Obama Administration Taking Secrecy Efforts Abroad

May 26, 2009 10:27 a.m.

This came out a few weeks ago, but it’s worth taking note of: We’ve told you about the Obama administration’s frequent invocations of the state secrets claim in domestic national security cases — mimicking the Bush administration. But it now appears the administration is going further by leaning on our allies to adopt a similar approach.

Binyam Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo in February, claims he was tortured into confessing to bombing plots, and that the British government is complicit in the torture, for feeding questions to the CIA.Mohamed’s lawyers want a summary of his treatment publicly released. But the Obama administration sent a letter to the British government, released in a court filing, threatening to withdraw intelligence cooperation between the two governments if the information is released.

The letter, reported earlier this month in the Washington Times, reads:

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 author of the letter has been blacked out — though there’s speculation that it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But whoever signed the letter, there’s little doubt it came from the administration. In other words, Obama has told the British government: if you release information about how we treated Mohamed, we might not share key intelligence with you in the future. That’s exactly the same threat made previously by the Bush administration.

The judges in the case have gone on record saying they “did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials or officials of another State where the evidence was relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be.” But the British government, under pressure from the U.S., could still succeed in preventing the information from being released,

Clive Stafford Smith, Mohamed’s lawyer who also represents several other Gitmo inmates, told the Daily Telegraph: “What they are doing is twisting the arm of the British to keep evidence of torture committed by American officials secret.” He added: “One hopes the new administration would not continue to cover up evidence of criminal activity.”

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