Monday, February 15, 2010

MPs demand reform of security oversight.

Alan Johnson and Jonathan Evans both came out defending the security services and insisting claims that they were misleading or holding information back from the government were "groundless accusations".

Their claims don't seem to have impressed many people with even Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General under Tony Blair, calling for an inquiry.

Senior Conservative politicians joined the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith in calling for an investigation into whether Britain's intelligence agencies or government were complicit in the torture of British terror suspects abroad.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis laid out to the Guardian the three reasons a judicial inquiry was now needed, while the Conservative chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, Andrew Tyrie, also said such a judicial inquiry was "essential".

Goldsmith said: "I believe [this issue] needs to be clarified in the interests of the public and the intelligence agencies. However that clarification comes about – I look forward to hearing how the government proposes that should be done."

Davis said : "Goldsmith is right, and for the attorney general at the time of the Binyam Mohamed case to call for an inquiry, it seems to me to be an unanswerable case.

"We now need to have a judicial inquiry which needs to be as transparent as possible – holding some sessions in public and some in private. A very senior judge must hear it and it would be possible to reach a conclusion to what was done firstly without naming agents or officers; secondly to establish whether it was individuals or policies at fault; and thirdly so that guidelines for how to proceed can be drawn up."

"It's in the interests of the intelligence services that we do this."

If Evans and Johnson have failed to convince Goldsmith, the man who was Attorney General at the time when Binyam Mohamed was taken into custody, then it is unlikely that they have convinced many other people.

As I have said before; two courts of law, in both the United States and the United Kingdom, have found that this man was tortured and that the British government were aware that he was being tortured. The most recent person to criticize the security services was none less than the Master of the Rolls.

Evans and Johnson appear to think that they can blag their way out of this, by insisting that certain suggestions are outrageous. What I find outrageous is that our government appear to have, at the very least, decided to turn a blind eye when witnessing the torturing of prisoners.

The ISC is the body of MPs and peers that meets in secret to oversee the work of Britain's security services but when the court of appeal decided last week to release seven paragraphs summarising a US intelligence report showing MI5 was aware of the inhumane treatment of terror suspect Mohamed, it also suggested the ISC had been kept in the dark, with the judge ruling MI5 officers had "deliberately misled" the ISC on the question of ­coercive interrogations, and that "culture of suppression" was also reflected in MI5's dealings with the committee, the foreign secretary and the court.

Tyrie said: "It appears that the ­master of rolls [Lord Neuberger] originally intended to say that officials of the service deliberately misled the intelligence and security committee. If this is correct this is very serious. The ISC is not getting, nor able to get to the truth. Therefore, reform is needed to restore public confidence. An immediate step should be the reform of the method of appointment of the chairman to this committee. At the moment he or she is a prime ministerial appointee. This has allowed a revolving door between chairmanship of the ISC and the government frontbench. That door should be closed."

If an inquiry is the only way to ever get to the truth about just what exactly has been allowed during the Bush administration's time in office, and just how much complicity came from the administration of Tony Blair, then only good can come from this.

The official line of the Labour party at the moment appears to be that ignorance is bliss. That line is simply never going to hold.

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