Feb 042009

The British high court, in a hearing about Guantanamo Bay ‘guest’ Binyam Mohamed, has ruled that:

Evidence of how a British resident held in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp was tortured, and what MI5 knew about it, must remain secret because of serious threats the US has made against the UK…

Serious threats, eh? Pre-emptive strikes? Nuclear weapons? No more Krispy Kreme?

Er, no:

…they had no alternative as a result of a statement by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, that if the evidence was disclosed the US would stop sharing intelligence with Britain.

Now prominent bloggers are calling on British politicians to ‘give the Hugh Grant speech’ from that work of cinematic genius, Love Actually, and crying ‘bullying.’

The US is under no obligation, at least as far as I’m aware, to share with Britain the intelligence it gathers. That it does is something of a courtesy, and even more of a recognition that it serves the interests of both nations.

But there are things that manifestly do not serve the interest of the US, for whatever reason (noble or no), and the public discussion of the shoddy way in which it has probably treated suspected terrorists is apparently one of those things.

The British judges don’t get it:

“Indeed, we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials … relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be,” they said.

And the dig about democracies governed by the rule of law is a delightful piece of irony considering the allegations ‘that Britain was complicit in torture’.

Whatever the opinion of the judges might be, the US thinks the matter important enough to warrant a ‘threat’ not to share its intelligence. That Britain wants that intelligence badly enough to subvert its own judicial process doesn’t mean the US has ‘bullied.’ There is a choice there, however unpalatable it may be.

UPDATE: My flatmate, who is smarter than me, says there is an obligation, and it’s called NATO. To which I say, when have treaties ever stood in the way of what the US wants?

  2 Responses to “US ‘bullies’ Britain; man bites dog (cont. page 94)”

  1. Two comments:

    1/I hope judges never start to act like politicians.
    2/”The US is under no obligation, at least as far as I’m aware, to share with Britain the intelligence it gathers” – quite a lot of the intelligence the USA gathers comes from the UK or from UK personnel

  2. @ 1 – Too late, methinks…

    @ 2 – The absence of obligation (NATO notwithstanding) works both ways, n’est-ce pas?

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