Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was tortured in Morocco on behalf of the CIA, has been free from Guantánamo for nearly two months, but the struggle for access to documents proving his rendition and torture — both in Morocco and in the CIA’s own “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan — continues. The US government has never explained where he was held between May 2002, when British agents last saw him in Pakistan, where he was initially seized, and May 2004, when he surfaced in the US prison at Bagram airbase, and although the British government has conceded that it received intelligence reports about him from July 2002 to February 2003, officials have always maintained that the US authorities did not inform them about where he was being held.
Last summer, after a judicial review of Mohamed’s case in the UK, two high court judges — Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones — ruled that the British government’s decision to be involved in an exchange of intelligence about Mohamed, without knowing where he was being held, or receiving assurances that he was not being subjected to ill-treatment or torture, meant that “the relationship between the United Kingdom Government and the United States authorities went far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.”
However, despite this and other trenchant criticisms, the British government has, to date, prevented the judges from either ordering the release of 42 documents in its possession, which deal with Mohamed’s interrogations in Pakistan, or even releasing a seven-line summary of those documents, even though the judges have clearly stated that they believe the summary should be released in the interests of “open justice,” and because there is “nothing in the redacted paragraphs that would identify any agent or any facility or any secret means of intelligence gathering. Nor could anything in the redacted paragraphs possibly be described as ‘highly sensitive classified US intelligence.’”
On Friday, reiterating a well-worn but disputed argument that releasing the summary would cause “real harm to the national security and international relations of the United Kingdom,” Foreign Secretary David Milibandagain sought to prevent the judges from releasing the summary, but in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose reports that Binyam Mohamed has now stated that a British spy — or a “mole,” as Rose calls him — was sent by the British authorities to Morocco in September 2002, in an attempt “to persuade him that giving intelligence to the British would end his ordeal.”
“It was one of my lowest points,” Mohamed told Rose. “The really bad stuff [the torture which included having his penis regularly cut by razorblades] had already been going on for weeks. I thought he was a friendly face who might get the British to help me — but it was just another way of putting on pressure.”
Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, added that the Moroccans told Mohamed that the man, a British citizen of Moroccan descent, identified only as Informant A, “was working with the British Government and pressed Mr. Mohamed to do the same if he wanted to end his torture.”
Stafford Smith also explained that he had written to Gordon Brown demanding an immediate inquiry, calling for the government to finally reveal its involvement with the case, and to “quit working with the US to hide evidence of criminal acts.” Pouring scorn on the British authorities’ claim that they did not know that he had been rendered to Morocco by the Americans, Stafford Smith added that, in his letter, he had written, “The suggestion that British officials simply lost track of Mohamed for more than two years and did not know that he had been rendered to Morocco for torture is implausible. They had their own agent in Morocco who had seen Mohamed there and that person was back in the UK while the razor blades were still being taken to Mohamed’s genitals.”
What is even more fascinating about this story, however, is the report of Binyam’s relationship with Informant A before his capture, and the fact that other Guantánamo prisoners were also aware of the “mole.”
As Rose described it, Informant A “knew Mohamed in London and helped him plan the fateful journey in the spring of 2001 that took him first to Pakistan, then to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. After Mohamed had fled the conflict, the mole was wounded fighting alongside Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora. Months after that, Mohamed saw Informant A again in Pakistan shortly before both men were separately captured.”
In addition, Tarek Dergoul, a British citizen who was released from Guantánamo in 2004, said that he was “held at a US base in Afghanistan in 2002 at the same time as Informant A,” and he told David Rose on Saturday, “The fact he’d agreed to become a grass was all over the jail. One of the guards was saying, ‘We’ve got another 007.’”
According to Stafford Smith, who said that Mohamed told him about Informant A in Guantánamo in 2005, but that it was “only recently that new sources have come forward to support his account,” Shaker Aamer, a British resident who is still held in Guantánamo, was actually seized with Informant A in Afghanistan, and he told Stafford Smith that, when he was flown to Guantánamo, Informant A was “taken somewhere else by the British.” Rose added that another, unidentified source explained that Informant A “had been allowed to return to London after his capture.”
While the revelation of the role played by Informant A will undoubtedly renew the pressure on the British authorities to reveal the extent of their involvement in Mohamed’s interrogations in Morocco, two other important questions also need to be raised.
The first involves trying to ascertain what information was provided by the newly-recruited agent, who was presumably desperate to please his new masters, when he was planted amongst the prisoners in Afghanistan; and in particular, whether any of this information has been used by the US authorities to justify the detention of prisoners who are still held in Guantánamo, including, of course, Shaker Aamer. The Saudi-born resident traveled to Afghanistan with another former Guantánamo prisoner, Moazzam Begg, to establish a girl’s school, funded by a Saudi charity, and also to pursue a number of well-digging projects that they had funded separately, but over the years he has been subjected to several suspicious claims — including an allegation that he “lived on stipends in Afghanistan paid by [Osama] bin Laden” — whose provenance has never been explained.
The second question, however, is even more explosive, as it involves asking whether Mohamed’s rendition to Morocco, a country with which he had no connection, was the direct result of information provided by Informant A. Given his Moroccan background, I can only conclude that this seems very likely, and that it also shines an even more uncomfortable light on the British government’s persistent attempts to claim that it was never directly involved in Mohamed’s rendition and torture than the revelation that Informant A was sent to Morocco to persuade him to cooperate. I state this for two reasons: firstly, because it suggests that the British and American intelligence services were in extremely close contact in the three months following Mohamed’s capture, when he was held in Pakistan, and secondly, because it suggests, bluntly, that the CIA’s decision to render Mohamed to Morocco only came about because of British input.
I doubt that David Miliband is getting much rest today …