The Worst of the Worst

(11:00AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

A staggering case is still unfolding in Britain.  It is the case of Binyam Mohamed, a UK citizen, that was “picked up” in Pakistan, called a terrorist, renditioned, and tortured by the CIA.  The details of the case are found here in an excellent article by Andy Worthington and

In their ruling last August, the judges made it clear that they were appalled by the global torture program in which they had found themselves unexpectedly immersed. In one of the most extraordinary stories in the “war on terror,” Mohamed, a British resident picked up in Pakistan in April 2002, had been rendered by CIA agents to Morocco in July 2002, where he had spent 18 months being tortured, had then been rendered to Afghanistan, to the “Dark Prison” outside Kabul, a secret prison run by the CIA, where he had spent another four months and had then been flown to Guantánamo, where he remained while the judges grappled with the largely classified evidence of a global web of kidnapping and torture.

Binyam Mohamed was one of those called “the worst of the worst”.  Unfortunately, the facts of the case show, like in many other cases, that there really was no case, nor evidence, against Binyam Mohamed.

The case of Binyam Mohamed is the case central to the continued pressure by Obama administration to keep secret the evidence of U.S. torture…

It is the suit brought by Binyam Mohamed claiming he was tortured that has fueled the continued fight between the United States government and UK courts over documents that detailed his incarceration that were provided to the British government.

Initially, the judges ruled in favor of the government while eviscerating the government in their opinion.

In a remarkable ruling, the judges roundly condemned the British government for sending an agent to Pakistan to interview Mohamed in May 2002, when he was being held incommunicado (which was illegal), and for providing and receiving intelligence about him for at least eight months after his disappearance from Pakistan, even though the British intelligence services claimed not to know where he was being held, and should not have been involved without receiving cast-iron assurances about his welfare. In the judgment, they stated explicitly that, “by seeking to interview BM [Mohamed] in the circumstances found and supplying information and questions for his interviews, the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the United States authorities went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”

The British government had been under pressure from the U.S. government to keep the documents secret.  However, enough of the allegations had already been made public to give the judges cause to hesitate.  This, too, was reported by Andy Worthington.

The judges also seized on an admission, made on behalf of the foreign secretary, David Miliband, that Mohamed had “established an arguable case” that, until his transfer to Guantánamo, “he was subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by or on behalf of the United States,” and was also “subject to torture during such detention by or on behalf of the United States,” and ruled that, because the information obtained from Mohamed was “sought to be used as a confession in a trial [by military commission at Guantánamo] where the charges … are very serious and may carry the death penalty,” and that it is “a long-standing principle of the common law that confessions obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment cannot be used as evidence in any trial,” the British government was required to hand over the evidence – 42 documents in total – to his lawyers.

This paragraph becomes central to the entire Bush-era torture program; that prisoners were tortured and those statements, made under torture, would then be used to try them under military commission at Guantanamo.

This cannot be stated enough, simply because, the entire case against Binyam Mohamed disintegrated under scrutiny.

Much has changed in the 14 months since this initial judgment. Last October, in the United States, the Justice Department responded to similar pressure to release the documents, applied by a judge in Mohamed’s habeas corpus petition, by dropping the central allegation against him – that he was involved, with US citizen Jose Padilla, in a plot to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in New York – and, in November, the Defense Department shelved Mohamed’s proposed trial by military commission, which focused on the same spurious claims.

This means, without a doubt, that the only evidence against Binyam Mohamed being a terrorist were statements that were coerced under torture.  When the “evidence” suddenly had to be produced to a court other than a military court, the charges, and the entire case, was dropped against him.  In fact, Binyam Mohamed was released from Guantanamo prison and returned to Britain in February 2009.

Despite these developments in the US, the British judges found themselves engaged in a far more intractable struggle with their own government. In two hearings that followed their August judgment, the foreign secretary produced correspondence from US State Department officials, clearly threatening the intelligence-sharing arrangement between the US and the UK should the documents be released.

The judges then decided to reopen the case based on the fact that the Obama administration had made public statements condemning the use of torture.  That was not the case, however.

However, just before the judges decided to reopen their judgment, the Treasury solicitor, acting on behalf of the foreign secretary, submitted a two paragraph summary of a letter, dated April 30, “from an entity of the United States Government to an entity of the United Kingdom Government (the details were redacted), which, it was claimed, established that the Obama administration was following its predecessor’s line, and maintaining that disclosure of the judges’ summary would have serious consequences for the intelligence sharing relationship between the US and the UK.

Even this did not deter the judges, and they have gone forward with reopening the case.

They concluded, “We shall therefore re-issue our first judgment with the paragraphs restored.”

The British government is appealing the decision, of course, but, there is already enough evidence that has come out since the first ruling that neither the U.S. or UK governments can deny.  But, remember, Binyam Mohamed was one of the “worst of the worsts”, a terrorist, and he needed to be tried under military commission where, if convicted, he would have been put to death.

Remember now, too, that the Obama administration is using the same Bush/Cheney arguments, taking the same line and tact, not only on this issue, but many others.


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  1. I am so glad you have presented the history of just one, of the many, horrendous detainee/torture cases.  

    From Emptywheel, the following “mandate” to Miliband and our U.S. Secretary of State by the British High Court:

    Brit High Court Slaps Down US And British Torture Coverup

    By: bmaz Friday October 16, 2009 4:10 pm      

    In a stunning and refreshing decision, the British High Court has overruled the British government’s attempt to suppress torture evidence on the US and British treatment of Binyam Mohamed. From The Guardian:

    “David Miliband, the foreign secretary, acted in a way that was harmful to the rule of law by suppressing evidence about what the government knew of the illegal treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident who was held in a secret prison in Pakistan, the high court has ruled.

    In a devastating judgment, two senior judges roundly dismissed the foreign secretary’s claims that disclosing the evidence would harm national security and threaten the UK’s vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US.

    In what they described as an “unprecedented” and “exceptional” case, to which the Guardian is a party, they ordered the release of a seven-paragraph summary of what the CIA told British officials – and maybe ministers – about Ethiopian-born Mohamed before he was secretly interrogated by an MI5 officer in 2002.

    “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,” Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled. “Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.”

    (emphasis added) . . . .”

    Be sure to read!

    This is an excellent move by the British Court system!

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