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Intelligence: UK MPs seek to resist CIA attempts to narrow disclosure requirements

The parliamentary human rights committee has condemned the justice and security green paper which it says is seeking to restrict the information which British judges can disclose in UK courts.

The paper, the committee claims, is seeking to indoctrinate into UK Law what MI5 and MI6 call the 'control principle'. Under this principle, whoever originally gathers sensitive intelligence is entitled to determine what parts of it can and cannot be disclosed, in any jurisdiction.

The law would give the CIA the power to limit disclosure in UK Courts of intelligence gathered by them and shared with MI5 and MI6.

The seeds for this legislation were sewn in 2010 when an appeal court ruled that a summary of sensitive intelligence concerning Binyam Mohamed, a British resident brutally treated in Pakistan, should be disclosed in court.

This prompted the Bush Administration to inform the Labour Government that it would restrict wha t intelligence it would share with MI5 and MI6 if UK courts were allowed to order the disclosure of sensitive information.

MI5 and MI6 responded, telling the then Labour Government and now the coalition, that a law must be introduced to prevent CIA intelligence being disclosed in court again. They claimed to have been forced to pay millions of pounds in compensation to UK citizens in out-of-court settlements to avoid sensitive intelligence ending up in court.

The proposed law has been roundly criticised by the human rights committee, who claim that such a blanket principle can never be consistent with the rule of law.

"An absolute exemption cannot in our view be considered to be consistent with the rule of law," they state.

"Often the individuals seeking the disclosure are fighting not only for their liberty but for their life. Binyam Mohamed himself was facing the possibility of the death penalty in the US when he first sought disclosure of the material in the possession of the UK Government which would help him to contest the charge," they added.

The High Court judges who heard the evidence in the Mohamed case said the material the CIA sought to suppress was not 'intelligence' or 'secret'. They described it as an "admission of what officials working for the CIA did to Mr Mohamed during his detention in Pakistan".

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

The articles of the Human Rights Act in detail (FindLaw)