Did Hillary Clinton Threaten UK Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Disclosure?

26.5.09

I only ask because two weeks ago, as part of a long-running court case in which Binyam Mohamed, former Guantánamo prisoner and victim of “extraordinary rendition” and torture, is trying to persuade the British government to disclose evidence in its possession relating to his illegal imprisonment and torture, the government’s policy of resisting disclosure by whining that it would cause irreparable damage to the intelligence-sharing relationship between the US and the UK entered a critical new phase when a letter was delivered to the British government. Later revealed to Mohamed’s lawyers, it was marked as being the “Obama administration’s communication”, but had the names of the agency involved and the letter’s author blacked out.

The anonymous author stated that the position taken by the Obama administration was as follows: “If it is determined that [Her Majesty's Government] is unable to protect information we provide to it, even if that inability is caused by your judicial system, we will necessarily have to review with the greatest care the sensitivity of information we can provide in the future.”

The letter then referred to President Obama’s release of four Justice Department memos purporting to redefine torture and defend its use by the CIA, stating, “Neither in [those four] memoranda, nor in any statements of the administration accompanying their release, was reference made to the identity of any foreign government that might have assisted the United States. Given the declassification of the highly sensitive information contained in the memoranda, the fact that the president refrained from providing any information about foreign governments is indicative that the United States continues to preserve the secrecy of such information as critical to our national security.”

The letter continued: “The seven paragraphs at issue [a summary of the UK documents, compiled by the judges] are based upon classified information shared between our countries. Public disclosure of this information, reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the United Kingdom’s national security. Specifically, disclosure of this information may result in a constriction of the US-UK relationship, as well as UK relationships with other countries.”

The identity of the author was one of many questions that bounced around the High Court on Friday, as Mohamed’s lawyers sought once more to challenge the British government’s refusal to release the documents in its possession, but the most interesting little tidbit of information to emerge from these discussions was when one of Mohamed’s barristers referred to the author of the letter as “he,” and a ripple of knowing laughter followed from those who had been informed of the identity of the author, prompting speculation, of course, that “she” was none other than Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

Is it true? Will we ever know? Perhaps not, but if it is, Ms. Clinton and her team are at least more subtle than their predecessors. Last August, when this whole charade began, Stephen Mathias, a deputy to John Bellinger, wrote a much more terse — and pompous — letter from the State Department, declaring, “Ordering the disclosure of US intelligence information now would have only the marginal effects of serious and lasting damage to the US-UK intelligence sharing relationship, and thus the national security of the United Kingdom, and of aggressive and unprecedented intervention in the apparently functioning adjudicatory processes of a longtime ally of the United Kingdom, in contravention of well established principles of international comity.”

Sadly, neither the British nor the American governments are listening to the judges — Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones — who have never agreed that disclosure would be remotely damaging, and stated, many months ago, that they “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.”

For the most recent 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 Case.

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 other 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), 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), 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).

6 Responses

  1. Connie L. Nash says...

    Let’s hope that the current and recent items on Binyam Mohamed will soon come more fully to light – because surely suspicions will continue to be raised as to why US/British officials want to keep the lid closed tight. Surely when the truth is out, there is yet more top damning information to help close down not only GTMO but to be much more clear about any more such torture “black holes” anywhere. See Human Rights Watch today on Jordan, for example.
    And support Senator Feingold’s probe on prolonged detention at a planned June Judiciary Committee. http://www.oneheartforpeace.blogspot.com

    Perhaps this following submission should be way down the list of posts but since I found this on today’s afterdowningstreet home page and this further confirms Andy’s breaking story – I thought you’d appreciate seeing yet another. (there should have been – maybe still will be – many more such confirming pieces out in the media – mainstream and otherwise) By the way, Robert Naiman is doing some really good work with his Just Foreign Policy group and his free emailed reports are regular and well-researched.

    http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/node/42978I
    IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case Submitted by Robert_Naiman on Tue, 2009-05-26 12:29.

    The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

    Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 – well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion – its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.

    Wilkerson cited the case of detainee Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose tortured testimony was crucial for building the case for war, and was cited in Powell’s speech to the UN.

  2. the talking dog says...

    Secretary Clinton is kind of “just the messenger” here, assuming she has anything to do with the message at all. Policy decisions are being made at the pleasure of the White House; we have no reason to think otherwise.

    On the one hand, there is still a strong case to be made that at this still very early stage of his presidency, Barack Obama needs to be cautious and “pragmatic,” if for no other reason, to keep the military and intel apparatuses on his side, and under his control.

    On the other hand, having taken so much effort to convince so many of us of his intentions to respect the rule of law and ridden that support into electoral success (at the expense of, among others, Mrs. Clinton), we are justly disappointed that the new management under President Obama seems to be adopting policies that are so hard to distinguish from the predecessor administration (which candidate Obama derided before becoming President Obama).

  3. george in toronto canada says...

    Just as it was in Bill Clinton’s time and now in Obama’s presidency, Hillary Rodenhurst Clinton,calls the shots and is the Big Boss of America. Just as Big Cheese Cheney controlled Young Bush,Hillary is in charge :^(

  4. Andrew Milner says...

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t wear the slime, Amerika pals.

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

    [...] Mohamed Torture Disclosure? by Andy Worthington Posted on May 26, 2009 by dandelionsalad by Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 26 May [...]

  6. Andrew Milner says...

    Let the truth be told and justice be done though the heavens fall.

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