The case of Binyam Mohamed

I am not going to discuss here the rights and wrongs of the deletion of evidence from the judgment in the case of Binyam Mohamed – the foreign secretary insisted that intelligence material from the United States should not be published by the British courts (read a summary here) – but rather to consider the fact that the issue even arose at all. How can it be that the nature of the cooperation between two democracies cannot be examined in court given that it might be beneficial to one side in a legal dispute?

Isn’t the point of democracy that it places the interests of the individual first?

What we have is a stark example of the fundamental tension between, on the one hand, the demands of the security that defends our freedoms and, on the other, those freedoms themselves. (Let us neglect, for the time being, the suggestion that those freedoms have not in fact been protected by the security measures put in place.)

The apparatus of a security operation directed at the outside world must necessarily, in a world of interdependence, have consequences back home. The interests of the nation are not identical with the interests of the people who make up that nation. The idea that national sovereignty and individual freedom go hand in hand is simply untrue.

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