American spy chiefs alarmed by Binyam Mohamed ruling
US intelligence sources are concerned that a British court's ruling on secret CIA interrogation records could affect the flow of information.
By Philip Sherwell in
Published: 8:00AM GMT 14 Feb 2010
British officials have been asked to explain the impact of the Court of Appeal ruling amid fears in the
The Government lost a lengthy legal battle last week to prevent publications of a CIA summary of how former
The White House, State Department and
Most intelligence passed from the
There is particular concern that the ruling will set a dangerous legal precedent and that
"This sort of ruling is the intelligence community's worst nightmare," Fred Burton, a former top
"Under protected channels, you have highly classified information passing from state to state every day. The risk of disclosure of that information will clearly disrupt intelligence and could compromise human assets and methods.
"Our ties to the British are so close and so strong that I am sure our relationship with our most trusted partner will not be seriously damaged. But the ruling clearly raises major concerns."
Current and former
Indeed, the White House, under fire domestically for its counter-terrorism policies, made clear its anger over a court ruling which it said would force a review of intelligence-sharing with
"We're deeply disappointed… because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations," said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.
"As we warned, the court's judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the
But he also affirmed
Congressman Pete Hoekstra, the leading Republican on the House intelligence committee which receives regular classified briefings by spy chiefs, said the
"We are going to have to evaluate the implications of this decision," he said. "We must hope this is an isolated case as our relationship with the British is so valuable.
"It would be a real problem if this became a trend where highly sensitive information was being forced out into the open by the courts. That would jeopardise the US-UK relationship, which would be devastating as we co-operate, co-ordinate and complement each other on intelligence so well."
Clive Stafford Smith, the lawyer for Mr Mohamed and dozens of other current and former Guantanamo detainees, fiercely criticised "the shameful way" Britain had tried to suppress details of his clients alleged torture under pressure from Washington.
"Suppressing any evidence of government criminality on the grounds of national security sets a very dangerous precedent," he said.
But in a rare public statement, Jonathan Evans, the M15 director, expressed his concerns about the fall-out. "The
Dennis Blair, the
The court ruling, coming on the heels of the British arrest warrant issued in December for former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes in
"They're wondering now if a British court might try to have them arrested for alleged torture in a crackdown for what was done on the last guy's watch," said Dan Goure, a national security analyst with close ties to the intelligence community.
He also believed, however, that the UK-US intelligence relationship would survive the challenge. "Are we going to refuse to share intelligence with you because we can't trust you? No, you're not the French," he said.
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