Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Exposed: MI5's secret deals in Camp X-ray.

MI5 tried to hire British men held in Guantanamo Bay and other US prison camps by promising to protect them from the Americans and to ensure their early release. These promises were later rescinded.

One of the men, Richard Belmar, was told he would be paid "well" for his services if he was willing to work undercover for MI5. A second detainee, Bisher Al Rawi, was told that if he agreed to work for the security service he would be "freed within months".

Three other detainees were threatened with rendition and harsh detention regimes if they did not co-operate with their British and American interrogators.

But MI5 failed to honour the promises made by its agents, a former agent has told The Independent.

The source, who is close to the MI5 officers who conducted the interviews, has confirmed that "assurances" had been given to the British men while they were held in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. But he said that senior officers in London had cleared the actions of its own officers but later reneged on the promises.

It seems extraordinarily cruel to be playing with the emotions of people that British Secret Services should actually have been working to help but, in some of these cases, we have prisoners counting down the days to their promised release, only to find that they are actually being transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

According to papers before the High Court two MI5 officers, known as "Andrew and Officer B" tried to recruit Mr Belmar while he was held by the Americans in Pakistan in 2002.

He was told that he would have to attend training courses at Thames House, the headquarters of MI5 in London. And in April 2002 "Andrew and officer B" informed Mr Belmar that he would be returning to England in seven days' time. Mr Belmar says on hearing this news he was "extremely relieved and started counting down the days". But on the day of his "releases" he was handed over to US military officers and later transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

Leaving aside the sheer cruelty of playing with the hopes of imprisoned men in order to extract information from them, this actually shows the British working hand in hand with the US when it comes to British citizens held in American custody.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on foreign affairs, said: "These allegations show the extent of MI5's involvement with those people who were illegally abducted and held in Guantanamo Bay. It's increasingly clear that Britain must have known much more about American practices at Guantanamo Bay, including water-boarding, than they are prepared to admit."

If British Secret Service officers could threaten inmates with "enhanced interrogation techniques", then this raises the question of just when we discovered that America was using such practices and why, rather than threaten our own citizens with this technique if they did not comply, that we did not loudly complain that our citizens rights were being breached in such a flagrant fashion.

Did the British complain that the US was committing war crimes against British citizens at the very moment when the US and Britain were fighting side by side in a war; and, if not, why not?

Silence, under law, equals consent. And, unless the British issued some complaints that we have yet to hear about, then they are just as guilty as their American counterparts.

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