Monday, February 16, 2009

Miliband faces new 'torture cover-up' storm.

You will remember that David Miliband recently told a British court that the new Obama administration had warned that, if it allowed evidence of US torture of a British resident to be made public, then the US would stop sharing intelligence with the UK. It was an outrageous threat and it was one which some of us found very hard to believe, and it was certainly a claim which the court found to be an attempt to avoid political embarrassment rather than a genuine attempt to protect national security. The judges stated at the time:

"Indeed we 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 ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be."
Well, it now transpires that the British government actually requested that the US issue this threat so that they could use such a threat to suppress the evidence from being released.

The Foreign Office solicited a letter from the US to back up its claim that if the evidence was disclosed, Washington could stop sharing intelligence with Britain. The claim persuaded two high court judges earlier this month to suppress what they called "powerful evidence" relating to the ill treatment of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident being held in Guantánamo Bay.

In response to the British request, John Bellinger, the state department's chief legal adviser, said in a letter to the Foreign Office last August: "We want to affirm the public disclosure of these documents is likely to result in serious damage to US national security and could harm existing intelligence information-sharing arrangements between our two governments".

The judges made clear at the time that, much as they were outraged by such crude blackmail, it was only the "gravity of the threat" which left them with no choice other than to comply and suppress the evidence.

However, it really does change the entire nature of the threat when one realises that the British government had contacted the US authorities asking that they be threatened.

Lawyers for Mohamed have argued that the case should be reopened and judges have agreed, despite foreign office opposition, to reopen the case next month. One can only hope that, on this occasion, the judges will ignore the governments crude attempts to suppress evidence of US torture of a British resident.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal charity which represents Mohamed, said yesterday: "This just isn't going to go away unless both the US and the UK stop trying to suppress evidence of torture".

I've said before that I see no reason for Obama to be embarrassed by the behaviour of the Bush administration, as he campaigned against all that they stood for. However, one has to wonder what Miliband is so anxious to hide. If Obama is unlikely to be embarrassed by any revelation, and we are begging that they threaten us with all kinds of things if we release the information, then the embarrassment has to be on our side.

Just how complicit were we in the torture of Mohamed? Remember we were Bush's right hand man in the war on a terror, with Blair unflinchingly supporting every neo-con action, so I wonder if that is what this is all about?

It's the only thing that I can think of which makes any sense out of this situation.

Why else would we request that the US threaten us?

Click title for full article.

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