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Thursday, June 18, 2009 

Collusion, lying and willing torturers.

Craig Murray quite reasonably wonders whether he's been airbrushed out of history, as the Guardian keeps up its rather belated "exclusives" concerning who knew what and when over the mistreatment of British detainees and our corresponding collusion in torture. I'm more concerned though with how this yet again shows just how useless the Intelligence and Security Committee is. In their report on rendition a couple of years back, which was, it goes without saying, a complete and utter whitewash, they believed the claims of MI6 that they knew absolutely nothing about anyone being mistreated anywhere until the Abu Ghraib scandal emerged:

150. It was only when news surfaced of the mistreatment of detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 that the UK Government realised that there were real risks of CIDT:
Back in 2003 we were concerned about secret facilities but we did not at that stage, I think, make an automatic connection between secret facilities and mistreatment. That sort of connection grew later as more allegations came to light or… things like Abu Ghraib came to light, which led you to believe, just a minute, if that is happening there, what might be happening in secret facilities.


This itself was unbelievable: what was the point of "secret" facilities except to subject those held there to the sort of treatment which would eventually severely embarrass both the United States and this country? The idea itself that MI6 couldn't or didn't know what was going on was even more ridiculous: what is the point of intelligence gathering organisations if they can't even work out what our allies are up to?

We know now for certain however that MI6 knew full well what was going on as soon as they started being allowed access to prisoners with UK connections, as could have been expected. In January 2002, after an MI6 officer realised that someone in US custody was being mistreated, they sent out official advice which while telling their agents that they could not be seen to condone torture, they were not under any obligation to intervene to prevent it, something which directly breaches the obligation not to be complicit in that mistreatment.

MI6 can't be blamed for lying; that is after all what they are trained to do from the moment they join the service and is to be expected. Our politicians can however be blamed, for both knowing full well what was happening despite their denials and for publishing those denials as if they were true. There is only one way to get to the bottom of the abuses which have happened under the rendition programmes and the mistreatment in the name of the war on terror, and that is through a fully independent judicial inquiry. At the same time, the ISC needs to be abolished and a fully independent watchdog of the security services needs to be established, with the Independent Police Complaints Commission as the model, modified as necessary. Liars may then not be able to prosper after all.

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