US intelligence chief condemns UK decision to release details of detainee treatment

[JURIST] US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair [official profile] on Wednesday condemned [press release, PDF] a UK Court of Appeal ruling [judgment text; JURIST report] that the British government must publish intelligence relating to the alleged torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed [JURIST news archives]. UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband [official profile] had expressed concern [press release] that releasing the information could harm US-UK cooperation, saying that it relies on the "principle that if a country shares intelligence with another, that country must agree before its intelligence is released." In his statement, Blair said that the ruling was a setback, but that the two countries would continue to share intelligence:


The protection of confidential information is essential to strong, effective security and intelligence cooperation among allies. The decision by a United Kingdom court to release classified information provided by the United States is not helpful, and we deeply regret it. The United States and the United Kingdom have a long history of close cooperation that relies on mutual respect for the handling of classified information. This court decision creates additional challenges, but our two countries will remain united in our efforts to fight against violent extremist groups.

Also Wednesday, a White House spokesperson said that the US was disappointed by the ruling.

The newly-released information includes seven paragraphs that summarized the torture of Mohamed, including sleep deprivation, shackling and mental stress and suffering that cased him to be put on suicide watch. The court's ruling ended the long-running legal battle to keep the information classified. In December, British government lawyers argued that two UK High Court judges acted irresponsibly when they ruled that the details of the detention must be released [JURIST reports]. This was following an interim ruling [JURIST report] by Lord Justice Thomas and Justice Lloyd Jones that redacted the release. Last November, a separate judge on the High Court ruled that, in Mohamed's separate suit for damages, information relating to his treatment at Guantanamo Bay may be withheld [JURIST report] under a "closed material procedure." Mohamed was returned to the UK in February 2009, after charges against him were dismissed [JURIST reports] in October 2008. Mohamed had been held at Guantanamo Bay for four years on suspicion of conspiracy to commit terrorism [JURIST report].

 

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