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US threatens UK court: British lives at risk

Foreign Secretary confirms US threatened to reduce security cooperation with UK

Photo: istock

20 August 2009

IIn an extraordinary further twist in the case of Binyam Mohamed, the Foreign Secretary has written to the High Court confirming that the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has indeed threatened to reduce security cooperation with the UK if the High Court were to publish its findings relating to US mistreatment and torture of Binyam Mohamed.

The letter to the Court on behalf of Mr Miliband also disclosed a formerly classified record of discussions between Mr Miliband and Ms Clinton on the issue in March and May this year, making the threat clear:

“Clinton (who was clearly well aware of the case and the associated issues) said that the US position had not changed, and that the protection of intelligence went beyond party or politics. The US remained opposed to the UK releasing these papers [and the seven summary paragraphs]. If it did so it would affect intelligence sharing. This would cause damage to the national security of both the US and the UK.”

In February this year the Court reluctantly determined not to publish its findings, contained in seven paragraphs of an open judgment, in the face of US threats to downgrade security cooperation and put the lives of innocent British citizens at risk. However, Mr Miliband responded by denying that the US had made any such threat. It later transpired that he had not even asked the Obama administration for their position on the issue. In light of this, the High Court determined to re-open their February judgement and consider the issue anew in light of the full facts.

After several more months of costly litigation, Mr Miliband has finally confirmed the US threat to the UK.

The High Court have repeatedly made it clear that there is nothing in the seven paragraphs of their judgment which could possibly be considered to be security sensitive. The judges have heavily criticised the US stance, questioning the rationality of its position and characterising its actions as “an exercise in naked political power” to repress political embarrassment.

Lord Justice Thomas summarised Mr Miliband’s position succinctly:

“So there is no two words about it. The Foreign Secretary believes if we put these paragraphs into the public domain President Obama’s administration would constrict the provision of information that could save British lives.”

Mr Miliband has now confirmed that this is his position and disclosed the records of his meetings with Ms Clinton to demonstrate the seriousness of the US threat.

In view of Mr Miliband’s eventual disclosure of the records of the meetings with Secretary of State Clinton, the legal charity Reprieve which has been representing Mr Mohamed has written an open letter to Ms Clinton asking her to confirm the Obama administration’s position.

Richard Stein, partner in Leigh Day & Co, said: “It seems extraordinary that the Obama administration is prepared to use such threats against the Courts of another democracy. The only possible reason for its position – if this is indeed its position - is its wish to cover up evidence of torture by the CIA.”

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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