The Five Eyes’ Daisy Chain

Concealing war crimes with freedom of information legislation

by , February 21, 2011

So the Five Eyes‘ daisy chain is alive and well. I encountered this at first hand with my own application under Canada’s Access to Information Act (ATIA), submitted in December 2006 and documented elsewhere. In summary, after a hideous delay not countenanced by the framers of the Act, I got 73 pages of redacted rubbish. I came very close to giving up, but some obstreperous flame kept me going to find out whether my own country was living up to its obligations under international humanitarian law, which the Supreme Court of Canada declared was “binding,” in case anybody had any doubts. I’m talking about an international criminal conspiracy conducted by NATO countries to conceal grave breaches of international humanitarian law.

In my pursuit of the information, ultimately ending up in Federal Court [.pdf], my request was denied on the basis of Section 15 of the ATIA. My understanding is that my own request for judicial review was only the third to have been made under Section 15, and the first to the Department of National Defense. Federal Court Justice Simon Noël had a lot to say about Section 15, and I read all of it [.pdf].

As it turns out, the information I was requesting was in a completely different document, “The Campaign Against Terrorism Detainee Transfer Log,” almost exactly in the form I was requesting, which the Department of National Defense “analysts” chose not to reveal. One could call that an obstruction of justice if one had the time.

Not having the time, we have a situation that I don’t imagine the authors of the ATIA could have imagined, which is that Section 15(1) is abused by the executive to conceal war crimes. Furthermore, in the jurisdictions of the Five Eyes – all of whom have freedom of information legislation – there is always an exemption for “international relations.” Call it what you will. I suggest what is happening now is FOI to CYA.

So let’s see a few worked examples:

Binyam Mohamed:

“Evidence held by the Foreign Office, which had until now been kept secret, shows that the Security Service was aware that Mr. Mohamed was deprived of sleep, ‘shackled’ during interrogation, and threatened with the idea that he might ‘disappear.’

“MI5 has also been accused of feeding questions to Mr. Mohamed’s interrogators, leading to accusations that it was ‘complicit’ in his torture.

“The Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, had repeatedly refused to release details of how much the U.K. knew about Mr. Mohamed’s treatment, claiming that doing so would deter the U.S. from sharing intelligence in the future.”

Mamdouh Habib:

“Suleiman wasn’t just the go-to bureaucrat for when the Americans wanted to arrange a little torture. This ‘urbane and sophisticated man’ apparently enjoyed a little rough stuff himself. Shortly after 9/11, an Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under U.S. pressure, tortured by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomat watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:

“’Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman. … Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with al-Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.’

“That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:

“’To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick.’

“After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to U.S. custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His ‘confession’ was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.”

Ahmad Abou El Maati:

“One of his inquisitors may have been Egypt’s top spy. ‘Mr. El Maati thought that he recognized his interrogator from the news and that he might be Omar Soleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence,’ the Iacobucci report says, using an alternate spelling of the Egyptian vice president’s name.

“Unlike other interrogations, that session in the spring of 2003 did not involve violence. ‘A man in plain clothes sat across the desk from Mr. El Maati, asking him questions … the interrogator had a pile of papers in front of him and wrote down the answers Mr. El Maati gave.’

“At the time, the Canadian prisoner had a sense that others were watching through a one-way window. The Iacobucci findings revealed that Western intelligence agencies – including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service – were closely monitoring what the Egyptians were doing, even passing along questions.”

I don’t think “covering” is quite the right word. The best I can do is to borrow from the veterinarians the verb “servicing.” At the military liaison level, Canada’s DND services the American Department of Defense, which services the Australian Department of Defense, which services the British Ministry of Defense, which services the New Zealand Ministry of Defense. Similarly, at the “intelligence” level, the CIA services CSIS, which services ASIS, which services MI6, which services NZIS.

As it turns out, the Five Eyes all have five asses, and they’re all covered… protected… serviced… by freedom of information legislation: we’d love to reveal this information but it would upset our trusted relations with our trusted allies (who might or might not be committing war crimes, but nobody knows because there’s no outside oversight). So nobody can reveal anything because it would upset somebody else in the daisy chain. Beautiful. A perfect circle.

I though perhaps Canada might be – given our principled history – the unraveling of this perfect daisy chain. I had not imagined it might start in Egypt.

Who knew?

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