Court: UK is hiding info already made public

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2009 7:48 PM

Details of U.S. interrogation techniques that Britain is fighting to keep secret are no different from what has already been made public by President Barack Obama, according to parts of a U.K. court ruling that were declassified Wednesday.

Three of four paragraphs censored from an October ruling show that high court justices discounted the British government's argument that revealing the information would harm U.S.-British intelligence cooperation.

One passage said it was "impossible to believe" that the U.S. would punish Britain for releasing information which was similar to the interrogation memos Obama himself declassified earlier this year.

"What would be put into the public domain are matters relating to interrogation techniques that have been widely discussed and made public by the United States government," the judges said in another one of the newly released sections of the ruling.

The information referred to by the judges is contained in seven paragraphs of joint U.S.-British intelligence describing the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay inmate Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident who was arrested in Pakistan and allegedly tortured there and in Morocco before being flown to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Mohamed's lawyers have demanded that the seven paragraphs be made public, claiming that they prove that Mohamed was mistreated and that the U.S. and British government were complicit in his abuse.

On Oct. 16, Britain's High Court ordered Britain's government to declassify the paragraphs, but Britain's Foreign Office appealed the ruling and partially censored the judgment itself, arguing that the content of the judges' arguments could put the country's safety at risk.

On Wednesday, Britain's Foreign Office partially reversed itself, agreeing to declassify three of the four censored paragraphs. A Foreign Office statement said that the move followed "the expert advice of our legal counsel" and noted that the passages had gone through a security check.

Human rights group Reprieve, which along with The Associated Press and other news organizations is fighting to get access to the paragraphs, supplied the uncensored judgment to the AP.

Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider said the previously secret passages _ which are mainly devoted to criticism of the government's legal maneuvering _ showed that the British officials were too quick to cite security concerns when choosing to withhold potentially embarrassing information.

"Like the little boy who cried 'wolf,'" she said, "it's the little spy who cried 'national security.'"