The head of Britain’s MI5 security service denied last week that his agency colluded in torture, after a court ruling showed it knew that a detained Ethiopina born, Binyam Mohamed had been abused by US intelligence officers.
In a rare public intervention, MI5 Director General Jonathan Evans said criticism of the security agency could play into the hands of Britain’s enemies.
In addition to bombs and bullets, they would use “propaganda and campaigns to undermine our will and ability to confront them”, he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
MI5, Britain’s domestic security and counter-intelligence agency, helps to investigate terrorist plots against Britain, where suicide bombings on the London transport system killed 52 people in 2005.
MI5 has been criticised in the media since the government lost a legal battle lastWednesday to prevent the disclosure of US intelligence material relating to allegations of “cruel and inhuman” treatment involving the CIA.
The judges disclosed information provided to MI5 by the CIA that British resident Binyam Mohamed, has been fighting to prove he was tortured and that British authorities knew about it, had been shackled, threatened and deprived of sleep in US custody.
One paragraph of the judge’s ruling that strongly criticised MI5 was deleted at the request of a government lawyer.
Ministers deny collusion
Evans said he accepted criticism by a parliamentary committee in 2005 and 2007 that British intelligence had been slow to detect “the emerging pattern of US mistreatment of detainees” after the Sept. 11 attacks on US cities.
“But there wasn’t any similar change of practice by the British intelligence agencies.
We did not practise mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf,” he said.
Interior minister Alan Johnson and Foreign Secretary David Miliband wrote a letter to two newspapers to voice concern that media coverage of the Mohamed case would leave a false impression about the work and ethics of the security agencies.
“The allegation that our security and intelligence agencies have licence to collude in torture is disgraceful, untrue and one we vigorously deny,” they said.
The British government had argued that disclosure of the CIA reports of Mohamed’s treatment might make the United States less willing to share intelligence and so prejudice Britain’s national security.
Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 and accused of receiving training from al Qaeda. He says he was tortured there in the presence of British intelligence officers.
In July 2002, he says he was taken to Morocco on a CIA plane and again tortured for 18 months, including having his penis cut with a knife. Morocco has denied holding him.
US authorities have said he was transferred to Afghanistan in 2004 and later moved to Guantanamo Bay. He was never charged, and was returned to Britain in February 2009.