Government Bans Testimony On Binyam Mohamed And The British Spy

20.5.09

On Sunday, David Rose, in the Mail on Sunday, broke an extraordinarily significant story about Binyam Mohamed, the British resident, seized in Pakistan in April 2002, who was subsequently rendered by the CIA to be tortured in Morocco. In Rose’s story, the British authorities’ long-standing claim that they did not know where Mohamed was being held and had only cooperated with the US intelligence services in a distant and rather abstract manner was revealed as a tissue of lies.

Rose revealed the existence of previously unknown informant — a British citizen of Moroccan descent, known only as Informant A — who had been seized in Afghanistan or Pakistan in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and had been recruited as a spy. According to Mohamed, Informant A, who knew him in London and had, apparently, helped arrange his travel to Pakistan, was sent to Morocco by the British intelligence services in September 2002 — when Mohamed was regularly being subjected to horrendous torture — in an attempt to persuade him to cooperate with the CIA’s proxy torturers.

The existence of Informant A was backed up by Tarek Dergoul, another former Guantánamo prisoner, who was released in 2004. Dergoul, a British citizen, told Rose that he had been held in the US prison at Bagram airbase at the same time as Informant A, and explained that “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.’” His existence was also confirmed by another source, speaking anonymously, who said that, after he had been exploited in Bagram, he had been allowed to return to the UK.

Three days after Rose reported the story of Informant A, his full article is still not available on the Daily Mail’s website (it was replaced, on Sunday afternoon, by an edited version attributed to Vanessa Allen, although a mirror of the article can be found here), and, more importantly, only one major media outlet — the Guardian — has seen fit to follow up on the story, in spite of the fact that, as I explained in an article on Sunday, a crucial question raised by Rose’s article “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.” As I also explained,

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.

Today, I thought that Informant A’s story would be taken up by the media in a big way, as Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s lawyer and the director of the legal action charity Reprieve, was due to deliver testimony to the Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs about the significance of Informant A. Instead, however, the story took a new and unexpected twist. As Stafford Smith arrived at Portcullis House, ready to take the Committee on a journey to the “Dark Side,” which revealed hitherto untold evidence of British complicity in torture, he was informed that the Committee would be unable to hear his testimony because someone — an unidentified official in an unidentified government department — had decided that it was sub judice.

As the Guardian described it, Mike Gapes, the Committee’s chairman, said that “he had received advice that the cases due to be raised fell ‘wholly within the house sub judice resolution,’” which states that “cases in which proceedings are active in United Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion, debate or question” (PDF), and that Stafford Smith’s testimony could therefore not be heard because the police, on the advice of the Attorney General, are investigating “possible criminal wrongdoing” by an MI5 agent who visited Mohamed while he was held in Pakistan, and also because, as I have reported at length before, Mohamed’s case is still part of a tug-of-war between two high court judges and the government regarding the disclosure of a short summary, written by the judges, describing what happened to him in Pakistan, before his rendition to Morocco.

This is convenient for the government, of course, although it is surely only postponing the inevitable, as the story of Informant A, although unable to compete with stories about MPs and the cost of cleaning their moats, is not going to disappear, much as certain government officials might wish it would.

As a knock-on effect, the cancellation of today’s meeting also prevented Stafford Smith from revealing other new information about the use of the British Overseas Territory of Diego Garcia as part of the CIA’s global network of “extraordinary rendition” and torture prisons –- but that’s another story, which I will be reporting about in the next couple of days.

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 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), UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco (May 2009), Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And 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).

8 Responses

  1. the talking dog says...

    Curiouser and curiouser. Query what role hardball threats from the Obama Administration over the so-called “special relationship,” as has evidently plagued elements of Binyam Mohammad’s litigation, have played over this proposed submission to parliament? We won’t know for a while, at least as long as matters are sub judice, which, in my lawyer’s parlance (augmented by a year of high school Latin) means simply “before the judge”… odd, that a hearing before the UK’s legislative body should be subject to such a doctrine… but then, everything about GTMO and torture and “the apparent military campaign formerly known as the war on terror” is… odd.

    So why stop now? As a non-Brit, I must say it seems most odd that there isn’t some sort of in camera session available to a Commons committee, so that its work can go on, even if national security needs might prevent it from going on publicly… again, most curious… seems so… ad hoc. But then, so are many things in our respective nations, at this “interesting” point in our histories.

    The only thing of which we can really be sure of is that while Bush and Blair have been replaced by Obama and Brown, the names may have changed, but we can still count on the same great executive overreach (to the point of tyranny).

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi TD,
    My feeling is that this part of Binyam’s story is primarily a British affair — although obviously one that involves complete US/UK cooperation in terms of Informant A’s use in Bagram and Morocco — and that it came so out of the blue on Sunday that the government has scrabbled around to prevent further exposure, and has caught the committee on the hop.

    But as I wrote, it’s only postponing the inevitable, and I suspect more is coming soon …

  3. Agents Of Bewilderment… « Back Towards The Locus says...

    […] Of Bewilderment… May 20, 2009, 10:26 pm Filed under: Uncategorized Curiouser and curiouser… Today, I thought that Informant A’s story would be taken up by the media in a big way, as […]

  4. Frances Madeson says...

    Andy,
    On bended knee I urge you to tread carefully on this one. I keep remembering how her fellow prisoners in Bagram spread the despicable lie that Aafia was a government spy or informant or whatever parlance you wish to use. The Mail may have withdrawn and re-written the story because it was flat out wrong. When I think about it–it’s pretty handy to have a mystery informant suddenly materialize to take the heat and deflect the blame. One might even say miraculous (and therefore deeply suspect).

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Frances,
    I understand your concerns, but I discovered that the Mail‘s withdrawal of the original article was actually a clerical error, in which the edited version for Monday’s edition of the Daily Mail replaced David’s original Mail on Sunday article on the website, However, I’m happy to keep the pressure on until the original is restored.

    As for the informant, there’s no doubt that he’s real — though that takes nothing away from HOW he may have been persuaded to “turn” — and we will all be learning more about the story in the weeks to come, but for now the important thing is that the British government is living day by day, and, with quiet desperation, trying to stifle all thought of the future.

  6. Mirele says...

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2009/05/19/am.intv.bradley.yvonne.cnn

    Interview with Binyam Mohamed’s “military commissions” defense counsel Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley. (21 minutes) She talks about his torture and says his story is consistent while everyone else has lied to her.

  7. Spies, Lies and Threats in Binyam Mohamed’s Case by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] the revelation last weekend, by David Rose, that a British spy had visited Mohamed in Morocco, and the curious and not altogether reassuring suppression, on Wednesday, of a meeting of the Commons Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was supposed to have […]

  8. Did Hillary Clinton Threaten UK Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Disclosure? by Andy Worthington | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] articles on Binyam Mohamed, see: UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco, Government Bans Testimony On Binyam Mohamed And The British Spy, and In the Guardian: Spies, Lies and Threats in Binyam Mohamed’s […]

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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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