Foreign Secretary David Miliband is facing a grilling from MPs over claims that MI5 tortured a UK resident currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.
ITN Thursday, February 5 07:41 am
A major row erupted between the British courts and the US administration over the release of documents relating to the torture allegations.
Two senior judges said the US government had threatened to review its intelligence-sharing relationship with the UK if the material was placed in the public domain.
The documents contain details of the treatment by the US of Ethiopian Binyam Mohamed, a former UK resident, who claims British agencies were complicit in his torture.
The High Court ruled the dossier provided by the US authorities should remain secret, but bitterly criticised them over the way they had sought to prevent the information from being released.
Mr Miliband insisted there had been no direct threat from the US to future intelligence-sharing. But he admitted that there would have been implications for future exchanges of information if the material had been made public.
"There has been no threat from the United States to 'break off' intelligence co-operation," he said.
"Intelligence co-operation depends on confidentiality. We share our secrets with other countries and they share their secrets with us. The founding principle for us and for them is that we can trust the confidentiality of that relationship.
"In this case, the United States made it clear, in documents that have been published, that there would inevitably be serious and lasting harm if that fundamental principle was breached."
A spokesman for the US Department of State said: "The US thanks the UK Government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long standing intelligence-sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens.
"The US investigates allegations and claims of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment such as those raised by Binyam Mohamed."
In their ruling, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said it was "difficult to conceive" that a democratically elected and accountable government could have any rational objection to the summary of Mohamed's treatment by US agencies being published.
While it contained "evidence ... relevant to allegations of torture" it did not reveal sensitive intelligence material despite being "politically embarrassing".
They said they had decided not to release the material as Mr Miliband believed there was a "real risk" that the potential loss of intelligence co-operation would seriously increase the threat from terror faced by the UK.
Mr Miliband said suggestions that British agencies may have been "complicit" in the alleged torture of Mohamed had already been referred by the Government to the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland.
"We never condone or authorise the use of torture," he said.
Muslim convert Mohamed, 31, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and, he says, held without access to a lawyer for two-and-a-half years. He has been on hunger strike since January 5 in protest at being left in limbo over his fate.
He says he was secretly flown to Morocco and tortured before being moved to Afghanistan and finally to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in September 2004 where he remains.
He says the evidence against him was based on confessions extracted by torture and ill treatment - claims denied by the US. He is expected to be returned to Britain in the coming months after charges linking him to a "dirty bomb" plot were withdrawn.
Last August the same two judges ruled MI5 had participated in the unlawful interrogation of Mohamed and said the UK had a duty to disclose what it knew about his treatment. The information, described as a "short summary" of Mohamed's treatment by the US, was supplied to the court on the condition that it not be released publicly.