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 Miliband again 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 — or crossing the border into Pakistan — 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 …
Daily Mail Pulls Story About Binyam Mohamed And British Spy
Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday featured a fascinating article by David Rose about a previously unknown British prisoner, seized in the first few months of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” who was persuaded to become a spy. “Informant A,” as he is known, then turned up in the US prison in Bagram airbase, Afghanistan, where the prisoners swiftly established his role, and, most significantly, was also sent to Morocco, in September 2002, in an attempt to persuade British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was then in the third month of his 18 months of CIA-sponsored torture, to cooperate with his torturers.
In an article yesterday, UK Government Lies Exposed; Spy Visited Binyam Mohamed In Morocco, I stressed the significance of this revelation, which, of course, comprehensively demolishes the British government’s persistent claims that ministers did not know where Mohamed was being held, until he surfaced at Bagram in May 2004, and quoted a passage from David Rose’s article in which Mohamed’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, explained that, in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, requesting an immediate inquiry, 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.”
In my article, I also suggested that other revelations in Rose’s article — that the informant was Moroccan, and that he “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” — also indicated that it was likely that the British authorities were intimately involved with their American counterparts in deciding the country to which Mohamed was sent to be tortured.
This type of complicity is, of course, far more grave than the verdict in an existing judgment against the government, following a judicial review last summer, when the judges, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr. Justice Lloyd Jones, responding to an acknowledgment by senior officials that they had been involved in exchanging intelligence with their US counterparts, even though they had not been told where Mohamed was being held, ruled 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.”
I still stand by this interpretation of the significance of David Rose’s revelations about “Informant A,” but while I wait to see if other media outlets will pick up on this extremely important story, which takes us clearly into the realm of “war crimes,” Ben Six, on the website Back Towards The Locus, has noted that Rose’s original article was replaced on the Mail on Sunday’s website yesterday afternoon, with an edited version credited to Vanessa Allen. The revised version still contains the revelation about the existence of “Informant A,” but contains significantly less background detail, and, as I await an explanation of why the original article was pulled, I thought it was worthwhile to reproduce it here:
MI5 ‘Used Muslim 007′ to Turn British Torture Victim in Moroccan Prison
by David Rose, Mail on Sunday, 17 May 2009
LONDON — British security agents sent an undercover mole dubbed the ‘Muslim 007’ to convince Al Qaeda suspect Binyam Mohamed to turn informant if he wanted his torture to end, it was claimed last night.
The new allegations suggest Britain’s involvement in the ‘medieval’ treatment of the former Guantánamo Bay prisoner goes much deeper than previously thought.
Ministers and MI5 have insisted they had no idea that Mohamed was the subject of an ‘extraordinary rendition’ to Morocco, nor that he was tortured there on the orders of the CIA.
However, last night Mohamed told how the mole, known only as Informant A, tried to persuade him that giving intelligence to the British would end his ordeal — suggesting MI5 agents were complicit in his treatment.
Mohamed said that his torturers brought the mole, a UK citizen of Moroccan descent, to see him in early September 2002, nearly two months after he arrived in Morocco, where he had been subjected to horrific abuse, including the cutting of his genitals with a scalpel.
‘It was one of my lowest points,’ he said. ‘The really bad stuff 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: ‘The Moroccans told Mohamed that Informant A was working with the British Government and pressed Mr Mohamed to do the same if he wanted to end his torture.’
Mr Stafford Smith has written to Gordon Brown demanding an immediate inquiry, calling on the Government to come clean about British involvement in the case and ‘quit working with the US to hide evidence of criminal acts’.
The official line is that the British authorities had no idea that Mohamed was taken to Morocco three months after his capture in Pakistan in April 2002 — and became aware of him again only when he arrived at Guantánamo Bay more than two years later.
Mr Stafford Smith’s letter says: ‘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.’
Mohamed told Mr Stafford Smith about Informant A when they first met in Guantánamo four years ago but it is only recently that new sources have come forward to support his account.
One is Tarek Dergoul, who was held at a US base in Afghanistan in 2002 at the same time as Informant A.
He said yesterday: ‘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.”’
Another is Shaker Aamer, a British-resident Saudi, who was captured with Informant A. He told Mr Stafford Smith that although he was flown to Guantánamo, where he is still a prisoner, Informant A was taken elsewhere by the British.
A third source said Informant A had been allowed to return to London after his capture, despite his suspected links to the Taliban and his militant views.
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.
After his release from Guantánamo earlier this year, Mohamed told The Mail on Sunday he was interrogated by MI5 in Pakistan after being beaten and hung by his wrists. Later he suffered ‘medieval’ tortures in Morocco.
The Americans were convinced he was planning to build a ‘dirty’ radioactive bomb and detonate it in New York — an allegation that has now been abandoned. The British Government is currently fighting a legal battle to keep secret a summary of CIA documents that describe Mohamed’s treatment.
On Friday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband signed a new demand for a gagging order, arguing that publication of the High Court judges’ summary would cause irreparable harm to Britain’s relationship with America.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009. Visit his website at: www.andyworthington.co.uk.