Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 25 July 2007

The US, the UK and the US 'renditions' programme - and the UK proposals to extend detention without charge to 56 days

The Inteeligence and Security Committee has passed its report on 'Rendition' to Parliament on the day that Parliament breaks up for the summer recess. A coincidence? News reports were full today of the Prime Minister visiting a power station in the flood-affected part of England which was critically threatened with being affected by flooding and was protected with help from the emergency services and the army. All well and good, and very necessary.

However, I don't recall any mention in any broadcast news report today any mention of the report (.PDF file). Pages 64 to 69 contain the summary of conclusions and recommendations. Some of these are pretty explosive:

E. (first two sentence) In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the UK Agencies were authorised to assist U.S. "Rendition to Justice" operations in Afghanistan. This involved assistance to the CIA to capture "unlawful combatants" in Afghnaistan. (I don't think I have ever heard this acknowledged before and certainly not in any explicit way)

F. SIS was subsequently briefed on new powers which would enable U.S. authorities to arrest and detain suspected terrorists worldwide. In November 2001, these powers were confirmed by Presidential Military Order. We understand that SIS was sceptical about the supposed new powers, since at the time there was a great deal of "tough talk" being used at many levels of the U.S. Administration, and it was difficult to reach a definitive conclusion regarding the direction of U.S. policy in this area. Nonetheless, the Committee conludes that the SIS should have appreciated the significance of these events and reported them to Ministers. (But evidently did not appreciate it, nor report it, it would seem)

G. The Security Service and SIS were also slow to detect the emerging pattern of "Rendition to Dentention" that occurred during 2002. The UK agencies, when sharing intelligence with the U.S. which might have resulted in the detention of an individual subject to the Presidential Military Order, should always have sought assurances on detainee treatment. (But presumably, it is implied, did not)

J. (first sentence) After April 2004 - following the revelations of mistreatment at the U.S. military-operated prison at Abu Ghraib - the UK security and intelligence Agencies and the Government were fully aware of the risk of mistreatment associated with any operations that may result in U.S. custody of detainees. (Just consider how revealing that sentence is)

K. (Please note the apparent censoring of parts of this section - I prefer not to quote any of it; you can read it for yourself, if you wish)

U. (final sentence) We accept that the Agencies could not have foreseen that the U.S. authorities would disregard the caveats placed on the intelligence, given that they had honoured the caveat system for the past 20 years. (I find this acknowledgement of U.S. duplicity quite extraordinary)

V. (first, third and fourth sentences) This case shows a lack of regard, on the part of the U.S. for UK concerns. .... They then ignored the subsequent protests of both the Security Service and the Government. This has serious implications for the working of the relationship between the U.S. and UK intelligence agencies. (In other words it seems like there are severe reservations about continuing our relationship in security matters with our American cousins)

CC. Where, despite the use of caveats and assurances, there remains a real possibility that the actions of the Agencies will result in torture or mistreatment, we note that the current procedure notes that approval is sought from senior management or Ministers. We recommend that Ministerial approval should be sought in all such cases. (Please remember that we are talking about dealings with our closest ally here - this is really quite remarkable)

DD. The Committee considers that "secret detention", without legal or other representation, is of itself mistreatment. Where there is a real possibility of "Rendition to Dentention" to a secret facility, even if it would be for a limited time, then approval must never be given. (In other words it is no longer safe to trust our American allies. I've thought this for a few years myself, but it is a revelation to read it in a parliamentary report)

I have only highlighted the most extraordinary parts of the summary report, but there are many other details that are themselves rather surprising and worrying - read the whole report for yourself.

It is even more bizarre that on the day that this report is published (but not in any way surprising, given this government's record on 'spin' and 'media manipulation'), that today was the day that the Prime Minister announced his desire to extend the maximum period of detention without charge from the already unprecedentedly lengthy 28 days (for a country which considers itself to be a 'democracy') to an even more shocking 56 days.

I remind readers that all this happened on the day that parliament wnt into recess for the summer. Enjoy your summer, but I caution against forgetting about the authoritarian agenda of our government under both the last and the current Prime Ministers.

This post should really have been given one of my 'Police State Britain' titles!

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