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Friday, October 31, 2008 

Rendition comes back to haunt Smith and Miliband.

You may well have missed it, but the government has at long last been forced into holding some sort of an official inquiry into our involvement in the rendition programme. Jacqui Smith has called the attorney general to investigate "criminal wrongdoing" by MI5 in the case of Binyam Mohamed, the last British resident to remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Not that it hasn't done so without kicking and screaming all the way. Smith has been left with little option but to after the series of damning rulings by Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, brought about by the suing of the government by Mohamed's lawyers in an attempt to secure the release of documents they say are crucial to Mohamed's defence. Judging by the bitter resistance to doing just this, one really has to wonder what is in the apparent 44 pages of documents.

The US justification for not releasing the documents, in case you couldn't guess, is that doing so would threaten national security. Our own government, for its part, is rehashing the same justification it gave for shutting down the Serious Fraud Office inquiry into the BAE Systems Saudi slush fund: if they were to be released, the US government would stop sharing intelligence with us, which would obviously as a result threaten our national security. Like with the Saudi threat to do the same, it's an empty one: the US needs us as much as we need them.

David Miliband as a result seems to be held over a barrel. The judges have stated that Miliband and the Foreign Office have actually done much to help Mohamed's cause, but then you would also imagine that's the least they could do considering the apparent involvement of MI5 in Mohamed's interrogation. He appears to accept that there is at least an "arguable case" that Mohamed has been tortured and subject to inhuman treatment, but our subservience to the United States means that he has to follow their line of argument. Undoubtedly too he must somewhat fear the release of the documents held by the government: the judges themselves have said that Mohamed's lawyers' claims that the documents are not being handed over because "torturers do not readily hand over evidence of their conduct" cannot be dismissed and deserve an answer.

We should not though imagine that the attorney general's inquiry will lead to anything, especially considering the track record of late. At every stage the government or their supine committees have played down our role in the rendition programme, at times outright lying about our involvement in it. MI5 and MI6 are completely unaccountable organisations, where lies are second nature, and the fact that they may well have already misled MPs over the Mohamed speaks volumes. It will be a very long time indeed before we even begin to start learning the truth about this very greatest of scandals.

Related:
Torture cannot be hidden forever
Contempt of court
High court rules against US and UK

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