Freesteel Blog » Another pointless cover-up for worthless pack of lies

Another pointless cover-up for worthless pack of lies

Friday, February 6th, 2009 at 6:27 pm Written by:

There was a High Court Judgment handed down the day before yesterday.

Documents widely thought to relate to the torture of a British resident by the United States’ Guantánamo Bay War on Terror extra-judicial prison system are in the possession of our illustrious Foreign Secretary. We want them to be published. The Judges’ opinion of last August was:

P24: [It is], in our view difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government [the United States] could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.

Indeed we [do] not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy [the United Kingdom] 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.

Since this wasn’t the right answer, our government requested that this other “democratically elected and accountable government” [the United States] fabricate a threat to the United Kingdom’s public interest.

p25: It is evident from the materials with which we have been provided that the assessment of the risk to the intelligence relationship with the United States was made by the Foreign Secretary in good faith and on the basis of evidence including statements made by officials of the United States Government who held office at the highest levels in the period from July to October 2008. Indeed there is evidence for the Foreign Secretary’s further view that the United States Government would perceive making public the redacted passages as “gratuitous”.

How valuable is this “special” intelligence relationship?

p25: It is self evident that liaison with foreign intelligence services, including the provision of information or access to detainees held by foreign governments, lies at the heart of the protection of the national security of the United Kingdom at the present time, particularly in the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom.

If the value of information is properly to be assessed by the United Kingdom intelligence services, it is also essential the intelligence services know the circumstances and means by which it was obtained [eg torture].

There is powerful evidence that intelligence is shared on the basis of a reciprocal understanding that the confidence in and control over it will always be retained by the State that provides it. It is a fundamental part of that trust and confidentiality which lies at the heart of the relationship with foreign intelligence agencies. This is particularly the case in relation to the United States where shared intelligence has been developed over 60 years. Without a clear understanding that such confidence will not be breached, intelligence from the United States and other foreign governments so important to national security might not be provided.

The public of the United Kingdom would be put at risk. The consequences of a reconsideration of and a potential reduction in the information supplied by the United States under the shared intelligence relationship at this time would be grave indeed.

Now you have been told. It’s axiomatic. Don’t bother weighing up whether the “protection of the national security… particularly in the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom” was served or diminished by our entanglement in the insane, violent US foreign policy of recent years.

That’s just recent years. It wasn’t always like this. In earlier years, it used not to be illegal collect money in the US to buy weapons for the IRA to commit terrorist acts in the UK.

Back then “national security” was all about the Soviet Union. Nowadays, Russia doesn’t need to threaten us with her army. All she needs to do is turn off the gas and wait for our electricity to stop. We’d be helpless. What good is our “Ministry of Defence” now? It could threaten to bomb the pumping stations. Great idea. Obviously, energy security is far less interesting to our government than the next pointless aircraft carrier or nuclear missile system. Who’s going to want to invade a country that can’t even make its own electricity? What planet are they on? Missile defence shield planet? God help us.

The judges explain:

The only relevant considerations are that there is clear evidence that supports the Foreign Secretary’s judgement that the threat is real and serious damage to national security may result and that that judgement was made in good faith.

The powerful submission of the Special Advocate that the position of the United States Government is demonstrably unreasonable or irrational matters not; it is the judgement of the Foreign Secretary as to the reality of the threat not its rationality that is material.

For similar reasons we cannot regard as in any way relevant to our decision on this issue the Special Advocates’ submission that the position of the Government of the United States is evidently only motivated by the desire to conceal evidence of wrongdoing where disclosure would be politically embarrassing.

Nor can the principle that there is no confidence in wrongdoing be relevant to the assessment of the likely damage to national security.

Nor can we accede to the submission that the Foreign Secretary should resist the threat made.

It is both irrelevant and unrealistic.

It lies solely within the power of the United States to decide whether to share with the United Kingdom intelligence it obtains and it is for the Foreign Secretary under our constitution, not the courts, to determine how to address it.

The Foreign Secretary explained:

Our intelligence relationship with the United States is vital to the national security of the United Kingdom. It is essential that the ability of the United States to communicate such material in confidence to the UK is protected. Without such confidence the US will simply not share that material with us.

The same applies to our intelligence relationships with all those who share intelligence information with us. And what applies to them also applies to us. We share intelligence with a large number of countries. We do so to protect British citizens, and we do so on the basis that the material will not be put into the public domain against our wishes. To state the obvious, were our own classified information to be disclosed in such a way, it could compromise our work, our sources and therefore our security. It therefore was and remains my judgment that the disclosure of the intelligence documents at issue, by order of our courts and against the wishes of the US authorities, would indeed cause real and significant damage to the national security and international relations of this country.

The neat thing about this tactic is it was also applied over the BAe fraud investigation over the sale of vast amounts of weapons to Saudi Arabia where Tony Blair said:

“Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important for our country in terms of counter-terrorism, in terms of the broader Middle East, in terms of helping in respect of Israel and Palestine. That strategic interest comes first.”

He said the probe would have led to months or years of “ill feeling between us and a key partner and ally and probably to no purpose” and he was certain the right decision had been taken.

So, if we didn’t let our biggest most politically connected arms dealer off the hook, a major customer of theirs was going to stop informing us of all the terrorists they’re sending our way, and also stop helping with the Israel-Palestine conflict just to spite us. Fine. Anyone believe this? It didn’t matter. The Prime Minister said so, and that made it true.

Why don’t we measure up all that toxic propaganda we got because of the special relationship in support of the Iraq war? What about being used by the NSA to spy on the United Nations Security Council? Was it worthwhile acting as a sockpuppet for false allegations about WMD?

President Bush: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.”

The reason we don’t tolerate torture with regards to law (when it is concerned with the truth) is that it routinely produces false confessions. That means torture is doubly abhorrent, both in itself, and in its propensity for propagating lies which often go on to result in more damage than the original act of torture itself.

But politics — particularly power politics and war-making — has nothing to do with the truth. Most of the people who have been processed through Guantánamo Bay have been innocent. So if you have to find them guilty in order to demonstrate to a skeptical public just how many threatening individuals were wandering around the plains of Afghanistan making it necessary to cluster-bomb every target in the land, then you’re going to have to torture them to make them produce confessions. It’s all you’ve got.

The War on Terror has demonstrated just how far the joke of “national security” can be stretched to cover the cracks between all kinds of vicious propaganda and lies. Guantánamo Bay has always been just a PR exercise, not intended for any purpose beyond the justification of the war in Afghanistan. It’s the equivalent to the fake intelligence about WMD before the Iraq war. It’s an inconvenience that has to be dealt with, and it turns out to be not as easy as rigging a vote in Parliament every other year to prevent an official investigation.

At the end of it, the responsibility for all these atrocities ultimately rests with the press whose incompetence and conflicts of interest make it possible for such bloody-minded PR campaigns to work.

With a functioning press that cared about the truth, no one would have printed the propaganda associated with conditions in Guantánamo Bay until the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited the establishment, released its report to the US government, and the US government had printed it in its entirety. They wouldn’t have waited for three years for the report to leak to the New York Times. The press knows that the government lies about everything it can. It’s quite simple to demand a second source for the information.

Earlier generations have left us with perfectly useable tools of international norms and legal frameworks designed to prevent cheating and abuse by those who hold political power. Unfortunately, it’s left to the press to wield those tools competently, and that’s where it fails.

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