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Obama threatens to limit U.S. intel with Brits
Question of the Day
The Obama administration says it may curtail Anglo-American intelligence sharing if the British High Court discloses new details of the treatment of a former Guantanamo detainee.
A court filing from the British Foreign Office released recently includes a letter from the U.S. government, identified as the “Obama administration’s communication.” Other information identifying the U.S. agency and author of the letter appears to have been redacted.
The letter says:
“If it is determined that [her majesty’s government] is unable to protect information we provide to it, even if that inability is caused by your judicial system, we will necessarily have to review with the greatest care the sensitivity of information we can provide in the future.”
The letter stands in contrast to President Obama’s decision last month to release four memos from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel providing fresh detail on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program.
But, the U.S. letter points out: “Neither in [those four] memoranda, nor in any statements of the administration accompanying their release, was reference made to the identity of any foreign government that might have assisted the United States.
“Given the declassification of the highly sensitive information contained in the memoranda, the fact that the president refrained from providing any information about foreign governments is indicative that the United States continues to preserve the secrecy of such information as critical to our national security.”
At issue is whether the British courts will disclose a seven-paragraph summary of the treatment of Binyam Mohamed, a former detainee who was released from Guantanamo Bay prison in February.
The British terrorism suspect was set free after charges that he had collaborated with convicted terrorist Jose Padilla in a plot to set off a “dirty bomb” in the United States fell apart. Mr. Mohamed says he was tortured while in U.S., Pakistani and Moroccan custody.
In February, the British Foreign Office claimed that the U.S. government had threatened to reduce intelligence cooperation if details of the interrogations and treatment of Mr. Mohamed were disclosed.
The High Court agreed on Feb. 4 to keep the details of Mr. Mohamed’s treatment from the public. But two days later, the court decided to take up the matter again in response to an argument that the position of the U.S. government may have represented the Bush administration’s view and not that of the Obama administration.
The letter, however, put to rest any doubt that it reflects the position of Mr. Obama’s administration. Depending on what the court decides, it also may quash Mr. Mohamed’s efforts to get the court to disclose any U.S. confirmation that he was tortured.
“The seven paragraphs at issue are based upon classified information shared between our countries,” the U.S. letter said. “Public disclosure of this information, reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the United Kingdom’s national security.
“Specifically, disclosure of this information may result in a constriction of the U.S.-U.K. relationship, as well as U.K. relationships with other countries.”
Clive Stafford Smith, an attorney for Mr. Mohamed, said in a telephone interview that he was disappointed.
About the Author
By Matt Kibbe
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