David Blackburn

The White House is bluffing

The White House is bluffing
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The Atlantic reports that the White House is considering altering intelligence sharing agreements with Britain in the light of the Binyam Mohamed case. White House spokesman Ben LaBolt briefed:

"The United States government 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. We're deeply disappointed with the court's judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations."

I detect a bluff. Britain and the US share information on an hourly basis, providing an essential understanding in the combined operation against al Qaeda. The US would never compromise that exchange because to do so would threaten its safety.

The British and American governments allude to the spectre of terrorism to suppress news of their collusion in torture, an analysis expressed by both David Davis and Clive Stafford-Smith. However, many media pundits have been duped. Alex Massie highlighted a particularly vociferous piece by Con Coughlin, which posited the ludicrous hypothesis that their lordships will be as culpable as bin Laden if al Qaeda detonates another bomb in London. The Sun Says column goes further:

‘America shared information about Mohamed's interrogation with Britain on terms of strict secrecy. As a refugee here, he used our courts to force details to be released. The liberal judges who backed him have damaged relations with our greatest ally. If America now decides we cannot be trusted with security secrets, we will be at greater risk from al-Qaeda.’

Succinctly, what the Sun says is bilge. Its Downing Street inspired spiel ignores that the British tribunal’s decision was informed by an existing US judgement. There was evidence that Mohamed was tortured and that the British knew of this. Crucially, the US judgement and the evidence therein have been in the public domain since last Wednesday; the White House’s bluff is exposed.

UPDATE: Coughlin strikes again:

‘If I understand correctly Alex Deane’s high-minded rant about the rights of innocent people receiving a fair trial (which, just to put the record straight, I fully support), he is prepared to accept at face value former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed’s claim that he was brutally tortured during his interrogation with the full complicity of British security officials. David Davies, the former shadow Home Secretary, made a similar argument on the Today programme this morning, preferring to believe the word of Mr Mohamed rather than our own intelligence establishment.

I am well aware that MI6 and MI5 are highly practised in the dark arts of looking after their own interests, but I would sincerely urge mssrs Deane and Davies to take a close look at Mr Mohamed’s activities prior to his arrest in Pakistan in 2002, when he was apprehended trying to board a flight on a false passport, before they adopt him as their cause celebre.’

Con Coughlin misunderstands two crucial points. Mohamed’s activities in Afghanistan, which bear no examination (and the guy should be prosecuted if a legitimately acquired case can be brought against him), are immaterial. The question is whether Anglo-American security services colluded in Mohamed's torture. The second point that Coughlin still fails to grasp is that it was a US court which published the evidence that such collusion had taken place, evidence that the British court openly referred to in its judgement. The rest, as they say, is noise from two governments who have been caught performing and endorsing illegal and unacceptable practices.