Note: added by author. I have modified the text of this blog (on 28th Feb) as it became clear that biometric passports were not used in the assassination of the Hamas Officials. It follows that my text about the biometric passport was completely wrong and needs removing so that no mistake can be made. I have left the commentary on national security as this is still relevant I have put another blog (1st March) dealing with the updated passport position. Chris Pounder
Last week, the Foreign Secretary got up in the House of Commons to say that his legal action before the Court of Appeal was to protect intelligence vital to national security given to the UK by the USA’s national security agencies.
In relation to the intelligence issue, I accept that there are immense difficulties. However, if we start from the position that intelligence is information from which one can deduced or infer a possible action, then the position becomes clearer. For example, if “X has been in contact with Y” then it might be important to put “Y” on a watch list.
However, I do not think that “X has been water-boarded” qualifies as intelligence – it is a description of what has happened to X. It might be confidential to qualify the intelligence by explaining that “intelligence from X has been gained under torture”, but there again, it is the information that is provided that is the “intelligence” and not the means by which it was extracted from the informant.
In other words, the Foreign Secretary’s claim that “The seven paragraphs contain summaries of American intelligence relating to Mr Mohamed’s case held in UK files” cannot possibly be substantiated by the facts. One cannot possibly undermine the principle of protecting intelligence sharing if the information itself does not qualify as intelligence (in this case, it relates to inhuman or degrading treatment).
Reference: In my evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights published in 2006, I explore national security in the context of Parliamentary scrutiny, data protection, human rights and terrorism. I explain why the UK system of scrutiny desperately needs an overhaul (https://www.amberhawk.com/policydoc.asp)