Friday, February 26, 2010

The British government continue to lie about their policy of intelligence service collusion in torture – and it doesn’t make us safer

Binyam Mohamed – British and American courts found he had been kidnapped and tortured with British and American intelligence agents being involved in his kidnapping and present at his torture in various countries by methods including cutting his genitals

British Foriegn Minister David Miliband MP's shameful defence of MI5 (or more accurately MI6) collusion in the kidnapping and torture of British citizen Binyam Mohamed continued today.

On Channel 4 New (UK) he dismissed the paragraph of the judge's ruling in the relevant court case which said that MI5 had deliberately suppressed or with-held information from Ministers and parliament, including the fact that MI5 (or more probably MI6) officers were present during Mohammed's torture - which took place in various countries he was taken to by the CIA and MI6 - Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and the US occupied part of Cuba at Guantanamo Bay (1) – (3).

Interviewed on Channel 4 news he claimed that it was “absolutely untrue” that MI5 ever “suppressed information”, though “of course they are a secret organisation and rely on secrecy” (4). Now what is the difference between keeping information secret and "suppressing" it? If there's one that’s not just a matter of semantics or playing with words can he explain it to us please?

Can he also explain why his government tried to prevent the paragraph of the judge's ruling that criticised MI5 for suppressing information from being made public? Surely that's suppressing information - or maybe it's just keeping it secret - the nature of the distinction remains unclear to me.

Miliband and the government also argued during the court case that the details of Mohamed's torture under CIA and MI5 oversight - including cutting his gentitals with a razor, pouring acid or some form of stinging liquid on the cuts, beatings and sleep deprivation – should not be released to the British public by the court in case this led to the US government refusing to share intelligence in future. This attempt at suppressing the facts was despite the fact that these facts had already been made public during a court case in the US and were already available – so Miliband was just trying to stop facts already publicly available becoming widely known through media reports, because it would embarrass his government and MI6 (5).

The Times newspaper also reported that :

‘Lt Colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mr Mohamed's US military lawyer, who visited him in Guantanamo Bay last week, said that America wanted to save face. "What the US is doing right now is not so much about national security or intelligence - it's about being embarrassed," she said.’ (6).

The other trick constantly used is for MI5 officers to say things like ‘MI5 would never take British citizens abroad for torture’, which, as Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, has pointed out is probably true – but only because the officers involved outside of the UK would almost certainly be MI6, who operate abroad – and not MI5, who operate only in the UK (and whose functions, apart from preventing terrorism and espionage by foreign agents, also include propaganda, disinformation and keeping what they’re doing secret) (7).

There is evidence not just from British and American court cases but from US investigations which shows a likely British government and intelligence policy of collusion in ‘extra-ordinary rendition’ (i.e kidnapping) and torture (8), (9).

No-one has presented a shred of evidence sufficient to persuade any court that Binyam Mohamed is involved with any terrorist group; and British intelligence colluded in his kidnapping and torture. Torture is both wrong and completely ineffective – especially when you kidnap people without getting any solid evidence they have any involvement in terrorism. We have a presumption of innocence for a reason – so you can’t have witch hunts and randomly accuse innocent people without evidence.

We’ve seen what happens in policing in the UK when some police think they “know” someone is guilty of being a serial killer, despite having no evidence. In the case of Colin Stagg – innocent of the murder of Rachel Nickell and her daughter was charged and tried based on psychological profiling and letters written to him by a policewoman sent to entrap him (despite him repeatedly telling her he did not like violence and had never killed anyone). A judge threw the case out the next year. The real murderer – Robert Napper – wasn’t identified and charged and tried till 2008. Luckily he had been sent to a Broadmoor prison’s psychiatric wing a few years after he murdered Nickell – otherwise the police involved would have been letting the real serial killer free to keep killing for years on end while they focused on Stagg based on a hunch not backed up by any evidence (10).

The same applies in counter-terrorism – if actions are based on suspicion and hunches rather than solid evidence that would stand up in court then our police and intelligence services will be wasting their time on people who aren’t any threat while those who are really a threat will be free to continue unopposed. Torture is not only completely wrong but useless for the same reason. Under torture people will tell you whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or bullshit. So it will seem to confirm false theories and hunches rather than relying on systematically gathering solid evidence.

All this makes the bizarre columns defending torture and condemning Amnesty International for opposing it by Observer columnist Nick Cohen and others, who seem not even to know that most of the evidence had already been released in American courts, even harder to understand (11).

Apparently Nick sees supporting torture and supporting jailing people not proven to have any involvement of terrorism is a defence of freedom just so long as the victims have been accused of Islamic extremism (without evidence) by the intelligence services, or if you disagree with their views. If not being tortured and not being jailed without fair trial are rights Mr. Cohen reserves for people he agrees with he’s not much of a democrat and might as well be one of the ‘Islamo-fascists’ he constantly condemns , though Mr. Cohen is quick to condemn any Muslim accused of a crime without evidence. What would his attitude be if someone did that with any Jew accused of a crime, even if they were found innocent by a court? He would quite rightly accuse them of anti-semitism. So why are you so prejudiced against all Muslims Nick? Why do you assume any Muslim accused of anything is guilty, even when a court finds them innocent?

If your reply is that torture and kidnapping by British and US intelligence meant their case was thrown out, then isn't that a good reason to drop those methods in future, so that if they do have solid evidence of guilt, they can get a conviction?

(1) = 10 Feb 2010 ‘Binyam Mohamed: text of letter which reveals court's criticism of 'deliberately misleading' security service’,

(2) = BBC News 10 Feb 2010 ‘Binyam Mohamed judgement manipulated, lawyers argue’,

(3) = 16 Oct 2009 ‘Binyam Mohamed: Judges overrule attempt to suppress torture evidence’,

(4) = Channel 4 News (UK) 26 Feb 2010 ‘Binyam torture case: court lifts ban’,

(5) = Times Online 05 Feb 2009 ‘David Miliband denies claims of US threat over Binyam Mohamed's alleged torture’,

(6) = See (6) above

(7) = CommentIsFree 13 Feb 2010 ‘Step aside, Kim Howells’ by Clive-Stafford Smith,

(8) = Observer 20 Dec 2009 ‘Torture claims by British resident are given credence by American judge’,

(9) = 10 Feb 2010 ‘Binyan Mohamed: timeline of torture case and the fight to keep it secret’,

(10) = Guardian 18 Dec 2009 ‘Rachel Nickell killing: Serial rapist Robert Napper pleads guilty’,

(11) = Observer 14 Feb 2010 ‘We abhor torture – but that requires paying a price ; Spineless judges, third-rate politicians and Amnesty prefer an easy life to fighting for liberty’,
By Nick Cohen,