US, Brits worked with Gambia to turn two detainees into informers

Published: Saturday April 1, 2006

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Excerpts from a story set for Sunday's Washington Post written by Craig Whitlock on efforts by U.S. and British intelligence officials to turn two Arab residents of Britain into informers, which also involved the West African government of Gambia:


As they tried to board a flight at Gatwick Airport in November 2002, three Arab residents of Britain were pulled aside by security agents. Police had questions about their luggage and ties to a radical Islamic cleric. After four days in custody, the men were cleared of suspicion and resumed their trip.

But British intelligence officials weren't ready to let go. Before the three flew out of the country, the security service known as MI5 sent cables to a "foreign intelligence agency," according to court testimony and newly declassified MI5 documents, calling the men Islamic extremists and disclosing their destination: Gambia, a tiny West African country.

When they arrived on Nov. 8, they were detained by Gambian and U.S. intelligence agents, who interrogated them again, this time for a month, British and U.S. documents show. Then two of the men, Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, disappeared into the netherworld of the U.S. government's battle against terrorism, taken first to a prison in Afghanistan, then to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The primary purpose of this elaborate operation, documents and interviews suggest, was not to neutralize a pair of potential terrorists authorities have offered no evidence that they planned attacks. The goal was to turn them into informers.


A review of hundreds of pages of documents recently released by the U.S. Department of Defense, a British court and the men's attorneys illustrates how the U.S., British and Gambian governments worked together in an operation that circumvented their judicial systems and, through a process known as extraordinary rendition, incarcerated two men who had not been charged with breaking any law.


The rest of the article can be read at the Washington Post Website at this link.