Seven Secret Paragraphs Released

More on accountability…in the UK:

Chapter 4 included descriptions, in Binyam Mohamed's own words, of his interrogation shortly after his arrest in Pakistan in May 2002. In a cell in a Pakistani intelligence service interrogation center, where he was suspended by his wrists around the clock between interrogation sessions, a 4-person U.S. interrogation team informed him that “The law has been changed. There are no lawyers. You can cooperate with us—the easy way, or the hard way.” Employing ‘enhanced interrogation techniques' including sleep deprivation and stress positions, interrogators threatened to turn him over to foreign governments for more extreme torture; at one point, a Pakistani interrogator threatened his life with a loaded handgun.

We've known for some time that the British government had CIA documents that substantially corroborated Mohamed's account of his interrogation in Pakistan. Mohamed's attorneys sued the British government to turn over those documents so he could present them in his defense before a military commission in Guantánamo; that suit, which figures prominently in the forthcoming conclusion to Chapter 4, has accomplished as much as any single proceeding so far in advancing a public discussion of accountability for torture. As I noted in last Friday's diary entry, though, that discussion has centered on the extent to which British government and intelligence officials were complicit in U.S.-orchestrated tortured, and not on the primary responsibility of U.S. agents and officials.

In the past year, that lawsuit had come down to a struggle to win the release of seven paragraphs that the British government had demanded be redacted from one of the court's opinions. Those paragraphs were known to describe the CIA documents referring to Mohamed's interrogation in Pakistan before two British intelligence agents were allowed to interrogate him on May 17, 2002. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband fought the release of the paragraphs because the United States had explicitly threatened that publishing the information would harm the intelligence-sharing relationship between the two nations; harming that relationship, Miliband argued, would endanger Britain's national security.

Today a panel of three of Britian's most senior judges rejected that argument and ordered the government to release the text of those seven paragraphs. I'm reading their powerful opinion now, and in my next post I'll share some passages from their ruling on a case that the judges declared went to the heart of “democratic accountability and the rule of law itself.”

Reprieve, the British organization that led the legal fight in the U.K., has an outstanding summary of the UK case here.

And here are those seven paragraphs the U.S. and British governments fought so hard to keep us from seeing:

It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

 v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

 vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and "disappearing" were played upon.

 vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

 viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

 ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

 x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom , would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.

© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York NY 10004

This is the website of the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation. Learn more about these two components of the ACLU.