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Thursday, February 26, 2009 

The rabbit hole deepens.

In the last post on our involvement with extraordinary rendition, I asked just how far this rabbit hole went. It turns out that it goes even deeper with each passing week: the defence secretary John Hutton has now had to admit to parliament that fighters detained in Iraq had been handed to the Americans, who subsequently "rendered" them to Afghanistan, presumably to the notorious Bagram airbase.

Again, this isn't any real genuine surprise. Former SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who was discharged from the army after he refused to return to Iraq, was gagged by court order from revealing just how deep the policy went of turning over prisoners to the Americans, who subsequently sent them to prisons and detention facilities where torture was endemic. He was to claim that "hundreds" had been handed over in this way; Hutton for now, despite apparently referring to Griffin, is only admitting to these two instances, allegedly involving fighters associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani/Kashmiri group accused of being behind the attacks in Mumbai in November last year.

We ought to be clear: despite the claims that they were only sent to Afghanistan because there were no Pashtu speakers in Iraq to interrogate them, there have been few that have been transferred to Bagram for any other reason than to become acquainted with the "extended questioning regime" practiced there. That the men have not been released and are now entering their fifth year of detention, presumably without any charge or trial or much chance of either, is another detail that was conveninently overlooked.

As the human rights groups are now arguing, the only way to clear this up once and for all is for there to be a independent judicial inquiry, investigating all our alleged links to rendition and illegal treatment of detainees since the beginning of the "war on terror". Investigations by the Intelligence and Security Committee are no longer credible, as their perverse clearing of MI6 of involvement in extraordinary rendition in the case of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna showed. One thing is for sure, and that's there is a lot still to come out. This rabbit hole may well turn out to bottomless.

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