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Archive for October 21st, 2009

Comment du Jour: Top secret and other matters…

On the day when Parliament debated the Trafigura affair and superinjunctions, I thought it might be useful to take a brief look at the Binyam, Mohammed judgment in advance of a podcast on the matter with Carl Gardner tomorrow from the perspective of the British government and examine the case more widely in the podcast tomorrow..

The High Court has ruled that US intelligence documents containing details of the alleged torture of a former UK resident can be released.

The BBC covered the story. Briefly –  Binyam Mohamed spent four years in Guantanamo Bay and claims British authorities colluded in his torture while he was in Morocco. The UK government denies allegations of collusion and says it will appeal against the court’s judgement. The government stopped the judges publishing the claims on national security grounds. The key document in the case is a summary of abuse allegations that US intelligence officers shared with their counterparts in London. Any publication of the material will be delayed until an appeal takes place.

Foreign Secretary, David Miliband argued that releasing the material would threaten Britain’s national security because future intelligence sharing with the US could be compromised. But Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones ruled that the risk to national security was “not a serious one” and there was “overwhelming” public interest in disclosing the material.

The BBC reports: Clive Stafford-Smith, Mr Mohamed’s lawyer and director of human rights charity Reprieve, said the government was “trying to conflate national security with national embarrassment”….

“The judges have made clear what we have said all along – it is irrational to pretend that evidence of torture should be classified as a threat to national security,” he said.

“Rather, it is proof of a crime committed against Binyam Mohamed, and as such it should be fully aired in a court of law.”

The full judgment of the High Court may be viewed here |   There is also a Summary

The response of the British government.

The full text of David Milibands response to the judgment reveals the theme that it is for the United States to sanction release of this information not the British courts.

”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.

In my podcast with Carl Gardner tomorrow we will examine this case in depth and invite comment.

And… we must not forget this…

Outrage as ‘secret inquests’ plan revived

The Times reports:

Civil liberties campaigners today accused the Government of quietly reviving plans to hold investigations into controversial deaths in secret.After widespread opposition to proposals to hold sensitive inquests behind closed doors without juries, Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, announced in May that he was dropping the measure from the Coroners and Justice Bill.But the campaign group Liberty said today that a similar plan had been added back into the Bill, which is designed to reform coroners’ courts in England and Wales.”

And it would seem that the judiciary is not happy with secret superinjunctions

The Independent reports: “Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said yesterday it was a “fundamental principle” that MPs should be able to speak freely in Parliament. He described this right as a “precious heritage” that had been secured through the sacrifice of previous generations who had fought and died in the name of free speech.

And, finally, we have Nick Griffin who is appearing on Question Time tomorrow. I have no doubt that BBC luvvies are hyperventilating at the thought of the spectacle, salivating at the ratings, rubbing their thighs in a rather undesirable manner – because, in part, this is a stunt – but if democracy is to work it is only right that BNP leader Griffin should face questioning from the public and debate with senior politicians from mainstream parties.

It is rather ironic that the United States is also concerned at the Tory links with right wing politicans in the European Parliament.

Guardian: The shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, is to meet the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in Washington tomorrow amid concern in the Obama administration about the Conservatives‘ European policy and Jewish outrage at their alliance with far-right parties with alleged antisemitic and neo-Nazi links.

And I couldn’t really stop here, not when we have Spy v Spy in The Supreme Court

Guardian: “It may not have the ring of a historic legal battle. But the case of A v B, which opened at the new supreme court today, has a significance that goes way beyond the banal soubriquets of the two sides.

It involves secrecy and the security services, and could expose agencies to a scrutiny they have never had before. The case will determine whether complaints against them could be heard in British courts or merely in a tribunal which can meet in secret and against whose decisions there can be no appeal.”

So… all in all a rather TOP SECRET day… good for those who like secrecy, not so good for the rest of us, perhaps.

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