Britain says intelligence sharing crucial despite abuse risks

Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:14pm EST
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By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is justified in sharing intelligence with countries suspected of human rights abuses to protect itself, Foreign Secretary William Hague will say on Thursday, despite concerns over the torture of suspects and costly court cases.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Britain has been wrestling with how to uphold its opposition to all forms of torture whilst ensuring it could gather information about planned attacks by militants, some of which might have been obtained through ill-treatment of suspects.

That has led to accusations of collusion in torture and a number of embarrassing legal defeats.

In a speech setting out the government's counter-terrorism strategy, Hague will argue that Britain faces a "stark choice" over whether to turn away from states unable to guarantee that suspects won't be abused or tortured.

Hague, who oversees Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Headquarters intercept agency, said there were risks in working with some countries, but that the dangers of disengaging were even greater.

Many countries would be able to give "credible assurances" that they will not mistreat suspects, Hague will say, according to advance extracts of his speech released by his office.

"Where this is not the case, we face a stark choice," he will say. "We could disengage, but this would place our citizens at greater risk of terrorist attack, in the UK or overseas. Or we can choose to share our intelligence in a carefully controlled way."

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Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague leaves Downing Street in central London February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall