he was “held at a US base in Afghanistan in 2002 at the same time as Informant A,” and he told David Rose on Saturday, “The fact he’d agreed to become a grass was all over the jail. One of the guards was saying, ‘We’ve got another 007.’”

According to Stafford Smith, who said that Mohamed told him about Informant A in Guantánamo in 2005, but that it was “only recently that new sources have come forward to support his account,” Shaker Aamer, a British resident who is still held in Guantánamo, was actually seized with Informant A in Afghanistan, and he told Stafford Smith that, when he was flown to Guantánamo, Informant A was “taken somewhere else by the British.” Rose added that another, unidentified source explained that Informant A “had been allowed to return to London after his capture.”

While the revelation of the role played by Informant A will undoubtedly renew the pressure on the British authorities to reveal the extent of their involvement in Mohamed’s interrogations in Morocco, two other important questions also need to be raised.

The first involves trying to ascertain what information was provided by the newly-recruited agent, who was presumably desperate to please his new masters, when he was planted amongst the prisoners in Afghanistan; and in particular, whether any of this information has been used by the US authorities to justify the detention of prisoners who are still held in Guantánamo, including, of course, Shaker Aamer. The Saudi-born resident traveled to Afghanistan with another former Guantánamo prisoner, Moazzam Begg, to establish a girl’s school, funded by a Saudi charity, and also to pursue a number of well-digging projects that they had funded separately, but over the years he has been subjected to several suspicious claims — including an allegation that he “lived on stipends in Afghanistan paid by [Osama] bin Laden” — whose provenance has never been explained.

The second question, however, is even more explosive, as it involves asking whether Mohamed’s rendition to Morocco, a country with which he had no connection, was the direct result of information provided by Informant A. Given his Moroccan background, I can only conclude that this seems very likely, and that it also shines an even more uncomfortable light on the British government’s persistent attempts to claim that it was never directly involved in Mohamed’s rendition and torture than the revelation that Informant A was sent to Morocco to persuade him to cooperate. I state this for two reasons: firstly, because it suggests that the British and American intelligence services were in extremely close contact in the three months following Mohamed’s capture, when he was held in Pakistan, and secondly, because it suggests, bluntly, that the CIA’s decision to render Mohamed to Morocco only came about because of British input.

I doubt that David Miliband is getting much rest today …

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, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

For a follow-up article, see Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And British Spy, and for a sequence of articles relating to Binyam Mohamed, see the following: Urgent appeal for British resident Binyam Mohamed, “close to suicide” in Guantánamo (December 2007), Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence (May 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s letter from Guantánamo to Gordon Brown (May 2008), Guantánamo trials: critical judge sacked, British torture victim charged (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed: UK court grants judicial review over torture allegations, as US files official charges (June 2008), Binyam Mohamed’s judicial review: judges grill British agent and question fairness of Guantánamo trials (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Guantánamo torture victim Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), In a plea from Guantánamo, Binyam Mohamed talks of “betrayal” by the UK (September 2008), US Justice Department drops “dirty bomb plot” allegation against Binyam Mohamed (October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), British torture victim Binyam Mohamed to be released from Guantánamo (January 2009), Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), The Betrayal of British Torture Victim Binyam Mohamed (February 2009), Hiding Torture And Freeing Binyam Mohamed From Guantánamo (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Coming Home From Guantánamo, As Torture Allegations Mount (February 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s statement on his release from Guantánamo (February 2009), Who Is Binyam Mohamed? (February 2009), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009), Guantánamo, Bagram and the “Dark Prison”: Binyam Mohamed talks to Moazzam Begg (March 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture (May 2009), Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And British Spy (May 2009), Government Bans Testimony On Binyam Mohamed And The British Spy (May 2009), More twists in the tale of Binyam Mohamed (in the Guardian, May 2009), Did Hillary Clinton Threaten UK Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Disclosure? (May 2009), Outsourcing torture to foreign climes (in the Guardian, May 2009), Binyam Mohamed: Was Muhammad Salih’s Death In Guantánamo Suicide? (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009).

19 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    So here’s a pithy response from the Talking Dog that gets straight to the point:

    Mother of God. Did these bastards think that in nominally free societies where gad-flies run about that this would never come out?

    More Talking Dog here: http://www.thetalkingdog.com/

  2. Frances Madeson says...

    I usually refrain from commenting on the UK side of things but this heady discussion of the role of the mole is fascinating to me. Was there only the one?

    But even assuming Informant A was the only mole directly in situ, have you considered the possibility that he might not have known he was being used in that way? That he may have bonded in all sincerity with Binyam and in the normal course divulged information to others (with whom he also sincerely bonded) that was used against Binyam. It’s a subtler and more masterful category of prisoner–”free indirect cannibals” if you will; the mole may have been entirely blameless, unaware that Binyam was stewing in his own personal pot.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    In response to the Talking Dog:

    Bury, bury, bury. Deny, deny, deny.

    This is what gets me every time I read about, for example, the FBI dealing with Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi by reading him his rights, and beginning to establish a non-coercive relationship that was intended to lead to his use as a witness in the cases of Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, and, presumably, his own federal court trial.

    That makes sense. But what happened instead? An orgy of international rendition and torture that involved securing a false confession to justify an illegal war, the foreclosure of any possibility that any worthwhile intelligence extracted from al-Libi (if there was any) could be used in a court of law, and the realization, when this and all the other horror stories came out, that not only were senior Bush administration officials the most vile lying crooks in US custody, but also that each tortured soul must have led the torturers to others who may well have been innocent.

    And in this vengeful pursuit of “actionable intelligence” — or actionable lies — it’s also apparent that the administration had embarked on a brutal and catastrophic policy without considering, for a moment, how it would all end.

    So welcome to the club, Britain. We already knew that you’d been more than wiling to shop any old “terror suspect” — and even your own informers — to the super-bullies in the White House, and now we find that you had your own frontline informer all along, and that you too were happy to behave as though you could “disappear” people with impunity, and never have to answer for your actions.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t normally post comments from other sites where my articles are published, but I was particularly impressed by this comment from “odoco” on Common Dreams:

    As I read these accounts, and review the near 200 articles I have collected on this subject, I find myself devoid of any allegiance to governments that perpetrate these crimes. I also believe that actions such as these will continue, and will eventually constitute themselves domestically, if these war criminals are not brought to justice. A formal and open record of these crimes must be established. The question of torture must be depoliticized — and only the general populace of each country can apply the requisite pressure on the politicians to make this happen.

    The US has stepped a foot into the darkest chambers of its history, and done so with unmitigated arrogance, criminality and deceit. Our destiny is now totally in our hands, our hearts, our feet, our imaginations, and dependent upon the courage it will take to fill the streets, not back away from truth, or punishment, or incarceration, or I suppose, even death. But we must not play THEIR game as we seek to re-establish some sort of civil society. We must play by the rules, for that is the heart of who we are.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    So here’s some fascinating analysis of David Rose’s report by Ben Six, of Back Towards The Locus:
    http://backtowardsthelocus.wordpress.com/

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you for that; very interesting developments. I find this “Muslim 007″ particularly curious…

    After Mohamed had fled the conflict, the mole was wounded fighting alongside Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora.

    If he was captured with Shaker Aamer — as Rose suggests — he’d have been in Jalalabad hospital, which’d be consistent with the allegations of wounding. However, Rose goes on to write that…

    Months after that, Mohamed saw Informant A again in Pakistan shortly before both men were separately captured.

    Captured again? Well, maybe he wasn’t caught with Aamer, but if he escaped into Pakistan surely he’d know of Bin Laden’s movements following Tora Bora; something that, as far as we know, has been a mystery to everyone…or maybe I’m missing something confoundedly obvious…

    Anyway, this development substantiates the theory (advanced rather persuasively by Glenn Greenwald) that Obama’s threat last Tuesday wasn’t for his convenience, but Miliband’s.

    Incidentally, your writing on Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s death has been fantastically interesting. The depressing thing is that — while it seems to be accepted that the suicide possibility is, at best, extremely doubtful — it’s difficult to think of how further investigation can be pursued. Have any possibilities been advanced?

    All the best,

    Ben

    The Glenn Greenwald article Ben refers to is here:
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/05/12/obama/index.html
    And see here for the al-Libi story — and follow the links:
    http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/10/ibn-al-shaykh-al-libi-has-died-in-a-libyan-prison/

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    My reply:

    Hi Ben,

    That’s a very interesting point you make, and I’m glad that you’ve been scrutinizing the report for internal inconsistencies. I put this article out very swiftly earlier today, as I particularly wanted to make what I regarded as the crucial point about the informer’s role — and hence the British government’s role — in Binyam’s rendition, and also to ask whether this informer had implicated others with the kind of “intelligence” that his masters wanted to hear, but I had fleetingly thought that it didn’t all hang together.

    Let’s see if anyone else picks up on this.

    As for al-Libi, I’d like to think that it would be possible for some kind of outside organization to push for an inquiry, but I don’t hold out much hope.

    Best,
    Andy

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    And Ben’s reply:

    This point is especially interesting…

    …it suggests, bluntly, that the CIA’s decision to render Mohamed to Morocco only came about because of British input.

    …because it’ll make it near-impossible to scapegoat Agent B / Informant A. I hope the press continue to publicise this case, ‘cos the government will go to Houdini-like lengths to untangle themselves from it.

    Best,

    Ben

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    And my reply:

    Thanks, Ben. I’m expecting that this will kick off tomorrow, but I must say that I’m surprised it’s not already caused more waves … is everyone still investigating how much MPs have been spending on cleaning their moats? Or is it the break-up of Jordan and Peter?

    Best,
    Andy

  9. Give Me One Of Those Old-Type Natural Fouled-Up Stories… « Back Towards The Locus says...

    [...] May 18, 2009, 2:50 am Filed under: Uncategorized Earlier today, Andy Worthington kindly sent me his analysis of a Mail article from David Rose (the original piece has been reproduced at the US’s Common [...]

  10. David Sketchley says...

    Andy,

    Just one thing that confuses me:

    You talk about David Rose’s article in the Mail on Sunday. The CommonDreams website article by David Rose is presented in such a way as to suggest that it was published in the Mail on Sunday. As far as I can ascertain the only article entitled “MI5 ‘Used Muslim 007′ to Turn British Torture Victim in Moroccan Prison” was actually written by Vanessa Allen and makes no mention of the information you highlight from the David Rose version.

    What’s going on Andy?

    The Mail article:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1183183/MI5-used-Muslim-007-turn-British-torture-victim-Moroccan-prison.html

    Common Dreams:
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/05/17

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    David,
    For some reason known only to themselves (and as Ben noted at 9, above — follow the link), the Mail on Sunday replaced David’s original article with an edited version, credited to Vanessa Allen, yesterday afternoon.
    I’m looking into it.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Also, in response to Ben’s comments about inconsistencies in the timeline proposed in David’s article, it’s occurred to me that Informant A could have been seized in the Jalalabad area, “turned” while in Afghan custody, when British agents visited him and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, sent to Pakistan to spy on the situation there (numerous Guantanamo prisoners — and others who “disappeared” — were seized in house raids in Pakistan in the first five months of 2002), and then moved to Bagram, in an attempt to exploit the prisoners there.

    Your thoughts are welcome …

  13. UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Binyam Mohamed In Morocco by Andy Worthington Posted on May 18, 2009 by dandelionsalad by Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 18 May [...]

  14. Ramli says...

    I cannot see the logic, if one goes to america and fight the american then he is considered a terrorist. If american goes to afghanistan to kill the afghan, and if afghan defends himself and his invaders, then he is a terrorist. In this case, I think being a terrorist is better than the invaders.

  15. Revealed: Identity Of Guantánamo Torture Victim Rendered Through Diego Garcia by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Stafford Smith also intended to talk about former Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed and the recently disclosed evidence that a British spy had visited him while he was being held by the CIA’s proxy torturers in [...]

  16. FRED DODSON says...

    HAS A BOOK BEEN PUBLISHED,RE THE COMPLETE UK DISCLOSURE,?

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Fred,
    No, this is a still unfolding — or still unraveling — story. I’m amazed that this whole part of the story seems to have dropped out of sight entirely.
    Thanks for getting in touch.

  18. UK Judges Order Release Of Details About The Torture Of Binyam Mohamed By US Agents by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] something of an understatement. This summer it also transpired that the British government had sent a spy to Morocco to interview Mohamed, as well as a British agent. As the government struggles to continue its [...]

  19. Lawyers And Human Rights Groups Criticize Proposed UK Torture Inquiry « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] Morocco by a British agent, and by a prisoner-turned-informer captured in Afghanistan — remains barely reported, although it clearly needs to be investigated by Sir Peter Gibson, and is, in addition, information [...]

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