White House Hints (Bluffs?) At Repercussions For U.K. Decision

The White House hinted today that it may have to alter long-standing intelligence sharing arrangements with the United Kingdom after the release of information provided to the Brits about the confinement and interrogation of one of its citizens, Binyam Mohamed. 

"The United States government made its strongly held views known throughout this process. We appreciate that the U.K. Government stood by the principle of protecting foreign government intelligence in its court filings," said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesperson. "We're deeply disappointed with the court's judgment today, because we shared this information in confidence and with certain expectations."

LaBolt's statement hinted that the US might reevaluate the type of information it shares with British counterterrorism and intelligence agencies.

"As we warned, the court's judgment will complicate the confidentiality of our intelligence-sharing relationship with the U.K., and it will have to factor into our decision-making going forward. This just means that we need to redouble our efforts to work through this challenge, because the U.K. remains a key partner in our collective efforts to suppress terrorism and other threats to our national security."

With respect to LaBolt, I think this is a bluff. The US shares more raw data and polished intel product with Britain on a daily basis than any other country in the world, and that's not going to change. Perhaps the US will be more careful in certain documents that might find their way into the U.K. court system -- but it's hard to imagine that intelligence cooperation between the two countries will really be damaged by today's revelation. Indeed, the information -- that Mohamed was subject to sleep deprivation and threatening behavior before 9/11 -- makes the US more vulnerable to court challenges from detainees, and possibly even to an international inquiry -- but the real and present damage to national security is hard to ascertain.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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