U.S. data about Guantanamo detainee's treatment is revealed in Britain

By Karla Adam
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, February 11, 2010

LONDON -- The British government Wednesday disclosed once-secret details of the United States' harsh treatment of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee after losing a lengthy legal battle to suppress the information.

The British government had warned that the disclosure would harm intelligence-sharing between London and Washington and threaten national security.

According to the information, from a judge's summary of a classified CIA report to British authorities, Binyam Mohamed was subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment during interrogations in Pakistan in 2002, including being shackled and deprived of sleep while interrogators played upon "his fears of being removed from United States custody and 'disappearing.' "

Seven paragraphs of information were read in court and posted on the Foreign Office's Web site.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the House of Commons that he had fought to keep the seven paragraphs secret, not because of their content but because of the "principle of their disclosure by an English court against U.S. wishes."

At the heart of the legal battle, Miliband said, was an agreement that Britain should not reveal intelligence that the United States passes on in confidence unless the Americans agree.

After the Court of Appeal ruling, White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said: "We're deeply disappointed with the court's judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations. As we warned, the court's judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK, and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward."

Mohamed, 31, was born in Ethiopia and lives in Britain. Arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he says he was tortured by American authorities and others under U.S. instruction there and in Morocco. He says he was beaten with a leather strap, subjected to a mock execution and sliced with a scalpel on his chest and penis.

Mohamed says Britain knew about his treatment because information used during his questioning could have come only from British intelligence. He spent seven years in detention, four of them at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. officials had said Mohamed planned to blow up American apartment buildings, but those charges were dropped. He was the first person to be released from Guantanamo by the Obama administration, and he returned to Britain last February.

Reprieve, a legal organization representing Mohamed in a lawsuit against the British government, said in a statement that the disclosures show that "the U.S. documented their efforts to abuse Mr. Mohamed" and that British authorities "knew he was being abused and did nothing about it."

Miliband denied that the British government was complicit in abuse.

Mohamed's lawyers were joined in their fight for disclosure of the information by several media organizations, including The Washington Post, the Associated Press, the New York Times and the British Broadcasting Corp.

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