Friday, November 13, 2009


When governments, even democratically elected ones, face embarrassment or potential ridicule, they all do the same thing: clam up.

We see that with the British government. The British courts have ruled that information about torture of a British citizen previously held in Guantanamo must be released and made public. In response, the Foreign Office claims, all without any basis or reason, that the torture disclosures will harm British intelligence and national security.

Richard Norton-Taylor reports in The Guardian yesterday:

"A top Foreign Office official has accused high court judges of damaging Britain's national security by insisting that CIA evidence of British involvement in torture must be revealed. . . .

"In an unprecedented assault on the judiciary, he claims that demands by two judges that the CIA material should be disclosed have already harmed Britain's intelligence and diplomatic relations with the US. In a statement, Manley says the judges have "served to undermine confidence within the US in the UK's ability to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic exchanges and will inevitably have a negative impact on the candour of their exchanges with UK officials"."

So the British government is claiming that because the United States government wants to keep all these dark doings a secret, that it too has a right to conceal what the Americans did to one of its citizens. There is of course no basis in the law for allowing a government to cloak its evil doings in secret. Just because the information, if released, has the potential to diminish the reputation of Tony Blair or Gordon Brown is of no legal consequence. Those leaders who approved, endorsed and implemented methods of torture cannot escape the glare of publicity by claiming "national security" as a reason to continue refusing to disclose.

Writes Norton-Taylor:

"The judges rejected the foreign secretary's claims that disclosing evidence of unlawful treatment would harm national security and threaten the UK's vital intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US. "The suppression of reports of wrongdoing by officials in circumstances which cannot in any way affect national security is inimical to the rule of law," they ruled. "In our view, as a court in the United Kingdom, a vital public interest requires … that a summary of the most important evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in wrongdoing be placed in the public domain … Championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, is the cornerstone of democracy.""

That's exactly what American leaders and now British leaders are trying to do: hide wrongdoings in the cloak of national intelligence and national security. Why? Because they know that the whole world would condemn them and their actions of torture once the veil is lifted.

"The judges made it clear they were exasperated by the attitude of the foreign secretary and British officials. There was no "rational basis" for claims made by Miliband and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, that disclosure of the CIA material would put British lives at risk."

We always say, no one is above the law. But government leaders are always trying to prove the statement wrong if their honesty, reputation or wrongdoings are apt to be disclosed.

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