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Across the Pond, Another Bush-Era Torture Denial—and Revelation

Diana Novak

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Denial may be a contagious disease, as evidenced by the disturbing parallel between former President George W. Bush and Jonathan Evans, head of the UK's MI5 security service: Both denied using torture. Given the recent revelation that Evans knew about CIA torture tactics used on Binyam Mohamed—despite parliamentary testimony to the contrary—it seems that Britain's loyalty to the United States is more important than its defense human rights. Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident and devout Muslim who traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 to live under the Taliban's Islamic government, was arrested by U.S. forces in 2002 in Pakistan when he attempted to return to Britain. Authorities accused Mohamed of attending al-Qaeda training camps while in Afghanistan, and also believed he conspired with former Chicago resident and convicted terrorist Jose Padilla. Mohamed, now 31, was detained and interrogated in Pakistan by American and British agents and then brought to Morocco, where he claims he was subjected to brutal torture. He then spent the next four years incarcerated at Guantanamo. Upon his release in February 2009, Mohamed accused the UK of harboring knowledge of torture techniques used against him—a charge now confirmed by the M15's Evans. On February 11, Evans wrote an article arguing that while protection of U.S. intelligence is of the utmost importance to Britain's security, there was no such intelligence regarding Mohamed's treatment while he was detained. "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 wrote in the Telegraph, a British newspaper. Not so fast. As revealed by a British appeal court on Monday, it seems the MI5 head admitted knowledge of the CIA's "new strategy" of tortured interrogations in 2008. He approached the British Intelligence and Security Committee with his confession after the group had already published a report based on previous MI5 leadership testimony that the UK was entirely unaware of the use of torture on American detainees. Moreover, not only did MI5 agents have knowledge of the violence, but they actually assisted with Mohamed's interrogation while he was in Pakistan. Since Evans' statement, no new report has been released, leaving the public unaware until now of what amounts to a government cover-up. Of course, none of this should surprise anyone who watched the Bush administration spend much of the last decade hiding "enhanced interrogation techniques" in black sites and behind pseudo-legal smoke screens. Just as the British are slowly discovering what their government did and did not know regarding torture during the Bush era, Americans are still waiting for satisfying answers to what went on under Bush—and Obama, who shows little interest in fully investigating, and prosecuting, the Bush administration's crimes against humanity.

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Diana Novak is a fall 2009 editorial intern at In These Times and a contributor to Chicago INNERVIEW. She moonlights as a trial lawyer assistant.
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