The High Court has ruled that a summary of US intelligence, relating to Binyam Mohamed’s allegations that he was tortured, will be made public. David Miliband expressed his “deep disappointment” at the ruling and issued the following statement:
‘The Government is deeply disappointed by the judgment handed down today by the High Court which concludes that a summary of US intelligence material should be put into the public domain against their wishes. We will be appealing in the strongest possible terms.
The issues at stake are simple, but profound. They go to the heart of the efforts made to defend the security of the citizens of this country. At a time when the UK faces a serious threat from international terrorism, the Government will not take risks with intelligence that is essential to national security and shared with us by many states.
We only share British intelligence with other countries on the basis that they will not disclose that intelligence without our express permission. The same inviolable principle applies to foreign intelligence shared with us. In the case of the US, an intelligence partnership whose importance and breadth is unique in the modern world, that principle requires defence with special vigour. Secretary Clinton and I have both described the inviolability of the principle at issue here.
We have welcomed the changes in counter terrorism strategy that President Obama has made since coming to office, but we are clear that what has remained unchanged is the degree of protection the US expects others to give its intelligence. The US will not prejudice its own intelligence if it perceives that this intelligence may be disclosed at the order of a foreign court or otherwise. It remains my assessment that the consequence of the Court’s judgment today, if left unchallenged, will be a restriction on what is shared with us. The documents published today as part of the Court’s judgment show that this is the US view too.
The seriousness of the Obama Administration’s determination to uphold the principle of control which underpins decades of intelligence sharing between our two countries is there for all to see in the records of successive correspondence from and discussions with senior figures in the Obama Administration. When I made my assessment of the potential damage to the national security of the United Kingdom that would result from the decision that the Court has now made, I carefully considered a range of factors and was advised in the clearest of terms by those who work daily with the US on these matters. The Court has failed to accord proper weight to these factors or this assessment and, on such a fundamental issue, it is right and proper that we appeal its judgment.
The fundamental question at issue in this judgment is not the mistreatment allegations made by Binyam Mohamed, nor is it about the content of the intelligence reports. It is solely about the principle underpinning intelligence sharing. We made strenuous efforts to secure Mr Mohamed’s release from Guantanamo and we succeeded in ensuring his return to the UK in February this year. Prior to that, we ensured his lawyers had access to all relevant material held by the UK – including US material – to use in his defence before the US military commission.
As for the extremely serious allegations about Mr Mohamed’s mistreatment whilst in detention, we have been completely clear: the British Government stands firmly against torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment; we do not condone collude, encourage or solicit it. We take all allegations of wrongdoing very seriously. Allegations that British officials were mixed up in wrongdoing in this case are now properly being investigated by the police. And Mr Mohamed is also bringing a separate legal claim for damages against the Government. This will be addressed by the courts in due course.
I am determined that the vigour with which we fight this case will maintain the confidence of and send a clear message to all our intelligence partners across the world: the United Kingdom will protect the information that you share with us and uphold the principle that it is for you, not us or our courts, to decide if and when to release such material in to the public domain.’
Of course, intelligence sharing depends on mutual secrecy. However, this ruling does not violate “the principle underpinning intelligence sharing”, because it will not disclose current intelligence or, since Mr Mohamed has been released, ongoing intelligence work or the identity of central coalition sources past and present. The published evidence will illuminate how specific intelligence was gathered. The ruling’s sole concern is to investigate Binyam Mohamed’s alleged mistreatment at the hands of US, Pakistani and British interrogators; and all information pertaining to that allegation should be made public.