Judges torture ruling harmed UK security, says Foreign Offi

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jumpinjarhead, Nov 12, 2009.

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  1. Judges' torture ruling harmed UK security, says Foreign Office

    David Miliband

    David Miliband is engaged in a fierce row with the high court over torture. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

    A top Foreign Office official has accused high court judges of damaging Britain's national security by insisting that CIA evidence of British involvement in torture must be revealed.

    The extraordinary intervention in a fierce dispute between David Miliband, the foreign secretary, and the high court has come from Simon Manley, the FCO's director of defence and strategic threats.

    In an unprecedented assault on the judiciary, he claims that demands by two judges that the CIA material should be disclosed have already harmed Britain's intelligence and diplomatic relations with the US. In a statement, Manley says the judges have "served to undermine confidence within the US in the UK's ability to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic exchanges and will inevitably have a negative impact on the candour of their exchanges with UK officials".

    The impact of the judges' rulings "also undermines our relationships with other foreign services … and co-operation on operational matters in the field is also at stake", he adds. "What we are facing is an erosion of trust."

    The statement is a response to the fifth judgment by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones in the long-running case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident incarcerated by the CIA in secret prisons before being rendered to Guantánamo Bay.

    Media groups, led by the Guardian, have joined the action, arguing that what the CIA told MI5 and MI6 about Mohamed's ill-treatment, and the British government's response, should be revealed.

    What made the FCO ratchet up the dispute is the judges' devastating ruling last month, when they accused Miliband of acting in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Mohamed.

    The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. "The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," they ruled. "In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires … that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain … Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy."

    Ethiopian-born Mohamed, now living in the UK, says he was tortured with the knowledge of British security and intelligence agencies. The CIA information includes an account given to British intelligence "whilst [Mohamed] was held in Pakistan … prior to his interview by an officer of the Security Service", the judges revealed. The officer, known only as Witness B, is being investigated for possible criminal wrongdoing.

    The judges made it clear they were exasperated by the attitude of the foreign secretary and British officials. There was no "rational basis" for claims made by Miliband and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that disclosure of the CIA material would put British lives at risk.

    At the heart of the dispute is a seven-paragraph CIA document that the British government insists must remain secret. The judges, who have seen the CIA document, have repeatedly said it does not contain any sensitive intelligence material. "There is nothing in the redacted paragraphs that are in any way secret and the foreign secretary will have to justify [his claims]," Thomas said after handing down last month's judgment.

    The issue will go to appeal. However, the court is also embroiled in four other currently redacted passages in the fifth judgment. One passage Miliband wants to keep secret comes immediately after the judges' reference to memos released by the Obama administration, setting out "details of the treatment inflicted on detainees by the CIA". Another passage refers to what the judges call the need to "stand back and ask the question whether President Obama would curtail the supply of information to the United States' oldest ally when what was put into the public domain was not intelligence".

    They continue: "It is difficult … to see any grounds for rejecting the submission of [Mohamed], the UK media and the international media, that there is any evidence of any real risk of serious harm to the national security of the UK."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/12/torture-foreign-office-miliband-judge
     
  2. [quote="jumpinjarhead]high court judges ... insisting that CIA evidence of British involvement in torture must be revealed.[/quote]

    [quote="jumpinjarhead]The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. [/quote]

    I don't see how high court judges can rule that CIA (a foreign intelligence agency) MUST reveal their evidence. That isn't going to do the CIA's credibility any good if they do reveal it. How can judges, who for the most part (I believe) have NO experience of what does or does not constitute national security be asked to make such choices?

    [quote="jumpinjarhead]The statement is a response to the fifth judgment by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones in the long-running case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident incarcerated by the CIA in secret prisons before being rendered to Guantánamo Bay.

    Media groups, led by the Guardian, have joined the action, arguing that what the CIA told MI5 and MI6 about Mohamed's ill-treatment, and the British government's response, should be revealed.[/quote]

    My bold, and without wishing to start another 'Is torture right?' thread, if he wasn't 'up to no good', then he wouldn't have been rendered, asymmetric warfare demands an asymmetric response. In my (not official) opinion.

    editted to add: Can't the CIA (again, I stress the word 'foreign'), tell the British judges to 'ram it'. I also believe that certain information/intelligence can be classified as exempt from the FOI Act, surely this would come underneath this category?
     
  3. [quote="jumpinjarhead]The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. [/quote]

    I don't see how high court judges can rule that CIA (a foreign intelligence agency) MUST reveal their evidence. That isn't going to do the CIA's credibility any good if they do reveal it. How can judges, who for the most part (I believe) have NO experience of what does or does not constitute national security be asked to make such choices?

    [quote="jumpinjarhead]The statement is a response to the fifth judgment by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones in the long-running case of Binyam Mohamed, the British resident incarcerated by the CIA in secret prisons before being rendered to Guantánamo Bay.

    Media groups, led by the Guardian, have joined the action, arguing that what the CIA told MI5 and MI6 about Mohamed's ill-treatment, and the British government's response, should be revealed.[/quote]

    My bold, and without wishing to start another 'Is torture right?' thread, if he wasn't 'up to no good', then he wouldn't have been rendered, asymmetric warfare demands an asymmetric response. In my (not official) opinion.

    editted to add: Can't the CIA (again, I stress the word 'foreign'), tell the British judges to 'ram it'. I also believe that certain information/intelligence can be classified as exempt from the FOI Act, surely this would come underneath this category?[/quote]

    You can make a posting like that and still include Burke's warning as a footer? You believe that British judges have no right to investigate possible criminal activities by the British government, but you also believe that the only way evil can be stopped is by good men doing something?

    My piebald, do you actually believe in anything except how much fun attending a Gestapo officers reunion dinner would be?
     
  4. I am at a loss as to whom you are addressing your current diatribe. As for me, I have said nothing about the article but merely posted it for those who might have an interest and did not see it otherwise. I try not to weigh on with my opinion on matters of primarily domestic British import.
     
  5. littlejim=bedwetting lefty.

    If torture saves lives, it's fine by me.
     
  6. I don't see how high court judges can rule that CIA (a foreign intelligence agency) MUST reveal their evidence. That isn't going to do the CIA's credibility any good if they do reveal it. How can judges, who for the most part (I believe) have NO experience of what does or does not constitute national security be asked to make such choices?



    Although the CIA produced the intelligence, it was shared with the UK and is now, as far as can be ascertained, held by a UK Intelligence/Security Agency. Whilst the material officially is still US Government property, I suppose a UK judge can order a UK Government Department to hand over something in its possession. Although disclosure of the material may not endanger British (or even allied) lives, the real point is political in terms of trust - if the UK government agree to the judges demands, will the US (our major foreign intelligence partner) be so willing to share in the future?
     
  7. JJ,

    I may be wrong, but LJ might be referring to the separation of powers - executive, legislative, and and executive. Looking from afar (I am a British expat) I have grown increasingly peaved over the way that Labour has blurred that separation: They legislate and try to judicate at the same time.

    But thanks for the post, it has given fuel to my gin-soaked fire.

    (Edited for some wierd keyboard epilepsy)
     
  8. I think that the point the judges are trying to make is that the US information isn't 'sensitive' or 'intelligence'. Miliband claims it is, and raises the fear of the US restricting the flow of intelligence if this information is made public.

    Who to back - a judge or a politician? Who knows?

    My only thought is that the biggest hiccup in post-war UK/US relations (Suez) had remarkably little effect on the UK/US intelligence relationship, certainly according to Percy Cradock (former Chairman of the JIC), so why should this?

    C_C
     
  9. [quote="littlejim]You can make a posting like that and still include Burke's warning as a footer? You believe that British judges have no right to investigate possible criminal activities by the British government, but you also believe that the only way evil can be stopped is by good men doing something?

    My piebald, do you actually believe in anything except how much fun attending a Gestapo officers reunion dinner would be?[/quote]

    Well, I do believe in the law, BUT I don't believe that judges from Britain should think that they can force the CIA to reveal information about an activity which the British did not even take part in, but rather were a party to. If British 'agents' (for want of a better word) carried out the torture, then that would be a different matter, but I still believe in 'the greater good'.
     
  10. The issue here is not about forcing a foreign government agency to reveal information, but about forcing the FCO to produce information which is CIA-sourced but is already held by British officials and is within the jurisdiction of British law.
     
  11. Well, that's arguable. Depending on the classification and the exemption policy of the documents in question from the FOI Act, I don't (personally) believe the judges do have the right to demand this.

    Also, if this information was released, it *might* make the Americans think twice about such information in the future, and as I'm sure we all know, a delay on a piece of vital int, whether it be ten minutes or ten hours, can make a massive difference.
     
  12. Indeed, but none of that alters what I said. I didnt say whether or not the judges "have the right to demand this" as you put it, and like everyone else I am well aware of the FCO arguments about the dangers of releasing such information. The fact remains that the issue is within British jurisdiction and not about issuing orders to a sovereign foreign government.
     
  13. [quote="hackle] Indeed, but none of that alters what I said. I didnt say whether or not the judges "have the right to demand this" as you put it, and like everyone else I am well aware of the FCO arguments about the dangers of releasing such information. The fact remains that the issue is within British jurisdiction and not about issuing orders to a sovereign foreign government.[/quote]

    Understood, but just having possession of the information doesn't mean that we 'own' it. If we are asked not to relay information onwards, then don't we have a duty not to?
     
  14. If memory serves, didn't Bush tell Blair he would end the Special Relationship if the judiciary carried on with this, and Obama reinforced that stance when he came to power?

    Looks like at least the Americans intend to keep their word.
     
  15. You reccomend it do you? have fun catching up with the boys of Einsatzgruppen Pilabra? old times shooting Aborigines and raping the kiddies still get you all drippy?