British court acknowledges CIA tortured terror suspect if held under British law
Update at bottom: US: British disclosure may affect intelligence sharing
A former Guantanamo Bay inmate was effectively tortured by US authorities while in CIA custody in Pakistan, according to intelligence notes released Wednesday by a British court.
The court forced the UK government to release 2002 US intelligence notes conveyed to Britain on the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, who was shackled and warned he would “disappear” if he refused to cooperate with US interrogators. He was also subjected to long-term sleep deprivation, the notes said.
The British government published seven paragraphs concerning the treatment of Binyam Mohamed after Foreign Secretary David Miliband lost his appeal court bid to prevent senior judges disclosing the previously secret information.
Britain has repeatedly warned that the release of the information could endanger its intelligence-sharing work with the US authorities and has fought for months to block its disclosure.
But two judges ruled there was “overwhelming” public interest in publishing the material and that the risk to national security was “not a serious one.”
And, the judges wrote, “Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”
“If it had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom,” the judges added, it would have breached agreements the British made in 1972 not to use torture techniques to assist in interrogations.
The information covers “interviews” carried out with Mohamed in 2002, and also discloses that he was exposed to sleep deprivation.
One paragraph reads: “It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation.
“The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.
“It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and ‘disappearing’ were played upon.”
Another paragraph reads: “It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews.”
The Ethiopian-born Binyam Mohamed claimed refugee status in the UK in 1994, and was arrested at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002, after visiting Afghanistan. US and UK authorities contend that he admitted training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Mohamed says the admission was extracted under torture.
In October, 2008, US authorities dropped the charges against Mohamed. He was released from detention at Guantanamo in February, 2009. Lawyers for Mohamed subsequently launched a series of legal actions relating to his detention.
Raw Story has reprinted the slightly redacted intelligence notes below, as obtained by TimesOnline. The following seven paragraphs are from a US intelligence summary on the treatment of alleged terror suspect Binyam Mohamed — who is referred to as BM — after his April 2002 arrest in Pakistan, as published by the British Foreign Office.
[It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2001 [SIC] as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.
v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.
vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews
viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the inter views were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.
ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.
x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities]
US: British disclosure may affect intelligence sharing
WASHINGTON — The White House warned Wednesday that a British court’s order releasing once-secret details of the harsh interrogation of a terrorism suspect could affect US-British intelligence sharing.
“We’re deeply disappointed with the court’s judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations,” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for President Barack Obama.
The ruling led to the disclosure of a seven-paragraph summary that called the questioning of Binyam Mohamed, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, by US interrogators “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
It also said that Britain’s use of the methods employed, including sustained sleep deprivation, “would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972” — an apparent reference to an international convention prohibiting torture.
“As we warned, the court’s judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward,” said LaBolt.
“This just means that we need to redouble our efforts to work through this challenge, because the UK remains a key partner in our collective efforts to suppress terrorism and other threats to our national security,” he said.
Ethiopian-born Mohamed, 31, had come to Britain in 1994 seeking asylum.
He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 while trying to return to Britain and spent nearly seven years in US custody or in countries taking part in the US-run rendition program of terror suspects.
After a lengthy campaign by his supporters, he became the first prisoner to be released from Guantanamo under President Barack Obama and returned to Britain in February last year.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had fought the disclosure, warning that making public information from US intelligence agencies could endanger future cooperation between London and Washington.
But High Court judges ruled there was “overwhelming” public interest in publishing the material and that the risk to national security was “not a serious one”.
The judges said the content of the summary was already in the public domain following a decision in December by a US court in another case.
LaBolt underlined that Washington “made its strongly held views known throughout this process. We appreciate that the UK Government stood by the principle of protecting foreign government intelligence in its court filings.”