Saturday, August 08, 2009

Here we go again

This is from a few days ago, but I thought it worth mentioning anyway for both a political and an egotistical reason.

Via Dan at Pruning Shears I learned of an update in the case of Binyam Mohamed, who has sued in British courts, alleging he was a victim of the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, as a result of which he was brutally tortured in Pakistan before spending over four years in the prison at Guantánamo Bay until he was released - without charge - in February.

According to official statements at a hearing on the case, Hillary Clinton personally told British Foreign Secretary David Miliband that the US would cut off all intelligence sharing with the UK if a short summary of the treatment inflicted on Mohamed during his time at Gitmo was made part of the public record.
A hearing was told that the move [to release the information] could cause "serious harm" to Britain's national security and potentially put the lives of British citizens at risk.

Karen Steyn, representing Mr Miliband, told two senior judges that members of the Obama administration, including Mrs Clinton, had made clear that intelligence sharing between the two countries "would" be reconsidered if the court went ahead with plans to publish the information. ...

Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones reluctantly agreed to leave the passage out of the judgment on August 2008 because of evidence from Mr Miliband of a potential "threat" to cut off security co-operation if the classified evidence was made public.
But that threat, obviously, came from the Bush administration. Now, however, the threat has been directly attributed to the Obama administration. And in no uncertain terms.
In lengthy and heated exchanges, Lord Justice Thomas repeatedly pressed Miss Steyn on whether Mr Miliband had been told personally that a warning had come directly from the Obama administration.

Insisting that there could be no "wriggle room" on the issue, the judge said: "He (Mr Miliband) understands the position of the US government is that it would risk the intelligence relationship with the United Kingdom with the result that there would be a serious risk to the national security of the UK and that would endanger the men, women and children of the United Kingdom – that is really what Mrs Clinton is saying according to the Foreign Secretary?"

Miss Steyn said that Mr Miliband had made it "absolutely plain".
The situation arises because Jeppesen UK, a division of Boeing and a target of Mohamed’s suit, which accuses the airline of running "ghost planes" for the CIA, has dropped its attempt to get the case thrown out before trial in the face of hundreds of pages of evidence provided by Mohamed's lawyers supporting their claims against the company.

But the torture of Mohamed might not be the only issue. Revealingly, the US government is trying to get a similar suit against Jeppesen filed in the US by the ACLU thrown out on a "national security" claim. And
[a]n investigator for Reprieve, an activist group that is supporting Mohamed’s legal actions, told the Guardian that the really valuable information to be gleaned from Mohamed’s lawsuits would not be about which airlines flew the suspects, but which countries colluded with the United States to torture suspects.

The investigator said “the CIA could not have acted alone and the case would raise questions over which governments were complicit in extraordinary rendition,” the Guardian reports.
That may be the real source of concern: Not just what is revealed about the particular man but about the entire enterprise and who the guilty parties are. And the Obama administration is - yet again - embracing the worldview of the Bushites.

That's the political reason for mentioning this. So what's the egotistical reason?

It's that I called it five months ago. Back on March 11, I reported on an earlier statement by the two judges involved in the case that they were "powerless" to reveal information about the torture of Mohamed in the face of a warning from Milibrand that the US would stop sharing intelligence if they did so.

At the time, the threat involved was the one made in August 2008 - but Mohamed's lawyers told the court that they had contacted the Obama administration in February only to be told the threat stood.

The point here is that at that time, Miliband denied the charge, insisting there had been "no threat" from the US. But right after he issued his denial, the White House "thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information" and said this would "preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens." I said at the time:
Exactly how that is supposed to be read as anything other than a confirmation that the threats were made - and endorsed in February by the Obama administration - is quite beyond me.
And, as it developed, properly so.

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